Category Archives: Commentary

Noteworthy Book – Philippians: A Mentor Commentary

CoverAs some of you know, I have been working on a Philippians commentary for the past several years. What a privilege it has been to live inside this rich letter and see my joy in Christ and his gospel deepen as a result. Philippians has much to say to us as believers today, so I have written this commentary to help pastors, missionaries, Sunday school teachers, Bible study leaders, and all Christians understand and apply it to their lives.

I am excited to announce that it has finally been released in the United Kingdom (the publisher, Christian Focus, is located in Scotland) and will soon be available here in the United States and internationally. You can order it through Amazon or ChristianBook.com.

Here are the endorsements:

Matt Harmon explains Paul’s letter clause by clause, traces Paul’s argument, reads Paul’s argument in light of the rest of the Bible, and applies the letter to people today. He reminds me of two of his professors when he was working on his PhD at Wheaton: Doug Moo and Greg Beale.

Andy Naselli, Assistant Professor of New Testament and Biblical Theology at Bethlehem College and Seminary in Minneapolis

 

Historically aware, exegetically astute, and theologically sensitive, Matt Harmon’s commentary on Philippians is full of insight and ideas for those who want to understand this beautiful epistle. He is not simply up to date on recent scholarship, but digs deeply and appropriately into evangelical commentaries of the past too, to enliven and enhance his own exposition. His suggestions for preaching and applying Philippians are crisp, clear, and eminently useable. A new go-to resource for pastors and students!

Dr Lee Gatiss, Director of Church Society and Editor of the NIV Proclamation Bible.

 

Our Lord calls his own to love God with all their heart, soul and mind (Mt. 22:37). This blend is seldom seen in commentaries, which tend to favor either the academic or the devotional. Authors write as believing pastors, or as detached scholars – which would seem to sunder what God has explicitly joined. Matt Harmon represents this happy marriage in his commentary on Philippians. Harmon has no less a keen eye for the particulars of the Greek text and academic illumination than he does for the splendorous and transforming truths that text communicates. It is clear that Matt has put the text under a microscope; it is just as clear that he is thrilled with the Savior and Gospel it reveals. This will now be my “go-to” book for teaching or preaching Philippians, joining Martin and Silva and Lightfoot and the others. I can’t commend Matt Harmon’s commentary on Philippians highly enough to pastors and students in all areas of church ministry and life. It is deep-rooted, solid, and broadly accessible. God grant that it receives the visibility and use it merits, to His glory and His church’s edification!

Dan Phillips, Pastor, Copperfield Bible Church

 

Matthew Harmon has given us a fresh and faithful reading of Philippians that will be a powerful help to all who preach and teach the word.

James M. Hamilton, Professor of Biblical Theology, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

 

Matthew Harmon’s commentary on Philippians is a model of good commentary writing: clear prose, adequate interaction with the array of scholarly perspectives, and helpful application. I commend his work to students, teachers, and preachers who seek better to understand this important letter of Paul.

Douglas J. Moo, Wessner Chair of Biblical Studies, Wheaton College

 

Matthew Harmon is a gifted and trustworthy guide for helping us to understand and apply this Pauline epistle of joy. This commentary strikes me as just the right combination of what most of us need: clear prose, sufficient background and lexical information (without overwhelming the read in technicalities), insightful theological analysis, and practical pastoral application. Pastors and laypeople alike can benefit from this finely crafted work.

Justin Taylor, managing editor, The ESV Study Bible

 

This commentary is a study in clarity and balance. It is simple in expression, yet profound in insight. It is thorough in scope, yet selective enough not to overwhelm. It is informed by recent scholarship, yet avoids fruitless complexities. It draws on knowledge of ancient languages, yet makes its case in plain English. It is classic in its focus on God, Christ, and redemption, yet current in showing how a gospel from long ago is just as true and powerful today. In a word, this is a fine resource for serious students of Philippians in both church and college settings.

Robert W. Yarbrough, Professor of New Testament, Covenant Theological Seminary, St. Louis, MO

 

Matthew Harmon’s commentary on Philippians is an outstanding work. We find careful exegesis and a clear explanation of the the text. The commentary is theologically rich, in terms of both biblical and systematic theology, and so there is more than a running commentary. Harmon also applies the text to readers in practical ways. Scholars, students, pastors, and teachers will profit significantly from this work.

