vrijdag 8 februari 2013

Review of: Ulrich Luz, Matthew 1-7: A Commentary (Hermeneia), Fortress, 2007; in: Theology Today

Ulrich Luz, Matthew 1-7: A Commentary (Hermeneia), Fortress, 2007

Review in: Theology Today 2008 65: 133
Review door: Dale C. Allison, Jr.
Gevonden op: http://ttj.sagepub.com/content/65/1/133.full.pdf+html

Matthew 1-7: A Commentary
Ulrich Luz
Minneapolis: Fortress, 2007.
432 pp. $75.00.

Ulrich Luz, professor emeritus at the University of Bern in Switzerland, is perhaps today’s premier scholar of Matthew’s Gospel. The first installment of his monumental four-volume commentary for the Evungelisch-Kutholischer Kommentur zum Neuen Testament series appeared in 1985, the last in 2002. In 1989, Augsburg published Wilhelm C. Linss’s English translation of the first volume, which covered chapters 1-7. Now James E. Crouch has translated for the Hermeneia series and Fortress Press the complete commentary, which appears in English as three volumes instead of four. The first volume covers chapters 1-7, the second, chapters 8-20, the third, chapters 21-28.

The present incarnation of volume 1 in English is not a revision of Linss’s work but rather a fresh translation of the fifth German edition. Accordingly, this volume differs considerably from the earlier English edition and renders the earlier version obsolete. Changes include adaptation to the Hermeneia series format; black-and-white prints of works of art; updated bibliographies and numerous references to more recent scholarship (up to 1998 for chapters 3-7, up to 2000 for the introduction and chapters 1-2); several expanded reviews of the history of interpretation; fuller discussion of several topics (e.g., Matthew’s structure and its literary genre and literary strategies); new exegetical judgments (e.g., Luz now recognizes I:1 as the title of the entire Gospel, not just the heading for 1 :2-25); and indices of texts, Greek words, subjects, and authors.

Luz proceeds pericope by pericope. Each section opens with a citation of secondary literature (no attempt is made to be exhaustive) and then a translation. Analysis follows, which here consists of observations on the structure of each relevant passage, conclusions about its sources, redaction, and traditionhistory, as well as, on occasion, judgments regarding origins. Then there is the interpretation proper, which typically unfolds verse by verse. Most sections end with a review, often lengthy, of the history of interpretation.

Luz’s greatest contribution lies in his instructive and fascinating examinations of the history of interpretation. These are learned overviews, often with personal theological evaluation, of what the reading of Matthew has wrought over two thousand years. Luz does not, moreover, confine himself to reviewing commentaries. He is equally concerned with a text’s “history of influence,” which for him means understanding how Matthew has been “received and actualized in media other than commentaries-in verbal media such as sermons, canonical documents, and ‘literature,’ as well as in nonverbal media such as art and music, and in the church’s activity and suffering, that is, in church history.” In short, Luz is interested in “the effective power of the texts themselves.”

Reviews of the history of the interpretation and influence of a text are, for Luz, of more than antiquarian interest. They are rather an integral part of faithful interpretation. Such reviews help “to shed light on one’s own locus of understanding and thus contribute to one’s own modern understanding at precisely this locus. Such an understanding is always contextual and always partly new and different, although-or, more accurately, precisely becausewhat is at stake is an understanding of the ancient biblical texts that are permanently given to us.” Luz wants to recover older, precritical readings precisely in order to understand how the contemporary church should appropriate Matthew-which is why at several points one runs across a subsection titled “Meaning for Today.” Luz wants to pass beyond traditional historicalcritical questions and answers and bring Matthew’s text into our present world.

If one is interested in traditional historical-critical issues, then other commentaries on Matthew will prove to be of equal value. But if one is interested in how readers through the ages have understood and appropriated Matthew, then Luz is without peer. Theologians will find much for serious reflection here. Pastors preparing sermons will find the exegesis prudent and helpful and the sections on “the history of interpretation” invaluable and full of suggestions for practical application.

Dale C. Allison Jr.
Pittsburgh Theological Seminary
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

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