There is no shortage of commentaries on the book of Romans. Some of those available, however, are not worthy of note. Others prove to be either too technical or too devotional to suit the needs of the student. The following list contains those commentaries or specialized studies on Romans that I believe are worth owning.
Barrett, C. K., A Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans (New York: Harper & Row, 1957). Barrett is somewhat dated but, like his commentaries on the Corinthian correspondence (and his excellent commentary on John), he offers insights that frequently prove helpful. The perspective is English Anglican. 294 pp.
Barth, Karl, The Epistle to the Romans, transl. by Edwyn C. Hoskyns (London: Oxford University Press, 1972 [1919; completely re-written for a 2nd edition in 1922]. I include Barth's commentary here primarily for its historical importance. Barth (1886-1968) was motivated by several factors, chief of which was the obvious failure of theological liberalism in the face of the outbreak of WW I. He was especially upset when 93 German intellectuals, many of whom were his teachers or colleagues, signed a document endorsing the war policy of Kaiser Wilhelm II. He suddenly realized that ?their exegetical and dogmatic presuppositions could not be in order. . . . A whole world of exegesis, ethics, dogmatics and preaching, which I had hitherto held to be essentially trustworthy, was shaken to the foundations, and with it, all the other writings of the German theologians? (Karl Barth, biography by Eberhard Busch, 81). Barth and his commentary brought to the European scene a renewed emphasis on the transcendence of God, the "absolute qualitative difference between God and man," the vertical dimension of revelation (a theology 'from above,' i.e., from God to us in the Bible, rather than 'from below'), and an emphasis on sin and atonement.
Boice, James Montgomery, Romans, 4 vols. (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1993-94). All volumes of this set are now available (Vol. 1 - chps. 1-4; Vol. 2 - chps. 5-8; Vol. 3 - chps. 9-11; Vol. 4 - chps. 12-16). Boice, long-time Senior Pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church in downtown Philadelphia (now deceased), writes from a Reformed (Calvinistic) perspective. Boice does not always develop the flow of argument in Romans but no theological issue is left unaddressed. His illustrations are helpful for preaching. The volumes are expensive (they retail for $30 each) but, in my opinion, well worth the price. Knowledge of NT Greek is not a prerequisite for profiting from Boice's work.
Bray, Gerald, ed. Romans, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (Downers Grove: IVP, 1998). This volume collects the best and most representative of patristic commentary and homily on Romans. Among those whose comments are cited include Augustine, Ambrosiaster, Origen, Chrysostom, Theodore of Mopsuestia, and others. The great value of this work is that it provides a glimpse into how the early church understood and applied the book of Romans.
Bruce, F. F., The Letter of Paul to the Romans, revised edition (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1985). This work by Bruce is a slightly updated and revised version of his earlier (1963) treatment of Romans in the Tyndale NT commentary series. It is short, has a good introduction to the book, and is relatively inexpensive. Unfortunately, it is also relatively unexciting. 274 pp.
Byrne, Brendan, Romans, Sacra Pagina Series (Collegeville, Minnesota: Liturgical Press, 1996). Byrne is a Jesuit priest who teaches NT in Melbourne, Australia. The Sacra Pagina commentary series generally represents the best of Roman Catholic scholarship today. 503 pp.
Cottrell, Jack, Romans, The College Press NIV Commentary, 2 vols. (Joplin: College Press Publishing Company, 1996, 1998). This two-volume work (1024 pp.) represents one of the best treatments of Romans from a decidedly Arminian perspective. Cottrell, professor of theology at Cincinnati Theological Seminary, is unafraid to take on Calvinist interpreters point for point. Although he is more a theologian than an exegete, his work is worthy of close study.
Cranfield, C. E. B., A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on The Epistle to the Romans, 2 vols, ICC series (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1975). There is nothing quite like Cranfield when it comes to interacting with the Greek text and expounding the interpretive options of a particular verse. No serious student of Romans should be without Cranfield. It is expensive (@ $40) but worth the price. Although it is written for the student who knows Greek, anyone can profit from its insights. A revised, one-volume paperback edition (Romans: A Shorter Commentary [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1985], 388 pp.) has been issued for those who do not wish to work through the 900 pages of the original two-volume work.
Cranfield, C. E. B., On Romans and Other New Testament Essays (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1998). This is a new collection of several of Cranfield's essays on a variety of subjects concerning Romans. 191 pp.
Dunn, James D. G., Romans, 2 vols. in the Word Biblical Commentary series (Dallas: Word Books, 1988). Dunn is up-to-date with all recent literature on Romans and is exhaustive in treating the Greek text. His perspective is not quite as conservative as I would prefer but he is always challenging. His view of Romans is shaped by the influence of E. P. Sanders' position on the question of Paul and the law. 976 pp.
