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Matthew: 26 (Anchor Bible Commentaries) [Paperback]

W. F. Albright , C. S. Mann

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Book Description

1 Mar 1995 Anchor Bible Commentaries (Book 26)
This is volume twenty-six of The Anchor Bible, a new translation done book-by-book with accompanying introduction, notes, and comments. Matthew is the most familiar of the gospels, best known for its parables, miracle narratives, and the long Sermon on the Mount. Recognized by the early Church as the most fitting introduction to the New Testament, its special concern is to announce Jesus as the fulfillment of the Old Testament. Hence its emphasis on the Law, on ethics based on the traditional theology of the Covenant, and on the centrality of Messianic hope. This commentary sets the understanding of Matthew in the context of its author's own religious and secular background. Believing that the text should be approached directly, the writers of the commentary make constant use of the recently discovered historical and linguistic evidence now available to elucidate it. This approach results in placing Jesus firmly within the framework of ascertainable Jewish tradition in first-century Palestine. The writers hold that the claim of Jesus to fulfill the Law and not to abolish it must be taken seriously. They have therefore taken a fresh look at the legal discussions in Matthew. In the light of their examination, there emerges first a revaluation of the meaning attached to such key words as "parables" and "hypocrite" and then a new and vital significance for such words. The result is a new respect for Matthew, a highly reliable early source for the ministry of Jesus, and an examination of that ministry uncluttered by the presuppositions of various forms of modern "Platonism."

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About the Author

Matthew is translated and edited by the late William Foxwell Albright, senior editor of The Anchor Bible, and by C. S. Mann, dean of the Ecumenical Institute Theology, St. Mary's Seminary and University, Baltimore.

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Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
37 of 56 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An unfortunate case of mediocrity 8 Aug 2001
By Timothy A. Griffy - Published on Amazon.com
One of the most commendable things about this installment of The Anchor Bible is the authors remembered they were writing for the general reader. In this respect, Albright and Mann have done their job well. In other areas, however, I have mixed feelings on their work on the gospel of Matthew. This review will concentrate mainly on the introductory material, since like all commentaries, this is where the authors establish the basis from which the commentary proper flows.

Albright and Mann immediately get off on the wrong foot. In their discussion on the canonicity of our four gospels, they apparently try to establish the superiority of the four gospels to justify their inclusion in the New Testament. This leads to a discussion about why noncanonical gospels are not really gospels. They conclude other apocryphal writings "were slanted to a form of belief about the person and work of Jesus which finds no expression in the pages of the New Testament" (xix).

This approach is very problematic. It puts the cart before the horse by making the canonical works an arbitrary standard to judge other claimants retroactively. It assumes a uniformity of belief of the New Testament authors that does not exist. Finally, the New Testament authors were hardly objective themselves; their portrayal of Jesus is just as slanted as any of the other gospels. As Albright and Mann point out, orthodoxy was not something that jumped up from nowhere. What we now call Christianity today was more akin to a cauldron of various Jesus movements often competing with each other. Most of these groups wrote about their ideas about Jesus. These writings influenced each other. It is from this cauldron "orthodoxy" emerged. Our four gospels were among the earliest. This means they had more time to spread and become popular. Attaching names of apostles or their immediate disciples added to their popularity. As their popularity increased, early Christians regarded them as supporting the orthodox position. Church councils ratified their popularity and strengthened the gospels' orthodoxy by making them the standard for Christianity. In today's parlance, we might say Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John became canonical because of better marketing, not necessarily because they were superior to other written gospels. This renders the authors' discussion of what is and is not truly a gospel to irrelevancy. Things could have gone another way, and if it had, the situation would be reversed.

Any discussion on the authorship and sources of Matthew always confronts us with the so-called synoptic problem. How is it Matthew and Luke appear so much like Mark that the latter has only about fifty verses unique to his gospel? Further, how is it that Matthew and Luke have so much material in common not found in Mark, although one likely did not have the other available? The dominant answer for years has been the two-source theory. Both Matthew and Luke had Mark available to them, which they used to establish the narrative framework of their own gospel. They also both used another document, called Q, which explains the other material they have in common. Material unique to Matthew came from other sources, written or oral, that was not either available or used by Luke. Matthew was not simply a cut and paste job; the author, who probably was not the apostle, shaped and structured the material to reflect his own theological views and the needs of his community.

Albright and Mann reject this hypothesis. They argue the gospel authors wrote the synoptic gospels essentially independently based on oral tradition. They depended on each other rarely, if at all. Matthew was the author of an Aramaic document from which the Greek gospel was based, if not our gospel itself. Albright and Mann argue so often against the two-source theory that this work is more of an apologetic against it, rather than an exposition of their own view. They caricature the theory and continually raise "problems" against it. However, they have not given us a unified and coherent theory to replace it, and what they do give raises more questions than it answers. Further, unencumbered by their caricature, the two-source theory can readily handle most of the "problems" raised against it. It therefore remains the dominant theory on the origin of the synoptics thirty years after the publication of this commentary.

Their discussion on Matthew's use of the Old Testament is more promising. According to Albright and Mann, the quotations are not simply proof texts pulled randomly to bolster the author's case. They are midrashic commentaries similar to ones found in the Dead Sea Scrolls and elsewhere. Moreover, they form an important part of the gospel's structure. The rest of the introductory material covers the way Matthew handled various topics. These discussions are handled better than the discussion on authorship. I found their argument that the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Heaven are separate realms weak. However, their discussion on the word "hypocrite" is especially illuminating. Albright and Mann have divided the commentary itself into translation, notes, and comments. The comments are usually short. They have already covered much of the material in the introduction, so the reader rarely misses anything important to the discussion. In other cases, particularly regarding the historicity of a pericope, a better discussion of the issues involved would have been helpful.

My final judgment on this installment of The Anchor Bible is mixed. I can still commend it to the general reader, since the writers mostly did a wonderful job in making their positions understood. The commentary also has some bright points worth considering. However, it reads too much like an apologetic for me to commend it on scholarly grounds.
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars 22 Aug 2014
By Bella - Published on Amazon.com
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2 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Anti-Griffy 17 April 2011
By Augustine - Published on Amazon.com
If you believe what Griffy says about the authorship of the gospels then based on his comment you will not like the commentary. There is enough historical evidence to prove him wrong but this is not the place for a Bible conference. Matthew most likely wrote an Aramaic version, but it was translated into Greek because of the needs of the early Church. So if you agree with Griffy's comment so be it. But this is not worth three stars, more like four or five. This is for the majority of people who believe that the apostles and apostolic men wrote the gospels.
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