Monday, March 26, 2012

Pulpit Review: More Matthew

Kellerman, James A. Translator. Edited by Thomas C. Oden. Gerald L. Bray and Thomas C. Oden, Series Editors. Incomplete Commentary on Matthew (Opus imperfectum) Volume 1 (Ancient Christian Texts). Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2010. 213 Pages. Cloth. $60.00. (P)

Kelllerman, James A. Translator. Edited by Thomas C. Oden. Gerald L. Bray and Thomas C. Oden, Series Editors. Incomplete Commentary on Matthew (Opus imperfectum) Volume 2 (Ancient Christian Texts). Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2010. 228 Pages. Cloth. $60.00. (P)

Gibbs, Jeffrey A. Matthew 11:2-20:34 (Concordia Commentary.) St. Louis: Concordia, 2010. 584 Pages. Cloth. $42.99. (LHP)

Pastorally, I use the Gospel according to Matthew as the structure for my Adult Catechesis. 

I preach using the Three-Year Lectionary. Matthew is a regular feature every three years.

I am thankful for these volumes on Matthew by Concordia and InterVarsity.

In the translator's introduction to this volume, James Kellerman relates the following story:
As Thomas Aquinas was approaching Paris, a fellow traveler pointed out the lovely buildings gracing that city. Aquinas was impressed, to be sure, but he sighed and stated that he would rather have the complete Incomplete Commentary on Matthew than to be mayor of Paris itself.

Thomas's affection for the work attests its great popularity during the Middle Ages, despite its significant missing parts--everything beyond the end of Matthew 25, with further gaps of Matthew 8:11--10:15 and 13:14--18:35. Although there are gaps, what remains is quite lengthy, so much so that we offer the work in two volumes, comprising fifty-four homilies.

While the early-fifth-century author displays a few Arian propensities in a handful of passages, for the most part the commentary is moral in nature and therefore orthodox and generic. The unknown author, who for several centuries was thought to be John Chrysostom, follows the allegorizing method of the Alexandrians, but not by overlooking the literal meaning. His passion, above all, is to set forth the meaning of Matthew's Gospel for his readers.

Here, for the first time, this ancient work is made available in English, ably translated by James A. Kellerman and edited by Thomas C. Oden. (publisher's website)
My main critique of these Matthew volumes of Ancient Christian Texts is the price point. I understand the need to financially support ongoing patristics research and make the books more durable in hardcover, but I pray IVP would make more affordable editions available in the US in addition to making them available around the world. Yes, there is likely a demographically smaller audience for these commentaries than for the ACCS, but I do not wish that price would make this monumental series sell less well than it could.

Yes, there are gaps in this incomplete commentary on Matthew. This set of sermon/commentaries in print is still worth your time. In fact, I am amazed it has taken this long to make this work available for the first time in English.

I uncomfortably hear praise of the monastic, unmarried "ideal" in the author's sermon on Matthew 4 (1:63). The editor warns you of Arian tendencies. Now, draw out the author at his creative best, restating the obvious truth of the Scripture (e.g., Matthew 12:40, 2:237) in an engaging way:
Consequently, through the mystery of this likeness both Jonah is reckoned to have been a prophet through Christ and Christ is shown to be the Son of God through Jonah. What is that I just said? unless Christ had come into the world and fulfilled those things that were spoken by the prophets, there was not complete certainty about them that they wee truly prophets. For also those who are deemed to be telling the future are not immediately thought to be diviners, but only when they have completed those things that have been said. And so Christ was born after the prophets, but he offered this gift to the prophets before him and afterwards he received it from them. Thus Christ shows by his deeds that they were prophets because they show him to be the Son of God in their words. For in the book of Sirach he implores the coming of Christ in this way: "Bear witness to those who you have created in the beginning, and fulfill the prophecies spoken in your name. Reward those who wait for you, and let your prophets be found trustworthy." For unless he had shown them to be prophets, they could not believe Christ. How could he give testimony about another before he himself was shown to be an adequate witness?
Save for volumes on the Bible books you specialize in.

Wait, if you must, for the LOGOS/Libronix set.

Either way, invest in the two-volume Opus Imperfectum.

Our next commentary on Matthew is still technically and temporarily an "opus imperfectum," in that a final volume featuring chapters 21 and following has yet to be published. I hope to see it, personally, by the time Matthew is featured in Year A of the Three-Year Lectionary.

Concordia Commentary: A Theological Exposition of Sacred Scripture is written to enable pastors and teachers of the Word to proclaim the Gospel with greater insight, clarity, and faithfulness to the divine intent of the biblical text.

This landmark work will cover all the canonical books of the Old and New Testaments, interpreting Scripture as a harmonious unity centered in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Every passage bears witness to the Good News that God has reconciled the world to Himself through our Lord's life, death, and resurrection.

