Building a New Testament Library: Matthew – Acts

Joel B. Green

One of the pivotal responsibilities of every Christian generation is to engage the Scriptures exegetically and theologically. A number of fine commentaries are available to assist this task. During the 2015-16 academic year, Catalyst will provide a four-part series identifying some of the best and more recent contributions to evangelical commentary on the NT writings.

Among commentaries now available on the Gospel of Matthew, many students and pastors will want to turn first to R.T. France’s contribution to the New International Commentary on the New Testament (NICNT; Eerdmans, 2007). This is a lucid, stimulating volume from a scholar whose interest in Matthew spanned several decades – and whose mature reflections are evident on most every page. For insightful engagement and critical detail, students with Greek may turn to John Nolland’s up-to-date study for the New International Greek Text Commentary (NIGTC; Eerdmans, 2005). Nolland exhibits an impressive sensitivity to the nuances of the Matthean narrative that will repay careful reading of his commentary. Craig S. Keener’s study (Eerdmans, 1999) is marked by his particular interest in the socio-historical contexts of the first Evangelist and his first-century audience, combined with pericope-by-pericope suggestions regarding the nature of Matthew’s exhortations to his predominately Jewish Christian audience.

Recent years have seen the production of a virtual cornucopia of monographs and special studies on the Gospel of Mark, and these have now been joined by a steady stream of commentaries on the second Gospel. Working with the Greek text is R.T. France’s work in the NIGTC (Eerdmans, 2002) — a reliable, verse-by-verse commentary on this “biography,” which France unpacks as a “drama in three acts.” A more recent volume is Mark Strauss’s contribution to the Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Zondervan, 2014), which gathers insights from historical criticism, social-scientific inquiry, and more literary interests. In the Sacra Pagina series, John R. Donahue and Daniel J. Harrington focus on intratextual (reading Mark as Mark, rather than with reference to its prehistory) and intertextual (how the text of Mark draws on other texts, especially the OT, to interpret the person and mission of Jesus) forms of analysis (SP; Liturgical Press, 2002).

An impressive assemblage of commentaries is available to the student of the Gospel of Luke. Two are of special interest to those seeking to read Luke as Luke. The most recent is John T. Carroll’s work in the New Testament Library (Westminster John Knox, 2012) – an important work that combines theological and literary interests. The commentary on Luke in the NICNT (Eerdmans, 1997), by Joel B. Green, brings together socio-cultural and narrative concerns so as to allow an extended engagement with Luke’s literary art and his theology, ethics, and spirituality. All three volumes of the admirable work of François Bovon have now been translated into English (Hermeneia; Fortress, 2002-13). In his introduction, Bovon lays claim to his theological commitments and ecclesial location as partners in the interpretive enterprise.

Turning to the Gospel of John, we celebrate first the publication of the long-awaited commentary by Marianne Meye Thompson (NTL; Westminster John Knox, 2015), the work of a seasoned interpreter of John whose commentary is sensitive both to the evangelist’s narrative artistry and to his theology. The volume by J. Ramsey Michaels (NICNT, Eerdmans, 2011) is likewise an essential resource for students of the book by someone whose decades-long appreciation of and engagement with the Fourth Gospel have led to fresh interaction with its literary-theological character. For useful, all-around companions, Andrew T. Lincoln’s contribution to Black’s New Testament Commentary is a welcome resource (Baker Academic, 2005), as is Gail R. O’Day’s sensitive and reliable work in the New Interpreter’s Bible ([NIB; ed. Leander E. Keck; Abingdon, 1995], 9:491-865).

On the Acts of the Apostles, students should be aware of several eminently useful works. Beverly R. Gaventa’s work in the Abingdon New Testament Commentaries (ANTC; Abingdon, 2003) combines erudition and accessibility, two attributes not often found in tandem. Her emphasis on Acts as a story of divine activity provides a welcome and engaging, theological reading of this important book. Students and pastors will appreciate the canonical perspective and theological interests that distinguish Robert W. Wall’s contribution to the NIB ([1995], 10:1-368). Baker Academic has published F. Scott Spencer’s creative and stimulating work under the title, Journeying through Acts (2004); relatively short in compass (about 250 pages), it is nonetheless fresh in its engagement with the text of Acts. Among more recent works, David G. Peterson has written an extensive, literary-theological study of Acts for the Pillar New Testament Commentary (PNTC; Eerdmans, 2009) and Eckhard Schnabel has followed the unfolding history of the early church in his work for the ZECNT (Zondervan, 2012).

Posted Oct 21, 2015