InterVarsity Press, 2013, 269 pp., $14.93
Biblical commentaries by the book are no new concept. In fact, there are new series born every year aimed at appealing to pastors or theologians, toward small group use or classroom study, and certainly across the theological spectrum. One would think that sooner or later publishers would run out of perspectives, but the Biblical Imagination Series by IVP is a concept that is—at least by presentation and packaging—unique.
Though in its infancy, this series eventually will run the gamut of the New Testament (and perhaps the Bible) and is imagined to be a commentary that crosses the boundaries of the written word and carries us into other arenas for Bible study whether they be visual, auditory or tactile. Matthew: The Gospel of Identity is a fresh take on the Gospel of Matthew, we encounter Michael Card—an award-winning songwriter and recording artist whose commentary, and accompanying CD (if purchased as a set) form a tandem study of the first gospel.
Reading the book (without the CD sound tracks) was not an imaginative experience, however. While Card does an excellent job dissecting Matthew for the lay reader—and the book’s text is complete with the full gospel broken down in bite-sized pericopes of the Holman Christian Standard Edition (HCSB)—there is little in the commentary itself that will be of a new revelation to most pastors or teachers. Rather, this commentary is meant to be a guide to Bible students (small groups) who also would benefit from a gospel-in-hand while listening to the sound track of Card’s excellent musicianship.
The value of this commentary may lie in its usefulness to expository preachers (Card basically offers his verse-by-verse thoughts.), group studies, home groups, or perhaps choirs or church bands eager to study and devote together. The appendices in the back of the book are a nice touch, and here Card gets to show off some of his deeper research and study, particularly as he dissects what Matthew’s Gospel meant originally to those Jewish Christians who were about to lose their identity with the Jewish faith. However, anyone familiar with Card’s music also will appreciate what he has to say on the page, particularly if Matthew is a gospel favorite.