Matthew (NIGTC) in Logos Bible Software

The below is adapted from my full-length review of the print edition of NIGTC Matthew. Here I reproduce some of the content of that post, but with an eye toward the commentary’s presentation and use in Logos Bible Software.

NIGTC MatthewReaders of this blog (and those with whom I worship on Sunday!) will know I’ve been preaching through Matthew this year. I have made profitable use of John Nolland’s commentary almost every week in my preparation.

This is what Nolland says about his commentary:

My central concern in this commentary is with the story Matthew has to tell and how he tells it. Though the reader will recognise that I have been influenced by some scholarly methods more than by others, my work is committedly eclectic.

Nolland comments on Matthew using redaction criticism, grammatical analysis, rhetorical criticism, and more. Though the NIGTC series does not seek to be devotional, per se, and though Nolland’s Matthew is not an application commentary, the author is consistently sensitive to the broader context of Matthew and his aims. (Nolland says he cares about “a close reading of the inner logic of the unfolding text.”)

Nolland’s Introduction to Matthew

The introduction includes the following sections (the bullet points below are all the author’s words):

  • authorship of the Gospel
  • the sources for the Gospel
  • the prehistory of the sources
  • the date and provenance of the Gospel
  • the kind of document the Gospel intends to be
  • the state of the Greek text of the Gospel
  • aspects of the author’s narrative technique
  • the Gospel’s use of the OT and of other Jewish tradition
  • and the theology of the Gospel of Matthew.

Here’s what it looks like in Logos on a PC. You can hide or show the table of contents at the left, and many of its sections have expand/collapse triangles (click or open in a new tab to enlarge the image below):

Introduction to Matthew
Introduction to Matthew

Any highlights or notes I add (which you can see above) automatically sync with any other devices that run the Logos app.

Like R.T. France, Nolland would rather elaborate on certain points in the body of the commentary itself, which makes the introduction accordingly shorter. I experienced this as a relief, because (a) I could get into the commentary proper more quickly and (b) when primarily coming to the commentary with a specific passage in mind, I found quite a bit of substance in the commentary proper, without having to go back to the introduction. Getting to a given passage via Logos is almost instantaneous.

Nolland on Matthew’s Use of the OT

There is more of note in the introduction, but “Matthew’s Use of the OT” is probably the most exceptional section (pictured above). It details both (a) what text forms Matthew might have had and (b) how he used them. Nolland lists 14 (!) “different approaches to the generation of the wording of the quotations.” And yet, amid the detail, he can conclude:

Though some of Matthew’s text forms come to him straight from the Gospel tradition, the overall impression is of a man who freshly scrutinises, at least on many occasions, the OT texts to which he appeals, and is able to do so in Greek, Hebrew (not always the Hebrew of the preserved MT), and occasionally in Aramaic. When it suits him to do so, he produces translations that reflect influence along more than one track of tradition.

Nolland then identifies eight different ways in which Matthew uses the OT. This section of the commentary alone is worth half the price of the commentary. A nearly 20-page “Annotated Structural Outline of Matthew” at the end of the introduction is quite impressive (and maybe even worth the other half of the price of the commentary).

The Author’s Translation of Matthew

Nolland admits that his translation of Matthew (located at the beginning of each section) “may at times be wooden,” and this woodenness is noticeable in a number passages. For example, the genealogy reads: “Abraham produced Isaac; Isaac produced Jacob….” Nolland acknowledges the “unfortunately impersonal and nonbiological” implications of that translation. Indeed, a better word is needed.

And for the Beatitudes (where the Greek μακάριος is admittedly difficult to translate), he has, “Good fortune now to….” I liked  the “now” part of this (it carries an “implied sense of immediacy”), but the more traditional “blessed” still seems to leave room in English for the divine blesser, who should be kept in view here. “Good fortune now” seems to miss that.

The commentary proper (with original translation)
The commentary (with original translation)

A more readable translation would not have compromised Nolland’s aims in producing a fairly literal rendering of the Greek. It wasn’t an enormous distraction from a well-written commentary, but it stood out, nonetheless.

