Ten years ago I began my work as volume editor for the Gospel of Matthew in the series, the Church’s Bible (Eerdmans). In preparation for writing the introduction I have tried to identify generally shared themes or characteristics that might aid the reader in process of absorbing hundreds of exegetical texts that have been assembled. These texts show a greater riches of Matthean exegesis in the patristic era than any of the late ancient and medieval anthologies reveal, especially as it concerns the contributions of Latin writers.
I begin by identifying all known editions of commentaries, commentarioli, and sermons all of which constitute evidence for exposition on Matthew. Since most texts that offer commentary date from the fourth century or later, it is not surprising that we see a preoccupation with preserving Christ’s divinity within the reality of the incarnation. Every ancient work contained commentary material pertinent to the cause; foremost are the Lord’s Prayer, the events of Jesus’ baptism, his temptation (Matt 4), and his passion in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matt 26).
Two of the inescapable conclusions is that the kinds of exegesis that we normally categorize into three or four has a much more “gray” character when it came to application; and the other is that the only way “spiritual” interpretation could be sensibly employed as an exegetical methods was within the content of the church.