Sunday, December 11, 2011

Book Review of Matthew by Craig S. Keener

book cover

by Craig Keener
The IVP New Testament Commentary series
Intervarsity Press
Reviewed by Clint Walker

Craig Keener is a brilliant man. He is also passionate about Jesus and about ministry. The professor at Asbury Seminary has written a two-volume commentary on John that has become a standard of quality biblical scholarship. Several years ago Keener also wrote a great little commentary on Matthew, which I was recently given the opportunity to review. It was recently re-released in paperback.

What is great about Matthew by Craig S. Keener is that is really sharp and on point with the academic work, and yet at the same time it is really very conversational and accessible. It is even, at some points, surprisingly humorous,such as when it warns against preacher puns with the parable of the wheat and the tares (p. 242).

Keener keeps to the basics in this commentary. He organizes his understanding of Matthew around the themes of the Kingdom of Heaven and discipleship, which are perfectly appropriate. Very few passages are written about for more than two-four pages.

The strength of this commentary is that it really says in plain language what each passage in the gospel of Matthew in its social and literary context. When you read the words that Keener has to say about each specific passage, you can clearly relate to the time it was written, and see what was happening through the gospel by the way Keener opens up his readers' mind to understanding.

The one weakness about this commentary is that it is really does not communicate much in most passages about what the specific text means in everyday life. In other words, Matthew helps its readers observe and understand the text, but the author leaves it to his readers to figure out how to apply what they have learned.

All in all, this is a good commentary. It would be especially good if someone was teaching from a curriculum about something in Matthew, and wanted to use this commentary to add in insightful background information.

(This book was reviewed after the publisher provided me with a complimentary review copy. Thanks IVP!)

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