James Patrick’s Blog

June 7, 2011

Amos’ Message of Hope and the Council of Jerusalem

Apologies for the infrequency of posts recently.  Study continues unabated, and in due course I will have managed to integrate properly the wealth of things I am learning about the Old Testament, enough to be able to publish them in a coherent way.  This brief post began as an observation I made during tutorials on the book of Amos, with the link to Isaiah 16:5 referred to by James A. Meeks in his recent monograph The Gentile Mission in Old Testament Citations in Acts, which I was reviewing at the time.  I trust it will provide some further clarity on the vision of the prophets.

As I have been teaching through the book of Amos, I’ve had to deal with a number of scholarly assessments which conclude that the message of hope in chapter nine has been tacked on to the end by a later ‘redactor’ of the book.  Such a conclusion assumes that prophets typically just preach messages of judgement against their contemporaries (hope is thought to weaken the impact of such a warning).  Such scholars also often place the beginning of the message of hope at 9:11 with the mention of David’s booth, but it undoubtedly begins earlier.

Verse 7 of chapter 9 clearly parallels verse 12 with their mutual message of God’s personal care for other nations in addition to Israel, and in fact both focus specifically on the idea of the ‘remnant’.  The eyes of the LORD on the sinful kingdom in verse 8 would remind the reader of the oracles against the nations in chapters one and two, each of which is destroyed for their sin, but when God holds back from total destruction in the case of the house of Jacob (9:8), this parallels God’s mercy on other nations too.  For example, just as Israel was brought out of Egypt from the house of slavery and through the midst of judgement, so Aram is described as being brought up from Kir, whither they had been told they would be taken into exile in 1:5.  The Philistines did not just originate in Caphtor [Crete or Asia Minor], but Genesis 10:14 says they were descended from a separate group in the area of Caphtor, the Casluhim, and Jeremiah 47:4 says they are in fact the ‘remnant’ of the coastland of Caphtor.  This would fit with the idea that like Israel was brought out of Egypt, so the Philistines had been brought out of Caphtor as a remnant to be settled in their own land.  Amos 1:8 says that the remnant of the Philistines will perish, but like the further judgement even on the remnant of Judah remaining after exile (Isa. 6:13), so I think this means further judgement on [but not annihilation of] the Philistine remnant, as Zechariah 9:5-7 teaches too.

The idea of a remnant from Gentile nations, epitomised by the remnant of Edom [or ‘Adam’ if pronounced slightly differently, meaning ‘humanity’ as James correctly quotes/paraphrases in Acts 15:17], is actually a theme of many prophets.  Before Amos, Joel had summoned all nations against Jerusalem, where God would enter into judgement with them and destroy their assembled armies as He had recently in the valley of Jehoshaphat (2Chr 20).  Amos then combines this idea of judgement on international armies (and their leaders) with the deliverance of even Gentile nations who suffered under their oppression, an idea that goes right back to Abram (Gen 14) who defeated an international coalition led by the king of Elam and recovered not just the remnant of his own people (Lot) but also the remnant of Sodom.  Abram was told he would rule over and thus become a blessing to all nations, and though his great-grandson Joseph was the first to model this, the promise combined with ruling over the promised land got its first proper fulfilment under David, who defeated and ruled over all surrounding nations with justice, even incorporating foreign nationals in his own army (1Chr 11:38 [cf. 5:10], 39, 41, 46).  The greater Son of David, therefore, would similarly defeat all nations who gathered against Jerusalem, and also the ruler of their international coalition (the alternative Messiah/anti-Christ), and would deliver the remnant of all nations from his hand.

Amos has been prophesying judgement on the entire nation of Israel and Judah (cf. 3:1; 5:5 [Beersheba]; 6:1), with a special focus on the northern kingdom of Israel.  This message of judgement has hardly a glimmer of hope from beginning to end (only 3:12; 5:3, 4-6, 14-15, 24; 7:1-6) so without 9:7-15 his audience would be left with the impression that God is indiscriminate in His judgements – what about the poor and needy, the righteous who have been oppressed by their rulers; will they perish also?  9:9 says that unfortunately they will all alike be taken into exile in the nations, but like grain shaken in a sieve the chaff will be removed but the good grains will remain.  9:10 clarifies that it will be the sinners who will die by the sword, rather than the oppressed.  Then when the exiles return to their land they will live in the rebuilt cities and enjoy the fruit of their vineyards (9:14), which is evidently the vindication of those oppressed by the wicked back in 5:11.

