Please be patient – this is going to take time! If you have access to it, your best New Testament resource is Don Carson's New Testament Commentary Survey from Baker Books. It is a very reliable guide to finding the best New Testament commentaries. There are other such bibliographies in print, but none so reliable as Carson's. Be sure to get the most recent edition.
The Old Testament in the NewCommentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (Baker Books, G.K.Beale and D.A.Carson, eds.)
The Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (InterVarsity Press, Thomas Oden, General Editor)
This series fills a long standing need in Biblical literature. For most of us, the writings of the Church Fathers are not readily available, and we do not have the time to comb them all for their comments on a given passage of Scripture. But in this day of computer aided study things like this become easy – and a series of books like this was inevitable. In this series the editors have gleaned comments on the Biblical text from the ancient writers and compiled them into an anthology of comments – a Christian Talmud, if you will. It makes hours of research instantly available, and with it you can get back to the ancient teachers with ease. Do you want to know, for example, how Tertullian understood "from faith to faith" in Romans 1:17? Origen? Cyprian? Ambrosiaster? Apollinaris? Chrysostom? Ambrose? Augustine? Theodoret? and more? They are all available at a glance in this volume on Romans. And so on with each successive passage through the book. So far I have seen only the volumes on Mark and Romans in this series, but I hope to acquire the entire set. This is a most true and valuable contribution to Biblical studies. Highly recommended for studies in historical interpretation.
Word Biblical Commentaries (Word Publishing Co.)
I have most of the volumes in this set, but it has been extremely disappointing, marked as it so often is by concessions to higher critical presuppositions. It was to have been a monument of modern evangelical scholarship, but in many ways it was a good opportunity missed. There are helpful things in each volume -- the bibliographical data in each section is usually most helpful. And often the work with the original text is helpful, but depending on the competence of the commentator the exegesis is of mixed value, and often the expositions are weak. The theological views vary widely. Dunn on Romans, for example, has some very good stuff, but his commitment to the new perspective on Paul (a la E. P. Sanders, Dunn's mentor) does affect his treatment. Some volumes are very impressive -- Lane on Hebrews, Wenham on Genesis, Dillard on Chronicles, Michaels on 1 Peter, Bauckham on 2 Peter and Jude, Smalley on EJohn, Bruce on Thessalonians, and others, I am sure, which I have not yet spent time with. Lane's commentary is possibly the best on Hebrews, as is Bauckham on 2Peter and Jude. But some are not so impressive. Watts on Isaiah is almost a complete waste of money, unless you just have a liking for keeping up with Isaianic critical scholarship. Beasley-Murray on GJohn is good, but given the stiff competition on the Gospel of John (see below), it is not a significant contribution. The bottom line -- unless you just have a lot of money to risk don't buy any of the volumes sight unseen unless you are already familiar enough with the author. Commentary sets are always of mixed value, by the nature of the case, but this set has been a colossal disappointment to conservative evangelicals. There is good in it, but you can't bet on it; on many occasions my time spent in WBC commentaries has been a complete waste. The best approach is always to search to find the best individual commentary(ies) on the Biblical books before you accumulate an entire set.
The Bible Speaks Today from InterVarsity Press
Overall, this is an excellent series of commentaries. They are not as thorough as you may sometimes want, often not even verse by verse, but the expositions are generally very good. I've used many and have been consistently impressed. A reliable series.
