Personal Thoughts about Commentaries (4): MATTHEW

Here are my personal picks for the most profitable commentaries on Matthew.  I favor a modified ‘Dispensational’ approach to the book which takes seriously the way Matthew provides lines of continuity and discontinuity with the Old Testament.  But I have little problem with including studies which do not handle eschatological issues as satisfactorily as I would like.  There is, after all, more to Matthew than eschatology:

1. Donald A. Hagner (WBC) – This was a hard choice as I don’t hold to ‘Q’.  But there is so much great exegetical, historical, and practical material in these two volumes that I cannot think of being without it.  Eat the meat and spit out the critical bones!

2. D. A. Carson (EBC) – I rarely find Carson as helpful or as clear as Hagner, but this is a first-rate work.  More tentative on ‘Q’s’ influence than Hagner though.  The revised work in this set is sure to keep Carson at or near the top of everyone’s list.

3. R. C. H. Lenski – Scoff if you must, but then get over it!  It teems with solid exegesis and outstanding preaching values.

4. Edward Glasscock (Moody) – A terrific dispensational commentary which rejects Markan priority and seeks to explain the transitions between pericopes logically.  The most accurate overall interpretation of Matthew.

5. R. T. France (NICNT) – Superbly written, with great exegesis.  Strong on ‘Q’ but as evangelical as Hagner.  Awful on the Olivet Discourse.

6. Craig Blomberg (NAC) – Rather slim, but thanks to the author’s style and learning most worthwhile.

7. John Nolland (NIGTC) – Asks many great exegetical questions and keeps important emphases before the reader.  Pleasing to read despite being technical.

8. William Hendriksen (NTC) – Very Reformed but solid study which emphasizes the geography of the narrative.

9. Leon Morris (Pillar) – A substantial contribution by a reliable scholar.  Not as good as his John commentary but still very helpful.

10. Stewart Custer – I haven’t seen this book, but am including it because Custer is a good exegete, is well read, very conservative, and dispensational.  It is bound to be good, if, perhaps, a tad narrow.  I have allowed my bias to give Custer the edge over David Turner’s BECNT contribution.

I can hear the cries now.  Where is Davies and Allison?  It’s not there because they don’t actually explain the meaning of the Gospel well.  Well, what about Turner?  What I’ve read of it looks good, but I wasn’t transfixed.  Keener might have made the list too.  Especially if one wishes for rich background material along with exegesis.  But I prefer Nolland.  Mounce (NIBC) is a good treatment once you get over the ‘Q’ stuff.  He is a little better than Michael Green’s work (BST), but not as pastoral.  Toussaint is thematic but not detailed enough.  Walvoord is worthwhile but basic.  Ditto Gaebelein, English, and Campbell Morgan.  David Hill (NCB) is good but the critical scholarship is dated.  Older commentaries are not that distinguished, though Broadus, Alexander, Morison and Dickson should not be passed up.

Finally, two studies: A Gospel for A New People by Stanton, and Garland’s Reading Matthew make very helpful contributions.

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23 comments

  1. Good Day, Paul:

    I am looking for a contemporary commentary, based upon the Greek text, for Mathew.

    I am considering Nolland, but would appreciate knowing more about Nolland’s eschatology, and how he deals with eschatalogical passages in Mathew, before making a purchase.

    Thanks in advance for your assistance,

    Ray Metcalfe
    Toronto

  2. 5

    Hi Ray,

    It really comes down to what you want from the commentary. Nolland is all over the field in his eschatology. He generally takes a sort of Preterist approach a la R. T. France. “This generation” of 24:34 is the generation of which Jesus was a part. This doesn’t upset Nolland because he thinks Matthew has collocated his material from Mark and ‘Q’ anyway.

    Nolland’s exegesis is very helpful. His interpretation is pretty lousy. The best on eschatology is Glasscock, but the best exegesis is (I think) Hagner.

    God bless!

    P.

  3. Hi Paul:

    I always appreciate your views on Commentaries, and thank you very much for them, Paul.

    Paul, I have been trying to locate Glascock’s commentary on Mathew, but haven’t been able to track it down. I actually contacted Moody Publishers, who say they don’t have it listed, at this point. I would like to know if you or any of your readers might know who currently has the publishing rights of Glascock’s commentary, or where it may be purchased as a used volume?

    Thanks so much, and God bless.

    Ray Metcalfe
    Toronto, On
    Canada

  4. Hi,
    Have you read the NIVAC on Matthew or the new ZECNT by osborn or chamblins commentary. Any thoughts on these. Which would be the best out of these 3.
    Cheers
    Steve.

