What Is a Commentary?

Definition, Types, and Uses of a Bible Commentary

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A Bible commentary is a written, systematic series of explanations and interpretations of Scripture.

Commentaries often analyze or expound on individual books of the Bible, chapter by chapter and verse by verse. Some commentary works provide analysis of the whole of Scripture. The earliest Bible commentaries contained narratives or historical accounts of the Scriptures.

Types of Commentaries

Through a personal narrative, Bible commentaries provide deeper understanding and insight into the Bible and can be used to assist both casual readers of the Bible and those who pursue serious study.

Bible commentaries are typically organized passage by passage (book, chapter, and verse) through the Bible. This system of analysis is called “versification” of the biblical text. Commentaries are meant to be used alongside the Bible text to offer deeper insight, explanation, illustration, and historical background. Some commentaries also feature detailed introductions to the books of the Bible.

In general, there are four types of Bible commentaries, each useful for the intended purpose to aid in the study of Scripture.


Expository commentaries are typically written by pastors and expository Bible teachers who teach verse by verse through the Bible. These commentaries usually include teaching notes, outlines, illustrations and practical applications of the authors' study and teaching on the books of the Bible.

Example: The Bible Exposition Commentary: New Testament


Exegetical commentaries are typically written by Bible scholars and theologians. They are more technical or academic in nature, concentrating on the original languages, context or grammar of the text. These commentaries are written by some of the most knowledgeable theologians in church history.

Example: Romans (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament)


Devotional commentaries are designed to enhance the readers' personal reflection and practical application of the Bible text. They are geared for times of soul-searching and listening for the voice and heart of God through the text.

Example: The 365 Day Devotional Commentary


Cultural commentaries are meant to help readers gain an understanding of the cultural background of the Bible text.

Example: The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament

Online Resources

The following websites offer a wide range of free online Bible commentaries:

Most top Bible study software programs today come with a host of valuable Bible commentaries included in their resource bundles. 

Top Commentaries

Try one of the top Bible commentators and commentaries to help answer your questions and narrow down your search for a great study resource.



An Example in a Sentence

Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible is available in the Public Domain.

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Your Citation
Fairchild, Mary. "What Is a Commentary?" Learn Religions, Aug. 25, 2020, learnreligions.com/what-is-a-commentary-700715. Fairchild, Mary. (2020, August 25). What Is a Commentary? Retrieved from https://www.learnreligions.com/what-is-a-commentary-700715 Fairchild, Mary. "What Is a Commentary?" Learn Religions. https://www.learnreligions.com/what-is-a-commentary-700715 (accessed May 29, 2023).