Monday, February 10, 2014

Feasting on the Gospels -- Matthew Volumes 1-2 -- Review and Reflection

FEASTING ON THE GOSPELS--Matthew, Volume 1: A Feasting on the Word Commentary and FEASTING ON THE GOSPELS--Matthew, Volume 2: A Feasting on the Word Commentary.  Edited by Cynthia A. Jarvis and E Ellizabeth Johnson.  Louisville:  Westminster John Knox Pres, 2013.

As a preacher, I  have been blessed by the recent contributions coming from Westminster John Knox Press.  First there was the Feasting on the Word Series, which provided us with insightful commentary on the lectionary passages from four vantage points.  Then came the Preaching God's Transforming Justice series.  Although smaller in scope than Feasting on the Word, these volumes lift up the prophetic vision of the scriptures.  This series also focuses on the lectionary.  But, what if you don't follow the lectionary or stray from it on occasion?

In this newest series, Feasting on the Gospels, we are offered a set of commentaries that make used of the methodology of the Feasting on the Word series, but applies it to individual books.  The first volumes published -- in time for Year A in the lectionary cycle -- cover Matthew in two volumes.   As with Feasting on the Word, we are provided with reflections from a theological, a pastoral, an exegetical, and a homiletical perspective.  These reflections are offered by a wide variety of interpreters (I counted ninety different contributors in the list for volume two).  This diversity of perspective may not always provide a coherent picture from the first verse of the first chapter to the last verse of the last chapter, but the diversity of viewpoints is in its ow way a reminder that each of us comes to the text from different social locations, and with varying theological viewpoints.  You will find reflections written by well known persons such as Martin Marty and William Willimon, as well as lesser known persons including local pastors and younger scholars.  There are women and men, as well as persons representing the rainbow of ethnicities.  There are members of the academy -- scholars if you will -- and pastors of local congregations.

Having used both of the earlier series, I continue to be impressed with the quality of work in this series.  I must confess to not reading either volume from cover to cover, but I've been using them in my own preaching and meditations.  I've found the offerings insightful and useful.  What is especially helpful with this format is that at least one of the four perspectives will connect with you.  It might be the exegetical reflection that brings out spiritual insights that none of the others do, or it might be the homiletical. 

Once again, I think we have a set of commentaries that will bring the scriptures alive.  I've only just begun my journey with the set, but I continue to be impressed with the way in which the writers work with the text. They seem to understand, no matter their theological positions, that these texts are sacred to a great number of people, and thus need to be handled with care -- even when shedding a critical light upon the text.   With the volume on Mark already out,  and with the expectation that the remainder of the Gospels will be covered, if you are a preacher or student of the Bible, you will want to add these volumes to your shelves.

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