Exegetical Summaries of New Testament Books from the Summer Institute of Linguistics
This series offers endless exegetical assistance. J. Harold Greenlee and others summarize the major exegetical issues in the interpretation of the epistles. Neither theological nor practical commentaries but comprehensive analyses of the "raw data" of the text (some basic knowledge of Greek assumed). Here are the volumes they have in the series so far:
An Exegetical Summary of 1 Corinthians 1-9, Ronald Trail
An Exegetical Summary of Ephesians, Glenn H. Graham
An Exegetical Summary of Philippians, J. Harold Greenlee
An Exegetical Summary of Colossians, Martha King
An Exegetical Summary of 1 & 2 Thessalonians, Richard C. Blight
An Exegetical Summary of 2 Timothy, Eugene E. Minor
An Exegetical Summary of Titus and Philemon, J. Harold Greenlee
An Exegetical Summary of Hebrews, J. Harold Greenlee
An Exegetical Summary of James, J. Harold Greenlee
An Exegetical Summary of 1 Peter, David C. Abernathy
An Exegetical Summary of 1, 2, & 3 John, John L. Anderson
The Literary Structure of the Old Testament: A Commentary on Genesis - Malachi by David Dorsey (Baker Books)
Old Testament Commentaries
New Testament Commentaries
Don Carson is easily the best on Matthew (Expositor's Bible Commentary, Zondervan). There is other reading to do also, particularly on the Sermon on the Mount (Lloyd-Jones, Geulich), but if you have Carson you will never be at a loss. Carson is always abreast of the exegetical issues that decide a passage and of the contemporary opinions that have been offered. Interacting with critics he always maintains a reverence for the text, and his keen redemptive-historical eye is evident throughout. This is the author of the insightful Exegetical Fallacies, and he practices here what he preaches there. This is the commentary to get on Matthew. Highly recommended.
God With Us by Don Carson (1985; reprint. Oosting and Associates)
This is Carson's short version of his earlier commentary mentioned above which consists of a concise treatment of each of the major sections Matthew's Gospel. Don't let it's brevity fool you (only 164 pages). This is both thoroughly enjoyable and immensely profitable. You'll wonder why this kind of treatment hasn't been given to every book of the Bible! Back in print now and available through Oosting & Associates (http://www.jkop.com/). Excellent. Highly recommended.
Matthew: Evangelist and Teacher by R. T. France (Zondervan, 1989)
Not really a commentary, but I'll list this here anyway. France's work is an wealthy source of information relative to Matthew's gospel -- everything from introductory considerations to Matthew's hermeneutic, main themes, and portrait of Christ. France has done some excellent work, and your study of Matthew will be helped greatly by him. His study of "fulfillment" and "typology" alone make the book more than worth the price.
The Gospel of Luke by Joel Green (New International Commentary series, Eerdmans, 1997)
I have only begun to use this book and already am very impressed. Green has done good work in Luke in some of his past writings, and this monumental study is the culmination of it all. He has a good eye for the good news and for Lukan theology in general as both are threaded through the narrative of Luke and the teaching of Jesus. This may be the best on Luke available.
I have two favorites here. Don Carson has produced a first class commentary here also (The Gospel According to Saint John; IVP & Eerdmans), and it is most likely the very best on John available. Like his Matthew commentary, he is on top of every issue – exegetical, theological, hermeneutical, critical, historical – and it really is must reading for any preacher working his way through this Gospel. Highly recommended.
My other favorite here is, of course, Leon Morris. Morris has probably done more work in the gospel of John than any man living, and that work has resulted in several highly profitable volumes: Studies in the Fourth Gospel, Jesus is the Christ (both from Eerdmans), Expository Reflections on the Gospel of John (Baker), and of course his famous commentary on John in the New International Commentary series (also from Eerdmans). All of these are extremely profitable in their own way. Jesus is the Christ is a monograph on various themes in John, a treasure of Johannine Christology. His Studies in the Fourth Gospel is a more academic work dealing with questions of authorship, the relation of John to the Synoptics, specific theological issues, etc., and is a very good resource for studies in the fourth Gospel. His NIC commentary has long been a standard and well deserves the reputation. And his newer Expository Reflections is a more devotional presentation of all his many earlier years of study – rich and rewarding throughout. For anyone preaching through the Gospel of John, Morris just should not be overlooked.
In short, if you have Carson and Morris, you may well have enough!
But there is one more. I am terribly disappointed that it was not until I was finished preaching through John myself that Herman Ridderbos became available in English (The Gospel of John: A Theological Commentary, Eerdmans). I bought it any way and almost drool glancing through it. It will most definitely get more of my attention as I look again into the fourth Gospel. By the way, on the back of the book Ridderbos receives highest endorsements from both Morris and Carson as well as G. R. Beasley-Murray (another outstanding commentator on John). Ridderbos does not have the same loyalty to the text that you will find in Carson and Morris, but his aim (as the subtitle implies) is to expound the theological emphases in John, and this he does very well.
