Rodney Reeves (Ph.D. in New Testament, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary) is the College Dean and Courts Redford Professor of Biblical Studies at his alma mater, located in Bolivar, MO. His publications include Rediscovering Paul. (co-authored with David B. Capes and E. Randolph Richards) and Spirituality According to Paul (IVP Academic).
1. What previous research and/or personal interests led you to this project and helped prepare you to write this commentary on Matthew?
As a former pastor (and current college professor), I’ve been concerned about the divorce between the academy and the church. It’s easy for scholars to do their work in isolation, only promoting the guild, with barely an eye on the needs of the church. That’s why I’ve always admired scholars who see their work in service of the church, like Scot McKnight and NT Wright. So, when Scot asked me to join the effort of producing a commentary that seeks to bridge the academy and the church, I jumped at the chance.
2. Who is the intended audience for this commentary? Would it benefit pastors? professors? students? lay Christians in the local church?
The Story of God Bible Commentary is designed to benefit ministers of the Church (clergy and laity, professors and students), informed by academic scholarship, written at a very accessible level without a lot of scholarly jargon.
3. What is unique about this commentary? What contribution does it make to studies of Matthew?
Some commentaries try to convert narratives to propositions, extracting lessons for today. What I love about the SGBC is the series’ emphasis on the power of story. In each passage, we try to not only “listen to the story” (pointing out threads of other biblical stories woven into the fabric of Scripture), and “explain the story” (for example, how Matthew is telling a grand story within the episodic narrative), but also “live the story” (where we ask, “What would it look like if we were to live this story now!”).
Matthean scholars won’t find ground-breaking ideas in my work. Rather, I’ve taken what scholars have said about Matthew and translated it to the needs of the church today.
4. What section or passage of this commentary was particularly memorable to research and write? Why?
Jesus’ charge to the twelve to recover the lost sheep of Israel (9:35-11:1). We misread his instructions, as if he were telling us how to convert pagans to Christ. Jesus specifically told his disciples not to go to the Gentiles (unbelievers), but only to the Galileans who were “lost sheep”—which, I think, was an indictment on the leaders of Israel. These “lost sheep” were Jews who had been abused by “wicked shepherds.” Therefore, we should take his advice as wisdom for recovering our “lost sheep,” Christians who have left the church due to abusive leaders.
5. What personally edified you in writing this commentary, increasing your affections for Christ?
Seeing Jesus as the last King of Israel for the sake of the whole world, how he ascended David’s throne through the cross, and required his disciples to follow him by doing the same—losing our lives—helped me see even more clearly the way the kingdom of heaven comes to earth.
6. Besides your commentary, what are your top recommended books (commentaries or otherwise) on Matthew?
I benefited greatly from W. D. Davies and Dale C. Allison (ICC), Ulruch Luz (Hermeneia), R. T. France (NICNT), David Garland (Reading Matthew), John Nolland (NIGTC), and Craig Keener’s commentary on Matthew. Scot’s commentary on the Sermon for this series was also very beneficial—especially since we read the SOM similarly.
Finally, I really enjoyed working through John Chrysostom’s commentary on Matthew—there are some overlooked gems in there: great insights and one-liners that are humdingers. One of my favorites, when referring to the odd collection of the evidence that we are blessed of God—poor, mourn, persecuted—Chrysostom wrote, “In pronouncing them blessed, who are persecuted, and chased, and suffer all intolerable things; not for them only, but also for all who arrive at the same excellency, He weaves His crown.” That is brilliant.
7. What is next for you? What project are you currently working on? How can people follow your work and ministry?
I’m currently writing, Spirituality according to John (IVP)—a companion volume of sorts to my work on Paul’s Spirituality. I’ve also just begun working with my colleagues (David Capes and Randy Richards) on another “Rediscovering” book: Rediscovering the New Testament (IVP), where we are going to introduce the student to the NT literature chronologically (rather than follow the canonical order of the NT). We’re essentially trying to answer the question, “Why did God inspire the NT like that—Paul’s letters before the literary Gospels?”
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