The Commentary Proper

It would be impossible for Nolland to be comprehensive at every turn. There were some Greek words or passages of Matthew where I had hoped for more detail, but on the whole, Nolland is thorough.

For instance, in the narrative of the devil’s temptation of Jesus in Matthew 4, Nolland writes of verse 1:

The opening ‘then’, the role of the Spirit, and the Son of God language to come in vv. 2 and 6 create a strong link between 4:1–11 and 3:13–17.

and:

Because of the agency of the devil (and the specific temptations to come) πειρασθῆναι has been translated ‘to be tempted’, but there is in fact a play on the two senses of the πειραζ- root: ‘test’ or ‘tempt’.

This commentary matches literary sensitivity and Greek analysis with conclusions that can easily lead the reader to application. In the same passage: “[T]he devil suggests that sonship is a privilege to be exploited, that Jesus should use his opportunities to see to his own needs.”

Nolland often presents multiple scholarly interpretations of a given passage before offering his own–and even then, he does it humbly (though not unconvincingly). In the Beatitudes, for instance, he notes 11 different understandings of “poor” and four different understandings of “in spirit” for Matthew 5:3. One gets the sense that the author is just as interested in historical interpretation of given passages as he is with his own. This is a good thing.

In Logos, one can search the commentary using control+F (PC) or command+F (Mac):

Keyword searching NIGTC
Keyword searching NIGTC for “kingdom”

One cool thing about this is that if you are already in Matthew 6:25 of the commentary (as above), the search results start right where you are (instead of going back to the beginning of the commentary). This way one can research a given word or theme as it unfolds in Nolland’s writing.

Concluding Evaluation

Despite the technical nature of the commentary (which I appreciated), the writing style is engaging and accessible, even inspiring in places. I loved this:

Jesus proclaims the imminent arrival of the kingdom of heaven. God now intends to establish afresh his rule among his people. If people are to be ready for this development, then repentance is urgent. Only a fundamental change of life direction will match the needs of the moment.

The bibliographies are a gold mine. One wonders if there’s any journal article or monograph on Matthew that Nolland hasn’t examined. Even so, he says in his preface that he had to trim his listing to accommodate the requirements of the editors!

My critique of the author’s translation notwithstanding, Nolland’s Matthew is a magnificent work, probably even one of the very first places one should go when doing in-depth study of Matthew’s text. Nolland does not disappoint in his technical analysis of words and passages, and yet he somehow is able to keep the Gospel as a whole before him and the reader as he expounds on its component parts. The reader cannot help but be impressed throughout the commentary, both with Nolland, and with Matthew’s Gospel which he describes.

Thanks to Logos for the review copy of the NIGTC series. I will post more in the future about the series and its use in Logos.

John Nolland’s Matthew (NIGTC) reviewed

NIGTC MatthewThe series preface to The New International Greek Testament Commentary (NIGTC) states:

At a time when the study of Greek is being curtailed in many schools of theology, we hope that the NIGTC will demonstrate the continuing value of studying the Greek New Testament and will be an impetus in the revival of such study.

This is a welcome series to those who want assistance in making good sense of the Greek text.

R.T. France’s volume in NIGTC (Mark) is not only one of my favorite commentaries of all time; it’s one of my favorite books. (I note it briefly here.) And Paul Ellingworth’s Hebrews volume greatly helped me through an exegesis course covering that epistle.

NIGTC: Matthew

Here I review John Nolland’s Matthew volume. I’ve been preaching through Matthew this year, and have used Nolland in my preparation almost every week.

This is how Nolland describes his commentary:

My central concern in this commentary is with the story Matthew has to tell and how he tells it. Though the reader will recognise that I have been influenced by some scholarly methods more than by others, my work is committedly eclectic.