Fitzmyer, Joseph A., S.J., Romans, The Anchor Bible (New York: Doubleday, 1993). I have not yet read Fitzmyer but I anticipate his work will be along the lines of his two-volume commentary on Luke. This commentary may be one that you should plan on obtaining, if for no other reason than that Fitzmyer is Roman Catholic. In view of the importance of the debate over the nature of saving and justifying grace and the historical rift between Protestant and Catholic, a modern, exegetical and theological treatment of Romans by a Catholic scholar such as Fitzmyer will likely prove invaluable. 793 pp.
Hendriksen, William, Exposition of Paul's Epistle to the Romans (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1982). Hendriksen, a Dutch Reformed scholar, has written a solid commentary for the English reader. His perspective is much like that of Boice, but he lacks the illustrative insights of the latter. Although the newer commentaries are more detailed and technical, I often find myself going back to see what Hendricksen said. He is conservative, reliable, and exalts the sovereignty of God's grace in salvation. 533 pp.
Hodge, Charles, Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1974 ). Hodge is representative of the old Princetonian school of Reformed theologians. Hodge is more a theologian than an exegete, but will still interact with the text. Although it is over 100 years old, Hodge's work is worth consulting when studying some of the sticky theological issues in Romans. 458 pp.
Lloyd-Jones, D. Martyn, Romans, 10 vols. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan). Lloyd-Jones, who died in 1981, stands in the theological tradition of Hodge and Hendriksen but, unlike them, was not a cessationist. His commentary is similar to that of Boice in that they both may devote two or three chapters to only two or three verses! Few people will read all ten volumes, but for passion and pastoral insight "the Doctor" is unparalleled.
Luther, Martin, Lectures on Romans (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1972). This volume is worth having (and reading) if only for its monumental historical significance and the lively discussions on justification by faith alone. 560 pp.
MacArthur, John, Romans 1-8 and Romans 9-16 (Chicago: Moody Press, 1991/1994). Notwithstanding some theological oddities (which abound in his commentary on Hebrews), MacArthur often has helpful insights for the preacher. Volume 1 is 538 pp. and Volume 2 is 402 pp.
Moo, Douglas, The Epistle to the Romans (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996). This work by Moo is the best exegetical, evangelical commentary (along with Cranfield) on Romans. Most of the more technical material involving comment on the Greek text is restricted to the footnotes. By all means, get it (no matter how much the cost). Moo, a former colleague of mine, teaches NT at Wheaton College Graduate School in Wheaton, Illinois. 1,012 pp.
Morris, Leon, The Epistle to the Romans (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988). Morris is always good on whatever NT book he writes. It isn't always exciting, but you can rest assured it is theologically sound and pastorally helpful. Most of his comments on the Greek text are placed in the footnotes, so it is accessible to the student of the English Bible. 578 pp.
Mounce, Robert, Romans, The New American Commentary series (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1995). Mounce is most well-known for his excellent commentary on Revelation in the NICNT series. This volume on Romans is less technical but successfully traces the flow of Paul's argument. It is good, but at times fails to address in depth some of the more important theological issues. 301 pp.
Murray, John, The Epistle to the Romans (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1968). D. A. Carson says that "Murray will guide you stolidly with the heavy tread of the proverbial village policemen (although with more theology; and note especially the useful appendices and notes)." Granted, Murray is sometimes wordy and his style is annoying. But I cut my theological teeth on Murray and his commentary on Romans holds a special place in my heart and head. This is Reformed, theological exegesis at its best, superceding the works of Hodge and Hendriksen. My advice: get it now, before it goes out of print. Moo's commentary has taken the place of Murray in the New International Commentary series. 694 pp.
Piper, John, The Justification of God: An Exegetical and Theological Study of Romans 9:1-23 (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1983). This is a detailed exegetical treatment of what is perhaps the most controversial section of Romans. Those without a working knowledge of Greek will find it hard-going at times, but perseverance pays a rich dividend. 316 pp.
Sanday, William, and Headlam, Arthur, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on The Epistle to the Romans, ICC series (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1971). For many years the standard work on the Greek text, it has been replaced in the ICC series by Cranfield. Still worthy of study.
Schreiner, Thomas, Romans, The Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1998). This volume of 919 pages is similar in thrust, theologically speaking, to Moo's commentary, although with a slightly more Calvinistic emphasis (the volume is dedicated to John Piper). Schreiner interacts extensively with the Greek text but not in a way that makes it inaccessible to the English reader. Although not as extensive as Fitzmyer"s, Schreiner provides the most up-to-date bibliography on Romans available. Highly recommended!
Stott, John R. W., Men Made New: an exposition of Romans 5-8 (Downers Grove: IVP, 1966). A brief, but helpful commentary on chps. 5-8. This isn't deep, but Stott always seems to find a way of expressing basic ideas in a fresh and inspiring way. 108 pp.
Stott, John R. W., Romans: God's Good News for the World (Downers Grove: IVP, 1994). This is Stott's complete commentary on Romans that appears to provide an excellent resource for the student unfamiliar with Greek. 432 pp.