Jeannine K. Brown has focused much of her research and writing on the Gospels and on hermeneutics. In addition to a book on biblical hermeneutics, she has published two commentaries on Matthew’s Gospel and is currently co-writing a third. Brown has also co-written on interdisciplinary topics, such as Christian formation and interdisciplinary integration.
1. What previous research and/or personal interests led you to this project and helped prepare you to write this commentary on Matthew?
I’ve been interested in Matthew for years, dating back to my doctoral work. My dissertation (The Disciples in Narrative Perspective; SBL Academia Biblica) was on the portrayal of the disciples in Matthew, and I’ve written a shorter commentary on Matthew (The Baker Illustrated Bible Commentary, 2012) that whetted my appetite for commentary work.
I love following Matthew’s storyline—the way he weaves blocks of Jesus’ teaching with what Jesus does in Galilee and then in Jerusalem. For example, we hear in chapters 5-9 the interconnection between Jesus’ actions of healing—actions defined by mercy and justice—and Jesus’ teaching and preaching about the arrival of God’s reign in the Sermon on the Mount. These sections of discourse and narrative work together to communicate who Jesus is and what restoration looks like.
2. Who is the intended audience for this commentary? Would it benefit pastors? professors? students? lay Christians in the local church?
The Teach the Text commentary series is intended for pastors, students, and lay people. It doesn’t assume knowledge of technical vocabulary about biblical interpretation and so is well suited for laypersons. Yet it includes exegetical insights and also has sections devoted to “Teaching the Text” and “Illustrating the Text.” So, it would be very helpful for pastors and other church leaders, as well as for students who are in training to lead churches and other ministries.
3. What is unique about this commentary? What contribution does it make to studies of Matthew?
I believe something relative unique about my commentary approach is that I provide a consistently narratival focus in it. By this I mean I highlight at various turns the literary intentionality and artistry of Matthew. My goal is to illuminate Matthew’s theology through my attention to the narrative contours of the Gospel, since it contains a rich narrative theology. And I focused the “Teaching the Text” sections primarily on Matthew’s narrative-theological vision of Jesus and the kingdom.
4. What section or passage of this commentary was particularly memorable to research and write? Why?
Over the years, I have become more and more intrigued with Matthew 18—what’s called the Community Discourse. This chapter consists of Jesus’ teachings for living life together in the Christian community and addresses both the ideals and realities of communal life. Jesus’ teachings in Matthew 18 maintain a balance among various values, including, protecting the vulnerable (“little ones”), taking seriously stumbling blocks within the community, and commending a deep and lavish forgiveness for those who have been forgiven so generously by God.
5. What personally edified you in writing this commentary, increasing your affections for Christ?
I’m impressed with Matthew’s “least of these” theology, which begins with his focus in chapters 10 and 18 on “little ones, who, though low in status, are to be valued within the believing community. This language moves to the superlative in Matthew 25, where Jesus illustrates his deep solidarity with “the least of these.” When we reach out in solidarity with the least, we will meet Jesus there. That kind of Jesus—one who crosses social and economic boundaries—is a Jesus I want to follow and emulate even more closely.
6. Besides your commentary, what are your top recommended books (commentaries or otherwise) on Matthew?
Hands down, Dick France’s Matthew commentary (NICNT). I have found it to be thorough, measured, and insightful. It was a great companion to me as I wrote my commentary. I also appreciate Mark Allan Powell’s work—for example, his article on the beatitudes in Catholic Biblical Quarterly. And I’m always helped by Amy-Jill Levine’s insights into Matthew’s Gospel. For instance, her work on understanding better first-century Jewish purity practices has been invaluable for my perspective on Matthew’s Gospel.
7. What is next for you? What project are you currently working on? How can people follow your work and ministry?
I’ve just finished and submitted the Matthew commentary in Two Horizons series (Eerdmans), a collaborative project with Kyle Roberts, theologian. We wrote two of the three sections of the book together, so it has the feel of an integrative biblical-theological project. I am also in the last stages of a book with Steven Sandage, psychologist, on the integration of psychology and theology (Routledge). My future projects include a revision of Scripture as Communication (Baker), a book on a narrative approach to the Gospels (Baker), and the Philippians commentary in the revised Tyndale series (InterVarsity).
Anyone interested in following my work and teaching can find me at www.jeanninekbrown.com.
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