Matthew By Doriani–Two Volumes of Awesome

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I’m no dummy. I know I run a certain risk in plugging a two volume commentary on the Gospel of Matthew here in the Rabbit Room.

It isn’t that we don’t like to think around here. Of course we do. And it isn’t that our regulars aren’t interested in what the Bible has to say. I believe a great many of us are. In fact, I have reason to believe we have many readers here who are actively involved in some sort of Biblical teaching– pastors, Sunday School teachers, and other students of Scripture.

The problem, as I see it, comes down to book covers: some book covers are awesome, others are boring. I think we can all agree on that. However, every, and I mean EVERY Biblical commentary book cover is boring. And both covers of Dan Doriani’s wonderful two volume commentary on the Gospel according to Matthew are no exceptions. See. (This is Volume 1. Volume 2 looks a lot like Volume 1

star-wars-awesomeSo to trick you into reading a few of my thoughts on why you should add Doriani’s commentary to your library, I have posted the above picture of pure awesomeness. And if you’ve made it this far, why not keep reading? You’re half way through, and I’m about to give you some first-hand knowledge of the author.

Dr. Doriani was one of my first seminary professors, and one who invested in my learning more than I can say, and I’m sure more than he knows.

Commentaries, as you might know, are verse by verse, chapter by chapter or thought by though expositions of the various books of the Bible. They are among the sort of book most probably don’t sit down to read from cover to cover, but rather selectively when you’re studying a correlating Biblical text. That’s my method, anyway.

The thing I like most about these volumes, and the reason I recommend them, stems mostly from my own personal experience with the teacher who wrote them. Or maybe another way of explaining myself is to say this: you should have Doriani’s Reformed Expository Commentary on Matthew by P&R because the author is a sound, wise, winsome and careful handler not only of Scripture, but of students too.

As a way of recommending his books and also paying some honor to my teacher and friend here in the Rabbit Room, allow me to relay a few lessons Dan has taught me in the years I’ve known him:

-Interpreting Scripture correctly takes work , but it isn’t indecipherable. God did not give us His word to confuse us or conceal Himself, but to reveal Himself. Nevertheless, it is still God we’re talking about, so we should expect to have to work at it with consistency and humility if we are to grow in it. And we should expect this to take a lifetime.

-As you grow in your understanding of Scripture, you might change your mind concerning how you have traditionally interpreted certain passages. If Scripture is inexhaustible, and over time you continue to learn more, you should expect the Lord to use your learning to inform and sometimes even correct your understanding of passages you thought you knew cold.

-There is a rich “earthiness” to Jesus’ ministry recorded in the Gospels. Doriani does an excellent job of taking students out of the metaphysical fog of over-spiritualizing Jesus’ life and times by taking you to a “boots on the ground” historical vantage point. When I hear Dan teach the Gospels (he was my “Gospels” professor in Seminary) he guides me away from regarding these texts as fables or “Middle Earth,” but rather as real events in real time and space– which is what they are.

-Anecdotes. Dan uses anecdotes to teach as well as in these commentaries, but they are rarely if ever cute little one-liners meant to make you squirm over the use of a clever pun. His stories are engaging, almost always new to your ears, and often don’t go where you were expecting– making them potent.

-Once in class, when a student asked which Commentary Series young ministers should have on our shelves, Dr. Doriani suggested we not buy commentaries by the set. We should buy individual volumes from a variety of different series because some from some series are better than others. Ask around and buy individual commentaries on the recommendations of people you trust who have used them. (I’m putting that little nugget of wisdom to work here.) By the way, I have worked with Doriani’s Matthew commentaries, and they are really great, easy to use, super informative and rich in detail. If you are a handler of the Word, you’ll come back to Doriani’s Matthew Commentaries again and again over a lifetime of ministry.

