PMW 2019-006 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.
I am working on a commentary on Matt. 21:1–25:46, tentatively titled The Olivet Discourse in Context. As I engage the research, I am investigating a number of commentaries on Matthew (I do not fly by the seat of my pants as some preterist enthusiasts do!). I have found help in many of them, even when they do not hold to a preterist understanding of Olivet. Yet, several commentaries have become absolutely essential in my investigation. And I highly recommend them to my reader.
In this brief article I will recommend some good commentaries for you. If you are interested in the Olivet Discourse in particular (which is also found in Mark and Luke) or the Gospel of Matthew in general, you really need to get hold of these (legally, of course).
R. V. G. Tasker’s commentary, The Gospel according to St. Matthew (1961) in the Tyndale New Testament Commentaries series is a good, brief commentary. He holds to a preterist approach to Olivet, while recognizing that it begins with AD 70 but ends with Final Judgment. This is essential for understanding Olivet.
Yet Tasker’s treatment of Olivet is quite brief. And I do not believe he makes the break between AD 70 and the Final Judgment at the correct place in the Discourse. So, Tasker is quite helpful, though not essential for studying Olivet. Tasker, I would say, is good.
J. Marcellus Kik, An Eschatology of Victory (1971) is not a commentary on Matthew. It does, however, offer a very helpful commentary on the Olivet Discourse. Kik makes a fairly comprehensive case for a shift in focus from AD 70 to the Second Advent at Matt. 24:36. This in itself makes his work valuable for the preterist. I highly recommend Kik. Whereas Tasker is good, Kik is better. And I even have it on-sale on my website.
Nevertheless, if you are interested in serious, fuller commentaries on the Olivet Discourse, you will want to get the works by David E. Garland, R. T. France, and Jeffrey A. Gibbs. Though Tasker is good and Kik is better, these three scholars are Grrreeeeaaat (as Tony the Tiger would say)!
The sooner you get them, the happier you will be. 😉 You have already missed Christmas, so you will have to ask for their books as gifts for Presidents Day (unless, of course, you have a birthday in January).
Olivet Discourse Made Easy (by Ken Gentry)
Verse-by-verse analysis of Christ’s teaching on Jerusalem’s destruction in Matt 24. Show the great tribulation is past, having occurred in AD 70.
See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com
So now, let us move on to consider:
The three leading commentaries that I would recommend for studying the Olivet Discourse are:
• David E. Garland, Reading Matthew: A Literary and Theological Commentary on the First Gospel (1993).
• R. T. France’s, The Gospel of Matthew (NICNT, 2007).
• Jeffrey A. Gibbs’ three volume commentary, Matthew 1:1–11:1; Matthew 11:2–20:34; and Matthew 21:1–28:20 (2006–2018).
Each of their works on Matthew and Olivet recognizes a fundamental division in the Discourse. They carefully argue by means of sound exegetical principles that Jesus begins with the destruction of the temple, then expands to present the Final Judgment. They see Matt. 24:36 as the hinge or transition text. And they point out that the disciples’ question at Matt. 24:3 is based on their confusion regarding the significance of the destruction of the temple, which is the reason the Discourse takes its particular direction. See my previous study on this matter in my previous four-part series beginning on January 4, 2019 (PMW numbers: 2019-002; 2019-003; 2019-004; 2019-005).
Garland, Reading Matthew. In his commentary on Matthew, France recommends Garland’s work. Thus, it comes with a significant endorsement. Garland’s Narrative Critical treatment of Matt. 23–25 is excellent, carefully providing the theological and historical context for the Olivet Discourse. His work on these chapters is worth the whole book.
However, he is not preteristic on some other passages that I believe refer to AD 70. He sees some of these as having another focus, usually the Second Advent. Also he believes that Matthew was written after AD 70 to a persecuted church, which I believe is mistaken. Thus, he holds to Markan priority and Redaction Criticism, both of which I strongly reject.
By Ken Gentry
These six DVDs contain sixteen lectures. They were given as a full, formal seminary course developing and defending postmillennial eschatology. Generally follows the outline of He Shall Have Dominion. Covers entire range of cosmic eschatology. Excellent material for college, seminary, or church classes.
See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com
France, The Gospel of Matthew. France has written several commentaries that provide excellent material for studying the Olivet Discourse:
• The Gospel of Matthew (NICNT, 2007) (1100+ pages).
