Promising New Commentary Series
Reviewed in the United States on 3 January 2014
Scot McKnight is professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, Illinois. Previously, he taught at North Park University. He is no stranger to commentaries, having previously written on Galatians, 1 Peter, and James.
Here, he offering readers the inaugural volume in Zondervan’s new The Story of God Bible Commentaries. He serves as one of the general editors alongside Tremper Longman III. The purpose of this commentary series is to address this particular generation with the Word of God. Based on the NIV 2011, this series is asking authors to “explain what the Bible says to the sorts of readers who pick up commentaries so they can understand not only what Scripture says but what it means for today” (xii-xiii).
The name of the series comes from the fact that the editors want authors to “explain each passage of the Bible in light of the Bible’s grand Story.” This of course “connects this series to the classic expression regula fidei, the ‘rule of faith,’ which was the Bible’s story coming to fulfillment in Jesus as the Messiah, Lord, and Savior of all” (xiii).
To accomplish this, each passage is examined from three angles:
Listen to The Story (cites the text and lists a selection of important biblical and sometimes noncanonical parallels)
Explain The Story (the actual commentary proper, limited footnotes, but covering backgrounds, historical context, cultural codes, and theological interpretations)
Live The Story (directions for how the text might be lived out today, not necessarily applications though)
As you can see, this is similar to the three fold approach of the NIV Application Commentary, but ever so slightly different. I’d say the main difference is that overall the volume more compact and to the point. I haven’t seen the Philippians volume that was also released at the same time, but I’d imagine it’s a bit slimmer than the corresponding NIVAC volume (there isn’t a corresponding one for the Sermon on The Mount).
As for McKnight’s volume specifically, I’ve found it helpful so far. I’m reading it alongside John Stott’s in The Bible Speaks Today and Kent Hughes’ in Preaching The Word. Of the three, McKnight’s and Stott’s most like a typical commentary, while Hughes’ is a series of sermons. McKnight and Stott are fairly closely aligned in their overall aims, so if you are familiar with Stott’s volume, you have an idea about what McKnight’s is like (though also insert your knowledge of McKnight’s differing theological emphases to complete the picture).
McKnight opens with an introduction to ethics, which then situates the Sermon on The Mount into that discussion. He closes with a list of key resources before launching into the commentary proper. He breaks the text of Matthew 5-7 into manageable portions (chapters range from 10-30 pages). He follows the outline mentioned above, and as promised, footnotes are kept to a minimum and discussion stays on the kind of track the average reader will stick with.
Though more could be said, from what I’ve read so far, and from what I know of McKnight, I can say this volume definitely belongs on your shelf if you’re planning to work through the Sermon on The Mount anytime soon. Obviously this isn’t the last word on the Sermon, but McKnight makes for a great conversation partner, and this particular commentary series looks very promising. I’m looking forward to seeing future volumes, especially the ones coming for the Old Testament (and if you remember yesterday’s review, Andrew Shead is the author of the Jeremiah/Lamentations volume). For now though I’ll keep reading through McKnight’s volume and getting a better grasp on the Sermon on The Mount. If that’s what you’re interested in, you would do well to give this series, and McKnight’s volume in particular, a shot.
[I was given a review copy of this book by the publisher]
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