John J. Owen’s commentary on Matthew and Mark draws from critical knowledge of the Greek language—including its grammar, structure, and idioms—as well as his acquaintance with the latest scholarship. It incorporates the findings of linguists, historians, archaeologists and other scholars to reveal relevant contextual issues. Owen’s commentary displays a masterful understanding of Greek. In fact, prior to writing commentaries on the Bible, Owen published numerous works on Homer, Zenophpon, and other classics. At the same time, Owen’s commentary serves a general audience of teachers, lay readers, and students of the Bible. He avoids unnecessary technicalities, and exposits Scripture in readable and accessible language, in order to aid general readers in the study of God’s Word.
The series to which the present volume belongs, is designed to embrace the four Gospels and the Acts, to be followed by a Greek edition of the same portion of the New Testament, for the use of those who are acquainted with the original language. The remaining volumes will be issued without any further delay, than may result from the official labors of the author, which leave but a small portion of daily time or strength for extra labors of this kind.
The text of this volume is an exact reprint of the recent emendation of the American Bible Society, which approaches, perhaps, as near to the standard of accuracy as any edition of the English Bible extant.
In preparing the Commentary, I have derived much valuable assistance from Doddridge, Bloomfield, Alford, Meyer, Stier, Trench, Drummond, Stuart, Barnes and others, whose works are so well known and accessible to the student of God’s Word. Especially does the commentary of Olshausen, now in process of republication by Messrs. Sheldon, Blakeman & Co., deserve particular mention, as constituting a vast storehouse of valuable criticism on the New Testament, mingled it is true with much that savors of German vagueness and mysticism, yet furnishing the most complete apparatus for the study of that portion of the sacred word, which has hitherto been given to the religious public. The works of Trench and Drummond, republished, the former by Messrs. Appletons, the latter by Messrs. Carters of this city, are so well known and appreciated, as to require in this connection no special notice. To Dr. Robinson’s English Harmony of the Gospels, I acknowledge my obligations for the data of the "Synopsis of the Life of Jesus," following this preface, and. for the headings of the subjects interspersed through the Notes, which were taken by permission, with hardly any alteration, from that valuable work.
But with all these helps, and others which might be named, I feel it due to myself to state, that my main dependence, under God, has been upon the familiarity, which the critical study of the Greek for nearly a quarter of a century has given me, with the original language of the New Testament. Principles of interpretation, established and tested in the preparation of my editions of the Greek classics, have been rigidly and faithfully applied to the elucidation of the sacred pages, and as I hope not without practical utility. Much attention has been given to the precise shades of thought, imparted by particular words and idiomatic phrases, which the definitions of the Lexicon often fail to reach in all their beauty and significancy. Apparent discrepancies between the statements of the Evangelists have been harmonized, not by claiming for them exact verbal resemblances, but by showing their essential unity. The labors and journeys of our Lord in the prosecution of his ministry, I have aimed so to present, that the reader may apprehend them, in the chronological order in which they actually took place. The Synopsis of the events in his ministry will, it is hoped, prove a valuable aid, in the way of reference, to the general reader.
In giving my own views of obscure and difficult passages, I have adverted, as far as was consistent with brevity, to the opinions of others, in order that the reader may have before him the various interpretations, and judge for himself which is worthy of adoption. All technicalities have been generally avoided, in order to render the comments easy of comprehension to all. The Commentary is designed for general use, and to this my attention has been uniformly directed in its preparation. The wants of Bible classes and Sabbath schools have not been overlooked, and it is hoped that teachers and scholars, who aim at a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures, will find in this volume a valuable aid to their investigations of God’s Word. Although it has been my principal object to evolve the meaning of the text, yet many practical observations, and applications of truth to the common duties of life, will be found interspersed in the Commentary.
The mechanical portion of the work leaves nothing further be desired. The pages have been electrotyped by Mr. John Trow, and the beauty and clearness of the letter show how faithfully he has applied this new and valuable improvement to the present volume. The Map has been engraved expressly for this work by Mr. Geo. E. Sherman, and is essentially that of Kiepert, Bib. Atlas, Berlin, 1854.
With these remarks I commit my work to the Christian public, hoping that it may assist those who love to resort to the "law and testimony," in rightly understanding and applying the truth, "which is able to make them wise unto salvation through faith which is in Jesus Christ."
JOHN J. OWEN.
NEW YORK, March 28th, 1857.
...Completeness, precision, and conciseness characterize his commentary. On the few passages which can be supposed to refer to disputed dogmas, he accords, as we should expect, with the Trinitarian and Calvinistic interpretation; but, on these, he does not merge the critic in the controversialist, and still less does he obtrude his own peculiar opinions where the text does not demand their expression. His notes are learned, yet without the ostentation of learning, and devout, without the parade of personal feeling. They contain all that the common reader needs, and nearly all that the scholar can furnish, for the elucidation of the text. In thoroughness, in critical impartiality, and in their tokens of profound biblical scholarship, we deem them preferable to Barnes’s Commentaries, which we nevertheless hold in high esteem, while they are parallel with that series in their adaptation to popular use.
—North American Review