Review: Matthew [ZECNT]

Matthew ZECNT

Grant Osbourne is well known for his commentaries on the Gospel of John (CBC), Romans (IVPNTC) and Revelation (BECNT). Having just released a Mark commentary in the Teach the Text series, he’s now come out with a Matthew commentary in the ZECNT series.

And, if you see this book in person, you’ll see it is a thick book. At 1157 pages (59 pages being bibliography and references) there is plenty to read here. He leaves no verse unturned, and is set on focusing on the small sections only after examining the overall structure. This series is geared towards pastors and teachers who need a solid understanding of the NT and so need a solid commentary on each NT book.

Osbourne starts his commentary with a bit of a hermeneutics course which gives the reader an explanation for what he does (proceeding from the macro- to the micro-structure), while at the same time explaining the purpose of the ZECNT series. In his introduction he gives explanations for:

  • Authorship 
  • Date
  • Genre
  • Purpose
  • Audience
  • Matthew’s Use of the OT

As I said, this commentary is thick, but don’t let that dissuade you from thinking you won’t have enough time to study. Osbourne breaks Matthew down into 122 different chapters, with each section covering (on average) between six to twelve pages. Each chapter is divided up into seven sections, which I explain below.

Commentary Divisions

Since this is my first review of a ZECNT commentary (I have Mark coming up), this section will be a bit longer as I give a sentence or two to each division. Future reviews will be more brief.

Literary Context

Shows how the chapter flows from the previous chapter to the next, and a short explanation of it’s position in the broader context. A Progress Bar with an outline is added at the end.

Main Idea

A simple, one- or two-sentence statement of the big idea found in the passage.

Translation and Graphical Layout

The author gives his translation of the Greek text, showing in a graph how each piece is broken down. It reminds me a lot of Bible Arcing (which is one of the best tools I’ve seen for learning and teaching the text). This is one of the most useful parts of the commentary because it gives the reader a visual of the entire section, the breakdown of sentences and their clauses, and how they parallel/contrast/describe the previous statement, or show cause and effect, etc (See picture below).

Structure

The commentator describes the flow of thought and the structure.

Exegetical Outline

Gives a detailed outline for the chapter.

Explanation of the Text

The emphasis in this section is to convey meaning, and after the giving the English text, the commentator places the Greek text in parenthesis. The commentator can examine words, ideas, phrases, grammar, rhetoric, the social milieu, and biblical theology, but usually not all at once.

Theology in Application

A fantastic section in the commentary. The commentator discusses how each section contributes a piece of theology to the overall meaning of the book and provides some suggestions of the meaning for the church today. This commentary moves from breaking down the text (exegesis), to explaining it (commentary), to showing the meaning of the Matthew to the Christian walk (application). It will be incredibly helpful to the pastor/teacher in drawing out the implications of the text for the Christian community founded on solid exegesis.

Example of the Graphical Layout

(I found this on this blog, and here’s a link to another picture)

zecnt-passage-flow

Major Themes in Matthew

The final section after the commentary has a helpful guide to some major themes that are found in Matthew’s gospel. This would be a good section to read when encountering any of these points in the text one is studying. Osbourne looks through the whole of Matthew to put each theme into perspective (as one would expect since they are ‘major’ themes). The major themes are as follows:

  • Christology
  • The Jewishness of Matthew
  • The Gentile Mission
  • Eschatology
  • The Church
  • Discipleship

The Chocolate Milk

Layout

Every section of the ZECNT’s layout is helpful. While I may praise the Graphical Layout and Theology in Application sections more than the others (the Explanation section is a given), I find that every section is extremely beneficial. One must understand the big idea to really have a grasp of the details seen in the Exegetical Outline. Every piece contributes to the readers knowledge of the passage, and of Matthew, as a whole.

Theology in Application

However, besides the GL (which you can see the benefits of i the picture above), the Theology in Application section is a major plus. Each chapter includes anywhere between one to seven applications, meaning if each section has three applications you have 366 points of application. I would imagine this is more than the average Matthew commentary (though I can’t honestly say having only read two other Matthean commentaries, but considering the other series’ I have a good idea), and is especially helpful for the pastor/teacher, and even the layman. Anyone who reads this commentary would be encouraged by this section.

To the Point

Osbourne gets to the point. Some may want longer Introductions, and I understand because I won’t complain when I have them. Yet often times I find myself wading through alternative viewpoints in order to see the author viewpoint along with his reasoning for it. Here, I don’t need to wade through much at all. I simply have to read to know what Osbourne thinks! Of course throughout the commentary Osbourne does present the reader with other viewpoints from other scholars, but he usually relegates the details to the footnotes. This is extremely helpful in keeping the text clear and free from too much obtrusion, something I feel the BECNT series should learn to do.

Here, you will always know where he is going and where he is at in the progression of Matthew. Osbourne excels because he does exactly what the commentary sets out to do, getting to-the-point without getting bogged down in scholarly discussions. Many pastors don’t have the time for these discussions, and this is the place they can go for clear writing. While one’s sermon won’t be written in 30 minutes, Osbourne cuts out much of the chaff and gives pastors exactly what they want to know.

The Spoiled Milk

The progress bar under the Literary Context section is quite hokey. It’s made to look like you are scrolling down a web browser, but in the end I’d rather see more of the outline along with a progress bar that fits more closely to the style of the book. Not a big deal, just goofy.

While his concision is a praise, it’s I would have liked to have seen more of Osbourne’s reasoning for certain views. Often times, in being brief and concise, I still would like to know why Osbourne takes the view that he does. What is so significant about this view over the others? Why should I think this view is the correct view? Sometimes an adequate explanation is given, other times a good explanation is left lacking.

Recommended?

Fortunately, there’s really not much to complain about with this commentary. All in all, this will benefit any library (unless someone has read every other Matthean commentary, but then they may as well get this one too). Certainly pastors and teachers will benefit from this commentary, but even the layman seeking to understand Matthew. I wish I would have had this book back in college. I didn’t understand much of what Jesus said, but Osbourne puts it all into perspective, always being aware of the placement of the text within the holistic view. Osbourne, again, leaving no verse unturned, explains how the smaller details of Matthew is seen within the larger structure of Matthew as a whole. This commentary is easily understandable. It is not too hard, but definitely not too simple in the least.

Lagniappe

  • Series: Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament
  • Hardcover: 784 pages
  • Publisher: Zondervan (October 19, 2010)
  • Amazon: US; UK; CA

[Special thanks to Emily and Zondervan for allowing me to review this book! I was not obligated to provide a positive review in exchange for this book.]


Other editions currently in the ZECNT series:

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