Ephesians has long been one of the most treasured of Paul’s letters to the church. Preaching through Ephesians has been a special delight to me. (I only have two weeks left before finishing!) Below is an annotated bibliography of books I have consulted in my own study. The ones marked by an asterisk (*) are the best.
William Barclay, The Letters to the Galatians and Ephesians (Philadelphia, PA.: The Westminster Press, 1976, Revised Edition) – While Barclay’s liberal theology sometimes bleeds out in his commentaries, his vivid literary style, knowledge of ancient culture, and colorful illustrations make his commentary useful if read with caution.
F. F. Bruce, The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians (Grand Rapids, MI.: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1984) – F. F. Bruce is noted for his conservative scholarship and his commentary on Ephesians is considered one of his best, although it is now overshadowed by the works of O’Brien, Hoehner, and Lincoln.
John Calvin, The Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians,, eds. David W. Torrance and Thomas F. Torrance, trans. T. H. L. Parker (Grand Rapids, MI.:1965) – John Calvin is known as the “father of modern exegesis” and his commentaries demonstrate his exegetical skill. I prefer his commentaries over his sermons.
John Calvin, Sermons on the Epistle to the Ephesians (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1998 [1562, 1577]) – John Knox asked for Calvin’s Sermons on Ephesians to be read to him on his death bed. They remain a helpful model for unadorned, clear, and simple explanation of the text of Scripture, but you can get his exegesis in shorter time by consulting his commentary.
Francis Foulkes, The Tyndale New Testament Commentaries: The Epistle of Paul to the Ephesians: An Introduction and Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1956). I do not doubt the usefulness of this commentary, but I only rarely consulted it. As an intermediate commentary, it is thinner in exegesis than O’Brien or Hoehner but also thinner in application than Snodgrass. The best comparison is probably Stott, although I think Stott’s homiletical skill and literary flare makes him much more interesting.
*Gerald F. Hawthorne, Ralph P. Martin, Daniel G. Reid, editors, Dictionary of Paul and His Letters (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993) – This dictionary is a compendium of excellent scholarship compressed into one volume. I have often found it useful in my study of Paul’s theology in Ephesians.
Charles Hodge, A Commentary on Ephesians (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1856, 1991 reprint).- This older commentary by Charles Hodge does not compete with the newer ones by Hoehner and O’Brien, but it is useful in its own right.
*Harold W. Hoehner, Ephesians: An Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI.: Baker Academic, 2002) – Hoehner’s massive exegetical commentary on Ephesians is his magnum opus and well worth investing time and money into. Virtually every exegetical question is addressed, with clear reasons marshaled out for each of Hoehner’s conclusions. I especially appreciate the clear layout and predictable exegesis of each unit of thought. This is easily one of the best commentaries on Ephesians available today.
*R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Ephesians: The Mystery of the Body of Christ (Wheaton, IL.: Crossway Books, 1990) – Kent Hughes is a wonderful pace-setter for expository preaching in the contemporary church and his commentary is an excellent model for any preacher, sound in exegesis and full of helpful illustrations.
H. A. Ironside, In the Heavenlies: Practical Expository Addresses on the Epistle to the Ephesians(Neptune, NJ: Loizeaux Brothers, 1971 reprint) – Ironside’s commentary is older and the chapters read like sermons, but I have found it helpful on occasion, although not as good as Hughes, Lloyd-Jones, MacArthur, or Stott.
Andrew T. Lincoln, Word Biblical Commentary: Ephesians (Dallas, TX.: Word Books, 1990) – Lincoln is less conservative than Hoehner or O’Brien and denies Pauline authorship of Ephesians, but his interaction with the text is often very good, making him my third choice for a semi-technical commentary on Ephesians.
D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Exposition of Ephesians, 8 volumes (Grand Rapids, MI.: Baker Book House, 1978) – The expository sermons of Martyn Lloyd-Jones on Ephesians fill eight volumes, making them difficult for a preacher to use consistently. Nevertheless, they are worth consulting for their worshipful tone and practical application.
John F. MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Ephesians (Chicago, IL.: Moody Press, 1986) – MacArthur’s commentary on Ephesians combines word study, theological reflection, and practical application making it thought-provoking for the preacher. It is far briefer than Lloyd-Jones, more thorough than Hughes, but not as even-handed or interesting as Stott. Despite it’s exegetical focus, it shouldn’t be relied upon for serious exegesis – for that, choose O’Brien, Hoehner, Lincoln, or Bruce.
*Peter T. O’Brien, The Letter to the Ephesians (Grand Rapids, MI.: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1999) – This is, in my judgment, the best modern semi-technical commentary on Ephesians. O’Brien is noted for his scholarship in the Prison epistles and combines exegetical skill with sound biblical theology to provide both depth and breadth to his treatment of the text in this excellent commentary.
*Klyne Snodgrass, The NIV Application Commentary: Ephesians (Grand Rapids, MI.: Zondervan, 1996) – An excellent commentary that I found very helpful in thinking through the application of the text in my sermons – (although less helpful in theology). If I could only have one intermediate commentary on Ephesians to study along with a more exegetical commentary, this would be my pick.
*John R. W. Stott, The Message of Ephesians: God’s New Society (Downers Grove, IL.: Inter-Varsity Press, 1979) – Good in exegesis, even better in homiletics – an excellent expositional commentary, to be preferred over other expositional commentaries such as Hughes, Lloyd-Jones, or MacArthur.
A. Skevington Wood, Ephesians in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House) – I didn’t use this commentary often and didn’t find it particularly helpful when I did.
Geoffrey B. Wilson, Ephesians (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1978) – This “digest of Reformed comment” gathers the best from older commentaries (Calvin, Henry, Hodge, etc.) making it a useful one-stop source for the preacher who wants a historical perspective in exegeting the text. It is also short, making it easy to use.
Tom Wright, Paul for Everyone: The Prison Letters: Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon(London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2002) – The work of N. T. Wright is controversial, especially his reading of Paul’s doctrine of justification by faith alone. But very little of that comes into play in his treatment of Ephesians and his comments are often helpful, especially in tracing out the Old Testament quotations in Ephesians. Like Barclay, Wright is worth a cautious reading.
W. Curtis Vaughan, The Letter to the Ephesians(Nashville, TN.: Convention Press, 1963) – This is a short but useful “layman’s” commentary which expounds the text with an even hand. This is a great commentary to recommend to members of the congregation who wish to do further study in Ephesians.