Several weeks ago, Zondervan Academic’s blog, “Koinonia”, announced a blog tour featuring some of the newly released volumes in the Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament series. Through their generosity, I received a review copy of Grant Osborne’s volume on Matthew.
It’s my hope that this brief review will provide the reader with some basic information about the series, as well as the Matthew volume in particular, hoping that one will be able to make a good assessment as to whether the “Matthew” volume would be of general benefit to personal study and/or pastoral preparation.
I’m excited about the volumes in this series, as the ZECNT series is proving to be solidly evangelical, exegetically helpful, academically credible, and designed with the pastor-teacher in mind.
If grades were given out solely in terms of layout, construction, and design, the ZECNT would score very highly. This commentary is not small by any means (1154 pages), but its hardcover construction and binding are of great quality for such a sizeable book. The layout and design are clear and logical, with a very readable typeset.
Textually speaking, the commentary series, as a whole, utilizes 7 different components for the analysis of each pericope:
Each pericope is considered in light of how it functions within the book as a whole.
An incredibly helpful 1-2 sentence summary of the “big idea” of each pericope.
Translation and Graphical Layout
The commentator provides his translation of the Greek text. This part is particularly helpful for visualizing the interconnectedness and flow of the text, as each section is displayed with each clause or phrase on it’s own line. This is greatly helpful for understanding how each clause or phrase supports or develops the main action of the text.
After the graphical layout, the commentator explains his interpretive decisions regarding the way he related the clauses in each pericope.
A detailed description and overall flow of each passage, in outline form.
Explanation of the Text
Utilizing the Greek language (English translation provided as well for the non-specialist) the commentator works his way through the text noting and explaining textual, historical, contextual, cultural, and interpretational issues. I appreciate that the English translation is cited first and is in bold; the Greek text is offered afterward in parentheses. This, again, helps the non-specialist get the most out of this commentary, while continuing to provide the original text for the Greek student.
Theology in Application
The commentator addresses the theological implications of the passage for the church today.
Overall, the layout and design of this series are superb for the person desiring a commentary that will be “user-friendly” as well as one that will effectively and logically help a person thoroughly work their way through a particular pericope.
My only qualm with the design, and a seemingly insignificant one at that, is the use of the “computing-style” scroll bar next to each of the outline snapshots in the “Literary Context” sections. It just seemed a little cheesy and didn’t connect with the rest of the overall graphical layout.
The “Introduction” to the volume was brief, but to the point. Though it my not be as thorough in matters as many scholars would like, it follows the series’ purpose/intention by providing information essential in understanding Matthew’s gospel for the purpose of preaching/teaching.
I found the section on “The Purpose and Audience of Matthew’s Gospel” particularly helpful in giving the student a lens through which to see Matthew’s purpose in writing, specifically to show the impact of Jesus’ life and ministry on four groups—the leaders, the crowds, the disciples, and the demons. This will no doubt be pastorally and homiletically helpful for the pastor to aid the church in asking which group they identify with each time they come to the text.
Osborne has interacted will with other scholars well, and has provided a great deal of wealth and direction in his footnotes as well.
Overall, I appreciated Osborne’s ability throughout the commentary to work his way through the text of Matthew’s gospel in such a way as to provide information and explanation essential to pastoral preparation. There aren’t long discourses on controversial minutiae (though that is certainly necessary at times for certain aspects of biblical study), but rather clear, concise, and altogether helpful undertakings of the most essential matters for the pastor-teacher.
This commentary series is worth its price for the “Theology in Application” section alone. As many pastors are very busy with the ins-and-outs of fulltime vocational ministry, this section will help the pastor credibly teach a passage and with theological depth, effectively help the congregation see the practical theological implications for their lives.
One specific example of the helpful nature of this section is in Osborne’s treatment of the temptation of Messiah Jesus in Matthew 4. Many pastors often make hasty, pragmatic conclusions about this text saying that it teaches that believers can defeat Satan with Scripture in every temptation. Though there may be some principles to be drawn regarding the effectiveness of God’s Word in aiding the believer to think in truth and avoid the lies and temptations of the Enemy, the passage is explained with a proper focus upon Jesus as the victorious Son of God and noting the work of perfect obedience that He has successfully accomplished for the salvation of His people and the glory of His Father.
Overall, Osborne’s volume is definitely one to be considered when studying or preaching through Matthew’s gospel. I would highly recommend it!
The ZECNT series as a whole is one that should be sought after by pastors who desire to understand and teach the Scriptures credibly. I believe the series makes a valuable contribution in what it specifically provides to the pastor-teacher. With the matters addressed, and to the quality with which they are, this commentary series will help pastors cut straighter lines in their exegesis of the text, helping those entrusted to their care understand the theological implications of the text for doxological purposes in their lives and in the body of Christ.
NOTE: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher, for the purposes of review, with no requirement to give a positive review.
OTHER VOLUMES IN THE ZECNT INCLUDE:
GALATIANS by Thomas R. Schreiner
EPHESIANS by Clinton E. Arnold (ZECNT series’ general editor)
JAMES by Craig Blomberg & Mariam J. Kamell