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Welcome to this detailed DDT Product Review of Thomas Nelson’s Believer’s

Bible Commentary by William MacDonald (henceforth in this review to be

referred to as “BBC”.) No matter what “version” of this work that you are

interested in, you’ll find out what’s most important about it: the content.


I want to give you enough information to make sure that you are an informed

buyer. I also want you to know right up front my theological perspective so

you’ll be able to understand what I write (I think that’s important, and I’m

quite sure you’ll agree!).


Finally, I know that you’ve already looked at the DDT Rating, so you already

know the conclusion: this is “best of class” recipient for One Volume

Commentaries on the Bible. Now, let us commence with the Review!



Introductory Comments


There are a ton of one volume commentaries. When I searched for “one volume commentaries,” I found 655 results! Why so many?


Well, it’s easier to write a one volume commentary than a 66 volume commentary. Duh! Second, there is a bigger market for one volume commentaries (American Christians) than there is for commentary sets (English-speaking Christian pastors). So, just about everyone and their brother has written a one volume Bible commentary (OK - that’s a little exaggerated; sorry).


Why one more? Why this one? Good questions.


First - why one more? It really is noteworthy how many poorly done one volume commentaries have been written. They are so simplistic that they are not helpful. Many have doctrinal positions that are so bad that I wouldn’t want anyone to ever read them. Most of them only comment on the easiest verses in any given pericope. When they come across a difficult verse (or entire passage), they simply say, “scholars disagree with what that means.” Thanks for the help, guys! Others leave out entire blocks of Scripture in order to fit their comments into one volume (in essence, implying that “these chapters aren’t really important at all to understanding the Bible”). So any writer who sets out to correct these issues is to be commended, and considered. BBC certainly attempts to correct all of these issues.


And that is the answer to this second question: “Why this one?” This BBC commentary solves each of those issues wonderfully. Keep reading to find out how.


I think you should know that I have not reviewed all 665 of those other one volume commentaries (!); but I can tell you this: it would be hard to imagine any of them being better than this one. John MacArthur himself says “...concise yet comprehensive - the most complete single-volume commentary I have seen.” Now I’m sure he wrote that before he published his own one volume commentary, but, still!


A 4-Book DDT rating is basically the highest rating I could give a book like this. In fact, it almost qualifies for the elusive 4+ DDT rating. But more on that later.



Expositional & Doctrinal Overview


I think it’s important for customers to know the theological beliefs of a writer. (I put my theology out there for everyone to know. I expect that others should make it that easy, too.) After all - if you’re a Baptist, you probably don’t want to waste your money on a Roman Catholic commentary (and vice versa). BBC doesn’t make you guess: right up front in their “Editor’s Introduction” they boldly proclaim


The BBC is conservative, Protestant, and premillennial.


Now, that provokes a question: what does “conservative” mean? More importantly: what does “conservative” mean to the writers of BBC? You see, just about every Bible commentator says that he himself is conservative (liberal commentators don’t sell books to the masses...). But then when you actually read the comments of some so-called conservative writers? Ouch. Not conservative at all.


OK - BBC calls itself conservative. How does it do? Well, let me give you a couple of quotes about how it talks about the Bible...


Before launching out into the deep seas of OT studies, or even the comparatively small area of studying a particular book, it will prove helpful to outline briefly some general facts about the Sacred Book we call “The Old Testament.” {DDT - notice that he not only refers to the Bible as a “sacred book” (Amen!), the S and B are capitalized - It is a “Sacred Book” Amen!}


The Divine Author of the OT is the Holy Spirit. He moved Moses, Ezra, Isaiah, and the anonymous authors to write under His guidance. The best and correct understanding of this question of how the OT books were produced is called dual authorship. The OT is not partly human and partly divine, but totally human and totally divine at the same time. The divine element kept the human element from making any errors. . . . The Divine Author of the NT is the Holy Spirit. He inspired Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, James, Peter, Jude and the anonymous author of Hebrews (see Introduction to Hebrews) to write. The best and correct understanding of this question of how the NT books were produced is dual “authorship.” The NT is not partly human and partly divine, but totally human and totally divine at the same time. The divine element kept the human element from making any errors. {DDT - this is the biblical teaching of “inspiration.”}


By the way - BBC is generously sprinkled throughout with the quotations of Godly men - both from days gone by and more modern times as well. The quotations all by themselves are powerful reading, like this one (a quotation from Charles Spurgeon about the Bible):