• Matthew: An Introduction and Commentary (Tyndale New Testament Commentary, 1985).
• The Gospel of Mark (New International Greek Text Commentary, 2002).
• Luke (Teach the Text Commentary Series, 2013).
He has also written a very helpful study on Jesus’ use of the Old Testament: Jesus and the Old Testament (1992). His Matthew: Evangelist and Teacher (Zondervan, 1989) is another important and helpful work on Matthew.
If you were to buy one commentary on the subject, I would recommend France’s contribution to the NICNT series. He was one of the leading Matthaean scholars until his death in 2012. He is always insightful, even though he does not see every passage that I deem preterist to be referring to AD 70.
France holds that Matthew was most likely written by the Apostle and he holds to an early date for Matthew (mid-60s). Unfortunately, he accepts Markan Priority, though (fortunately!) without any dependence of Matthew on Mark and without an influence for a written Q document. Thus, he is largely free of Redaction Critical errors.
He makes a powerful case for Olivet’s referring to both AD 70 and the Final Judgment, seeing Matt. 24:36 as the transition text. My commentary on Olivet will employ many of his insights and add to them.
Jeffrey A. Gibbs, Matthew (three volumes). Gibbs has produced an invaluable, in-depth, up-to-date commentary on Matthew (completing his set in 2018), totaling over 1600 pages. He also argues strongly for a transition at Matt. 24:36. Plus he holds to an early date (AD 55), and rejects Redaction Criticism with its Markan Priority and Synoptic inter-dependence. He holds to a modified (reduced) form of Narrative Criticism, which emphasizes the historical context and flow of passages.
I especially like Gibbs for his following Jack T. Kingsbury’s outline of Matthew as a whole. I have been persuaded by Kingsbury’s three-part outline to Matthew, which throws a flood of light onto Matthew’s arguing for the authority of Christ. See my brief study of Matthew’s outline and its significance.
This beautifully opens up Olivet to a twin focus, on both AD 70 and the Final Judgment, showing that Jesus has authority not only over Israel (by judging her in AD 70), but all the nations (by judging them at the end of history).
Most commentaries (even France’s excellent work) argue that Matthew’s outline is built around his five great discourses (with the Olivet Discourse being the last). The problem with this structuring device is that it leaves out the passion narrative. And Christ’s passion (involving both his death and resurrection) is obviously the goal of the book. After all, Matthew is introduced by the angel giving the name “Jesus” to the child and explaining that it signifies “he will save His people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21).
I very much encourage my readers to read all of Gibbs’ Introduction. His presenting of this material is extremely important and very helpful for understanding Matthew’s Gospel.
Though Gibbs powerfully argues for a Matt. 24:36 transition from AD 70 to the Final Judgment, I am not persuaded by all of his observations on Matt. 24:4–32. I generally prefer France on this portion of Matt. 24. And regarding the Matt. 24:36 transition, I encourage consulting Gibb’s excellent work, Jerusalem and Parousia: Jesus’ Eschatological Discourse in Matthew’s Gospel.
As you may surmise, this Presbyterian writer (me!) is a big fan of that Lutheran commentator (Gibbs)! He is fully orthodox in his theology and incredibly sound in his methodology. I like him better than the Gibbs character on NCIS (you cannot fully trust a man who first two names are “Leroy Jethro,” especially if he is a fictional character).
These commentaries are not the only ones providing helpful material on Olivet. Nor are they the only ones that see the importance of the transition text at Matt. 24:36 (e.g., Jamieson, Fausset and Brown; Charles H. Spurgeon). But I believe them to be the most helpful ones currently available. If you find a sound commentary on Matthew that I might appreciate, I hope you will post it in a COMMENT.
JESUS, MATTHEW, AND OLIVET
I am currently researching a commentary on Matthew 21–25, the literary context of the Olivet Discourse from Matthew’s perspective. My research will demonstrate that Matthew’s presentation demands that the Olivet Discourse refer to AD 70 (Matt. 24:3–35) as an event that anticipates the Final Judgment at the Second Advent (Matt. 24:36–25:46). This will explode the myth that Jesus was a Jewish sage focusing only on Israel. The commentary will be about 250 pages in length.
If you would like to support me in my research, I invite you to consider giving a tax-deductible contribution to my research and writing ministry: GoodBirth Ministries. Your help is much appreciated!