Phil Moore may be a new name to you. It was for me when I signed up to review a commentary in the Straight to the Heart series. Any Londoners reading this review feel free to fill in biographical data if you think I missed something but here is what I got: Phil Moore is the pastor of Queens Road Church in Wimbledon, London, a Bible teacher and evangelist for the Newfrontiers family of churches (basically charismatic evangelical churches) and author of the Straight to the Heartseries I am reviewing. In this series of commentaries Phil Moore weds his passion for God’s word with a keen ability to communicate and challenge you on your faith journey.
Each of the commentaries in the series are divided into 60 ‘bitesize chunks’ making it an ideal format for daily devotional reading.
There are several volumes now available Genesis, Moses, Matthew, John, Acts, Romans, I&II Corinthians, Revelations from Kregel Publications (in the UK, Phil Moore also has a volume on I&II Samuel). I was able to read and review the Matthew volume. [Note, these commentaries are published by Monarch Books in the UK and distributed by Kregel in North America].
In Straight to the Heart of Matthew, Moore counters the popular storybook image of Jesus as ‘long-haired and blue-eyed…tame and domesticated.’ He argues that Jesus was a much more radical and incendiary figure. Announcing that Jesus was ‘King’ and his ‘Kingdom was coming’ was heard as a direct challenge to Caesar and Roman rule. But he also took aim at the religious establishment and where they failed to adequately enact God’s agenda in the world.
Central to Phil Moore’s interpretation is the Matthew that allegedly wrote the gospel. Matthew(Levi) was an eager employee of the Roman Empire who abandoned his post to follow King Jesus. He wrote this gospel so that you and I would do the same. Moore structures his commentary around Matthew’s internal structure (a prologue, Five acts composed of Jesus’ teaching blocks and subsequent action, and epilogue).
Moore’s personal style and illustrations bring the reader into a fresh encounter with Jesus and the message of this gospel. He is not content at merely describing what the gospel meant, but articulating what difference it makes to your life. So while this is a commentary, it is written in a relevant and challenging way aimed at connecting the Gospel to our lives.
But isn’t that just like Tom Wright’s for Everyone Commentaries? Yes, it is. I read through this commentary with Matthew for Everyone close at hand so I could compare the two. There is certainly some overlap in style and content. Here are some things I see that are similar:
- – Both are highly readable and engaging, full of illustrations and personal stories.
-Both authors are trying to do responsible exegesis of the text. I trust Wright more, but Moore illuminates aspects of Matthew’s gospel and gave me fresh insights.
-Neither of these commentaries or series are scholarly works (despite Wright’s scholarly status) and thus will not necessarily untangle every thorny issue in the text. This has to do with the limits of the genre. They tell you what difference the gospel makes for your life, but sometimes a more detailed commentary can help you sort out what the text is actually saying.
-Both commentaries give you a picture of how the passage would ‘preach.’
Despite these similarities there are important differences as well. Obviously Phil Moore and N.T. Wright’s exegesis does not agree on every point. Moore is more in line with classical Evangelical theology while Wright is more apt to question conventional assumptions. As a pastor and evangelist I think Moore may be better than Wright at connecting the Word with everyday life. However Wright is much better at describing the Jesus story and the first century context. They both do an admirable job of exegesis and connecting it to life; yet their personal and professional strengths are evident in their writing as well.
For the most part, Moore’s reflections are based in a careful and close reading of the text. Occasionally he uses the text as pretext to talk about something else (a point of doctrine, the value of learning apologetics, etc). At these points he is using the text more than sitting under it, and his reflections are not as rooted (or if they are, not in Matthew). I think it is legitimate to read a text evocatively as long as you aren’t misusing the text for your own end; however in a commentary I think it is more valuable to your readers to remain under the text. I don’t think Moore wanders far or often, but he does wander.
This small caveat aside, I would recommend this book for devotional use. I found it personally challenging as I seek to live out the life of discipleship. So if you are shopping for a devotional commentary on one of the gospels I commend this volume to you. Thank you to Kregel Publications for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for this review.