Building a New Testament Library: Matthew — Acts

Joel B. Green

One of the key responsibilities of every Christian generation is to work with the Scriptures exegetically and theologically. A number of fine commentaries are available to assist this task. During the 2018–19 academic year, Catalyst will provide a four-part series discussing three or four of the best among more recent contributions to commentary on each of the NT writings.

Among the 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 attention to theological exegesis and the place of Matthew’s Gospel in relation to the larger enterprise of Christian theology, we can now turn to J. K. Brown and K. Roberts’s coauthored work in the Two Horizons New Testament Commentary (THNTC; Eerdmans, 2018). This volume combines section-by-section commentary and fulsome reflections on “thinking theologically with Matthew,” centered on such motifs as God’s kingdom, Christology, the Holy Spirit, and discipleship. For insightful engagement and critical detail, students with Greek may turn to J. Nolland’s contribution to 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. Theological reflection on Matthew will be aided by M. Simonetti’s two volumes in the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (ACCS; InterVarsity Press, 2001–2), which indexes some of the best of Christian writing on Matthew’s Gospel from the first eight centuries.

Recent decades have seen the production of a virtual cornucopia of monographs and special studies on the Gospel of Mark, and these are now joined by a number of useful 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.” In the Sacra Pagina series, J. R. Donahue and D. 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). J. Marcus’s two-volume contribution to the Anchor Bible (AB; Doubleday, 2000, 2009) situates the Second Gospel against the apocalyptic backdrop of the Jewish War. The ACCS on Mark, by T. C. Oden and C. A. Hall, provides a registry of insights from the early church (InterVarsity Press, 1998).

Of the many commentaries now available to the student of the Gospel of Luke, three are of special interest to those seeking to read Luke as Luke. J. T. Carroll’s commentary in the New Testament Library (NTL; Westminster John Knox, 2012) is a well-crafted orientation to the Gospel read as literature – and as the first volume of Luke-Acts. The commentary on Luke in the NICNT (Eerdmans, 1997), by J. B. Green, brings together sociocultural and narrative concerns so as to allow an extended engagement with Luke’s literary art and his theology, ethics, and spirituality. Finally, R. B. Vinson’s contribution to the Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary is an insightful reading of Luke that engages contemporary audiences prophetically (Smith & Helwys, 2008). From the ACCS, we have the volume on Luke by A. A. Just Jr., a valuable window into the first eight centuries of interpretation of the Third Gospel (InterVarsity, 2003).

It will be difficult to find a commentary on the Gospel of John better suited to the student and pastor than M. M. Thompson’s volume in the NTL (Westminster John Knox, 2015). On page after page, she displays her intimacy both with the overall structure and theological witness of the Fourth Gospel, and with the intricacies of its singular presentation of Jesus’s life and message. J. R. Michaels’s contribution to the NICNT (Eerdmans, 2011) is an important resource for students of the book by someone whose decades-long appreciation of and interaction with the Fourth Gospel have led to fresh engagement with its literary-theological character. For useful, all-around companions, A. T. Lincoln’s contribution to Black’s New Testament Commentary is a welcome resource (BCNT; Baker Academic, 2005), as is G. R. O’Day’s sensitive and reliable work in the New Interpreter’s Bible ([NIB; ed. L. E. Keck; Abingdon, 1995], 9:491–865).

On the Acts of the Apostles, students should be aware of several eminently useful works. B. 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 find helpful analysis in C. R. Holladay’s work in the NTL (Westminster John Knox, 2016), which follows the narrative of Acts with ample attention to historical questions. The particular strength of C. S. Keener’s massive study, Acts: An Exegetical Commentary (more than 4500 pages in four volumes; Baker Academic, 2012–15) is its location of Acts in relation to the literature of the ancient Mediterranean. A well-developed canonical perspective combined with theological sensibilities distinguishes R. W. Wall’s contribution to the NIB ([Abingdon, 1995], 10:1–368). For critical attention to historical and grammatical questions, students may turn to D. L. Bock’s work in the Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (BECNT; Baker Academic, 2007).

Posted Sep 19, 2018