The Message of Acts in the History of Redemption by Dennis Johnson (P&R Publishing Co., 1997)
A full treatment of the book of Acts this is not, but it is a very helpful survey of the primary themes of the book in light of the purpose of God in this chapter of history (as the title implies). The various themes are treated well and always within this larger perspective. This book would serve well as an introductory overview in the study of Acts. One unexpected oversight in the book concerns Johnson's chapter entitled "Illegal Aliens Welcome," his survey of the universality of the gospel of grace – a highly prominent theme in Acts on any count; one does wonder why in this discussion such little attention was given to the Jerusalem conference of Acts 15. But overall, the book is very helpful in presenting the overall perspective (the "big picture").
The Spirit, The Church, & the World by John R. W. Stott (IVP, 1990)
I am sure this is now included in IVP's very good and very successful The Bible Speaks Today commentary series under the title The Message of Acts. I have reservations about several of Stott's views, but he is a competent exegete and always an excellent commentator. His comments are consistently clear, concise yet thorough, and always with a close eye to the context. I have not read this book through entirely but enough to give it a very high recommendation. It is clearly one of the best.
The Book of the Acts by F. F. Bruce in The New International Commentary on the New Testament series (Eerdmans)
No doubt the most thorough commentary on the book of Acts and considered by many to be the best, although consideration of theological issues is rather lacking. The Greek notes are all referred to the footnotes, thus making this standard work a bit more accessible to the average reader. What is there to say about Bruce that hasn't already been said? When he speaks, people listen!
The Acts of the Apostles: Greek Text with Introduction and Commentary by F. F. Bruce (Eerdmans, 1951; revised 1990).
If you can work with the Greek as you study through Acts, then this is a gold mine you don't want to ignore. Simply the best on the Greek text.
Acts by I. Howard Marshall in Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (IVP / Eerdmans, 1980)
Few in recent years have given the attention to the study of Acts which Marshall has, and we are greatly in his debt for it (see also his Luke: Historian and Theologian). Marshall replaces the older volume by Blaiklock in the Tyndale series and more than doubles it in length. Thorough, lucid, evangelical, and very helpful. Clearly one of the best (I just wish he were a Calvinist!).
Acts by Richard Longenecker, Volume 9 in The Expositor's Bible Commentary (Zondervan, 1981)
An excellent and very helpful commentary. Careful attention to detail and context and theological isues. Some working knowledge of Greek is required (although the Greek in the main body of the text is transliterated).
Interpreting the Book of Acts by Walter Liefeld (Baker Books)
Not a commentary but a most helpful survey of the broad categories of study associated with the book of Acts. As the other books in this series (Guides to New Testament Exegesis), this assumes some knowledge of Greek, but usually it will not be daunting for the non-Greek student. Covers areas of study such as Structure, Narrative, Major Themes, Speeches, Background, Purpose of the book. I'm always a fan of gaining a better grasp of the "big picture," and for the study of Acts this book is very helpful.
The Epistle to the Romans (NICNT, Eerdmans), by Doug Moo
Pretty clearly the best overall resource for the study of Romans. Rigorously exegetical, evenhanded, and thorough. Excellent!
Romans: The Righteousness of God by Adof Schlatter
A famous work from the well known Swiss author of the two volumes of NT Theology and now available in English. Although the Greek is transliterated, the book does assume some acquaintance with the original text. Grouped according to paragraph and not strictly verse by verse, the comments are nonetheless expositionally insightful, theologically astute, and reveal a warm heart for the gospel of grace. The arrival of this older work is a welcome addition to the study of Romans.
The Cross & Christian Ministry by D. A. Carson
An exposition of 1 Corinthians 1-4, and 8-9. As you would expect from Carson, the expositions (sermons) are thorough and precise, working out the theme of the passages carefully through each verse. Highly recommended.
The Second Epistle to the Corinthians by Murray Harris (NIGTC, Eerdmans)
The new standard commentary on the Greek text of 2 Corinthians. Thorough, full of information, well written.
The Letter to the Ephesians (Pillar Commentary series, Eerdmans) by Peter O'Brien
Clearly the very best commentary on Ephesians available. O'Brien is thorough, always has a close eye to the text, and always aware of its theological implications. Excellent.
