Pastor’s Bookshelf: Matthew

Pastor’s Bookshelf: Matthew February 25, 2009

I’m going to begin a series on commentaries for pastors, teachers, and those who want to study the New Testament. I will try to give my top five commentaries, but one has to make judgments each time and there are many others who could be mentioned. Go ahead and mention others. So, here goes for solid, historical, and exegetical works.

The best, most complete commentary ever written on Matthew is by Dale Allison and W.D. Davies. It’s 3 volumes; it’s very complete; and it’s very, very good. Davies-Allison, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel According to Saint Matthew (The International Critical Commentary)

My second recommendation is by Don Hagner, the Word Biblical Commentary: Word Biblical Commentary Matthew.

Third, I recommend R.T. France’s new commentary in the NICNT series: The Gospel of Matthew (New International Commentary on the New Testament)

Fourth, the new commentary by David Turner is thoughtful and theologically sensitive: Matthew (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament)

Finally, one can read each of the above and still gain insights from John Nolland: The Gospel Of Matthew: A Commentary On The Greek Text (New International Greek Testament Commentary)

OK, preachers and teachers, any other suggestions?

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  • Luke

    Ben Witherington’s Matthew commentary in the Smyth & Helwys series is pretty good. I used it for a paper it found it helpful. I’ve heard Carson’s is good, but knowing Carson, it’s probably more of a “Pontificatary” rather than a “commentary.”

  • Luke,
    I am the furtherest thing from an apologist for Carson, but I am curious what you have read of him to make such a comment. Rightly, Scot exhorted us all to watch our criticism of Wright unless we have seriously interacted with him. So, I am curious as to your exposure of Carson’s body of work.

  • Michael Bird

    The best commentary I’ve used, esp. in relation to preaching preparation, is easily Craig Keener’s! His bold sub-headings could easily be your major teachings points in each sermon.

  • For great preaching material and theological reflection, Stanley Hauerwas has a commentary from the Brazos Theological Series

  • Scot McKnight

    Mike, I thought of putting Keener’s commentary up there. Two points: I prefer a commentary that organizes the thoughts by the author’s thoughts instead of how that text can be used. Second, when Keener’s points are not yours, then his commentary is diminished. Still, I have to agree with you: it is very useful.
    And I admit to listing commentaries that are more exegesis focused than sermon focused.

  • Andy Mills

    The two I have found very helpful along with RT France are Craig Blomberg (New American) and Michael Wilkins (NIVAC). Blomberg gets to the point, which sometimes a very good thing, and Wilkins focuses on contemporary discipleship.

  • Allan Poole

    I would hope that folk would give a close look to Dale Bruner’s recently revised Matthew commentary, published by Eerdmans.

  • Scot McKnight

    I think about Dale Bruner’s Matthew then way I do about Keener; very insightful but the arrangement is imposed and, if you like that arrangement, you like it; if you don’t, it’s a struggle. The 2 volumes are filled with insight and theological reflection.

  • I’ve found Fredrick Dale Bruners commentary on Matthews to be a great aid in the classroom AND in the pulpit. It’s 2 volumes and put out by Eerdmans, though not in one of their series. Though it is no longer in print in hardback, I would highly recommend it. I believe a similar commentary on John is due this or next year.

  • Allan Poole

    Thanks, Scott. As to Davies and Allison, I have found that the background detail is unmatched, as is often true in the ICC series. But the volumes are costly, and I do not find the commentary so helpful when I balance scholarship and pastoral helpfulness.
    I suppose each of us has his/her own rule of thumb when it comes to making judgments about “helpfulness.” And I tend to have a greater “saturation point” than many of my pastoral colleagues when it comes to research commentaries. Nevertheless, I find that I don’t reach for the ICC volumes on my shelf very often.
    I can hear my NT profs, Fee, Scholer, Lincoln and Michaels chastising me even now! 🙂

  • I think my comment got lost in no-man’s-land. Anyway, I agree that Bruner’s commentary does impose a bit of a thematic frame to Matthew, but I’ve found it useful in the classroom and pulpit. It’s 2 volumes from Eerdmans, though not in one of their series. I would highly recommend it. A similar style commentary on John is due this or next year, I believe…

  • Only one addition to what has been said…for those who want a very brief yet insightful commentary, David Turner also comments on Matthew in the Cornerstone Biblical Commentary based on the NLT. It is a great recommendation for sunday school teachers and those with little NT background and is really nothing more than cliff-notes of his larger commentary (often word for word!). Plus, it is combined with Darrel Bock on Mark which is nice.

  • Bruner is on the top of my list.

  • Jim Martin

    Scot–Besides several that you mentioned, as well as Keener and Bruner, I have also enjoyed David Garland’s commentary, READING MATTHEW.

  • ChrisB

    I found Craig Blomberg’s commentary (NAC series) very useful.
    One thing about Matthew — a lot of commentators try to find a way to weasel out of the Sermon on the Mount (e.g., it only applied to Jews under the law, or it will be the ethic of the Messianic kingdom). Blomberg’s handling of it is both serious and sensitive.

  • Scot McKnight

    What do you mean that many commentators try to weasel out of the Sermon on the Mount?

  • dopderbeck

    I second the mention of Hauerwas’ Brazos commentary. Although it’s annoying sometimes because he is always on the soapbox for his perspective, there are some real gems in it.

  • Chance

    Although I am not a preacher, nor am I a teacher (yet), the Hermeneia series is excellent. Unfortunately, Matthew is split into three volumes (four if you’re including a book on the Sermon on the Mount) and the volumes are often expensive. But I usually borrow them from the University’s library and the series also devotes a book to the Sermon on the Mount (which I like a LOT).
    I haven’t worked much from the series in a New Testament sense, since most of my area of study is in the Hebrew Bible but it’s such a good series.
    I also refer to the Anchor Bible Series a lot as well.