In other words, Nolland looks at Matthew via redaction criticism, language, rhetorical criticism, and more. Though the series does not seek to be devotional, per se, and though NIGTC Matthew is not an application commentary, Nolland is consistently sensitive to the broader context of Matthew and his aims. (Nolland says he cares about “a close reading of the inner logic of the unfolding text.”)

Nolland’s Introduction to Matthew

The introduction includes the following sections (the bullet points below are all the author’s words):

  • authorship of the Gospel
  • the sources for the Gospel
  • the prehistory of the sources
  • the date and provenance of the Gospel
  • the kind of document the Gospel intends to be
  • the state of the Greek text of the Gospel
  • aspects of the author’s narrative technique
  • the Gospel’s use of the OT and of other Jewish tradition
  • and the theology of the Gospel of Matthew.

Like R.T. France, Nolland would rather elaborate on certain points in the body of the commentary itself, which makes the introduction accordingly shorter. I experienced this as a relief, because (a) I could get into the commentary itself sooner and (b) when primarily coming to the commentary with a specific passage in mind, I found quite a bit of substance in the commentary proper, without having to go back to the introduction.

That Matthew was actually the author of this Gospel seems to Nolland to be “most unlikely,” though I would have liked to see more support for Nolland’s conclusion. He doesn’t offer much. The “majority” (though not all) of sourcing for Matthew is attributed to “Mark and Q materials.” Refreshingly, Nolland has this to say about the idea of a historical Jesus:

These considerations do, however, suggest that we may have considerable confidence that the Jesus with whom the Gospels connect us is, and is in detail, the Jesus who actually operated in Palestine in the first century and not some mythical construct. The Gospel writers and those who supplied them their raw materials wanted people to get in touch with Jesus because of his potential significance for them, but they would feel no need to apologise for failing to meet all the needs of our historical curiosity.

Though aware of Gentiles, too, “Matthew writes for Jewish Christians who are very conscious of their Jewish identity.” Nolland writes, “Matthew seems to have understood himself to be creating a foundational text to which people would feel the need to return again and again.”

Nolland on Matthew’s Use of the OT

There is more of note in the introduction, but “Matthew’s Use of the OT” is probably the most exceptional section. It details both (a) what text forms Matthew might have had and (b) how he used them. Nolland lists 14 (!) “different approaches to the generation of the wording of the quotations.” And yet, amid the detail, he can conclude:

Though some of Matthew’s text forms come to him straight from the Gospel tradition, the overall impression is of a man who freshly scrutinises, at least on many occasions, the OT texts to which he appeals, and is able to do so in Greek, Hebrew (not always the Hebrew of the preserved MT), and occasionally in Aramaic. When it suits him to do so, he produces translations that reflect influence along more than one track of tradition.

Nolland then identifies eight different ways in which Matthew uses the OT. This section of the commentary alone is worth half the price of the commentary. A nearly 20-page “Annotated Structural Outline of Matthew” at the end of the introduction is quite impressive (and maybe even worth the other half of the price of the commentary).

The Author’s Translation of Matthew

Nolland admits that his translation of Matthew (located at the beginning of each section) “may at times be wooden,” and this woodenness is noticeable in a number passages. For example, the genealogy reads: “Abraham produced Isaac; Isaac produced Jacob….” Nolland acknowledges the “unfortunately impersonal and nonbiological” implications of that translation. Indeed, a better word is needed.

And for the Beatitudes (where the Greek μακάριος is admittedly difficult to translate), he has, “Good fortune now to….” I liked  the “now” part of this (it carries an “implied sense of immediacy”), but the more traditional “blessed” still seems to leave room in English for the divine blesser, who should be kept in view here. “Good fortune now” seems to miss that.

Finally, the regular use of brackets in the translation made it read even less fluidly than it already did in places. As in: “It is no more fitting that people should light a lamp and put it under the peck measure; rather, [they put it] on the lampstand, and it shines out for all in the house.”

The above is all to say: a more readable translation would not have compromised Nolland’s aims in producing a fairly literal rendering of the Greek. It wasn’t an enormous distraction from a well-written commentary, but it stood out, nonetheless.

