Book Review: Charles L. Quarles, Matthew: Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament

Quarles, Charles L. Matthew. Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament. Nashville: B&H Academic, 2017. 384 pp.; Pb.; $29.99. Link to B&H Academic

Charles Quarles new Exegetical Guide to Matthew joins John Harvey’s contribution on Romans and eight other volumes in the EGGNT series published since 2010. I have previously reviewed Greg Forbes on 1 Peter. Quarles serves as Professor of New Testament and Biblical Theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is well qualified to write this exegetical guide, having published The Sermon on the Mount: Restoring Christ’s Message to the Modern Church (B&H Academic, 2011), A Theology of Matthew in the Explorations in Biblical Theology (P&R, 2013), as well as numerous articles and other publications on the Jesus and the Gospels.

As with other volumes in this series, Quarles begins with a short introduction covering authorship, date, provenance, composition and structure. He argues for traditional view the book was written by the Apostle Matthew during the 60s A.D. this is based in part on several references to Temple practices in the book which would be meaningless after the fall of Jerusalem. He is less dogmatic on the provenance, Syrian Antioch or Palestine are equally plausible. He does not comment on the destination nor does the introduction deal with sources or redaction criticism. Occasionally he will refer to some word as “characteristic of Matthew’s style” (p. 51) or compare Matthew to a similar saying in Luke.

Each new section of the outline of Matthew begins with a short paragraph on the structure of the pericope and highlight key features. The bulk of each section is a phrase by phrase analysis of words which have difficult syntax or are exegetically interesting. He refers to intermediate and advanced grammars such as A. T. Robertson’s classic grammar (cited as R), Daniel Wallace’s Greek Grammar beyond the Basics (cited as W), blass-DeBrunner-Funk (BDF) and Zerwick (cited as Z) by page number so the student can examine other examples or get a definition of obscure syntactical terms. Quarles frequently refers to the third edition of A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (University of Chicago Press, 2000; BDAG), but he also compares several English versions as well. When necessary, Quarles comments on textual variations appearing in the Nestle Aland Greek New Testament, often citing Metzger’s A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (United Bible Societies, 1994). When Quarles cites important major commentaries on Matthew he uses a single letter (F = R. T. France, G = Robert Gundry, N = John Nolland). Careful attention to the abbreviations page is necessary to use this book. Unlike other contributions to the EGGNT series, Quarles does not offer any kind of syntactical display. Because Matthew is lengthy book compared to Paul’s letters a syntactical display would increase the length of the guide.

Following the exegetical guide, Quarles collects a short bibliography of articles and monographs. There are 152 of these short bibliographies in the book and will prove to be extremely valuable for further study on each unit. These include many recent works (in the last ten years) as well as well-known older articles. Given the nature of the exegetical guide, these bibliographies cannot be not exhaustive bibliographies.  Each unit concludes with a few homiletical suggestions. For the most part these are extremely brief outlines look more like bullet points than sermon outlines.

It is possible for a student to replicate but of the content of this exegetical guide with good Bible Study Software (Logos, BibleWorks, Accordance). These tools will identify every word in the Greek New Testament and parse every verb. A student can create a “reading guide” with one of the Bible Software tools. But Quarles’s exegetical guide is not reading guide. Greek verbs are only rarely parsed and not all vocabulary is glossed.

The goal of the exegetical guides in this series is to offer a summary of the issues for a given phrase, picking out the data from all of the major resources and gathering them into a single paragraph. Since Matthew is the longest book in the series, not every word can be given the same level of detail. In Forbes’s exegetical guide to 1 Peter, a single verse fill a full page; Quarles must cover four or five verses per page.

This guide is a valuable tool for doing exegesis, it cannot replace learning koine Greek. For example, in Matthew 22:10, Quarles identified the participle ἐξελθόντες as a participle of “attendant circumstances” without further explanation or citation of a syntactical grammar. The usage is so common in does not need explanation for an intermediate Greek student. The same is true for the dozens of historical presents in the Gospel of Matthew. Without taking an intermediate Greek grammar course or the equivalent, the student will not be able to make an interpretive point without knowing what a participle of “attendant circumstances” means nor will that information help with translating the text.

A common criticism of a “reading guide” is that it arms the student with information but not an understanding of the Greek New Testament. This book requires some knowledge of intermediate Greek in order to fully use the wealth of detail Quarles provides.

This exegetical guide will be welcome for anyone studying the Greek text of Matthew. The book is densely packed with information which will aid the student preparing exegetical assignments and papers, but for there is much in this book to help the pastor or Bible teacher preparing sermons and Bible studies on the first Gospel.


NB: Thanks to B&H Academic for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.

Published on February 22, 2018 on Reading Acts.

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