Study Resources for Matthew

If you use the Christian Light Publications materials for Sunday School, you will be studying Matthew for March and April. This is a bit last-minute and I’ll need to be brief, but I thought I’d share a few suggested resources. If you have other resources, feel free to share them in the comments below.

Commentaries

My favorite Matthew commentary is the big one by R.T. France in the New International Commentary on the New Testament series, widely considered a “must-buy.” It was written when he was an older man, so it has a maturity and wisdom that some commentaries lack. It is based on the best scholarship, but it is not hard to read. France’s method as he wrote this commentary was to simply read Matthew and write commentary. Only after this did he check to see what other commentators have written and what he previously wrote in his earlier, shorter Matthew commentary. So this is a commentary on Matthew, not a commentary on commentaries! Some readers don’t like France’s take on Matthew 24 (he emphasizes how part of the chapter was fulfilled in A.D. 70), but (a) I think he get’s it right and (b) we’re not studying that chapter this go around, anyway. I haven’t read this commentary through, but the parts I’ve read have been consistently insightful.

If you don’t want to invest in France’s 1169-page volume, here are a few others that would be helpful for most Sunday School teachers:

Other Suggestions

  • Lesson 1 is about the Sabbath (Matthew 12). I am pleased to see the commentary recognizes that Christians are not required to observe the Jewish Sabbath, and that we are not judged on whether we keep holy days (Col. 2:16-17). I affirm that we were designed to experience regular times of rest (some of us need the reminder), but a proper understanding of the Sabbath’s fulfillment in Christ, both now and in the future (see also Heb. 4), should prevent us from setting rules for others about holy days. For more help on how such things changed with the coming of the new covenant, see “The Law of Moses and the Christian” by Dorsey on this page (also Moo’s essays), and the “New Covenant Theology” talks by Steve Atkerson of New Testament Reformation Fellowship on this page.
  • Lesson 3 is on the relationship between tradition and the word of God (Matthew 15). I once preached a sermon on Mark 7, a parallel passage. You can find my Scripture outline for Mark 7 here, and you can find my (slightly modified) sermon notes here. My sermon notes include a lot of rather pointed (some of you might think too pointed!) application questions to help us sense the force of Jesus’ words to the Pharisees.
  • Lesson 6 is on Jesus’ resurrection (Matthew 27-28). While his book does not deal directly with this Scripture text very much, I cannot help but mention Surprised by Hope by N.T. Wright. If you are like me, you will disagree on some secondary points but walk away truly surprised anew by the hope provided by Jesus’ resurrection!
  • Lesson 7 is on the permanence of marriage (Matthew 5 and 19). I don’t feel well qualified to give recommendations on resources for this topic, so I’ll just mention some of the resources that are on my want-to-read list. Some conservative Anabaptists have found Jesus and Divorce (Wenham and Heth) helpful. Here is a booklet by Clair Martin that the Biblical Mennonite Alliance published on the topic. Here is an online book by H. Van Dyck Parunak that takes a conservative position on most questions. Here is a booklet by Finny Kuruvilla about the question of remarriage after divorce. The most influential scholar on this subject in the evangelical world is Instone-Brewer, who mentions a book by Andrew Cornes as being “the best presentation” of the opposing conservative viewpoint. Divorce and remarriage involves complex exegetical and pastoral questions, and we will not serve people well with poorly thought-out answers or approaches that avoid the Scripture passages that raise the hardest questions. (I do not say this from a desire to be critical, for I still do not have solid answers for all my own questions.)
  • Lesson 8 is a parable (Matthew 20). You might want to add a book on parables to your library, such as Interpreting the Parables by Craig L. Blomberg (463 pages) or The Parables of Jesus by David Wenham (256 pages). For detailed scholarship look for Klyne R. Snodgrass, and for fascinating cultural insights see Kenneth E. Bailey–best compared with a more traditional commentary. (Note: I own Snodgrass and Bailey, have enjoyed other works by Blomberg, and see Wenham is recommended by a trusted source.)

Since I’m a bookish sort of fellow, a lot of the above recommendations are books. Don’t buy them all at once. 🙂  But do consider buying one or two that are likely to serve you well for years to come. A good book is a wise investment, especially when that good book is a book that helps you understand the Best Book.

What other resources would you suggest for studying and teaching Matthew? Share them with other readers in the comments below. Thanks!


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5 thoughts on “Study Resources for Matthew”

  1. Did you escape unscathed after preaching that sermon? 🙂 I would like to print it out so I can look up all the references, if that is ok with you.

    I would enjoy hearing your thoughts on the divorce/remarriage issue sometime. I’m puzzled by the difference in the way we practice Matt 19:1-12 and how we practice Matt 19:16-26. Maybe you can shed some light on that in a later post?

    1. Thank you, Rosina. Yes, that sermon was received well, thank God. I give credit for that to the gospel-salted maturity of my hearers. It might not be received so nicely everywhere, however. Yes, feel free to print it out, test it by God’s Word, reject the bad, and use the good. Preparing for that sermon was very formative for me.

      I would love to hear more about your question regarding Matthew 19. I can only guess at your specific puzzlement, but if I’m guessing correctly, I think your question might be useful. Feel free to send me a private message if you wish. I don’t feel prepared to shed much light publicly on this topic yet. I have been collecting resources for several years and long for time to wrestle with them in earnest.

  2. I’ve been blessed by your series on the Reformers especially the one on William Tyndale. I’d never realized the extent of his work and influence. But that doesn’t belong in this post.

    I was also impressed by how the Sabbath was handled in the CLP SS lesson, I felt they made a good choice of Scripture text and the commentary was very well balanced. I think there has been considerable improvement in the commentary in general perhaps during the past year or so, especially in the teachers’ guide commentary.

    A few thoughts of my own…
    When God ended His work on the sixth day and looked back, He saw and said it was very good, and then He took His day of rest.
    So we also should be able to look back on our activities of six days and be able to say, “No regrets” and then enter our seventh day of resting in God. (The “no regrets” doesn’t always work quite right for me, unfortunately)
    The Hebrews 4 passage seems to speak partially to the seventh day Sabbath but maybe more so to the underlying spiritual principle of ‘shabbat’. I’m not completely clear on the relationship of the two.

    Lastly, re the Sabbath, a couple of headings from John MacArthur’s Commentary on Matthew,
    ‘The Sabbath does not restrict deeds of necessity’ (12:3-4)
    ‘The Sabbath does not restrict service to God’ (12:5-6)
    ‘The Sabbath does not restrict acts of mercy’ (12:7-8)

    Keep up the good work. I don’t always comment on your posts, that doesn’t mean I’m not interested or that I disagree. I’m not one that needs to say something if I’m not sure that I have something to say.

    1. Thanks as always for your kind words, Wayne. Encouragement like yours means a lot.

      It would be fun to study the concept of Sabbath in Hebrews 4 more. It seems that even in the OT the concept of Sabbath was far larger than just resting on the 7th day. In Hebrews 4 it includes the concept of resting upon entering the promised land. But emphasizes that this was only a partial rest, and that the full rest will be ours only through Christ. So we are to “labor to enter” that full rest to come. One thing is clear: the reality of Sabbath is found in Christ, not in the observance of holy days.

      Grace to you and yours.

      1. ‘partial rest’ as in Joshua 1:13,15 & Joshua 21:44, 22:4, 23:1
        Rest from conflict, certainty of our position, but not yet completed.

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