Albert Barnes Commentaries

Stephen L Smith

Staff member
I mentioned on another post that I have inherited another relatives books. This includes some Albert Barnes commentaries that used to owned by my Great-Grandfather. Because of this they have some sentimental value.

I know that, theologically speaking, Albert Barnes is see as a mixed bag. Are there particular commentaries you like? Are there particular commentaries of his you do not recommend?
Barnes is always worth a look. His main problems are in the Romans commentary (I believe Hodge was moved to write his after reading Barnes's). He won't usually be as insightful as Henry or Poole, let alone Calvin, but there are occasional gems there that others don't have. I think his Isaiah commentary is his best one.
Correct me if I'm wrong but didn't Barnes deny a number of Christian doctrines including original sin? Just google Albert Barnes and Original Sin.
If I recall correctly, he is also problematic on the imprecatory psalms.

The bottom line is this: it's hard to imagine Barnes making it into the "Top Ten" list of commentaries on any book of the Bible. Sure there may be some helpful things here and there, so if you are in the habit of consulting 20 commentaries on any passage, you may pick something up. Or if you have limited resources, and he is one of a very few books you own, he might be useful. You might keep them on your shelves for sentimental reasons, since they belonged to your great grandfather. But I suspect that for most of us, they would gather dust more than be actually used.
Thank you all.

I found this insight in Spurgeon's work on commentaries:

Albert Barnes, say you, "What, do you think of Albert Barnes?" Albert Barnes is a learned and able divine, but his productions are unequal in value, the gospels are of comparatively little worth, but his other comments are extremely useful for Sunday School teachers and persons with a narrow range of reading, endowed with enough good sense to discriminate between good and evil. If a controversial eye had been turned upon Barnes's Notes years ago, and his inaccuracies shown up by some unsparing hand, he would never have had the popularity which at one time set rival publishers advertising him in every direction. His Old Testament volumes are to be greatly commended as learned and laborious, and the epistles are useful as a valuable collection of the various opinions of learned men. Placed by the side of the great masters, Barnes is a lesser light, but taking his work for what it is and professes to be, no minister can afford to be without it, and this is no small praise for works which were only intended for Sunday School teachers.