The Message of Ephesians (The Bible Speaks Today series, IVP) by John Stott
I like this series of commentaries generally, and Stott in particular is always a helpful commentator. Great for tracing out the theme of the passage and very suggestive for preachers.
John Calvin's Sermons on Ephesians (Banner of Truth)
Calvin at his best. Excellent expositions, often stirring reading. Great as devotional reading and as a resource for preaching and teaching.
The Letter of James, by Douglas Moo (Eerdmans, Pillar Commentary series)
If you can get only one commentary on James, this is it. Thorough but concise, deeply substantive but simple and very accessible to all readers. Solid exegesis and exposition and consistently alert to theological and hermeneutical intricacies, all matched with warm application. An excellent commentary -- a model piece of work.
*And please forgive me if I get just a little kick out of the somewhat ironic fact that Moo has given us the best commentary on both Romans and James!
The Message of James, by Alec Motyer (IVP, The Bible Speaks Today series)
The BST series is marked by good exposition, and Motyer's James is a stellar example. An excellent series of expositions by a pastor-scholar. Very helpful to any pastor preaching through this epistle.
Four Views on the Book of Revelation edited by C. Marvin Pate (Zondervan)
Another book in Zondervan's "Counterpoint" series. Representativs of the Preterist (Kenneth Gentry), Idealist (Sam Hamstra), Progressive Dispensationalist (C. Marvin Pate), and Classical Dispensationalist (Robert Thomas) present their understanding of the Apocalypse and how it is to be understood. The various positions are represented very well, and as such the book is very helpful in providing an understanding of the various schools of thoughts. A presentation of the historic premillennial view along the lines of Ladd or Beasley-Murray is conspicuously absent and would have helped round out this discussion considerably, but even with that criticism the book is helpful and well worth the use.
The Great Unveiling by W. Graham Scroggie (Zondervan)
Not a commentary but a helpful series of studies in the book of Revelation -- summaries, structure, interpretations, and relationship to the rest of the Bible. Simple and helpful introduction to the book.
Highlights of the Book of Revelation by George Beasley-Murray (Broadman)
One of the most helpful brief studies of the Apocalypse available. Concise and compact (5 chapters, just 83 pages), yet complete enough to provide a very clear overview of the book. Very highly recommended.
In the Eye of the Apocalypse by H. S. Vigeveno (1990, Regal Books)
I think it was Beasley-Murray who said that we should read the book of Revelation as we would read a political cartoon -- that it is, in fact, "cerebral cartoons." It's good advice, and many have missed the forest for the trees when it comes to the Apocalypse. Vigeveno helps to solve that problem in this excellent, stirring, yet relatively brief interpretation of the Revelation. He does a very good job of portraying the unfolding drama of the book; and while you will still need the lengthier commentaries for the details, you will not find many that will convey the "big picture" so simply and so well.
Revelation: Four Views, A Parallel Commentary edited by Steve Gregg (1997, Thomas Nelson)
A unique contribution to the study of the Apocalypse. Gregg spells out the Historicist, Preterist, Furturist, and Spiritual interpretations in parallel colunmns. At a glance you can read and compare the various approaches to the book. A great idea.
The Theology of the Book of Revelation by Richard Bauckham (1993, Cambridge University Press)
An extremely helpful overview of the primary themes of the book of Revelation. Yes, you will still need the commentaries for the details, but this book will take you a long way down the road by itself. A very helpful summary of the teaching of the Apocalypse.
What Are We Waiting For? by Robert Mounce (David C. Cook Publishing)
A simple, straightforward exposition of each chapter of the book of Revelation by Robert Mounce, well known for his larger commentary on Revelation in the NIC series from Eerdmans. Sane, clear, readable and profoundly clear. A very good source for gaining a simple overview of the drama of the book. Now out of print, I think, but well worth picking up at a second-hand book source.
Revelation and the End of All Things by Craig Koester (Eerdmans)
Koester is deliberately short on eschatology and long on application, and even if you are disappointed with the lack of eschatological systemization here, you are likely to appreciate and even enjoy his more popular exposition. This is not a verse by verse commentary but an analysis and exposition of each successive major passage. Helpful, user friendly and entirely accessible to laymen. Valuable as a resource for pastors and as a reader's guide for general study.