Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on Matthew

I was thrilled to be deemed worthy of receiving a copy of one of the new exegetical commentaries from Zondervan.  I got the one on Matthew.  My thesis is on the relationship between Matthew 2:15 and Hosea 11:1, so I could use the resource anyway.  Plus, I'm always a sucker for free books.

My first impression is that this tome means business as it weighs in at 4.5 pounds.  Of course, Matthew is 28 chapters, so it takes some space to cover all of it.  The binding is outstanding.  I can open the book up to any page and it will stay open to that page.  This may not seem like a big deal until you try to type notes while reading.  It's a little thing that I've grown to appreciate with well-made books.  The paper has a nice thickness to it with very little ghosting.  The serif font used for the majority of the text is very readable, even in the footnotes.

The book begins with an introduction explaining issues of authorship, sources, Matthew's use of the OT, etc.   It also has an exegetical outline of the whole book, which is very handy if you plan on preaching through Matthew.  The rest of the book is broken up into 122 chapters that are subsets of this major outline.  It ends with a section on the theology of Matthew.

Each chapter begins with a paragraph on the literary context of the pericope, though chapters before major passages have an introduction to the whole section.  For example, at the start of Matthew 24 there is an introduction to the Olivet Discourse in Matthew 24:1-25:46.  After the literary context there is a chart showing where this passage falls in the major outline with a good use of bold type.  A few sentences describe the "main idea" for the passage, which is of course important if you plan to preach expository sermons.  Each section is translated into English, but what's really nice is how this is done.  The English translation is given in block outline form so you can follow the flow of the passage.  On the right are labels for each clause in each verse.  In a light shadow font are descriptions of each clause such as "Scene #1 setting" or "Objection" and then "Answer."  Naturally, these are all subject to debate, but they really provide a great help in determining how the pericope flows.

Next is a section on the structure and literary form of each passage and this is a paragraph or two.  Following that is an exegetical outline of the passage, which is yet another aid in preaching.  Basically, Osborne has done what my Greek teacher taught me to do.  I would still want to do this myself, but it is nice to have a scholar's work to check mine against.

After all these preliminaries are the meat of each chapter -- the explanation of the text.  The explanation starts with a brief introduction and then goes through each clause.  The clauses are presented with the English translation in bold type followed by the Greek in parenthesis.  The Greek font is extremely readable, which I have learned is not a given in books that print Greek text.  The text describing each clause also includes Greek in parenthesis where appropriate.  For example, the note on Matthew 3:13 begins with, "The 'then' (τότε) here shows that..."  This is very helpful in thinking through the issues in each clause.

The book is heavily footnoted.  It took a little digging for me to find the bibliography at the front of the book rather than the back.  I appreciate that the footnotes are in the full SBL text note style rather than Author-Date citations in the text.  This is superior to the system used in the Baker commentaries where it is more difficult to figure out each source for each citation.

The footnotes are my only real quibble with this resource.  The 1/2 inch margins make the text feel a bit crowded.  I cannot imagine how much the book would weigh with larger margins, so I understand why this had to be done.  As this book becomes a staple in seminary libraries students are going to have a tough time making photocopies of the pages they want because the thickness of the book creates a deep gutter and the small margins give little tolerance for error.  The good news is that text never disappears into the gutter when reading it.

I am not fond of the two-column format for the majority of the text.  Again, given the way this book is designed there would be a lot of line breaks as the author moved from clause to clause.  Nevertheless, the text ends up with too many hyphens for continued words.  A quick glance through the book shows that most pages have a footnote broken between the two columns.  Since this is not a book you're likely to curl up with in front of the fire, I don't think that this is a huge problem, but it is still a bit distracting.

Finally, each chapter ends with a section called "Theology in Application" where the author gives his opinion as to how one can apply what he just read.  Again, this is a great aid in preaching.

I am hardly a Matthean scholar, so I do not feel qualified to offer much criticism of the substance of the work.  I am working on a thesis regarding the connection between Matthew 2:15 and Hosea 11:1, so naturally I went there first.  I found that Osborne presents the majority opinion, but also gives some information about other largely-held views.

Another passage I examined was Matthew 16:18-19.  Osborne presents the various ideas of what "the rock" was to which Jesus referred.  He explains a few views, but lands on the natural reading of Peter as "the rock," and also explains that is the majority view as well.  Again, Osborne lands on the majority view, but has good reasons to do so.

Finally, I took a look at some of his comments around the Olivet Discourse in Matthew 24.  He lays out four views of how to interpret it from the classic dispensational view to reading it all as apocalyptic language.  None of his descriptions are exhaustive, but the descriptions and the footnotes combine to give the reader plenty to work on if he wants to do further research.

Overall, I am glad to have this in my library.  I look forward to when this is included with Logos as well.  I suspect that this is a commentary series that I will use quite heavily as I prepare NT sermons.  You will not be sorry if you purchase this.

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