Review: Sermon on the Mount: Restoring Christ’s Message to the Modern Church

12925065Charles L. Quarles professor of New Testament and Biblical Theology and Director of PhD studies at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Quarles received both an MDiv and a PhD from Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the author of numerous books, including a newly released commentary on the Greek text of Matthew in the Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament series, The Illustrated Life of Paul, and The Cradle, The Cross, and The Crown: An Introduction to the New Testament (with Andreas J. Köstenberger and L. Scott Kellum). Still, Quarles is likely most notably known for his outstanding commentary The Sermon on the Mount: Restoring Christ’s Message to the Modern Church.

The Sermon on the Mount begins with a 34-page introduction that traces the Sermon’s history of interpretation, the relationship of the Matthew 5-7 to Luke 6:17-49, the structure of the Sermon, and the theological framework for understanding the content of the Sermon. Quarles offers both careful and accessible interaction within the introduction, and allows readers to embody a sense of familiarity with the Sermon before attention turns towards the content. The reader will do well to acquaint themselves with Quarles’ brief history of interpretation. This context is pivotal for the pages that follow, as it provides readers a sense of historical direction and allows them to pinpoint the origin of various presuppositions concerning the passage. That said, the introduction is not an essential read for readers simply stopping by for insight into a specific passage.

The commentary proper is positioned well to excite the reader about the content of the Sermon. Quarles writes with an enjoyable demeanor and tone, which the reader will appreciate as the exposition unfolds from depth to destination. Quarles treats the Sermon in a passage-by-passage manner. This approach is beneficial for pastors and teachers who generally tend to focus on sections. Quarles is sensitive to the Jewish context of the Sermon, including its inherent connection to the Old Testament within early Judaism. Moreover, Quarles rightly recognizes the need to provide an exposition that is established within a biblical-theological approach to the Matthean Gospel holistically. The Sermon on the Mount demonstrates a proper balance between practical application and ministry-driven insight that is uniquely packaged with a shared depth and breadth of academic rigor.

Charles L. Quarles is accomplished scholar and The Sermon on the Mount: Restoring Christ’s Message to the Modern Church is testimony of his unique ability to reach multiple audiences at once. Honestly, there isn’t much to dislike about this volume. Quarles delivers as expected and does so with excellence. It would have been nice to see an original translation of the Sermon by Quarles with annotations concerning textual and translational matters. It also would have been enjoyable to see more intentional interaction with source and redaction critics. But neither detract. Quarles is unapologetically conservative in his approach and conviction regarding the Sermon, and the outcome reflects these values. Those who share similar convictions or not will be foolish to overlook this volume. It brings insightful exegesis and application, and comes strongly recommended.

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