Tom Schreiner, James Buchanan Harrison Professor of New Testament Interpretation and Professor of Biblical Theology, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

 

 

 

 

Promising New Commentary Series Announced: Biblical Theology for Christian Proclamation

This past Friday Broadman and Holman (B&H) publicly announced a new commentary series entitled Biblical Theology for Christian Proclamation.  According to the preface series (emphasis mine):

The present set of volumes constitutes an ambitious project, seeking to explore the theology of the Bible in considerable depth, spanning both Testaments. Authors come from a variety of backgrounds and perspectives, though all affirm the inerrancy and inspiration of Scripture. United in their high view of Scripture, and in their belief in the underlying unity of Scripture, which is ultimately grounded in the unity of God himself, each author explores the contribution of a given book or group of books to the theology of Scripture as a whole. While conceived as stand-alone volumes, each volume thus also makes a contribution to the larger whole. All volumes provide a discussion of introductory matters, including the historical setting and the literary structure of a given book of Scripture. Also included is an exegetical treatment of all the relevant passages in succinct commentary-style format. The biblical theology approach of the series will also inform and play a role in the commentary proper. The commentator permits a discussion between the commentary proper and the biblical theology that it reflects by a series of cross-references.

The major contribution of each volume, however, is a thorough discussion of the most important themes of the biblical book in relation to the canon as a whole. This format allows each contributor to ground Biblical Theology, as is proper, in an appropriate appraisal of the relevant historical and literary features of a particular book in Scripture while at the same time focusing on its major theological contribution to the entire Christian canon in the context of the larger salvation-historical metanarrative of Scripture. Within this overall format, there will be room for each individual contributor to explore the major themes of his or her particular corpus in the way he or she sees most appropriate for the material under consideration.

This format, in itself, would already be a valuable contribution to Biblical Theology. But there are other series that try to accomplish a survey of the Bible’s theology as well. What distinguishes the present series is its orientation toward Christian proclamation. This is the Biblical Theology for Christian Proclamation commentary series! As a result, the ultimate purpose of this set of volumes is not exclusively, or even primarily, academic. Rather, we seek to relate Biblical Theology to our own lives and to the life of the church. Our desire is to equip those in Christian ministry who are called by God to preach and teach the precious truths of Scripture to their congregations, both in North America and in a global context.

The first volume is by Tom Schreiner on Hebrews, which will release in February 2015. Here is the full list of contributors, including yours truly:

Old Testament contributors:

Desmond Alexander Genesis

Mark Rooker                           Exodus

Paul Wegner                            Leviticus

Richard Averbeck                   Numbers

Ken Mathews                          Deuteronomy

David Firth                              Joshua

Iain Duguid                             Judges, Ruth

Robert Fyall                            1-2 Samuel

Bob Bergen                             1-2 Kings

Gary V. Smith                         1-2 Chronicles

Andrew Hill                             Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther

Barry Webb                             Job

James Hamilton                       Psalms

Allen Ross                               Proverbs

Ernest Lucas                            Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs

Jack Collins                             Isaiah

Stephen Dempster                   Jeremiah, Lamentations

Paul Williamson                      Ezekiel

Joe Sprinkle                             Daniel

Anthony Petterson                   Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah

Ray Clendenen                        Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi

New Testament contributors:

Charles Quarles                       Matthew

Peter Bolt                                 Mark

Michael Wilkins                      Luke

Ardel Caneday                         John

Alan Thompson                       Acts

David G. Peterson                   Romans

Peter Davids                            1 Corinthians

Jason Meyer                            2 Corinthians

Matt Harmon                           Galatians

Greg Beale                               Ephesians

Doug Moo                                Philippians

Joel White                                Colossians, Philemon

Terry Wilder                            1-2 Thessalonians

Andreas Köstenberger             1-2 Timothy, Titus

Thomas Schreiner                    Hebrews

David Chapman                       James

Rick Melick                             1-2 Peter, Jude

Michael Martin                        1-3 John

Eckhard Schnabel                    Revelation

The

An Interview with Doug Moo

One of the greatest privileges I have had in life is to do my Ph.D. work under the supervision of Doug Moo at Wheaton College. In light of his Galatians commentary now being published in the Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament series, Justin Taylor recently conducted an interview with him. The interview covers a wide range of topics, including the remarkable story of his conversion and the beginning of his academic ministry, his process for writing commentaries, justification, and future writing projects.

You can find the interview here.