  5. Hi,
    Thanks for your recommendation – I just bought Osborne. You put leon Morris below Blomberg. Leon Morris commentary is quite more detailed than Blomberg but with pastoral warmth. Any comments where you put Leon Morris commentary compared to the other commentaries.
    Thanks in advance.
    Steve

    1. Steve,

      I don’t rate Morris as highly on Matthew as on John. I find this commentary workmanlike but never outstanding. Blomberg is shorter, but he packs an awful lot into his book. I don’t like his treatment of e.g., the “Leaven Parable,” but few really take seriously how the word sounded to the Jewish ear.

      I base some of my ratings on accessibility to modern scholarship with pastors in mind. What is a good use of time? Anyway, it is somewhat subjective. As I had placed several substantial commentaries above Morris, I thought Blomberg should get an earlier look-in than Morris! Morris is good for the pastor – better, arguably, than Nolland for example. But Nolland asks such good questions of the text, and thinks on his own as it were. France is chosen for great writing style and terrific exegesis. Carson keeps abreast of what’s going on. Anyhow, I hope you get the picture.

      God bless

      Paul H

  6. Hi,
    Thanks for the feedback where would put the zecnt (osborn) commentary compared to the others. Thanks in advance.
    Cheers
    Steve

      1. I see that you placed Hagner higher than Nolland, could you explain further why you think this true?
        Is it on being theological, incisive in exegesis, etc?

      2. That’s a good question. I’m not entirely sure I can be objective on this. I have had many years to acquaint myself with Hagner, and I find him usually very thought-provoking. I like Nolland’s style and I have found him to get at the things I want, but I do find him a little less ready to do biblical theology within his exegesis.

        I believe I place Nolland higher than most lists.

        Anyway, thank you for the question.

    1. Well, would you have bought it if I had? Besides, I’ll have you know that you have been a voice in my conscience about footnotes over endnotes as I write my book.

      1. Then my life has meaning. I’m looking forward to anything you write. I hope it’s a systematic development of Biblical Covenantalism.

        With lots of FOOTnotes.

      2. Since I have a high regard for your writing I shall draw encouragement from your kind words. The book (‘The Words of the Covenant’) is still in process, but I hope to have it completed in a few months. We’ll see.

  7. FWIW, it is worth noting that for authors who are targeting both print and online formats from a single document source, endnotes can wind up being the regrettable result since they work in both paginated and unpaginated settings. (I prefer footnotes, but my commentaries use endnotes because some digital formats typically do not support definite page boundaries.)

    Just mentioning this so folks consider that it isn’t always about author preferences when multiple formats are intended. 🙂

  8. Hello, thank you for this article, it is very helpful. I just discovered your site and I like it, insightful stuff here.
    I need a little help in choosing a commentary for Matthew – I searched lots of sites (ligonier, bestcommentaries, etc) and I came down to 2 choices: Carson vs Turner. My problems:

    – money: I live in eastern Europe, so most commentaries I have to purchase online, which is expensive. I can only afford 1 commentary and the price matters. Turner is like 7 eu cheaper – not a ton, but still – so is Carson significantly better in order to justify more money ? (France is considered no.1, but he is even more expensive than Carson, and the difference between Carson/france doesn’t seem like much – no1 vs no2)

    – I like BECNT – I already purchased 2 (1 corinthians and revelation) and I like the quality and them being reader’s friendly
    – Turner is newer

    So, is Carson better in order to justify the extra money ? What I want from my commentary is to help me understand the difficult passages, help with the exegesis, provide historical/social context, provide different viewpoints
    What I don’t want is someone just forcing his own interpretation on me.

    I am also not a calvinist, so normally I would lean toward Turner, but everybody says Carson is 2nd best, while Turner kinda meh.
    Unfortunatelly Hagner (your no1 choice) is way too expensive for me. I also understand he is quite moderate (critical ?).

    I’m really torn appart on what commentary to get, so I would need another oppinion on Turner (vs CArson).

    Thank you very much and excuse my english

    1. Hi Emanuel,

      Thank you for telling me what you are looking for in a commentary. From what you say I think you would regret not going for Carson. In my view I would only get the updated version if you really must know what everyone and his dog is saying today. Otherwise, get the older Carson commentary in the EBC edited by Gaebelein.

      1. Thank you, I will get the updated version of Carson (it’s also the one i’ve found). I’m really enjoying your site, since I’m also leaning toward dispensationalism

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