Fred Sanders is a systematic theologian who studies and teaches across the entire range of classic Christian doctrine, but with a primary focus on the doctrine of the Trinity. He has taught at the Torrey Honors College of Biola University (La Mirada, CA) since 1999. The reviews and recommendations on this site under his name are drawn from various posts on his personal blog.
Occupation Professor at Torrey Honors College
Education PhD (Graduate Theological Union)
The Message of 1 Timothy and Titus. BST. InterVarsity Press, 1996.
I’ve come to love Stott’s “message of” commentaries, having used them for classes on Romans (amazingly helpful) and the Letters of John (considerably weaker). He knows when to dive a little deeper into a subject, when to bring in just the right amount of background or context, and when to gloss over something to keep the main point clear. His theological judgment is, with a couple of fairly well known exceptions, quite sound. Where Stott excels all other expositors is in breaking the material down into a clear outline, with units of thought flowing smoothly for teaching or preaching. He usually makes these divisions with deep insight, and even when he forces things a little bit, it’s obvious that he’s doing so to deliver the best possible learning experience. [Full Review]
The Letters to Timothy and Titus. NICNT. Eerdmans, 2006.
This is my main jumbo commentary (almost 900 pages), the only one after Stott that I made sure to read in its entirety on each passage before preparing the lecture. It’s the one I read quickly to get a reliable report on the state of scholarship and key issues on a passage to make sure I wasn’t missing anything, and then to dig in deeper where needed. Towner is wonderfully committed to expounding the close connection between doctrine and ethics in the pastorals, and the running argument of this commentary carries out the program argued monographically in his earlier book The Goal of Our Instruction: The Structure of Theology and Ethics in the Pastoral Epistles. Several things follow from this commitment: Towner respects the doctrinal passages in their own right more than some commentators have, perceives much thematic unity and some careful structure in the letters, is alert to how the author transforms a basically Hellenistic moral vocabulary for Christian usage, and thinks Paul is that author (though Towner canvasses alternatives and often writes in a way that would render this commentary equally helpful for readers who deny Pauline authorship) [Full Review]
The Pastoral Epistles. ICC. T&T Clark, 1999.
An excellent volume, detailed and rigorous, Marshall’s ICC Pastoral Epistles is a running commentary on the Greek text. Perhaps the elderly Marshall’s temperament is a good match for the elderly Paul’s: Paulus senex doesn’t engage in close combat with his opponents, warning that genealogies and mythologies are endless and fruitless. Marshall senex, without ever being quite dismissive of dissenting views, sometimes makes his points so deftly and concisely that you can practically hear him grumbling “ain’t nobody got time for that.” Without bothering to offer much justification for doing so, Marshall comments on Titus first, and only then turns to Timothy (“by reading the letters in this order we shall rescue Titus from being read, as it tends to be, in the shadow of 1 Timothy and given less attention in its own right than it deserves”). I decided to structure my class the same way, and am glad I did. It meant I had to do all the detailed word studies of the pastorals’ distinctive vocabulary (eusebeia, epiphaneia, soter, paideuo, etc.) along the way to expounding Titus, which resulted in a very powerful emphasizing of the theology of Titus, especially its two golden doctrinal sections. Marshall says in the intro that he, like Towner, is traditional or conservative enough to be “more inclined to question some of the things readily taken for granted by scholars trained in less traditional schools,” and his goal in this commentary is “to find an understanding of the origin of the letters which will do justice to their closeness to Paul while recognizing the difficulties in attributing them to his pen.” The result is what I like to think of as a new, weird Paul, who is the same man as the author of the undisputed Paulines, but who has given us a whole new way of writing and thinking in these letters. Such a Paul is a gift to anyone tempted to think they’ve got Paul figured out. [Full Review]
The Pastoral Epistles. Herm. Fortress Press, 1972.
