Note: This blog is the third in a series of posts on teaching the Gospel of Matthew. You can find the first blog on teaching Matthew HERE.
In my first post in this series, I wrote about the importance of both reading the Bible and reading good books about the Bible. Good books about the Bible are not a replacement for the Bible. The Bible is God’s Word, and it only is infallible and inerrant. But good books about the Bible help us see how other Spirit-filled Christians have understood and taught the Scriptures for 2,000 years. They help us avoid some common mistakes about biblical texts, and they answer some really difficult questions about the Bible. Good books about the Bible also help us become better readers of the Bible.
I have gathered below some of my favorite books about the Gospel of Matthew. None of these books are perfect, and there is plenty in these works with which I disagree. But they are excellent helps to reading Matthew, so I offer them to you here.
A New Testament Introduction:
The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown: An Introduction to the New Testament by Köstenberger, Kellum, and Quarles (B&H Academic, Second Edition, 2016).
Every serious student of the Bible should have a New Testament introduction handy. Introductions will not only answer a lot of the difficult questions about a Bible book that we rely on scholars to answer—arguments about authorship, date, provenance, purpose, etc.—they are also very helpful finding quickly the structure, themes, and notable passages in a Bible book.
My current favorite New Testament introduction is The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown. I’ll admit, I am biased. I know the fellows who wrote it and taught with two of them for years at Southeastern Seminary. I have used Cradle (or it’s college-level little brother, The Lion and the Lamb) to teach New Testament introduction to college and seminary students for years.
A Background Commentary:
Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary by Arnold (Vol 1—Matthew, Mark, Luke, Zondervan, 2002).
A Bible background commentary is a fun addition to any Bible teacher’s library. Most of the time you don’t need the help of a historian or archeologist to understand a Bible passage. The Bible is pretty clear as to its meaning most of the time, and often the best way to interpret a difficult passage in Scripture is by studying other, less difficult passages in Scripture. But there are occasions when having a digest of the best scholarly work by historians, classicists, and archeologists on the Bible books available come in handy. This is what the Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary brings to the table.
Matthew for Everyone by Tom Wright (Vols 1 and 2, Westminster John Knox Press; Third Edition, 2004).
Don’t let the by-line fool you. That “Tom Wright” is none other than N. T. Wright, one of the world’s foremost New Testament scholars. It is true that Pauline studies are his specialty. It is also true that he has some idiosyncratic ideas about New Testament, but everything the man writes is fantastically written, extremely helpful, and wonderfully faithful. The “Tom Wright, For Everyone” series is the writing Wright does for his lay audience, and the two-volume set on Matthew is a gem.
The Expositor’s Bible Commentary by Longman and Garland (Vol 9, Matthew and Mark, Zondervan, Revised Edition, 2010).
If you want something a little more heavyweight but that was still written with the average Christian in mind, the Expositor’s series makes a great addition to any library. This series can get pretty technical in places (that’s a good thing!), and they do deal with the original language of the New Testament where appropriate, but they are entirely in English and written with the sermon-writing pastor and Sunday School teacher in mind. I use these commentaries in my college classes, and my students enjoy them. The Matthew volume was written by D. A. Carson, one of the great evangelical minds of our age. This commentary is a “must have.”
Below is a list of the academic commentaries I plan to use in my study. Most of these are written with a professionally trained audience in mind. They make regular references to the Greek text of Matthew (often without transliterating the Greek letters into English). Even a layperson would find much in these volumes very helpful, but they were written with the graduate student, the seminary graduate, and the professor in mind. Of the three I’ve listed, I enjoy Keener’s commentary the best, but I generally find France’s work the most helpful. My students, on the other hand, have much preferred Morris’s work in the Pillar series. All three of these series are excellent throughout their volumes.
The Gospel According to Matthew by Leon Morris (Pillar New Testament Commentary, Eerdmans, 1992).
The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary by Craig S. Keener (Eerdmans 2009).
The Gospel of Matthew by R. T. France (New International Commentary on the New Testament, Eerdmans, 2007).