Known as "Meyer's Commentary," the Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (21 vols.) is considered one of the best New Testament commentaries published in English in the early nineteenth century. Heinrich August Wilhelm Meyer, a German Protestant with a gift for languages, published the first commentary in this collection in 1832 at the age of thirty-two. It would be a lifelong project, one he worked on concurrently with a busy pastorate and raising a family.
Known to have an encyclopedic memory and an appetite for buying books, it was not uncommon for Meyer to be reading his contemporaries in his native German, but also in English, Dutch, and French—languages that came as natural to him as Greek, Latin, and even Gothic. For over forty years Meyer balanced working on new additions to the commentary collection while also updating those already published with multiple, serious revisions. Before passing the baton to a few of his trusted peers to finish the NT, Meyer had completed sixteen volumes.
The Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (21 vols.) includes the sixteen volumes by Meyer, two by Gottlieb Lünemann, three by Joh. Ed. Huther, and the final work on the Revelation of John by Friedrich Düsterdieck. Each book of the Bible is amply introduced, including biographical information about the authors, authorship controversies, information about the times of its composition, its intended audience, and more. Each volume focuses on the Greek text, and Meyer uses and discusses an abundance of sources and authors to illustrate meaning derived from the text. Meyer also likes to include important bibliographic material which was integral to his studies and research.
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Consummate scholarship and something like exegetical genius unite in Dr. Meyer in a degree to which it would be difficult to find a parallel.
—The British Quarterly Review
Meyer's Handbook is for scholars, and to them it is invaluable, especially for its strictness of method, its exegetical acumen, and its wealth of reference and citation.
—The United Presbyterian Magazine
As an Exegete, he is simply unrivalled.
—The Baptist Magazine
The ablest grammatical exegete of the age.
In accuracy of scholarship and freedom from prejudice, he is equaled by few.
We have only to repeat that it remains, of its own kind, the very best Commentary of the New Testament which we possess.
No Exegetical work is on the whole more valuable, or stands higher in public esteem. As a critic he is candid and cautious, exact to minuteness in philology, a master of the grammatical and historical method of interpretation.
The commentaries on the Epistles are marvels of patient, laborious research, and often times of most penetrating insight. If we were restricted to one commentary we should certainly choose Meyer.
—The Evangelical Magazine and Missionary Chronicle
H. A. W. Meyer was born in Gotha on January 10th, 1800. He married in 1833, one year after publishing his first commentary on the New Testament. He ministered for multiple churches over his life, including pastorates in Othausen, Harste, Hoya, and Hannover. An avid early riser and walker, Meyer would keep the same routine for over fifty years: waking at 4 a.m. to study and write while smoking his pipe, then a three to four mile walk, then off to church to perform his duties as superintendant. After work he was a dedicated family man, and when his son was grown and had children of his own, he described Meyer not as a grandparent, but as a "playmate" of his grandchildren.
Meyer finished sixteen volumes of his New Testament commentary, although all sixteen underwent numerous revisions and rewritings—he worked on them consistently from age 27–72. The last year of his life he battled illness, though he still took his daily walks until the last bedridden month. He died on June 21, 1873. On the cross at his tomb are placed the words from Romans 14:8: "If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. "