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Matthew (ZECNT) by Grant Osborne (book review)

This fall, Zondervan released several new volumes from the Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (ZECNT) series.  Along with the volume on James by Craig Blomberg published last year are volumes available this fall on Galatians (Schreiner), Ephesians (Arnold), and Matthew (Osborne).  Zondervan Academic and the Koinonia Blog offered up some copies of these new volumes for review and I was able to get a copy of the Matthew volume by Grant Osborne.  What follows is a review of the series overall and the Matthew volume specifically.

Series Overview

This is my first look at a volume in this series and, overall, I am a big fan of the general design and approach of the ZECNT.  The layout is clean and clear.  The same-page footnotes are accessible.  The type is easy to read.  Even in the massive Matthew volume (over 1,100 pages), the binding will lay flat and easily stay open.  The chapters follow Osborne’s detailed outline and, for each section of the text, includes the following elements: literary context, main idea, translation, structure and literary form, exegetical outline, explanation of the text, and theology in application.

Having worked through a quarter of the book, my least favorite element (or, the one I find most “hit or miss”) is the theology in application.  While many pastors might find this the most applicable element for preaching, I found it to be rather subjective and less exegetically connected to the main text at hand.  My favorite element is the translation, which breaks each section down into a “graphical layout” that helps visualize the overall movement, argument, and structure of each section.  This is incredibly helpful for a gospel like Matthew, but imagine that this element is even more helpful for the sometimes difficult and complicated rhetoric in the Pauline epistles.

Volume Overview

As a member of the New Testament faculty at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Osborne certainly approaches the text from the perspective of an ‘more-conservative-than-not’ evangelical scholar, yet his work in the commentary is in conversation with a broad range of Matthean scholarship (Bruner, Carson, Davies and Allison, France, Hagner, Keener, etc.) and offers a great balance of scholarly representation.  This is Matthew through evangelical eyes, but it is not a sectarian or closed approach to scholarship.

The commentary is insightful, challenging, and helpful.  Osborne spends time working through issues of redaction criticism and questions of historicity, but does not dwell too much on scholarly debate and controversy.  When there is a need for deeper discussion, footnotes are well used to point to seminal texts and reference works.  This keeps the exegetical explanation focused and on task.  While the commentary itself is quite large, the series’ layout and Osborne’s style creates a very readable and manageable resource.

One question I had while working through this book was the implied and understood social location of the author and reader.  On more than a few occasions, Osborne gives away his own social location (white, Western, upper-middle class) and assumes the same of his readers. For example, in the theology in application element of Osborne’s discussion of Matthew 6:1-4, he comments that “we have so much and give so little, while… so many Christians worldwide today… have so little and give so much” and makes suggestions based on “our affluent society” (221).  While I appreciate that Osborne recognizes his own presuppositions and cultural context, I think commentaries and commentators would do well to write with a broader and more global context (or even a non-affluent, non-suburban Western context) in mind.

Overall, this is a great resource in what looks to be a great series of commentaries.  I am looking forward to making use of this volume and seeing future volumes released in this series.

Note: I received a copy of this book for review from the publisher.


2 thoughts on “Matthew (ZECNT) by Grant Osborne (book review)

  1. Debbie says:

    I understand your point that authors are potentially writing to a global audience and should keep that in mind, but the audience of this book is affluent (implied by the fact that they can afford to spend $32 on a commentary about one book of the Bible). This is especially true when you consider that “almost half the world — over three billion people — live on less than $2.50 a day.” (From So I’d say his point was valid for practically everyone who’ll be reading the commentary.


  2. Debbie, thanks for the comment! My only push back would be that commentaries end up not only on a pastor’s desk but also on library shelves. The seminary I studied at (Fuller) has a large international student population from across the world, including those areas of the developing world where a book like this is an extravagant luxury (or would be considered “contraband” and illegal). Many of those students sacrifice a great deal to receive theological education in order to minister faithfully when they return home. So, while they may not own this commentary, it will certainly be used by non-Western, non-affluent pastors hoping to better understand the word of God for their own context.

    So, again, you are not wrong that the average reader will likely read from a similar social location, but I still believe that commentaries should do more to recognize the importance of equipping the global church.


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