New Testament Commentary Recommendations (1)
Over the years, and especially in recent days, I've been asked by people to make available my recommendations on New Testament commentaries. I yield at last, but with significant reservations. I can't imagine that my observations will add anything important to what has already been said in near exhaustive detail by D. A. Carson in his New Testament Commentary Survey (now in its 5th edition, Baker, 2001). In fact, I've always used Carson's survey as the excuse for not writing on this myself. But perhaps the perspective of a local church pastor will provide a bit of guidance for those who are just beginning to build their theological libraries and want recommendations for what is most helpful in sermon preparation. So here goes.
It has been over fifteen years since I last preached through Matthew, so I'm not as personally acquainted with some of the more recent commentaries as I am with those I read back in the late eighties.
Two commentaries are, in my opinion, head and shoulders above the rest. The first is the one by D. A. Carson in The Expositor's Bible Commentary (Zondervan, 1984, 599 pp.). I think Carson's treatment of Matthew has been reprinted separately from the original volume that also included short commentaries on Mark and Luke. Even if not, don't even think about preaching through Matthew without Carson's work. I'm not persuaded by his interpretation of the Olivet Discourse, but aside from this it is indispensable.
Running a close second to Carson is the recent commentary by R. T. France in The New International Commentary on the New Testament series (Eerdmans, 2007, 1169 pp.). I've only briefly skimmed through France but it gives every appearance of being superb. Although Carson wrote that "not many will follow him in his interpretation of the eschatological discourse" (43), I'm thoroughly persuaded by it! For those not familiar with this issue, France contends (convincingly, in my opinion) that Jesus was talking about the Destruction of Jerusalem all the way through 24:35.
Although I've read only selected portions of Craig Keener's A Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew (Eerdmans, 1999, 1040 pp.), it looks to be vintage Keener with massive information on Jewish backgrounds and the cultural setting of the gospel. Most pastors will only have time to read two or three technical commentaries on the book they are preaching, and when it comes to Matthew's gospel Carson, France, and Keener should provide most of the help they need.
I should also mention three extremely helpful treatments of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) that are written at a popular level but are theologically rich. They are Studies in the Sermon on the Mount by Martyn Lloyd-Jones (Eerdmans, 1974, 337 pp.), Christian Counter-Culture: The Message of the Sermon on the Mount by John Stott (IVP, 1978, 222 pp.), and The Sermon on the Mount: An Evangelical Exposition of Matthew 5-7 by D. A. Carson (Baker, 1978, 157 pp.).
In more recent days several quite technical commentaries on Matthew have come out, none of which I've read: John Nolland (The New International Greek Testament Commentary), David Turner (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament), Donald Hagner (Word Biblical Commentary), and the three-volume treatment in the ICC series by W. D. Davies and Dale Allison.
On to Mark and Luke . . .