Review: The MacArthur Bible Commentary by John MacArthur

“Unleashing God’s truth, one verse at a time” has been the motto of John MacArthur’s fruitful and enduring ministry of preaching. Out of the overflow of his pulpit ministry have come many books that have shaped and transformed the way believers think about the church, the gospel, and Christ. A milestone of this ministry came in 1997 with the publishing of The MacArthur Study Bible (hereafter, MSB). The MacArthur Bible Commentary (hereafter, MBC) seeks to build upon the foundational work of the MSB and greatly expands its usefulness for hungry Bible students.

This one-volume commentary stands in a long line of many other similar resources that have proved useful to Christians over the centuries. Making use of current scholarship and other reference resources this volume brings together a weight of helpful material and biblical insight. The MBC doubles the roughly 350 charts and diagrams of the MSB to almost 700 total. In addition the commentary material has been significantly revised and corrected in numerous places. Certain new features that did not appear in the MSB like “word-studies” and “further study” sections are new to this work. I believe it is a significant improvement over the MSB, especially for those who may not prefer NKJV that accompanies the MSB (although it has been rumored that the MSB will soon be wed to translations other than the NKJV).

Overview and strengths: The overall structure of the MBC is user-friendly. The outline of each Bible book not only appears at the beginning of each book but is integrated throughout the text of the commentary. In addition to the many new charts, word-studies, and diagrams a section called “Further Study” appears at the end of each book of the Bible. The “further study” section is a brief list of helpful commentaries generally of a non-technical expositional flavor. The “Overview of Theology” that formerly appeared at the end of the MSB is moved to the front matter of the MBC and renamed “Key Teachings of the Bible.”

Probably the most significant addition is the many abbreviated articles that appear throughout the commentary. These articles should prove to be of great practical help to the student, counselor, parent, or pastor. One will find in these articles brief but insightful counsel from the Word of God on such things as giving (p.1640), the will of God (p. 1761), hope (pp. 1958, 1628), love (pp. 1961, 1598, 1829), suffering (p.1920), and Bible study (pp. xx-xxiv). Even for the eschatologically curious one will find a brief discussion of the meaning of “666” (p.2020).

Theological nuances are not left out of the MBC. The theological persuasion found in its pages is decidedly credobaptist (see note on Acts 2:38); pretribulational (p.2006); and premillennial (see note on Rev. 20:2). One will also find helpful notes on particular redemption (see note on 1 John 2:2); unconditional individual election (see note on Eph. 1:11), and the relationship between Israel and the Church within a New Covenant context (see notes on Jeremiah 31:31-34). There are many theological avenues to explore in this grand volume.

Weaknesses: It is a tribute to MacArthur, the many fine editors, assistants, and professors who have labored long hours to see that the finished product is relatively clear of typos and publishing mistakes. In a work of this magnitude one can reasonably understand certain items being overlooked. However, a few things might not go unnoticed. In regards to quality, some of the pictures were inferior (p.1776) and the gray-scale in others appeared blurred (p. 921). Some typos appear to be formatting issues (e.g., the misplaced hyphen in “Corinth-ians’,” p.1613) and other simple spelling mistakes (“Hord” instead of “Word,” see comment on Ps. 19:1-14, p. 609). However, such mistakes appear so infrequently that one should not be bothered by their inclusion. The many strengths of this commentary far outweigh any weaknesses (whether perceived or real).

The MacArthur Bible Commentary should find wide usage within the body of Christ. Pastors, counselors, parents, and students will all benefit by the years of wisdom and Biblical insight that have accumulated and found residence within this single volume. I recommend it to all without hesitation and in hopes that believers will be rekindled in their passion for the study of God and His Word.

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5 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Kylie on June 17, 2007 at 3:58 pm

    Hi,
    I was just wondering what bible version/translation does John MacArthur use in ‘The MacArthur Bible Commentary’?

    From what was said on: https://expositorythoughts.wordpress.com/2006/02/12/review-the-macarthur-bible-commentary-by-john-macarthur/
    I assume it’s not the NKJV version.

    Thanks
    Kylie

  2. Posted by David on June 17, 2007 at 9:45 pm

    Dr. MacArthur uses the New American Standard version. I’m not sure whether it is the updated version or not.

    David

  3. The “MacArthur Bible Commentary” does not use a version since it does not have a Bible attached to it. It is an expanded version of the notes from the MacArthur Study Bible. On the other hand the study Bible is available in both NASU and NKJV and the notes are adjusted accordingly.

  4. Posted by Eugene Landsberg on July 30, 2010 at 3:44 am

    What is the best Bible to use for true and right Biblical Interpretations with regard to doctrine.People are doudting the real interpreation or even some have commented that the NAV or NIV might have some “errors” when in come to comparing it to the KJV.I’am confused .What certainty does one have that translations to other languages were taken from the KJV.

  5. Posted by Jesse on August 1, 2010 at 12:05 am

    Eugene,
    I’d use what your pastor uses.

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