-And speaking of anecdotes, I’ll leave you with one of the most memorable early lessons Dr. Doriani taught me. It was early in my first full semester of Seminary and the workload was piling up. It seemed like each professor thought we had all the time in the world to read 100 pages a night. Doriani’s afternoon New Testament Class was letting out and he gave us some big pile of stuff to do over the weekend. Now, being that we were all Christians there, we thought the Christianly thing to do would be to explain to our esteemed professor something he could not have possibly known– we had other classes with other homework. Maybe he could lessen our assignment a bit. Christians are to be merciful, right? So a group of us explained our situation. He listened to every word. And then with five words, he sent us home not only rethinking our weekend, but what in the world we were doing in Seminary in the first place.

In a reminding voice, he said, “Gentlemen, this is graduate school.”

Oh.

Right.

Russ Ramsey and his wife and four children make their home in Nashville, Tennessee. He is a pastor at Christ Presbyterian Church and the author of Struck: One Christian’s Reflections on Encountering Death (IVP, 2017), Behold the Lamb of God: An Advent Narrative (Rabbit Room Press, 2011) and Behold the King of Glory: A Narrative of the Life, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ (Crossway, 2015). He is a graduate of Taylor University (1991) and Covenant Theological Seminary (MDiv – 2000, ThM – 2003).

Follow Russ on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram.


19 Comments

  1. Paula Shaw

    Russ, you’re a genius for putting that first picture up there! That’s the whole reason I read this post. Ha!

    And by the way, the post holds its own awesomeness as well! As you were describing Dr. Doriani’s method of using anecdotes, and those anecdotes not being “cute little one-liners meant to make you squirm over the use of a clever pun”, it so reminded me of my pastor. ( I still feel totally weird using the term”pastor”~ I spent most of my life in the Anglican Communion.)

    Your post totally makes me want to get Dr. Doriani’s commentaries. I think the 2 volumes will be helpful and interesting. Thank you for letting others know about them ~ even if they don’t have the coolest cover ever!

  2. Tony Heringer

    Good post my brother. I love the points to ponder, thanks for sharing this man’s wisdom. In addition to using single commentaries over a set, I’ve found it helpful to use a number of different commentaries and reference works in study of a book of Scripture. The best use for any of these materials is to consult them last — as Fee and Stuart recommend in their wonderful book “How To Read The Bible For All Its Worth”.

    Which jibes with the point I especially resonate with:

    “you should expect the Lord to use your learning to inform and sometimes even correct your understanding of passages you thought you knew cold.”

    This is especially true for me in taking in the whole counsel of the Word. That prevents me from taking just my favorite bits and neglecting the whole or the context. I love how, no matter how long I’ve studied the Scriptures, I read a text or someone else will read or refer to it and “Boom!”, something that I missed jumps out. As Proverbs 2:4 implies, it’s a constant treasure hunt and its treasure we are meant to find.

    On the cover art point, however, I quickly pulled two commentaries from my shelf that I thought had pretty decent covers. Now, it was not original artwork — both used reprints of paintings — but still better than just a bland cover with only text and some basic color.

    William Hendriksen’s excellent commentary on the book of Revelation uses “Four Horseman of the Apocalypse” by Edward Jakob Von Steinle and F.F. Bruce’s commentary on three of Paul’s letters uses “Annunciation by Andro Botticelli on its cover jacket.

    I’d imagine that cover art is not much a consideration for a commentary or any other reference work because of its supposed utility by the publisher, but it is refreshing to see some do go with cover art in spite of the trend to the contrary.

  3. Josh

    So…nice post and all, but where can I get a larger version of that photo to download? I need that as my new desktop wallpaper.

  4. Russ Ramsey

    @russramsey

    By the way, in case you can’t make out the text at the bottom of the awesome picture, it says, “It is comforting to know that no matter what you do in life, it will never be as awesome as this picture.”

