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Bible Commentaries: Ancient

An introduction to biblical commentaries, including how to find them and how to use them.

Ancient Commentaries

The library's physical holdings and online resources include titles that are considered ancient commentaries. Some of these contain excerpts, while others include the full text. As well, there are open access options. The following page explores these various formats.

Ancient Christian Commentaries

The Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (ACCS), Ancient Christian Texts (ACT), and Reformation Commentary on Scripture (RCS) are available in the library's physical and digital collections. When searching the library catalogue, search the series title (i.e., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture) and then click on the series name within the record to show other titles in the same series. When searching the eBook collection, enter the series name into the search bar to call up results. Here are examples from both our physical and eBook collections.

Luther & Calvin

Both Calvin and Luther wrote commentaries. Although there is not a commentary for every biblical book, we do have many by these theologians in our physical collection. Search "Luther's Works" in a Series Browse or use a General Keyword search for "Luther book of the bible" (i.e, Luther Isaiah). For Calvin do a General Keyword search for "Calvin book of the Bible" (i.e., Calvin Genesis) or a search for "Calvin's commentaries." Here are a couple of examples.

Historical female interpreters

Due to social and political realities, the historical record of women's voices can be sparse or even non-existent. Below are a couple of sources that attempt to bring together biblical interpretations from women throughout history. These resources provide useful starting points that may lead you to the original text (i.e., background information or key names for searching). Use the Bible passage index to see what passages are included. 

More online resources

Other theologians

Other historical theologians/commentators with works in our library include Augustine, Matthew Henry, John Trapp, and the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers series. As well, just because a resource is copyrighted more recently, does not mean the original work is not much older. It may take a bit of research, but it's worth discovering the actual creation date.

Citing and referencing the ACCS, ACT, and RCS Series

You can also check the "Bibliography of Texts in English Translations" at the back of the ACCS and RCS series. You may be able to find those sources through Perlego, the library catalogue, or EBSCO eBooks (the yellow "eBooks" button on the library homepage). 

Tips for finding the full-text

While the ACCS, RCS, and ACT series can be great starting points, they only provide excerpts of the full text. Here are a few tips to help find the full text.

  • Use the information provided in the ACCS, RCS, and ACT entries (the author and original text titles) as your search terms in the library, online databases (make sure you select the "Religion eBooks Collection," Internet Archive, or (if absolutely necessary) on Google. 
  • Search the catalogue for the original author to see if the library has any items with full texts by that author .
  • Search the author and the passage or book of the Bible.
  • Follow or search relevant subject terms on suggested books, such as "Christian literature, early."
  • Modern commentaries may also include parts of ancient, medieval, and reformation texts. You can check their reference lists to see where the modern commentary sourced the full text.

Full-text open access resources