There is a sense in which commentaries are one form of New Testament prophecy, in that they proclaim the word of God. We ought to test them, every one. Hang on to whatever is good, helpful, and true in them. Reject whatever is false, misleading, or evil in them. But you’ll limit your ability to do that unless you consult a second, third, or fourth opinion on a matter.
My fourth commandment for commentary usage is:
You shall not read only one commentary, but shall invite a plurality of voices into the conversation.
Is this because I think you have no limits on your time, or that you must become a professional researcher in order to study the Bible? No, it is simply because our Bible study is part of a conversation that has been going on for thousands of years. We were created to live and learn in community, and therefore, having a single influence on your study is counterproductive to your study.
Let me give two reasons.
The First to Plead His Case Seems Right, Until…
Consider Proverbs 18:17:
The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.
Unless you are among the most naturally skeptical of learners, if you read only one commentary on a passage, you will be inclined to presume the commentator you read is right. Especially if that commentator engages with other commentators and points out all the places where they are wrong. It is simply part of being a creature with limited knowledge that “the one who states his case first seems right.”
Nobody chooses to write a commentary—or gets a contract to write a commentary—because they believe they have all the wrong ideas about their subject matter. No, they write it because they believe they are right, and that they have something to add to the historic conversation that ought to be considered by others! So they are going to write with as much clarity and confidence as they can muster regarding their interpretive conclusions.
But if you read at least two commentaries, it will help you to recognize that there could be a variety of perspectives out there. And each of them could be argued cogently. And each of them is worth considering and discussing. In the process, it will help you to demystify the priesthood of experts that is so easy to presume.