Discovering Matthew: Content, interpretation,
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A REMARKABLE feature of this commentary is its
comprehensiveness. It is a straightforward introduction to the
theology and emphases of St Matthew's Gospel, easily intelligible,
and careful to avoid (or clearly explain) obscure technical
terminology. It is an excellent companion to the equally clear and
attractive second edition of Ruth Edwards's Discovering
John, published simultaneously.
The author draws on interpreters and commentators from every age
and every sphere, ranging from Origen and Jerome, through pictorial
and artistic representations in Byzantine ivories, medieval
cathedrals, or J. S. Bach's St Matthew Passion, to careful
presentation of theories of modern scholars. Every comment is
courteously and sympathetically considered, resulting in a rich
tapestry of Christian scholarship and devotion down the ages, so
varied and kaleidoscopic that some readers may hanker for a fuller
emphasis on and explanation of the author's own views.
He is such a careful scholar that he will have a neat little
presentation of any view that has been expressed, stating clearly
his own agreement or disagreement, but leaving the reader space to
consider the arguments and make a personal decision on the
Two early chapters that I found valuable were those on the
different current methods of interpreting a biblical text, with the
tools and advantages of each approach. There follows an exploration
of some of the textual variants and the possible theological
motivations behind them. Besides explaining the textual variants,
this throws a fascinating light on theological concerns of earlier
ages and their effect on the text itself.
The discussion of the order of the Gospels is crisp and clear. I
would only think that after this discussion it would have been
possible to put the outmoded theory of Matthaean priority to rest
without repeatedly making allowances for it.
Of the many individual aspects considered, I find the most
enriching to be the full presentation of the intertextuality of
Matthew. Matthew, the most Jewish of the Gospels, cannot be
understood except against the background of the Old Testament. He
draws on, reflects, and enriches the biblical tradition in a
thousand ways, quietly making a point that becomes apparent only in
view of familiarity with the Old Testament or Jewish tradition. A
typical case is the contribution of knowledge of the prophet
Zechariah to an understanding of the Matthaean Passion narrative.
Boxall's careful attention to detail makes his exposition of Jesus
as teacher and healer in the miracle-stories of the Gospel equally
This commentary will be useful to students at every stage. It
will be intelligible to the A-level student, and gave me some
valuable insights, too.
Fr Henry Wansbrough OSB is a monk of Ampleforth, emeritus
Master of St Benet's Hall, Oxford, and a member of the Pontifical