First of all this isn't a verse by verse commentary, but Hauerwas's interpretive study is a real witness to the Gospel. At times it makes the reader uncomfortable. Its challenging yet simultaneously encouraging. Its rare to encounter a commentary that is so meaningful for the present time. I'm an Anglican pastor and every priest or minister ought to buy the book and study it. In former ages the Church Fathers, and even more recently, preachers interpreted the Bible theologically. Evangelists such as Wesley and Spurgeon are good examples. Hauerwass reasserts the priority of a theological reading of the Holy Scriptures. On completing the book I came away knowing that I'd been both strengthened and renewed in faith.
Illuminating and challenging insights, beautifully written. An essential additional tool for anyone seriously wanting to engage with not just the text of Matthew's Gospel, but the outworking of it - especially the sermon on the mount.
First off, it is important to note that Hauerwas' commentary on the Gospel of Matthew does not follow the usual conventions followed by many Biblical commentaries. Rather than providing a verse by verse (or word by word) hermeneutical exploration of the text, it explores the `grand narrative' and doctrinal themes of the Gospel. By exploring these themes, rather than providing a commentary on the Gospel, Hauerwas provides a means of reading and understanding the Gospel and of how it informs Christian doctrine (and vice versa).
To its advantage, Hauerwas' commentary is very readable. Whilst drawing on the work of both modern and ancient theologians, he provides a very readable and accessible reading of Matthew. However, as one would expect, this is very much a Hauerwas reading of Matthew (those who have read his other works will know what I mean). As is common with his theological method he draws from the Anabaptist and pacifist theological traditions (such as that provided by John Howard Yoder). He also provides a political reading of Matthew, linking the politics of Jesus' time to that of our own, using the Anabaptist readings and understandings of Christendom to understand how this informs our understanding of the dominion systems of Jesus' own time. This will not be to everyones' taste, but it does provide a means of understanding the implications of the Gospel on our own times.
My only complaints are that this commentary, in concentrating on grand narrative themes, does not provide a means for reading and understanding individual passages of Matthew. (That said, on reading it, it becomes clear that this is not the intention of this commentary!) However, there are plenty of these on the market, covering just about every theologian position. What Hauerwas does is to provide a jumping off point, a means of reading and understanding the Gospel as a complete and coherent narrative, rather than as a series of individual mini-narratives. This then provides us with a point from which further exploration of individual passages can be undertaken.
My other concern is that Hauerwas has no truck with the 'Messianic consciousness' argument - the argument that Jesus was not initially aware of his nature as God's son. (This is sometimes expressed as the pre and post Easter Jesus. The former has no knowledge that he is God, the other does, becoming aware of his nature following the resurrection.) Neither is he interested in engaging in the historical Christ. This is purely a theological exploration of whom Jesus is, not a historical one. There are, however, other commentaries that offer this, so my point is something of a moot one.