  5. Ken

    If we are plugging great works by seminary professors who are also great men, can I please recommend anything by Craig Blomberg? Specifically, The Historical Reliability of the Gospels, The Historical Reliability of John’s Gospel, Neither Poverty nor Riches, Interpreting the Parables, and Jesus and the Gospels. His NAC commentary on Matthew sounds like it’d be a great complement to Dr. Doriani’s. Furthermore, this brilliant scholar has always taken time before or after class to engage students on a personal level, regularly does what he writes Christians should do, is actively involved in serving the church, and wished me a happy birthday on Facebook 5 years after I had him in class (my only class with him). And he remembered where I attended church while I was in Denver and asks me to keep him updated on what’s happening in my life. Everybody needs a little Blomberg in their life…

  6. John

    Amen, Russ. I especially like the part about allowing and encouraging our understanding of Scripture to change over time, as we humbly engage the Sovereign and Holy LORD in His Word. Every once in a while, one reads a piece and suddenly we realize how horribly small is the box that we place our God.
    I echo every point you bring out in Dr. Doriani’s method; it’s the way I try to teach and encourage in my church. I look forward to adding his commentaries to my library. And I probably will read them cover to cover – I’m a Bible geek, but at least I own it!

  7. Russ Ramsey

    @russramsey

    Ken, Blomberg has been an invaluable scholar to me over the years as well. His work with Jesus’ parables is, in my opinion, the gold standard of contemporary scholarship. To have him as a teacher, you are blessed.

    John, of all the commentaries I have on my shelves, Doriani and James Boice are among the most enjoyable to read– for me. They both walk that line of exposition, accessibility and practical application. That quality, in itself, offers powerful lessons in how to read and interpret Scripture.

    Aaron, your words are the straight up truth, brother. Mmm Hmmm.

  8. becky

    Actually, from a purely design perspective, I kinda like this cover. It’s certainly better than most commentary covers I’ve seen. And I think that it’s really better, for what the book is, than the picture at the top would be. That image, while totally cool, doesn’t really tell me anything about Matthew or what’s inside a commentary on the same. But, I’m a graphic designer, so “type and basic color”, arranged well, is one of the most exciting things I can imagine. I also get somewhat giddy about creative use of type in movie credits. I know, it’s a perculiar insanity.

    Maybe if Russ’ senior picture could be worked into the cover somehow? Aaron, you crack me up.

  9. Tony Heringer

    Becky,

    Agreed. In one sense Russ’ lament over the cover of a commentary reminds me of a Monty Python gag where they read a letter to the editor and in it the person complains about a traffic sign from the prior sketch not being proper. There is beauty and/or truth even in something that we might dismiss as mundane. I’m glad there are folks who have a “peculiar insanity” when it comes to graphic design. We’d be in a boring world were that not the case.

  10. Tony Heringer

    Robert,

    Small world indeed! A guy who used to be on staff at Perimeter, Clay Coffee, is on staff at that church. He left us to go back to school at Covenant Seminary.

  11. Robert Treskillard

    Tony,

    I’ve heard his name around, but couldn’t remember what he looked like, so I went to the staff page to see his picture.

    Ack! Only two staff have their pictures missing, and Clay’s one of them.

    Ah well, if I meet him, I’ll say “hi” for you.

    -Robert

  12. Tony Heringer

    Robert,

    He’s a Univ. of Texas fan, what do you expect? 🙂 His wife is also on staff — she apparently directs the women’s ministry. They are a great family, so I do hope you get a chance to connect with them.

  13. Professor Steve

    I’m a new reader of The Rabbit Room, so I just came upon this post. I agree with Becky, but then I’m also a graphic designer (teach it too!). I can’t quite tell what the image used is, but sometimes a good combination of type, color and subtle image can tell it’s own powerful story.

    As in things much more important than design, sometimes a still, small voice can speak volumes.

    Great site!

  14. Becky

    Professor Steve,
    I think the image is some men pulling on a fishing net, but can’t be certain. Welcome to the Rabbit Room! I’ve been visiting for quite a while, and it is still great after all this time. I’ve been introduced to some wonderful music and literature, and have had all kinds of deep thinking stirred up. There are not many places that make me laugh and make me think at the same time. I’m always glad to see other designers hanging around, especially when they agree with my very wise comments. Thanks.

  15. Annelee Parsons

    Found your website while looking for a copy of Doriani’s Matthew commentary. Do you happen to know where I can find one for less than $50?

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