In some ways, Matthew is a difficult book with which to start our series.
So far, a detailed evangelical commentary on Matthew has not been written this century. The most useful, both from a technical and expository point of view, are R. T. France’s Matthew (IVP/Eerdmans, 1985) and D. Carson’s The Expositor’s Bible Commentary Vol. 8 (Zondervan, 1984). They are complimentary because they sometimes focus on different interpretative problems or approach the same problem in different ways. Readers are also put in touch with modern articles and books on Matthew’s Gospel. France’s work replaces Tasker in the Tyndale Series and is more fulsome and detailed.
David Hill’s The Gospel of Matthew (Oliphants, 1972) in the New Century Bible Series is more technical and less expository in format. It offers a compressed presentation of some of the important issues and is a helpful introduction to the Gospel.
The volume by R.. Gundry (Eerdmans, 1982) is disappointing, as it engages in an exaggerated form of redaction criticism and does not provide much help for preachers.
W. Hendriksen’s Matthew (Banner of Truth, 1976) shows an obvious love for Scripture but tends to be wordy and not acquainted with current scholarly discussions. The preacher may find some interesting ideas for exposition here.
In addition, there are various studies on the Sermon on the Mount. Some of those worth noting are J. Stott’s Christian Counter Culture—The Message of the Sermon on the Mount (BST Series) and A. A. Guelich’s The Sermon on the Mount: A Foundation for understanding (Word, 1982).
Unlike some Old Testament books there is no shortage of good and helpful commentaries on the foundational book of Genesis, so much so in fact that our comments on this book will be spread over the first two issues of The Briefing.
Firstly, I should mention a very brief, but perceptive study, The Theme of the Pentateuch, by D.. Clines [Journal for the Study of the OT Supplement 10 (JSOT Press, 1979)]. The book is not complex, and helps the reader to see the thematic unity of the first five books of the Bible.
As we turn to commentaries, a review like this can hardly bypass G. von Rad’s Genesis [Old Testament Library (London: SCM Press, 1972)], since many readers will have it on their shelves! Its strength is a degree of theological perception which makes it a most stimulating commentary with which to interact. Its main weakness is the weakness of almost all modern commentaries on Genesis: the division of the text into strands (the famous J and P, and a failure to see the relationship between passages from different strands.
A more recent commentary which also stimulates theological reflection is that by W. Brueggemann [Genesis, Interpretation Commentary (John Knox, 1982)]. This work shares with von Rad thoroughly critical presuppositions, but is more concerned with the theological significance of the text. For fresh ideas and profound suggestions (if not always correct answers), Brueggemann is hard to beat (but expensive).
Few readers will be able to profit from the wealth of information, analysis, and reflection in the massive three volume work by C. Westermann [Genesis 1-11, Genesis 12-36, Genesis 37-50, (SPCK, 1984, 1986)]. Life is too short (the first volume runs to over 600 pages), and money doesn’t grow on trees (they make Brueggemann’s commentary look cheap). However, it certainly leaves few stones unturned.