The commentary fully affirms the divine inspiration, inerrancy, and authority of Scripture as it emphasizes "that which promotes Christ" in each pericope.
Authors are sensitive to the rich treasury of language, imagery, and themes found throughout Scripture, including such dialectics as Law and Gospel, sin and grace, death and new life, folly and wisdom, this fallen world and the new creation in Christ. Careful attention is given to the original Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek. Further light is shed on the text from archaeology, history, and extrabiblical literature. Finally, Scripture's message is applied to the ongoing life of the church in terms of ministry, worship, proclamation of the Word, Baptism, the Lord's Supper, confession of the faith—all in joyful anticipation of the life of the world to come.
A subscription program is available with this series. Call 1-800-325-3040 to have Concordia Commentaries shipped to you automatically as they become available, normally two per year.

(Publisher's website)

By way of introduction to the author of the Matthew volumes of Concordia Commentary, and since it is not (yet) available (again) on this blog, we are reprinting our review of Gibbs' Matthew 1:1-11:1 volume from Liturgy, Hymnody, & Pulpit Quarterly Book Review Volume 1, Issue 3, Apostles’ Tide, 2007:

Pulpit Book Review

Gibbs, Jeffrey A. Concordia Commentary: Matthew 1:1-11:1. St. Louis: Concordia, 2006. 547 pages. Cloth. $42.99. (800) 325-3040. (P)

Just in time for Year A of the LSB Three-Year Lectionary, Concordia Publishing House has released the first part of the long-awaited Matthew volumes of Concordia Commentary. Hopefully, the remainder of Matthew will appear before the First Sunday of Advent 2007. Users of the One-Year Lectionary will find this commentary useful every year.

“Matthew's Gospel presents Jesus of Nazareth as the Christ long promised in the Old Testament. To interpret it, author Jeffrey Gibbs employs a narrative approach that examines the literary structure of Matthew's unfolding message and interprets individual texts with a careful eye to their relationship to that overall structure.


“Gibbs expounds the Gospel in light of the original context and audience for whom Matthew wrote. The themes that have received particular emphasis include:
+ Jesus' mission to save His people from their sins
+ The reign of God in Jesus
+ The Son of God's vicarious role as substitute for Israel and for us
+ Jesus' fulfillment of the Old Testament
+ Jesus' ministry of mighty word (preaching, calling disciples, teaching) and mighty deed (healing the sick, exorcizing, raising the dead)
+ How God's grace in Jesus now comes to us through Word and Sacrament;
+ Eschatology—that the end times have begun already with Jesus' ministry and the Christian
lives with joyful hope in the promises yet to be fulfilled on the Last Day” (publisher’s website).

My seminary experience would have been much different without Dr. Gibbs. He taught me Greek, Hermeneutics, and the Gospel According to St. Matthew. I was the guy in the back row of our Greek class that got to answer all of the questions Professor Gibbs couldn’t by saying, “That is undoubtedly due to the historical development of the Greek language.” And a good time was had by all. 

Dr. Gibbs has in mind as his “average reader” a “theologically conservative pastor, perhaps a clergyman of my own church body…” See page 28 of his very helpful Introduction to see Gibbs’ proposed solution to the “synoptic problem.”

In class and in print Dr. Gibbs is an advocate for the beneficial aspects of narrative criticism, much like his Doktorvater, Jack Dean Kingsbury, author of Matthew as Story. Gibbs tries to read and comment upon Matthew’s Gospel “as its implied reader” (35).

Why does Gibbs see “three major blocks” in Matthew, “which extend from 1:1 to 4:16, from 4:17 to 16:20, and from 16:21 to 28:20”? Begin reading on page 40.

Who is Matthew’s Audience? An interesting part of Dr. Gibbs’ answer is in note 20 on page 6: “Scaer, Discourses in Matthew, 48-70, argues strongly that Matthew’s Gospel reflects the shape of early Christian catechesis that would lead unbaptized catechumens to the point of their Baptism into Christ. While this is not impossible, in my estimation he has not shown that the structure of Matthew reflects this movement…Scaer also acknowledges that catechesis is not the only purpose for which Matthew wrote his Gospel (p. 18).”

See page 47 for an explanation of why the familiar phrase “kingdom of Heaven” is rendered “Reign of Heaven” and is a major theme in Matthew. Other themes include “Fulfillment” and “Mission.” With regard to Jesus as the fulfillment of the Old Testament, Gibbs writes, “…the two testaments have an essential unity and that the disciples of Jesus should never read the OT without asking the question, ‘How does this passage ultimately point me to Jesus of  Nazareth?’…those who reject Jesus as the Messiah and Son of God cannot read it aright, at least not in the most important ways, and with regard to its central message” (54). Helpful insights for preaching, indeed. What is the “basis for judgment on the Last Day”? The “acceptance or rejection of Jesus’ missionaries, which is tantamount to the acceptance or rejection of the Good News of God’s reign in Jesus” (58-59).