  • RJS

    I’m going to begin a series on commentaries for pastors, teachers, and those who want to study the New Testament.
    So is the plan to work through the entire NT (she asks with hopeful anticipation)?
    Here’s a suggestion for pastors of churches large enough to make it feasible – consider a library with some selection of these kinds of resources available. Then when you encourage study for “growth” it is actually possible to follow through.

  • Scot McKnight

    Yes, the whole NT. One post per week about this.
    So you are suggesting a church library?

  • RJS

    Good, I look forward to it.
    Yes a church library. At least for those churches large enough to afford and use it. Does Willow have a library resource?

  • Chad

    The 3 volume ICC Commentary is a tall order. Do you have any opinion on the ‘shorter’ version of those volumes? Here’s the amazon link:

  • MattR

    As a few others have mentioned, for theological as well as preaching/pastoral insight Hauerwas is great. When teaching through part of Matthew, I used it along side a more critical/exegetical commentary and found it very useful.

  • T

    That’s interesting. In our current church plant plans, one idea that keeps growing in attractiveness to me is a library. And my thought at the moment is to go beyond one local church. I don’t know why churches have tended more toward book stores than libraries.

  • Scot McKnight

    Willow has a nice library. Standard stuff. Lots of folks use it.

  • Scot McKnight

    Agreed. Tall order. The one-volume edition is still Dale Allison, and he’s the most knowledgeable scholar on Matthew alive today.

  • RJS

    I brought it up of course because one of the largest barriers to study is money for the resources, pastors feel this pinch – and laypeople perhaps even more. It is also not exactly good stewardship of resources to have many books in a few houses seldom used.
    Random thoughts.
    How about Chad’s question? Is the shorter version a good resource?

  • Steve Menshenfriend

    Great series. For Matthew, the Keener commentary

  • We just ordered the Bruner volume this week which I look forward to reading; I own Hagner and always use Davies/Allison when possible (I don’t own it yet).

  • I am biased, but Don Hagner’s Word Biblical 2 Volumes and F. Dale Brunner’s 2 Volumes are the most useful I have found for the purposes of illustrations and usefule exegesis for sermons.
    Warren Carter has written some great stuff too on Empire and Matthew.

  • John J

    Great post, and I think this will be a really helpful series. Along this line, can any recommend some books on the Sermon on the Mount or a commentary that does an espcially good job with it? I recently memorized it and would like to study it further to help it sink it more…thanks!

  • Doug Hucke

    I agree with Sam — Dale Bruner’s two volumes must be on the list.

  • Tony Hunt

    I wish Gordon Fee had been one of my NT profs!

  • Bob Wriedt

    I echo the recommendation of Mike Wilkins’ commentary in the NIVAC series. He has a great grasp on the concept of discipleship, and that comes through clearly in the volume.

  • Marcus

    Davies and Allison in the ICC are fantastic. It’s much easier to use than you would expect. I like the summaries that they have at the start of the section that covers the main points. It allows it to be used if you’re in a hurry or just want a surface treatment (I teach children’s sunday school and we have been going through sections of Matthew and I always refer to the commentary to do a quick check on the curriculum that we’re using), and if you want to read to dig deeper the rest of the commentary awaits.

  • TBDickerson

    A church in our county started an “Interfaith Resource Room” it is a great place to quietly study and get books (their selection is fabulous)It costs $75 a year for a church to join, any member can participate. Our church also has opened a resource room; not only is is a good place to get books, but it also creates opportunities for interaction with church community members.

  • Sean LeRoy

    Craig Keener
    Michael Green
    Dick France

  • My favorite right now is F. Dale Bruner’s Christbook and Churchbook commentaries on Matthew. I am wondering why they did not make the list?

  • Brandon

    D.A. Carson (EBC)

  • Peggy Hedden

    I vote with Clint Walker for Dale Bruner’s commentary on Matthew. Dr. Bruner states that it’s purpose is to teach doctrinally. He does what I have never seen any other commentary do: seek to teach the material as though the reader is with him in a class room, giving mnemnonic devices to remember as well as understand. It remains #1 commentary of all times for my mentor. I am working through it for the third time and still find it wonderfully helpful.

  • Adam

    Two suggestions for your series. (Which I am really looking forward to!)
    First, could you include how many volumes there are for each commentary you list? Knowing that Davies-Allison is 3 volumes and Hagner is 2 volumes whereas France is 1 volume would be extremely helpful for those of us on a small budget! (It might be helpful if you even just say in every list: “This is the one to get if you’re on a tight budget.”)
    Also, could you include some further comments with your lists? Whether or not the commentary requires one have experience with NT Greek, whether a particular commentary is highly academic or highly pastoral (or some great combination of both!), etc.
    Thanks in advance. As I said, I’m really looking forward to seeing this project take shape!

  • Adam

    One more idea as well: Finish the series by discussing other study resources pastors, teachers, and those of us who want to study the NT should have as well (Bible dictionaries, etc.). That would be really helpful.
    Thanks again, Scot. Looking forward to the series!

  • Doug Wilson

    My current favorites are Keener and Bruner.
    It’s not an exegetical commentary by any stretch, but I think Dallas Willard’s The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life In God taught me more about how to understand Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount than anything else I’ve ever read.
    He gets to the heart of Jesus’ teaching so beautifully. And as much as I love detailed exegetical commentaries, you often feel they miss the forest for the trees.