Grant Osborne on Matthew’s Gospel: A New Commentary Series (ZECNT)

Whenever I hear there is going to be a new commentary series, I wince a bit. By and large I have felt newer commentaries series have not contributed much- the exception being the Two Horizons series. So, when I was sent Grant Osborne’s Matthew volume in the new Zondervan Exegetical Commentary Series I was seriously skeptical.

I am happy to report that Zondervan has really figured out what (evangelical) pastors and ministry leaders need, and they have planned a series that can deliver precisely in the traditional areas of “exegesis.”

Firstly, you will notice Osborne’s (GO) commentary is large. This is a bit deceptive. It is hardcover and the font size is quite large. This is not a problem, but I was expected detailed analysis of every verse, and that is not the niche for this commentary series.

So what does it do? In the series introduction, they describe the features:

(1) Interaction with the Greek text – not too “light,” not too “heavy.”

(2) 1-2 sentence summary of the main point of each passage.

(3) visual (graphic) representation of the flow of the passage (looking very discourse analysis style to me)

(4) surveys of the key interpretive issues

(5) summary of main theological issues in each passage with pointers to application

Of highest benefit, I believe, are the many outlines of the flow of the text and the rhetorical or narrative progress. Also, theological insights are helpful when it comes time to preach from a text from the lectionary and it seems too dense, inaccessible, irrelevant, or dull.

The Introductory section of the commentary with normal genre, background, authorship (etc…) issues will be a bit of a disappointment for many, not because of what he says, but it seems too basic of a treatment for such a large commentary. He champions, of course, many traditional viewpoints and often seems dedicated to defending the historical accuracy of a number of events and sayings; this is sometimes odd because he is quite happy at other times to assign redactional interests to Matthew.

In terms of structure, he follows Carson generally with some modification. As for method of interpretation, he does a fine job of tapping into the Jewish background and context of the Gospel.

Here are some of the prominent viewpoints GO holds.

Sermon on the Mount: these are new laws for the kingdom age inaugurated by Jesus. They cannot be lived out  perfectly, but they represent the new way of the new kingdom of Jesus.

11:12: “But from the days of John the Baptist until the present, the kingdom of heaven is subject to violence, and violent people attack it”

Matthew 24: “This is apocalyptic language, in which the destruction of Jerusalem foreshadows the tribulation period and the parousia” (865)

Overall, Osborne does not posit any extreme views. In fact, if there is one limitation, it is that, for its size, one would expect some thoroughly argued fresh insights. However, that is not really the point of the series. Osborne shines in many ways precisely because he is sticking to the narrative, rhetorical, logical, and theological progression and flow of thought.

I believe, again, pastors will really benefit greatly from this commentary. If you have the budget as a pastor to buy a few commentaries, I would recommend Hagner (WBC), France (NICNT), and this one.

Final Review

ORIGINALITY: 3/5

CLARITY: 4.5/5

OVERALL: 4.5/5

I hope to review the Galatians and Ephesians commentaries in due time, hopefully sometime in the next six months.

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