Official Blog of the Bishop of Durham

Results of Apologetic versus Non-Apologetic Bible Commentary Survey

Posted by NT Wrong on October 16, 2008

Thank you for all your suggestions concerning possible non-apologetic Bible Commentaries written over the past few hundred years. My count is now complete and I am pleased to present the results of my survey here.


Total Non-Apologetic Bible Commentaries =

1 and 2/3*


Apologetic Commentaries posing as ‘Critical’ Bible Commentaries =



*to wit, Robert Carroll’s Jeremiah commentary and David Clines’ Job commentary

**Gematria-based estimate only

Representative Bible Scholar, surrounded by Bible Commentaries of solely Apologetic Content, Writing His Own Bible Commentaries of Same. Can we break the cycle?

Representative Bible Scholar, surrounded by Bible Commentaries of solely Apologetic Content, Writing His Own Bible Commentaries of Same. Can we break the cycle?

8 Responses to “Results of Apologetic versus Non-Apologetic Bible Commentary Survey”

  1. John Lyons said

    Well, Roland Boer seems pretty clear that we must.

    Won’t be holding my breath…

  2. Antonio Jerez said

    I agree about your judgement on Robert Carroll. His name sprung up in my mind yesterday, but I couldn´t recall which commentary he had written

  3. JC said

    What a charming – and representative – picture.

  4. steph said

    John, you seem skeptical not only of Roland, but of Wrong, and that seems odd. 🙂

  5. John Lyons said

    Steph, you misunderstand me (not surprising when I see how badly I’ve expressed myself).

    I think Wrong and Boer are both, if not right, very interesting on how Biblical Studies should go forwards. (They may be right as well, but I am not sure if I am really qualified to comment)

    What I meant to say was that I won’t be holding my breath waiting for our colleagues to start writing critical commentaries.


  6. steph said

    Well John, I think they are right, and I think you ARE qualified to comment unless I don’t know you 🙂

    I’m trying to write a debunking of “Q” ‘commentaries’ sort of – will that help?



    “The genesis of this website was a conversation between Peter Kirby and I about a list of books he had compiled for study of the Gospels. They were all largely conservative commentaries, and I complained to him that there were no commentaries from skeptical scholars. Hardly had I sent the email before I realized that the reason he had not included any commentaries by skeptical scholars is that there are none. Apparently only believing scholars, largely conservatives, are motivated to write commentaries. Skeptical scholars tend to produce studies that take in the New Testament and related writings in the entire, but no skeptical scholar has produced a verse-by-verse study of a particular gospel. The closest thing is Gerd Ludemann’s Jesus After 2000 Years, but that work, in my view, suffers from serious flaws in methodology that undermine its historical reading, although it is an immense treasure trove of valuable and useful information. This website is the first step toward the goal of producing a skeptical commentary on the Gospel of Mark.”

  8. ntwrong said

    It looks like Mark Turton has collected a lot of worthwhile exegetical points made by others, and listed them verse-by-verse. It is a good resource to know about, as long as you take it for what it is. I hadn’t seen it before.

    On the other hand it does not provide a critical synthesis of the material it gathers and does not provide an evaluation of the various points it makes — it is more of a collection of secondary source material. I understand that Michael Turton is an English graduate rather than a biblical studies graduate. But it takes somebody with sufficient expertise and qualifications in biblical studies to write a critical non-apologetic commentary — despite the deeply ironic fact, which I haven’t missed, that almost none of these biblical scholars have in fact done so. (I guess you could call being a qualified biblical scholar ‘a necessary but not sufficient condition’ for writing a commentary!) That is not to take away from what Michael Turton has done, which is to provide a very useful collection of resources on Mark, demonstrating a generally good appreciation of the subject matter. And giving the appalling lack of non-apologetic commentaries, it is an indictment of biblical studies that it has fallen to a dilettante to recognise such a fundamental flaw in the ‘discipline’ and to attempt to remedy it.

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