The Commentary Proper

It would be impossible for Nolland to be comprehensive at every turn. There were some Greek words or passages of Matthew where I had hoped for more detail, but on the whole, Nolland is thorough.

For instance, in the narrative of the devil’s temptation of Jesus in Matthew 4, Nolland writes of verse 1:

The opening ‘then’, the role of the Spirit, and the Son of God language to come in vv. 2 and 6 create a strong link between 4:1–11 and 3:13–17.

and:

Because of the agency of the devil (and the specific temptations to come) πειρασθῆναι has been translated ‘to be tempted’, but there is in fact a play on the two senses of the πειραζ- root: ‘test’ or ‘tempt’.

This commentary matches literary sensitivity and Greek analysis with conclusions that can easily lead the reader to application. In the same passage: “[T]he devil suggests that sonship is a privilege to be exploited, that Jesus should use his opportunities to see to his own needs.”

Nolland often presents multiple scholarly interpretations of a given passage before offering his own–and even then, he does it humbly (though not unconvincingly). In the Beatitudes, for instance, he notes 11 different understandings of “poor” and four different understandings of “in spirit” for Matthew 5:3. One gets the sense that the author is just as interested in historical interpretation of given passages as he is with his own. This is a good thing.

Concluding Evaluation

Despite the technical nature of the commentary (which I appreciated), the writing style is engaging and accessible, even inspiring in places. I loved this:

Jesus proclaims the imminent arrival of the kingdom of heaven. God now intends to establish afresh his rule among his people. If people are to be ready for this development, then repentance is urgent. Only a fundamental change of life direction will match the needs of the moment.

The bibliographies are a gold mine. One wonders if there’s any journal article or monograph on Matthew that Nolland hasn’t examined. Even so, he says in his preface that he had to trim his listing to accommodate the requirements of the editors!

My critique of the author’s translation notwithstanding, Nolland’s Matthew is a magnificent work, probably even one of the very first places one should go when doing in-depth study of Matthew’s text. Nolland does not disappoint in his technical analysis of words and passages, and yet he somehow is able to keep the Gospel as a whole before him and the reader as he expounds on its component parts. The reader cannot help but be impressed throughout the commentary, both with Nolland, and with Matthew’s Gospel which he describes.

Thanks to Eerdmans for the review copy. Nolland’s Gospel of Matthew is on Amazon here. Its product page is at Eerdmans’s site here.

Matthew and Jesus: Fulfill, fulfill, fulfill, fulfill

Baptism of Christ, Francesco Albani
Baptism of Christ, Francesco Albani

One of the most important things anyone has ever said about Scripture is:

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.

–Jesus in Matthew 5:17

The careful reader of Matthew will hear “fulfill” in 5:17 and recall at least some of its previous uses already in the book.

Fulfillment is one of Matthew’s major themes. Calling the other uses of “fulfill” to mind gives Jesus’ claim even more impact.

Having established that Jesus’ birth was “to fulfill what was written…,” Matthew shows John baptizing an adult Jesus “to fulfill all righteousness.” Early in Jesus’ ministry, Matthew shows Jesus as the fulfilling light that the people walking in darkness have been waiting for.

Here is a one-page pdf listing the instances of fulfillment in the birth and early ministry of Jesus in Matthew 1-4.

With so much of his life a fulfillment of the Scriptures already, Matthew’s reader is now prepared to see how Jesus fulfills all of Scripture–down to the last letter–through his read and interpretation of it. In the rest of Matthew 5, Jesus will unpack just what he means by “fulfill [the Scriptures],” using six specific biblical examples, culminating at last in a call to the disciples to “be perfect.”

What is the Good Life? Jesus’ Take

Shane Claiborne is an author and activist who helped found The Simple Way, an intentional Christian community in Philadelphia. He loves Jesus and loves the poor, and has given his life on their behalf.