This volume is the writing of the living God: each letter was penned with an Almighty finger; each word in it dropped from the everlasting lips; each sentence was dictated by the Holy Spirit. Albeit, that Moses was employed to write his histories with his fiery pen, God guided that pen. It may be that David touched his harp, and let sweet Psalms of melody drop from his fingers; but God moved his hands over the living strings of his golden harp. It may be that Solomon sang canticles of love, or gave forth words of consummate wisdom, but God directed his lips, and made the preacher eloquent. If I follow the thundering Nahum, when his horses plow the waters, or Habakkuk, when he sees the tents of Cushan in affliction; if I read Malachi, when the earth is burning like an oven; ... it is God’s voice, not man’s; the words are God’s words, the words of the Eternal, the Invisible, the Almighty, the Jehovah of this earth.


So far, so good. But where conservatism really shows is in the actual comments of the commentary. There are two tell-tale signs revealing what a commentator really believes about the Bible: 1) where does he date The Exodus; and 2) how does he explain the virgin birth of Christ?


Liberals place the date of the Exodus somewhere around 1300-1250 BC; conservatives date the Exodus at 1446 BC. You might think there would be a range of dates all along that time, but there are not. The conservative date range is about +/- 10 years from 1446; after that, the liberals take the Exodus right up to 1300 or later. It makes it quite easy to determine what a writer thinks about the Bible!


So: where does BBC date the Exodus?


We hold to the traditional Jewish and Christian view that The Second Book of Moses, like the rest of the Pentateuch, is actually by Moses. For a defense of this position see Introduction to the Pentateuch. . . . Bible scholars have set the date of the Exodus from Egypt as early as 1580 B.C. and as late as 1230 B.C. First Kings 6:1 says that the Exodus took place 480 years previous to Solomon’s starting to build the temple. Since this was about 960 B.C. it would place the Exodus at 1440 B.C., the more conservative date. Many scholars maintain that archaeology better supports a later date (c. 1290 B.C.) but other archaeological finds seem to fit the early date. We cannot be sure of the exact date, of course, but all things considered, the early date of 1440 for the Exodus event, and the somewhat later date for the Book of Exodus, seems best.


So - conservative on the Exodus. Check. How about The Virgin Birth? Liberal authors really destroy the biblical text of the virgin birth by saying something ridiculous like Mary was “pure in mind, if not in body.” She was a spiritual virgin? Huh?


The biblical teaching is straightforward and clear. Question: how does BBC handle it? Answer:


The birth of Jesus Christ was different from any of the births mentioned in the genealogy. There we found the repeated formula: “A begot B.” But now we have the record of a birth without a human father. The facts surrounding this miraculous conception are stated with dignity and simplicity.


How could she bear a child when she had never had relations with a man? Although the angel did not say so in so many words, the answer was virgin birth. It would be a miracle of the Holy Spirit. He would come upon her, and the power of God would overshadow her. To Mary’s problem of “How?”—it seemed impossible to hu man reckoning—God’s answer is “the Holy Spirit”: “Therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.”


Check, and Double Check! BBC talks the conservative talk; and it walks the conservative walk!


The Four Problems With Typical One Volume Commentaries


I mentioned earlier in this article the typical 4 problems with poorly written one volume commentaries. How does BBC address these issues?


Is It Too Simple?


If you’re expecting the same kind of treatment in this commentary as you would expect from a 20 volume commentary on the Bible, you’re sure to be sorely disappointed. But - if you take this commentary for what it is (a One Volume Commentary on the Whole Bible), you’ll find that it is not simple at all. MacDonald expertly hits the high point of every passage. His explanations leave you satisfied that you understand the thrust of the Bible story or lesson. It may leave you with some advanced questions, yes; but answering advanced questions is not the purpose of a one volume commentary on the whole Bible.


For my money, MacDonald does it as well as could possibly be expected, and better than anyone else I’ve seen try.


Does It Have Poor Doctrine?


This one is basically answered above. But for clarity’s sake: BBC is 1) Conservative; 2) Evangelical; 3) Premillennial; and 4) Dispensational in it’s theological viewpoint. I, for one, love it, love it, love it.


Does It Skip Over Blocks of “Unneeded” Scripture?


I was preaching through the Psalms several years back. I acquired a one volume commentary on the OT by a famous Evangelical writer, presuming it would cover the entire OT (and the Book of Psalms in particular). Boy was that a booboo! His one volume commentary on the OT covered exactly 12 psalms. Twelve. Of 150. 8%. (You can tell I’m not bitter about that, can’t you. . . .)