More than just the remnant of Israel, though, God’s interest is in restoring the remnant of all nations (cf. Isa 49:5-7), just as He had brought judgement on all nations as well back in chapters one and two.  In this context, therefore, the rebuilding of the ‘fallen booth of David’ does not seem to correspond naturally to the rebuilding of the temple as such, partly because David did not build the temple for the ark in the first place.  Some suggest that this describes the tent he constructed to house the ark before the temple was built, which was presumably where he ‘sat before the LORD’ in 2Sam 7:18, but again, worship does not seem to be the primary focus of this passage in Amos.  The significance of this ‘fallen booth’ idea can actually be perceived in the way the prophet Isaiah interpreted it just a few decades after Amos.  Isaiah shares many of the interests of Amos, both as regards justice and as regards the nations.  He also goes into detail about the ruler of the international coalition who will oppress all nations, naming this Elamite/Median king ‘Cyrus’ (Isa 13:17; 21:2; 22:6; 41:1-7; 45:1-3; 45:22-46:2; etc.), and it is because of this worldwide oppression that the remnant of nations will turn for help and justice to God’s true anointed saviour, the Son of David.  This is a theme that comes up again and again throughout Isaiah’s oracles against the nations also, as anticipated in Isaiah 2:2-4: messengers come from Philistia to seek refuge in Zion (14:32), the remnant of Aram are like the glory of the sons of Israel (17:3), Ethiopians bring a gift of homage to Zion (18:7; cf. Amos 9:7); Egypt is given a Saviour and Champion to deliver them (19:20-22) and therefore worship the LORD along with Assyria (19:23-25), the inhabitants of Ashdod on the coast recognise that they have no hope for deliverance apart from God (20:6), Edomites call to God’s prophet for news of hope (21:11), the Arabian fugitives are met with bread and water (21:14), and the LORD will restore Tyre after seventy years of desolation so that her profit is brought to Him (23:15-18).  It is in the description of the Moabites, however, that the ‘booth of David’ idea appears: the outcasts of Moab flee to Zion, because there “A throne will even be established in lovingkindness, and a judge will sit on it in faithfulness in the tent of David; moreover He will seek justice and be prompt in righteousness.” (16:5)

Just as Moses had met with the LORD in the tent of meeting, the Tabernacle, and there received divine judgements with which to adjudicate for the nation (Ex 18:15-26; 25:22; Lev 1:1; 24:12-13; Num 15:33-35; Deut 1:9-18; 17:8-13), so David too met with the LORD in his tent of meeting, and this would presumably be where he would have received wisdom with which to adjudicate as the ‘supreme court’ of his nation (anticipated in Deut 17:18-20; cf. 2Sam 12:6 [from Ex 22:1]; 14:4-20; 15:2-4).  The responsibility of the Son of David to act as judge for His [and other] nations is clear in Isaiah 9:6-7 and 11:1-10.  David had prayed in Psalm 72 (title can also be read as ‘For Solomon’ – see 72:20) that his son Solomon would continue to judge in righteousness, and indeed Solomon received divine wisdom to do this (1Kgs 3; 10:1-10), metaphorically (and literally) repairing the breach of the city of his father David and building up the walls of Jerusalem that had been broken down through David’s sin (1Kgs 3:1; 9:15; 11:27; cf. Ps 51:18-19 and Amos 9:11).  The ‘fallen booth of David’, therefore, refers to the failure of Israel’s kings to make righteous judgements on behalf of the poor and needy, a failure Amos ultimately blamed on Jereboam II (Amos 7:9-11), and its restoration will therefore bring justice once again to the oppressed remnant of Israel, and in fact to those of all other nations also.  Through her King, Israel will ‘possess’ the remnants of all nations, because all nations will acknowledge the authority of Israel’s King, and the nations will call on the name of the LORD as Gentiles, bearing allegiance to His anointed King yet not needing to become Jewish to do so.

It is this principle, therefore, that James was referring to in the Council of Jerusalem; he recognised that Amos’ prophecy not only spoke of Gentiles called by the Lord’s name despite remaining Gentiles (as Simon Peter had reminded the council – Acts 15:7-11, 14) but also spoke of the Son of David judging justly on matters concerning the Gentiles through His people Israel (hence this Jewish council’s authority to pass judgement on what Gentiles must avoid without putting excessive burdens on them to trouble them – 15:19-20).  The reason for this particular judgement was that [the books of] Moses were taught weekly in every synagogue throughout the Roman empire (15:21), and the laws God had laid down for all humanity (prior to the giving of the Law of Moses for Israel uniquely) were therefore already known to all Gentile God-fearers who attended synagogue: abstaining from the pollutions of idols (mankind is the only authorised image and likeness of God – Gen 1:26-27; 5:1-2); being faithful to one’s sole spouse (as God established at creation – Gen 2:18-24); and honouring God’s only condition concerning the consumption of meat after the Flood by removing all its blood (Gen 9:2-4).  The Law of Moses would only be recommended for Jewish believers in the land, its original intended audience (cf. Matt. 5:17-20; Acts 21:20-26).  Of course, the other aspect of this rebuilding of the fallen booth of David, the restoration of the Messiah’s authority over all Gentile nations, was working justice for the poor, a key value that both Jewish and Gentile missions of the Early Church shared explicitly (Gal 2:7-10).