As with other volumes in the Concordia Commentary series, Gibbs provides the Pericope citation, a Translation by the Author, Textual Notes, and Commentary. There are no examples of an excursus in this volume, for topics such as the genealogy of Jesus are integrated into the structure of Matthew itself. See page 93ff for “Two Possible Solutions” of the problem of the Matthew 1-2 and Luke 1-2 genealogies. For a proposed harmony of Matthew 2 and Luke 2, see pages 145-150.

The collects and hymnody of the church (including references to Lutheran Service Book) are referenced in the discussion of Jesus’ Baptism (195, notes 36-38).

“The Beatitudes…for a sort of ‘doorway’ through which Matthew’s readers/hearers must pass if they are to grasp aright the Lord’s great teaching in the Sermon” (237).

What about divorce on the basis of Matthew 5? “…Jesus’ teaching…must be interpreted in harmony with other NT passages. The section cannot be read as literal and comprehensive. To repeat the point, Jesus’ teaching is not legal, case law material…” (278).

For insight into the Lord’s Prayer, especially the Sixth Petition, be sure to read pages 317ff and 338ff. There are many neat insights in the footnotes. Don’t miss them. “Why did the demons want to enter the pigs?” (450, note 11). For a little humor from St. Augustine, read note 25 on page 523.

So many commentaries today show their Reformed bias by ignoring clear sacramental references. I love a commentary that takes the Scriptures, Book of Concord, Martin Luther, and hymnody and worship life of the church seriously. This is scholarship that is knowledgeable and faithful, knowledgeable about other positions out there, yet faithful to divine truth and in the service of the Gospel.

“Jeffrey A. Gibbs is professor of exegetical theology (New Testament) at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri, where he has taught since 1992. Previously, he served as a parish pastor at Calvary Lutheran Church, St. Helens, Oregon (1979-1986), and Grace Lutheran Church, Scappoose, Oregon (1979-1989). Dr. Gibbs is a graduate of Rice University, Houston, Texas (B.A., 1974), and Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Indiana (M. Div., 1979), where he also earned the S.T.M. in 1988. His Ph.D. in biblical studies is from Union Theological Seminary in Virginia, Richmond, Virginia (1995)…His revised dissertation, Jerusalem and Parousia: Jesus’ Eschatological Discourse in Matthew’s Gospel, was published by Concordia Publishing House in 2000. Dr. Gibbs is the New Testament editor of Concordia Commentary: A Theological Exposition of Sacred Scripture” (book jacket).

Evangelically understood, this should be “required reading.” Concordia Commentary: Matthew is an heirloom commentary, part of an heirloom commentary series.

As of this writing, the first printing of this volume has been sold out. Visit for current availability. This is a commentary with preaching pastors in mind and may also serve you as a wonderful devotional resource on the Gospel according to St. Matthew. I eagerly await the upcoming CC volumes mentioned by CPH in its Convention Workbook report to synod: Jonah, Matthew 11:2-28:20, and Ezekiel 21:48.

I appreciate the overview sections Gibbs gives (e.g., "Themes in Matthew 11:2-16:20," 551) that put pericopes in a larger context. His treatment of how Isaiah 42:1-4 is quoted in Matthew 12:18-21 (622-623) is very helpful to understanding the work of the Servant in the "reign of heaven."

What is the unforgivable sin (Matthew 12:22-37)? "Nothing More or Less Than Ongoing Rejection of Jesus" (644ff). How does the author handle the sensitive topic of the brothers and sisters of Jesus (13:53-58)? Sensitively. And he concludes:
....I also hold to the classical Christology that is entailed by giving to Mary the title "mother of God." I concur with the Lutheran Confessions, in which Mary is rightly acclaimed as the mother of God precisely because of the divinity of her Son...(736)
Readers will get a preview of Gibbs' treatment of the Lord's Supper on page 791, as Matthew 15:29-38 provides obvious parallels with Matthew 26.

The Third Part of Matthew will carry us from Matthew 16:21 through 28:20 (827ff, plus the final volume). The remainder of this volume of Gibbs' Matthew commentary covers "Three Passion Predictions and the Disciples' Incomprehension."

I commend the author for a pithy, truthful, and Matthew 18-based apologia for Infant Baptism (902ff) and his "Reflection and Application: When Divorce Is Never God's Will" (956ff, especially 959).

This reviewer prays for Concordia Commentary: Matthew 21:1-28:20 to be released in time for Advent 2013-2014, the next time Year A shows up in the Three-Year Lectionary Series. Of course, those who use the Historic One-Year Series in Wyoming District and elsewhere will find the volumes of Concordia Commentary: Matthew helpful every year.

The Rev. Paul J Cain is Pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming, Headmaster of Martin Luther Grammar School, a member of the Board of Directors of The Consortium for Classical and Lutheran Education, Wyoming District Worship Chairman, and Editor of QBR.