Does BBC skip stuff? Nope! Here’s what they say. . . .


With the exception of Psalms, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes, the exposition of the OT is generally presented in paragraph-by-paragraph rather than in verse-by-verse form. The comments on the text are augmented by practical applications of spiritual truths and by a study of typology, where appropriate.


Passages that point forward to the coming Redeemer are highlighted and handled in greater detail.


The Books of Psalms, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes are handled verse by verse, either because they do not lend themselves to condensation, or because most believers desire to study them in greater depth.


But even their paragraph formatting often includes verse by verse comments! There is nothing skipped over here! NOTE: Remember that the commentary is more than 2,400 pages long!


How Does It Handle Difficult Verses?


By this I don’t mean the miraculous (that would be doctrinal issues). I mean the “hard to understand no matter what you believe to be true about the Bible” verses, like Judges 11:31 (did Jephthah sacrifice his daughter as a human burnt offering?). Notice MacDonald’s comments:


11:29-40 Before going into battle, Jephthah made a rash vow that he would devote to the Lord whatever first came out of his doors ... to meet him if he returned home victorious. The LORD gave him victory over the Ammonites, and as he returned to his house his daughter came out to meet him. Jephthah therefore offered her to the Lord.


There is considerable disagreement as to what Jephthah actually did to his daughter. One view is that he killed her and offered her as a burnt offering to the Lord. This is perhaps the most obvious meaning of the text, even though the idea of human sacrifice is repulsive and was never approved by God (Deut. 18:9-14). Only animals were sacrificed; human beings were dedicated, then redeemed by money (Ex. 13:12, 13; Lev. 27:1-8).


The other common view is that Jephthah gave his daughter to be a perpetual virgin in the service of Jehovah. Those holding this viewpoint state that Jephthah’s vow was that whatever came forth from the doors of his house ... “shall surely be the LORD’s, or I will offer it up for a burnt offering” (v. 31). The idea of perpetual virginity is strongly supported by verses 37, 38, and 39. In any case, the lesson is that we should not make rash promises.


So - he tells you what he thinks (option #2) and what is important about it no matter what option you conclude (not to make rash promises). Bravo!


It Defeats The Poorly Done One Volume Commentaries Easily


So - BBC nicely avoids all four issues most one volume commentaries have. It is premillennial and dispensational. It accurately captures the essence of every passage. It does what a good commentary is supposed to do: rightly and reverently explain the text. That’s why it gets the blue ribbon “Best of Class - 1 Volume Commentaries” DDT rating.


I have one gripe: the Bible text of this module is NKJV. If MacDonald had chosen the KJV as his text for this commentary, I would have given it the elusive “Just Like I Would Have Done It” award. Yep - this commentary is that good!



Commentary Sample


If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a commentary sample is worth, well, what is it worth? Not sure! But here is a representative entry from the commentary. This one is from Rom 3:23 (please note: the digital text for this quotation, and all the others in this review, comes from the premium resource formatted for TheWord Bible Software).


The availability of the gospel is as universal as the need. And the need is universal because all have sinned 7 and fall short of the glory of God. Everybody sinned in Adam; when he sinned, he acted as the representative for all his descendants. But men are not only sinners by nature; they are also sinners by practice. They fall short, in themselves, of the glory of God.


MacDonald briefly and accurately describes man’s sin nature and practice in one short paragraph. Again, well done. By the way - this verse comment accurately reflects the commentary available from cover to cover in this work.


{DDT Note: I was originally going to post a comment from Rom 3:24, and not Rom 3:23. However, MacDonald uncharacteristically wrote almost 800 words in his comment! As good as it was, it did not accurately reflect the feel of the entire commentary. I opted to go with comments on Rom 3:23 instead.}





If you’re looking for deep, exegetical comments on the nuances of the Greek and Hebrew text, this commentary ain’t for you. If you’re looking for a rock solid, simply correct but brief explanation of any text of the Bible - then you can’t do any better.


As far as the One Volume Bible Commentaries go, this one is “Best of Class.”



Other Reviews offers 90+ reviews (as of January, 2013). Average rating: 4.6/5.0 stars. Read them here.



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This comprehensive review is by Dr. David S. Thomason. Copyright 2013. All rights reserved.

REVIEW: Believer’s Bible Commentary

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This volume has almost everything wanted in a one volume commentary. It is succinct without being simplistic. It is comprehensive without being complicated. Best of all: it is doctrinally conservative & dispensational. Wow!

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“Best of Class” - 1 Vol Commentary

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