I can’t help thinking of these as the bad guys, but that doesn’t make the commentary worthless. For one thing, how clarifyingly forthright Dibelius was! (Conzelmann updated and revised the work after Dibelius’ death; I think of Dibelius (1883-1947) as the main author but am not sure how to apportion the credit). Here is the classic statement of the view that whoever wrote these documents and put Paul’s name on them was not only bad at imitating his writing style, but even worse at reproducing his theology. Instead of the revolutionary and apocalyptic theology of Paul, the pastorals represent bürgerlichen Christentum, bourgeois Christianity. The dead giveaway is the moralizing Hellenistic vocabulary, the dreaded household codes with their hierarchical order, the Frühkatholizismus (early or incipient Catholicism) that sets in after “eschatological expectation has diminished” and apostolic ministry is reduced to giving advice about how to fit in to Roman society and culture without making waves. Sigh. It is good to have it all laid out here in cold print. Anybody at risk of catching a mild case of the anti-pastorals virus can see a full-blown case of it here and guess at the prognosis. But Dibelius/Conzelmann has another, more straightforward virtue: the copious parallels from Greco-Roman literature are well chosen and conveniently displayed. Ganz wissenschaftlich, y’all! Very high quality work, well worth consulting. [Full Review]
The Gospel of Matthew. NICNT. Eerdmans, 2007.
Shortest introduction I’ve ever seen for a comprehensive commentary: barely 22 pages, after which France gets down to the verse-by-verse exposition. All the information is exactly where I want it to be in this volume. So good. France finished this volume in 2005, in his late sixties, and I love his ability to shrug off some of the unnecessary complications of gospel criticism. Though he knows everything about synoptic parallels, he refuses to speak simply of Matthean redaction in a “rigid x-copied-y approach.” The result is a great reading of Matthew’s own gospel. France also has more to say about the Galilee-versus-Jerusalem dynamic than other commentators, which I found fascinating and illuminating. [Full Review]
“Matthew” in Matthew, Mark, Luke. EBC. Zondervan, 1984.
I can’t tell whether this shiny new 2010 revision is much different from the 1984 edition (it doesn’t seem to be). 650 pages of sober, balanced, reasonable commentary. Carson at his best always manages to hit that sweet spot between details and readability. I also made good use of his earlier books, God with Us: Themes from Matthew, The Sermon on the Mount: An Evangelical Exposition of Matthew 5-7, and When Jesus Confronts the World: An Exposition of Matthew 8-10. [Full Review]
Matthew. BECNT. Baker Academic, 2008.
I enjoyed Turner’s recent article “Matthew Among the Dispensationalists” in the Journal of the ETS, and was glad to find this 2008 full-length commentary written from a progressive dispensationalist viewpoint. Growing up, I imbibed a pretty hard-line dispensationalist take on Matthew (especially the “offer of the Kingdom”), and there are parts of the Gospel that I don’t think I’ll ever be able to read any other way. Turner is an excellent guide to what is best in that tradition of interpretation. [Full Review]
Arnold, Clinton E. ed. Matthew. ZECNT. Zondervan, 2010.
I didn’t use this one as much because I didn’t get a copy until after the class had already started, and I had my study habits already too set to admit a fourth jumbo commentary. But I like the layout of this brand new series (can’t wait to read general editor Clint Arnold’s Ephesians volume), which takes you through the full text of the book repeatedly in each section. [Full Review]
Matthew. NIVAC. Zondervan, 2004.
I went to Wilkins last of all, to make sure I had my head on straight and was taking the right overall message to the class. If he had identified the main thrust of a passage as lying somewhere different from where I was planning to take the class, I stopped in my tracks and reconsidered. I also swiped a lot of his ideas about practical application. [Full Review]
Matthew. MGC. Moody, 1997.
A former student gave me a copy of this commentary, and I was impressed with how well Glasscock brought together the most important things in concise, non-technical comments. [Full Review]
Matthew. CCC. Crossway, 1993.
Nice to have an old evangelical Anglican bishop to say things like “May we all think often about Korazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum! Let us settle it in our minds that it will never do to be content with merely hearing and liking the Gospel. We must go further than this, we must actually repent and turn to God.” [Full Review]