The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary

The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary

The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary

The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary


"It is a special pleasure to introduce R. T. (Dick) France's commentary to the pastoral and scholarly community, who should find it a truly exceptional -- and helpful -- volume." So says Gordon Fee in his preface to this work. France's masterful commentary on Matthew focuses on exegesis of Matthew's text as it stands rather than on the prehistory of the material or details of Synoptic comparison. The exegesis of each section is part of a planned literary whole supplemented, rather than controlled, by verse-by-verse commentary, allowing the text as a complete story to come into brilliant focus.

Rather than being a "commentary on commentaries," The Gospel of Matthew is concerned throughout with what Matthew himself meant to convey about Jesus and how he set about doing so within the cultural and historical context of first-century Palestine. France frequently draws attention to the distinctive nature of the province of Galilee and the social dynamics involved when a Galilean prophet presents himself in Jerusalem as the Messiah.

The English translation at the beginning of each section is France's own, designed to provide the basis for the commentary. This adept translation uses contemporary idioms and, where necessary, gives priority to clarity over literary elegance.

Amid the wide array of Matthew commentaries available today, France's world-class stature, his clear focus on Matthew and Jesus, his careful methodology, and his user-friendly style promise to make this volume an enduring standard for years to come.


I am grateful to Ben Witherington iii for welcoming this commentary into his socio-rhetorical commentary series. Given the nature of the series, I should first describe in what ways the commentary is socio-rhetorical. Then, in the addendum that follows, “Matthew and Greco-Roman Rhetoric,” I will provide some additional material that is rhetorical (mostly in the more traditional sense).

Although literary observations are paramount, I emphasized social observations in the commentary because these are those for which a well-trained reader most needs a commentary. Thus although in my teaching and preaching I highlight the literary features of the text, I felt that my limited space in this commentary was on the whole better devoted to placing such observations in their ancient context, to which most readers today have less access than the text itself.

On the matter of how ancients read texts, however, literary and social features converge, and the commentary offers many literary observations from ancient biographies and histories, which I took to be the most relevant genres for approaching a Gospel. in the original version of the commentary, I offered some specifically “rhetorical” observations regarding Matthew’s redactional patterns and especially regarding Jesus’ use of conventional Jewish rhetorical devices (even a brief section on “the rhetoric of Jesus” under the introductory section addressing how reliably Matthew reports Jesus’ teachings). in these observations, and throughout the commentary, I sought to show how closely the rhetoric of Matthew’s Jesus approximated what we can reconstruct of the rhetoric of early Jewish sages (spanning the period from Sirach to the rabbis). the ancient Middle Eastern, Jewish milieu of Matthew’s Jesus is clearly evidenced in parables and in

1. Widely argued today, but see most influentially Richard A. Burridge, What Are the Gos pels? a Comparison with Graeco-Roman Biography (2nd ed.; foreword by Graham Stanton; Grand Rapids, Cambridge: Eerdmans; Dearborn, MI: Dove, 2004).

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