HT: Justin Taylor

Sabbatical Update

As you may know, I was on sabbatical during the Spring Semester of the last academic year. Since I have now finished that sabbatical (and the summer as well) and resumed by teaching responsibilities at Grace College and Theological Seminary. So here is a brief summary of what, by the grace of God, I spent my time working on:

  1. I finished the draft of my Philippians commentary. I have been working for almost four years (off and on) on this commentary in the Mentor Commentary Series by Christian Focus. It is now in the hands of the publisher, so Lord willing it will come out in 2014.
  2. I began working on a commentary on Galatians. Having written my dissertation on Galatians, I am excited to now be working on a commentary on Galatians. It will be part of a new series published by Broadman & Holman entitled Biblical Theology for Christian Proclamation. Look for more details on this series down the road; the lineup of contributors is stacked! At this point I am still in the early stages of writing, but it is not due for another few years.
  3. I began co-writing a book on inaugurated eschatology in the life of the church. My friend Ben Gladd and I are under contract with Baker to write a book that explains how inaugurated eschatology applies to the different aspects of life in the church such as preaching, missions, prayer, worship, etc. The goal is to finish the manuscript early in 2014 with a likely publication date sometime in 2015.
  4. I wrote an essay entitled “Allegory, Typology, or Something Else: Revisiting Galatians 4:21-5:1.” Although I am not at liberty to discuss where this will be published, this essay is my attempt to explain how Paul is using Scripture in this challenging passage. I will be presenting a version of this essay in November at the annual conference of the Evangelical Theological Society in Baltimore.
  5. I wrote the introductory notes for Philippians in the forthcoming NIV Proclamation Bible. I will give more details when this is published later this month, but in the meantime you can find more information here.

I’m grateful to God for the opportunity to step away from the classroom to focus on these writing projects. May God use them to display the beauty of Christ and advance his kingdom in this world.

How I’m Spending My Sabbatical

Yesterday I began my one semester sabbatical from teaching at Grace College & Theological Seminary. Although many have joked that this is merely a 4 1/2 month vacation, the reality is that my sabbatical will be quite busy with writing projects. Here are the two main things I will be working on:

  1. Finish a commentary on Philippians. I have been working for almost four years (off and on) on this commentary in the Mentor Commentary Series by Christian Focus. My hope is to complete the draft by the end of January and send it out to colleagues and friends for feedback. Once I receive feedback from them I hope to send it off to the publisher by the beginning of the summer, if not sooner. Lord willing it will come out in 2014.
  2. Begin a commentary on Galatians. Having written my dissertation on Galatians, I am excited to begin work on a commentary on Galatians. It will be part of a new series that Broadman & Holman entitled Biblical Theology for Christian Proclamation. Look for more details on this series down the road; the lineup of contributors is stacked!

In addition to these two major projects, there are also some smaller ones (a journal article here, a chapter in an edited volume there, etc.) that will keep me busy as well. And from March 1-12 I will be leading a group of college and seminary students from Grace on a trip to Israel.

Please join me in praying that God will bless this season of writing to proclaim his glory and encourage his people.

Fridays in Philippians – Pauline Authorship

The opening words of the letter identify Paul and Timothy as the authors of this letter (1:1).[1] But after the initial greeting the predominance of first person singular pronouns,[2] the emphasis on Paul’s circumstances (1:12-26; 4:10-23), and the commendations of Timothy (2:19-24) and Epaphroditus (2:25-30) make it clear that Paul is the de facto author. Church fathers as early as Irenaeus (c. 130 – c. 200), Clement of Alexandria (c. 150–215), and Tertullian (160–240) attribute the letter to Paul. In his letter to this same church Polycarp (69–155) makes reference to Paul writing to the Philippians (Pol. Phil. 3:2), and at points seems to even echo the language of Paul’s letter to the Philippians. Pauline authorship has rarely been challenged even by the most critical of scholars.

Yet the role of Timothy should not be overlooked. He appears to have been converted under Paul’s ministry in Derbe and Lystra during Paul’s first missionary journey (Acts 14:8-23).[3] On his return visit a couple of years later during his second missionary journey, Timothy joined Paul’s ministry team (Acts 16:1-5). Soon after Paul and Timothy—along with Luke and Silas—planted the church in Philippi (Acts 16:6-40). In the years to come Timothy became Paul’s most trusted ministry colleague, a kindred spirit who shared Paul’s heartfelt concern for the church (Phil 2:19-24). Paul sent him on various missions to maintain contact with and address problems in the various churches Paul had planted (Acts 17:14–15; 18:5; 19:22; 20:4; 1 Cor 16:10; 1 Thess 3:1-6). He was with Paul during his imprisonment in Rome (Phil 1:1; 2:19-24), no doubt serving as Paul’s link to various churches. At some point after Paul’s release from house arrest in Rome, Timothy and Paul were together in Ephesus for some time before Paul left for Macedonia (1 Tim 1:3). When Paul was eventually re-arrested and knew he was soon to be executed by Nero, he wrote his final (extant) letter to Timothy, asking him to visit him as soon as possible (2 Tim 4:9, 13, 21).

