Matthew, Disciple and Scribe

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 09 Aug 2019

Member Reviews

My review of Patrick Schreiner’s Matthew, Disciple and Scribe.

What does this book offer the Church?:
A lot of church members may not have paid considerable attention to the fact that we have four Gospels. Well, a lot have realized that. I do wonder how many have sought to seriously investigate what the differences really are, though. Some might see Luke as the historian and Mark as the “extended prologue to the Passion”, but not think much about Matthew and his specific goals. Patrick Schreiner, in Matthew, Disciple and Scribe, seeks to explain why Matthew is different from the other Gospels, starting to explain a bit about how his style of writing, and his specific aims, teach us how to more deeply understand Jesus’ ministry on earth.

So, to specifically answer the question above, the book offers the Church an in-depth look at the purpose behind the Gospel according to Matthew, exploring it’s meta-themes and creation in order to better understand its message and place in Christian theology, liturgy, and practice.

Goals of the Book:
If Luke was a historian, writing his Gospel to be more orderly than Mark and Matthew, then Matthew was written more as a Jewish scribe, argues Patrick Schreiner. Rather than setting out to write a chronological exploration of the history of Jesus’ ministry, Matthew sought to be more faithful to the Great Commission by writing a theologically charged Gospel.

Looking at the Gospel through this lens, Schreiner offers a literary and biblical theology-based approach to the Gospel. For example, in the first portion of the book, Schreiner illustrates how Matthew acts as a Jewish scribe. Both Matthew-as-author and Jesus, in the Gospel, carefully and painstakingly show how Jesus fit into the grand narrative of Scripture. Matthew frames his Gospel accordingly, showing how Jesus’ teaching is in line with the Old Testament and with how Jewish scribes portrayed grand figures like Moses.

In the second portion of the book, Schreiner illustrates the way that Matthew connects the life of Jesus to specific Old Testament figures, focusing primarily on David, but also showing links to Moses and Abraham as well. This portion opens up a lot of avenues to understand both the Old and New Testament better, using the OT as an interpretive grid to understand how Jesus fulfilled Israel’s expectations, even if she was not looking in the right place.

How successfully does this book meet its goals?
Well, since you’re reading my blog, I can assume you probably run in generally Reformed circles, which means you’ve seen portions of this book shared by The Gospel Coalition, MBTS’s blog, the New Books Network, or on one of the many podcasts shared featuring Schreiner.

Look, when it comes down to it, there’s a reason this book has been shared so often. It is a gift to the Church, one that should be read and enjoyed and shared. Pastors looking to preach through Matthew would do well to read this book and share some of their gleanings with their congregations, and small group and Bible study leaders would also gain a lot from reading the book.

But hey! You don’t only have to take my word for it. You can read a 15-page sampler here. You can read more about the book on Baker Publishing Group’s website. You can also order the book on Amazon or Barnes and Noble.
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Matthew, Disciple and Scribe:  The First Gospel and Its Portrait of Jesus
By Patrick Schreiner (Baker Academic Books; 2019)

Matthew, Disciple and Scribe, is written by Patrick Schreiner, who happens to be the son of well-known exegete and author Thomas Schreiner, but this book is very much Patrick’s alone.  The theme and goal of the book is to persuade the reader that the author of this first Gospel (whether it was actually the disciple Matthew mentioned in the other Gospels), serves in the role of a Jewish scribe rather than in a role of more of a historian as say Luke was.  As such, the book is not a commentary on Matthew’s Gospel, but more of a biblical theology and literary examination of how and why the book is told as it is.

Schreiner’s chief concern is to show that Matthew functioned in the true sense of a Jewish scribe in his Gospel, as a true scribe is one who expounds and expands and applies the meanings of older scriptural texts to a contemporary audience.  Since Jesus himself went to pains both before the Cross and after His resurrection to explain how He uniquely fills the scriptures of the Old Testament, Matthew carries this on in his arrangement of the gospel story.  This is why Matthew has more extended teaching delivered by Jesus than any of the other Gospels.  In Part 1 of the book, Schreiner describes the role and function of the scribe in Jewish society and then gives examples of how Matthew frames his writings in the style that would have been used of a scribe teaching on the sayings and life of Moses.

In Part 2, the author then fleshes out how Matthew presents Jesus as the true and coming messianic king like David, while not playing down the parallels between Moses and Jesus, and also reminding readers of Jesus’ affiliation with Abraham.  All this together is to leave the readers in the first century with the distinct understanding that Jesus was indeed David’s Son, the messianic king written about and prophesied in the Old Testament --- despite the incorrect understandings and expectations of the majority of Jews at the time of Jesus’ ministry.

Again, since this book is not meant to give a passage-by-passage breakdown of the entire Gospel, Schreiner does an excellent job of casting the teachings and actions of Jesus in such a way that it would be practically impossible to see Jesus as the long-awaited King.  A worthy and valuable addition to NT studies and studies on Matthew’s Gospel in particular.
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