Credible Faith

Review of Grant Osborne's Matthew Commentary

Osborne, Grant. Matthew. Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Clinton Arnold, editor. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010.
At least much of this review was published in The Expository Times. In a November 2011 email, Paul shared much of this review with persons who had supported him.

Text Publication: November 2011

Author(s): Paul Larson

The idea for the series of which Grant Osborne's Matthew commentary is part was refined through pastors and teachers sharing what they wanted in a commentary series. Osborne himself says that he was excited at the criteria for coverage being what the pastor needs rather than what scholars would like to have, stating that the exegetical and theological details he chose to include were on the basis of one question, what he would want to know as a pastor preparing a sermon on the passage. Towards that end, chapters of the commentary's main section, which is preceded by a brief introduction and select bibliography and followed by indices and a section on Matthean theology, are divided into seven sections: literary context, main idea, translation, structure and literary form, exegetical outline, explanation of the text, and theology in application. In the introduction, Osborne opts for the apostle Matthew as author, a preferable date of 65-67 CE, the genre of gospel (defined as theological biography of Christ), and sources of Mark, Q, and M, among other positions.

If a commentary is to be judged on its stated purpose, Osborne's work is a success, partly due to the clear and homiletically enabling seven section format, and partly due to Osborne's not wading so deep into the scholarly literature and conversation that the reader loses his sense of footing. As a seasoned Gospels scholar, Osborne's familiarity with this literature and conversation shows in his exegesis and in his presentation of different views on major issues. But in keeping with the need to limit the commentary's scope and thus make it of easier use for pastors and teachers, Osborne gives little or no argument for his positions on some minor issues. The result is a very large volume that is academically respectable and would be of great help for pastors wanting to use their sermon preparation time efficiently.

One caution, though, is in order. It is against overreliance on the genre of works that compromise thoroughness and breadth of coverage for usability and helpfulness. The time demands of the pastorate can be great and often leave far less time for study and sermon preparation than pastors would like, making Osborne's commentary a valuable tool for the pastor. But the patient and meticulous sifting of evidence, possibilities, and arguments that is found, for example, in Davies and Allison's three-volume Matthew commentary cultivates a sort of historical and exegetical rigor that this commentary generally does not. This is not a fault of Osborne. It stems from the aim of the commentary, which he realizes. But the ability to work through and appreciate the depth and extent of argumentation and evaluation of evidence that is found in more academic commentaries is important even for pastors, if only as a check against an uncritical presumptuousness in interpretation. This suggests that, as good as Osborne's commentary is, and as with many other good commentaries, it should not be the only commentary used in the pastor's sermon preparation.

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