This review appeared in the Apr-Jun 2009 vol. 166 no. 2 issue of Biblotheca Sacra, DTS’s quarterly academic journal.Subscribe Today
Matthew 1:1-11:1: A Theological Exposition of Sacred Scripture ConcordiaConcordia Publishing House, St. Louis November 1, 2006
This is the first of two planned commentaries on the Gospel of Matthew. According to the editors’ preface, “honesty calls for an outline of the presuppositions held by those who have shaped this commentary series . . . . First in importance is the conviction that the content of the Scriptural testimony is Jesus Christ (Jn. 5:39) . . . . They are Christ-centered, Christological commentaries. . . . [The] second conviction [is] that Law and Gospel are the overarching doctrines of the Bible itself . . . . a key for understanding the self-revelation of God and his plan of salvation in Jesus Christ. . . . A third, related conviction is that the Scriptures are God’s vehicle for communicating the Gospel” (p. xi, italics theirs). The author describes his “average reader” as “a theologically conservative pastor, perhaps a clergyman of my own church body [the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod]” (p. 18).
Gibbs’s Introduction covers the major issues of the book. He rejects the view of some scholars that the Gospel does not paint an accurate portrait of the historical Jesus, and he affirms that Matthew has preserved the actual words and deeds of Jesus in his Gospel. Gibbs also rejects the idea of seeking to determine Matthew’s original audience, since the book was intended for a broad community, not a narrow, specific social culture (p. 1). He regards the Gospel as written for baptized Christians and meant to be read and heard in the context of a worship service (pp. 5–6). Gibbs suggests that Matthew intended to write Scripture that would be received on a level with the Old Testament, and he argues that “Matthew’s strategy [was] to write a narrative that extends the OT Scripture, and to bring that scriptural narrative to its goal” (p. 10). After a long discussion on Marcan priority he rejects it, stating that Matthew “used a combination of factors” in writing his Gospel (p. 28). Yet he stated earlier that any “position on the Synoptic Problem must be held humbly, and with a certain amount of tentativeness” (p. 20).
Gibbs divides Matthew into three parts: The Presentation of Jesus (1:1—4:16); Ministry and Opposition in Israel—Who Is This Jesus? (4:17—16:20); The Road to the Cross, the Empty Tomb, and All the Nations (16:21—28:20). The three themes of the “Reign of Heaven/God in Jesus,” “Fulfillment,” and “Mission” are fully developed in his commentary. The fulfillment theme is especially intriguing because Gibbs says that Jesus is “the one and only person who fulfills the entire OT . . . [and] those who reject Jesus as the Messiah and Son of God cannot read it aright, at least not in the most important ways, and with regard to its central message” (p. 54). The author of this Gospel is identified by Gibbs as the apostle Matthew, and he dates the Gospel in the mid-to-late 50s.
The commentary itself is neatly organized, each section beginning with Gibbs’s own English translation, followed by verse-by-verse textual comments and notes, and a careful examination of the particular section of verses. His interpretation reflects his conviction that the Gospels are accurate historical accounts. A unique feature of the commentary is the publisher’s use of icons in the margins to highlight fifteen different themes at their place in the narrative: Trinity, Temple/Tabernacle, Incarnation, Passion/Atonement, Death/Resurrection/Theology of the Cross, Christology, Baptism, Instruction/Revelation, Lord’s Supper, Ministry of the Word/Office of the Keys, the Church, Worship, Sin/Law/Death, Hope of Heaven/Eschatology, and Justification. However, the reader needs to memorize the icons or mark pages xx–xxi until they are familiar.
Even though the commentary is said to be written for the average pastor, it has extensive footnotes and it quotes the Greek New Testament liberally, often without translation, as well as using references to numerous Hebrew words and passages. The commentary has an extensive, up-to-date bibliography. The book is readable, carefully articulated, and reflective of current Matthean research. The volume could be a helpful and useful resource not only for the audience targeted by the publisher and author, but also for professors in Bible colleges or seminaries.
—Larry J. Waters