Jeffrey Gibbs – Matthew Concordia Commentary – Q & A

Jeffrey Gibbs Matthew CommentaryJeffrey Gibbs (Ph.D., Union Theological Seminary) is professor of Exegetical Theology at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis where he has been a faculty member since 1992. His areas of interest and expertise include the Synoptic Gospels, New Testament eschatology and Matthew.

After graduating from Concordia Theological Seminary, Dr. Gibbs was ordained in 1979 and was called to two congregations in northwestern Oregon. He served there for 10 years.

Gibbs has been a conference speaker for pastors and laity in many venues. He currently is the part-time pastoral assistant at Holy Cross Lutheran Church in St. Louis, and preaches and teaches the Scripture there regularly.

In addition to his three-volume commentary on Matthew in the Concordia series, Dr. Gibbs has written Jerusalem and Parousia: Jesus’ Eschatological Discourse in Matthew’s Gospel (Concordia Publishing House [CPH], 2000).

Gibbs and his wife, Renee, live in St. Louis and are active in life-affirming ministry, especially on behalf of unborn children. They have four grown children and more than a dozen grandchildren, the total number of which is happily beyond their control.

1. What previous research and/or personal interests led you to this project and helped prepare you to write this commentary on Matthew?

My interest in Matthew’s Gospel goes back to seminary days, and then it continued through 10 years of pastoral work, including preaching and teaching every week. My doctoral studies focused on Matthew as well, and that in a holistic way. When I was asked to write this commentary for our publishing house (Concordia Publishing House), I had quite a bit of preparation—enough, at least, to help me begin the task.

2. Who is the intended audience for this commentary? Would it benefit pastors? professors? students? lay Christians in the local church?

The primary audience is theologically interested pastors who have studied at least some Greek and Hebrew. On the one hand, it is written from my own Lutheran convictions, and so the most natural “implied reader” is a fairly traditional Lutheran. I hope in the Lord, however, that academics might also find it helpful in some ways. I have Christian friends who are lay people who had been reading it as well, and they tell me that it’s helpful to them. My favorite current reader is my wife, Renee, who is almost finished with volume three!

3. What is unique about this commentary? What contribution does it make to studies of Matthew?

“Unique” might be too strong of an adjective. Four things, however, perhaps are distinctive about what I’ve tried to do. From a theological point of view, it’s the first full-length commentary on Matthew by a traditional Lutheran scholar in quite some time, perhaps since R. C. H. Lenski’s work in the 1940’s. Methodologically, it is an attempt to read in a narrative-critical fashion attending to the story of Jesus as Matthew tells it; I don’t, however, strictly employ all of the jargon and tactics of narrative criticism. Third, the emphasis of the textual notes on each pericope highlights the importance of Greek grammar and syntax, and that is a fairly full part of the commentary project. Finally, in terms of the commentary’s pragmatics, I am a confessing Christian and I believe that the Scriptures are supposed to impact us as whole persons, inviting us to believe and to follow Jesus as Lord. Because of that, there is a fair bit of what one might term “application” in the commentary. If anything is unique, it might be the combination of all four of these facets of what I’ve tried to do.

4. What section or passage of this commentary was particularly memorable to research and write? Why?

I would say that in general, the task of commenting on the Passion and Resurrection of Christ (Matt 26-28) was especially memorable. For one thing, it came to pass that I was writing that section of the commentary while on academic sabbatical during the Lent and Easter sessions! The opportunity to grow in my own grasp of the historical background of those events was encouraging and exciting. At the same time, pondering how Matthew offers to his readers / hearers the account of Jesus’ faithfulness, his atoning death, and his eschatological victory was a true blessing.

5. What personally edified you in writing this commentary, increasing your affections for Christ?

To repeat myself a little bit, it was the powerful demonstration of Christ’s faithfulness to the Father’s plan to save us that edified me the most. Everyone around Jesus proves faithless, cowardly, evil, and self-serving; there were no exceptions. No one was left…except Jesus alone, perfectly walking in the Father’s will for us and all people. It is the vision of Christ himself that matters.

6. Besides your commentary, what are your top recommended books (commentaries or otherwise) on Matthew?

There are so many fine works on Matthew that it’s hard to pick only a few. For a lucid and flowing analysis of Matthew’s story-account in its ancient setting, David Garland’s Reading Matthew is without peer. For encyclopedic knowledge of scholarship on Matthew, the three volumes by Davies and Allison in the new ICC series can’t be beat. Ulrich Luz’s three volumes are extremely helpful and interesting on many counts, and one of his unique contributions is his summary of the history of how Matthew’s text has been read throughout the centuries. For an overview understanding of key aspects of Matthew as a whole, Jack Dean Kingsbury’s Matthew: Structure, Christology, Kingdom remains invaluable.

7. What is next for you? What project are you currently working on? How can people follow your work and ministry?

I confess to being uncomfortable with the question. The only projects I am working at the present involve the walks and flower beds around our home! My wife wants me to write a book for a lay audience that invites the reader into a fully eschatological and new-creational understanding of our life and our hope in Christ; perhaps I will take that up some time. I plan to retire from teaching at Concordia Seminary in the summer of 2020, at the age of 68, after 28 years on the faculty. If someone wanted to “follow my work and ministry,” I suppose they could google my name and see what comes up.

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