There are tens of thousands of theological books and commentaries available today. Despite this massive selection, however, I am becoming more convinced (almost daily!) that there is no necessary correlation between number of books in our libraries and actual insight into the Bible. In fact, I am beginning to think that the more widely one reads, the confused he is liable to get.
I fear that one can fall into the trap of endless speculation, read several books, commentaries, etc. but not truly grow because he is not studying with the proper goal in mind, namely, genuine knowledge of, belief in, and obedience to the truth. Thinking is not the goal; true faith and obedience is. If that is not our goal, we are likely to not learn much (or think well). Martin Luther, the great reformer, observed,
The number of theological books should…be reduced, and a selection should be made of the best of them, for many books does not make men learned nor does much reading. But reading something good, and reading it frequently, however little it may be, is the practice that makes men learned in the Scripture and makes them pious besides (quoted in The Legacy of Sovereign Joy, by John Piper, 95).
With that in mind I would say that the MacArthur Bible Commentary (MBC) is one of those books that deserve a spot in our libraries. The introduction reads,
This one-volume commentary on the whole Bible is in itself a mini-library which will be especially advantageous to those with financial and/or space limitations…Everyone from new believers to pastors can benefit from this study tool. Its purpose and design are to make the precious truths of Scripture understandable and consequently obeyed by the people of God (v.)
I love the last sentence. The purpose of the book is to make the truth of Scripture understandable so that it can be obeyed by God’s people. That’s the goal! The point of study is certainly not merely to study much, or read much, or constantly speculate. The point of study is to understand God’s truth in order to worship and obey; to become more and more competent in knowing and handling the Scripture, not less and less; to grow more confident of God’s Word, not more confused.
The MBC gives clear, straightforward, conservative interpretations into the Scripture on every book of the Bible. Each book is prefaced with a concise introduction that provides the reader with author, date, background and theological theme information, as well as an outline for that specific book. Each section of Scripture (Law, History, Writings, Prophets, etc.) is prefaced by an introduction on that particular section. This can give the reader a real clarity of understanding the overall flow of books, sections and testaments in just a little bit of reading. There are also numerous charts, maps, key-word studies strewn throughout the MBC in order to enhance one’s study. Also, at the end of each Bible book, the MBC provides the reader with three books that would helpful for further study on that book.
The MBC is an excellent resource that will provide the reader with more clarity into the Scripture, not more confusion. It has been written and edited by a man who has been characterized by a deep commitment to and a clear presentation of the truth of God’s Word throughout his 35 years as a pastor and teacher. Personally, I have benefited from the MBC as I prepared to take my middle school students through a nine week survey of the Old Testament. I made a practice of reading the introductory section of many of the OT books during this time and was greatly helped by the clear, concise summaries of the books and of the OT itself. May it help you in the same way!