New Testament Commentary Reviews: Matthew

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Thousands of commentaries have been written about the Bible, and it’s easy to become confused because these resources are written to various audiences. Choosing the “best” will depend upon the kind of analysis you desire. Commentaries are often divided into three categories:

  • Devotional/Introductory–the primary focus is application of the Word and growing in Christ. Lots of “how to” questions are answered.

  • Pastoral/Intermediate–these commentaries also contain application but are more information oriented. Some go deep into the history or cultural background of the text, while others pay more attention to linguistics. Lots of “what does it mean” questions are answered. Useful for any Christ follower and especially helpful to those who teach.

  • Technical/Advanced–primary value is to teachers and advanced students. Some technical commentaries focus on textual criticism (the reliability of the text), while others address linguistics (the text itself). Lots of minutiae. These commentaries contain Greek text (sometimes transliterated, sometimes not) and require familiarity with Koine Greek to extract their full benefit, but even those with no knowledge of Greek will find these commentaries useful.

My recommendations identify which category each book falls into. Some commentaries overlap; when they do, both categories will be noted (e.g., Pastoral/Technical). The recommendations are listed in order of their helpfulness to Bible students, teachers, and pastors.

The Gospel according to Matthew

There are a number of excellent commentaries on this gospel; below are six I consult regularly and recommend for your consideration (with a few caveats).

  • The first commentary I reach for when studying Matthew’s gospel is by Don Carson in the Expositor’s Bible Commentary, (Zondervan, 1984, revised 2006). Pastoral. An intermediate level verse-by-verse exposition that consistently offers valuable historical and theological insights. I have been blessed by this book for thirty years and still use the original version, but I recommend getting the revised version. Carson’s commentary is little changed, but it is paired with a helpful new commentary by Mark Strauss on the Gospel according to Mark.

  • Another source I always consult when studying Matthew is Richard France in the New International Commentary on the New Testament (Eerdmans, 2007). Pastoral/Technical. While this is a technical commentary, it is very accessible. All Greek and Hebrew words in the text are transliterated (the footnotes contain non-transliterated words). France’s conclusions are orthodox and well reasoned, and his writing is clear and easy to understand. This is a commentary you will use and appreciate for the rest of your life.

  • My third recommendation is by Craig Blomberg in the New American Commentary (Broadman, 1992). Pastoral/Devotional. An intermediate level commentary that focuses more on background info than linguistics. Lots of helpful insights for teachers, preachers, and anyone who wants to better understand Matthew’s gospel.
    Lagniappe: Blomberg also wrote my second favorite introduction to the four gospels: Jesus and the Gospels: An Introduction and Survey (2nd ed.; B&H, 2009). Helpful!

  • To learn more about the socio-historical aspects of Matthew’s gospel, get A Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew (Eerdmans, 1999), by Craig Keener. Lots of background on the culture, religion, politics, and social setting of Second Temple Judaism–the world Jesus lived in. I found several of the excursuses (more detailed explanations) to be especially helpful–info on the origins and practices of the sect of the Pharisees, insights on burial customs, the context of the Last Supper, the history and authority of the Sanhedrin, and much more. It also has an exhaustive bibliography (40+ pages!) for those wanting to go deeper. Keener has assembled an abundance of interesting information in this commentary, but because of its specialized subject matter, I recommend purchasing this one after France and Carson.
    Lagniappe: Keener’s contribution to the InterVarsity Press New Testament Commentary (IVP, 1997) has some of this information and is a good choice if you are low on funds (it is less than ten dollars), but the larger version is worth the extra cost.

  • If you want a technical commentary, consider the three-volume set by William Davies and Dale Allison in the International Critical Commentary (T&T Clark, 1988). Technical. An exhaustive (and sometimes exhausting) work that covers virtually every aspect of the gospel. Lots of non-transliterated Greek; all Hebrew is transliterated. When I am looking at a Matthean passage in detail, this is one of the first books I grab. Recommended, but with a couple of caveats. First, only a portion of the commentary will be of use to most readers. Much of it is devoted to higher criticism and interactions with other scholars that provide few insights. My second caveat is the price. The paperback set will cost you $160, and if you want it in OP hardcover, be prepared to pay $300 or more in the secondary market. Is it worth it? Maybe. It depends on your needs. I appreciate the background information when doing indepth research on the gospels, but read Davies and Allison with discernment. There is a lot of chaff with the wheat.

  • Another helpful resource is Michael Wilkins in the NIV Application Commentary (Zondervan, 2004). Devotional/pastoral. This book puts the cookies on the lowest shelf–easy to read, easy to understand, and filled with applications and illustrations. Wilkins focuses on what apprenticeship to Jesus looks like in today’s world. If you are new to teaching or unfamiliar with this gospel, the NIVAC is a good entry point, but don’t let it be your only commentary on Matthew. Couple it with Carson or France.

Did I miss a commentary you are interested in? Drop me a line. These are not the only resources I am familiar with–these are just my favorites.

Next: Recommended commentaries on the Gospel according to Mark.

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2 thoughts on “New Testament Commentary Reviews: Matthew

  1. Why did you leave out Hagner (2 volumes, WBC) from your list?
    How about Osborne (ZECNT) who you included on the other list, why did you leave him out here?

    • Hi Chita
      My list is not an exhaustive review. Just my favorites. Hagner’s WBC is a worthy and respected commentary with lots of helpful information, but my favorite technical commentary is Osbourne’s ZECNT. I am not sure what list I left that off of? It should show up as my #1 rec for an advanced commentary.
      May the Lord bless your studies!