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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
So 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.”
Russ Ramsey is the pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church Cool Springs in Nashville, Tennessee, where he lives with his wife and four children. He grew up in the fields of Indiana and studied at Taylor University and Covenant Theological Seminary (MDiv, ThM). Russ is the author of the Retelling the Story Series (IVP, 2018) and Struck: One Christian’s Reflections on Encountering Death (IVP, 2017).