Shane Claiborne
Shane Claiborne

Shane was lined up to speak at a youth worker’s national conference once, and to the surprise of the crowd and the organizers, when his keynote came, he stood up, read the Sermon on the Mount, and then sat down. His “talk” was done–a reading of Jesus’ sermon in Matthew 5-7.

When interviewed about it later, Claiborne said that as much as he loves that particular conference, the amount of noise and clutter and “Christian stuff” of that conference led him to the simplicity of the words of Jesus. He wanted to read them and let them stand on their own.  Continue reading “What is the Good Life? Jesus’ Take”

A Paradox I Encountered During my Sunday School and Sermon Prep

The Sermon on the Mount, by Gustave Doré (1832–1883.
The Sermon on the Mount, by Gustave Doré (1832–1883)

Annie Dillard (whom we are reading for this Sunday’s Sunday School class) writes:

I cannot cause light; the most I can do is try to put myself in the path of its beam.

And yet Jesus confidently tells his disciples (before they’ve even done much of anything): 

You are the light of the world. …Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

Those lines of Jesus are from the Sermon on the Mount, on which I’m preaching. Holding those two ideas about light in juxtaposition has made for interesting preparation for this Sunday! On the face of it, they seem to contradict, but I don’t think they really do…. I’ll try to post more here next week, as I continue to work it out.

Almost All of Jesus’ First Recorded Words Were Already Spoken By Somebody Else

Isaiah Scroll
Isaiah Scroll

I’ve had a fascinating realization recently: almost all of Jesus’ first recorded words in Matthew and Luke were first spoken by somebody else. Jesus is highly prone to quotation early in his ministry.

This first stood out to me when reading through Matthew. After Jesus’ baptism and temptation, his first words of public proclamation (Matthew 4:17) are:

“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has drawn near!”

John the Baptist had been saying the same thing (Matthew 3:2), verbatim, in his first recorded words in Matthew:

“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has drawn near!”

The man Raymond Brown calls JBap
The man Raymond Brown calls JBap

I’m sure that Jesus’/Matthew’s use of these same words from John are deliberate. Jesus and Matthew are showing that Jesus stands in the line of the prophetic, John-the-Baptist tradition. This is a tradition that fulfills what God has promised in the Old Testament. By chapter 4, the prophecy-fulfillment theme has already been prevalent in Matthew.

The very first words of Jesus that Matthew records are at Jesus’ baptism, where he tells a protesting John, “Let it be [this way] now, for this is proper, in order to fulfill all righteousness.”

But after that, the next three statements of Jesus in Matthew are quotations of Deuteronomy to fend off the devil in the temptation narrative. Then comes Matthew 4:17, where Jesus issues the same call to repentance that John has issued.

Luke is similar. After Luke 2:49 has Jesus telling his parents that he had to be in his Father’s house, Luke moves to his account of the temptation. Luke also includes three “It is written” statements by Jesus. Then he goes to his hometown synagogue in Nazareth and reads from Isaiah–yet more quoted words on the lips of Jesus.

What are we to make of this? Did Jesus not have anything original to say at the beginning of his ministry?

Jesus Reads in SynagogueI think both of these Gospel writers and Jesus were keen to show that Jesus’ ministry was a continuation–better, a culmination–of the work and ministry that God had already initiated through Moses and the prophets. (Note: Mark and John look a bit different here.)

“God spoke long ago,” Hebrews begins, “in many instances and in many ways, to [our] fathers through the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by [his] Son….”

At the baptism of Jesus in Matthew 3, God declared Jesus to be his Son. This Son carries on and brings to completion the work of salvation that God has already been effecting in the world. Matthew and Luke highlight Jesus’ use of Scripture early in his ministry to place him firmly at the center of God’s action in the world. The Sermon on the Mount of Matthew 5 and following will show even more in-depth interaction between Jesus and the Scriptures.

Jesus speaks God’s words, only now with an authority that exceeds the authority of all those who came before him. Jesus speaks other people’s words, but now with the authority of a Son, who was already present with God when the Word first inspired those words long ago.