Book Reviews

Book Review: “Reformation Commentary on Scripture: Matthew” Edited by Jason K. Lee and William M. Marsh

The Reformation Commentary on Scripture series continues to deliver excellent insight into how the Reformers read and talked about Scripture. New Testament Volume I: Matthew is no different in that regard.

The editors have again selected a huge swathe of Reformers from whom to draw commentary. The major names are all there, along with many Reformers ranging from less well-known to those that only dedicated students of the Reformation will know about. The bibliographical sketches of the Reformers included in the series so far alone makes for fascinating reading, as one can browse through hundreds of mini-biographies and learn more about the Reformation and links between Reformers than one can in many other books.

The commentary itself is arranged verse-by-verse, allowing for commentary on Matthew section-by-section. Each pause in the text allows for a number of Reformers to be cited, and the editors do an excellent job balancing selection of hot topics of today with topics the Reformers themselves debated heatedly over. Sometimes these overlap, but some of the questions included may be surprising to modern readers. For example, regarding the slaughter of the innocents (Matthew 2:16-18), commentary includes Joseph Hall providing a kind of poetic condemnation of Herod’s cruelty; John Calvin comparing it to the slaughter of the Benjaminites in Jeremiah, Juan de Maldonado stating that the Babylonian Captivity was a kind of slaughter, and John Lightfoot reflecting more deeply on the Jeremiah quote.

Time and again, on verse after verse, the editors bring many different perspectives–sometimes in conflict–to the fore, giving readers a rich background of Reformation commentary as well as a deeper understanding of the texts themselves. Topics like baptism (ex: Matthew 3) receive notable commentary from major Reformers (Luther, Calvin, etc.) while also bringing in lesser-known voices to weigh in on more specific topics (eg. Phillip Melanchthon).

The book serves equally well if someone is trying to just open up to study a specific passage or if one is interested in reading front-to-back to read alongside the Reformers. It’s a marvelous commentary if people have an even passing interest in knowing about how people during the Reformation period read Scripture.

Matthew is another excellent entry in a fabulous series of commentaries. Those especially interested in Reformation thinking and debates should consider it a must-buy, but the book will serve very well as a standalone commentary as well. The broadness of views presented and enormous number of topics touched upon make the book incredibly valuable. Recommended.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of the book for review by the publisher. I was not required to give any specific kind of feedback whatsoever.

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About J.W. Wartick

J.W. Wartick is a Lutheran, feminist, Christ-follower. A Science Fiction snob, Bonhoeffer fan, Paleontology fanboy and RPG nerd.


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