But if Paul is the de facto author of the letter, why does he mention Timothy in the salutation? While it is possible that Timothy acted as Paul’s scribe for this letter, there is no way of proving it. Based on what is known about how letters were written in the ancient world, it is certainly possible that Timothy provided input on the content of the letter.[4]At the least Paul includes Timothy in the authorship of the letter to prepare the Philippians for the news that he will be sending Timothy to Philippi as soon as he sees how things go with him in Rome (Phil 2:19-24).



[1] Other Pauline letters list “co-authors” as well: 1 Corinthians (Sosthenes), 2 Corinthians (Timothy), Colossians (Timothy), 1-2 Thessalonians (Silvanus and Timothy), and Philemon (Timothy).

[2] According to a search in Bibleworks 9, there are 66 first person singular verb forms compared to just four first person plural forms. In each of those four verbs Paul is referring to all believers including himself (3:3, 15, 16, 20).

[3] Timothy is not mentioned in this account, but elsewhere Paul refers to him as his “true child in the faith” (1 Tim 1:2).

[4] For more on letter writing in the ancient world and the implications for studying the Pauline epistles, see E. Randolph Richards, Paul and First-Century Letter Writing: Secretaries, Composition, and Collection (Downers Grove: IVP, 2004)

Fridays in Philippians

As some of you may know, I am currently working on a commentary on Philippians in the Mentor Series published by Christian Focus Publishers. I have been working on this project on and off for about 4 years and hope to send it off to the publisher within the next year. To hopefully whet your appetite for the commentary, I am starting a new feature called Fridays in Philippians. Each Friday I’ll share some brief thoughts from either a particular verse, a key theme, or perhaps even the historical/cultural background.

But today I want to start by explaining what I hope to accomplish in writing a commentary. The starting point for me is to determine the author’s intended meaning. I want to understand as best I can what Paul communicated to the Philippians. To do that requires studying the words, phrases, clauses, sentences, paragraphs, and arguments within four different levels of context: literary, historical/cultural, canonical, and redemptive-historical. Let me explain what I mean by the last two.

By canonical context I mean taking into account what other biblical books have to say. Priority must be given to Paul’s other letters, since they help us understand what and how Paul thinks. But we must not neglect what the rest of Scripture says since God is the author of all 66 books.

By redemptive-historical context I mean taking into account where a passage of Scripture falls within the overall storyline of the Bible. Paul writes as an apostle of the risen Jesus who eagerly awaits the return of Christ and the consummation of all things. He also writes at a time when not all of the New Testament books had been written.

Once I have determined the author’s intended meaning, my goal is to determine how the text applies to God’s people today. While strictly speaking Paul did not write this text to me (I’m not a Philippian!), the text is written for me as a member of God’s people. What Paul says to the Corinthians about the Old Testament is true for us as new covenant believers: “Now these things [i.e. Israel’s failures in the wiulderness] happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come” (1 Cor 10:11). Similarly, Paul writes to the Romans “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Rom 15:4).

Thus my approach begins with the historical-grammatical method, but it does not end there. I am convinced that once the historical-grammatical foundation is laid, the interpreter must then apply all the available tools of biblical theology (typology, tracing themes, exploring OT backgrounds, etc.) to achieve a fuller understanding of the text. Of course, many others before me have studied Philippians so I seek to draw upon the insights of others who have gone before me (a combination of historical theology and Wirkungsgeschichte [the study of the effect the text has had on readers throughout the ages]]). The process is not complete until the text has been integrated into the larger categories of what Scripture teaches elsewhere on the same subject (systematic theology) and suggestions are made for how the text applies to the lives of believers today (pastoral theology).

Of course, while in theory the process just described is linear, in reality it is more of a spiral. My preexisting understanding of biblical theology, historical theology, Wirkungsgeschichte, and systematic theology not only inform each other but also my exegesis. When there is dissonance between them the choice must be made as to whether I have misunderstood the text or my biblical, systematic, or pastoral theology needs to be modified.

Of course, whether I succeed or not is up for others to decide. But my prayer is that by clearly explaining what the text means and how it applies to our lives as God’s people, Christ will be exalted, God’s people will be transformed, and the gospel will advance. Would you join me in praying that God would be pleased to do this through this commentary?