April 8, 2009

Good Thursday? part 4 – Lazarus, triumphal entry and temple cleansing

Filed under: History — alabastertheology @ 11:11 pm
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In Part 3, we considered the significance of the ‘Passover’ meal that Jesus ate with His disciples, one evening too early and therefore without the lamb.  This observation would hold true even if one were to maintain a belief in ‘Good Friday’, because in that case, the 14th of Nisan would be the Thursday evening / Friday, followed by the (extra special) normal Sabbath, and then the resurrection on the Sunday.  As it is, I am proposing that there were two Sabbaths in a row, a ‘special’ Sabbath (15th of Nisan) on the sixth day of the week that kicked off the Feast of Unleavened Bread, followed by a normal Sabbath on the seventh day.  That means Jesus celebrated the Passover meal early and was then arrested and crucified all on the evening and morning of the fifth day of the week, the Day of Preparation (14th of Nisan = Wednesday evening / Thursday).  If this is so, how does it affect our understanding of the days prior to the Last Supper?

The ‘four days’ of Lazarus
The progression of events recorded by John in his Gospel seems to lay particular weight on the story of Lazarus as a ‘sign’ of Jesus’ own death and resurrection, which makes it worth considering carefully.  From chapter ten of John’s Gospel onwards there is a clear focus on Jesus’ power over death.  In John 10:18 Jesus says, “I have authority to lay [my life] down, and I have authority to take it up again.”  Then in 10:38, He says, “…though you do not believe me, believe the works [I do], that you may know and understand that the Father is in me…”  Chapter eleven is all about the death and resurrection of Lazarus, and Jesus tells His disciples in 11:4, “This sickness is …for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it.”  This is part of a theme of glory found throughout John’s Gospel, and in particular, the glorification of Jesus that came through His death (see 12:23-33).

In 11:25, Jesus tells Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life.”  When Martha then pointed out at the tomb that Lazarus had been dead for four days, and would be rotting behind the stone, Jesus replied to her, “Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” (11:40).  At the beginning of the next chapter is the story of when Mary anointed Jesus’ feet with pure nard, which Jesus justified by referring to “the day of my burial” (12:7).  This story begins the Passion narrative in John’s Gospel, culminating in Jesus’ death and resurrection.  Perhaps the clearest contrast between the resurrection of Lazarus and that of Jesus a few weeks or months later is the fact that when the weeping women went to Jesus’ tomb on the fourth day, the stone was already moved, the graveclothes folded neatly rather than wrapped around the body, and the body itself had no hint of rottenness about it.  God had not allowed His “Holy One to see decay” (Acts 2:27); Jesus had risen before the start of the fourth ‘day’.  This ‘evidence’ for a ‘3 days and 3 nights’ burial is perhaps less than conclusive, but taken together with John’s interest in clarifying details of Jesus’ death and resurrection seen elsewhere, it may gain more weight.

Traveling to Bethany on the Sabbath?
John starts the Passion week in 12:1-2 earlier than any of the other Gospels, by noting that “six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany where Lazarus was…  So they made Him a supper there,” and Lazarus’ sister Mary anointed Jesus’ feet with nard.  The following day Jesus approached Jerusalem over the Mount of Olives on a donkey, and the crowds came out with palm branches to meet Him (12:12-14).  Those who hold to Good Friday calculate backwards six days, and therefore have Jesus arriving in Bethany on the previous Saturday, which means that Jesus would have entered Jerusalem on what has therefore become known as ‘Palm Sunday’.

The problem with this is that Jesus must have therefore travelled from the city called Ephraim, “near the wilderness” (John 11:54), to Bethany on the Sabbath.  Scholars suggest Ephraim may have been a certain town about twelve miles north-east of Jerusalem.  Acts 1:12 tells us that the Mount of Olives where Bethany was located was “a Sabbath day’s journey” from Jerusalem (2000 cubits = 3/5 mile).  The Sabbath would have been the wrong day to choose to journey to Bethany from a town any distance away.

On the other hand, if we calculate six days earlier from the Day of Preparation (i.e. the Feast of Passover – 14th Nisan), which was Wednesday night / Thursday, we arrive at Thursday night / Friday of the previous week.  This would have Jesus arriving in Bethany on the Thursday night, and then riding into Jerusalem on a donkey on Friday.  We know it was against the Law of Moses to let even donkeys work on the Sabbath (Deuteronomy 5:14), so Jesus would not have ridden into Jerusalem on a Saturday.  But a Friday would have been perfectly acceptable.

Those who hold to Good Friday cannot calculate six days back from the Feast of Passover as John says, on the 14th of Nisan (Thursday night / Friday).  Rather, to avoid Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey on the Sabbath, they must adjust the timing John gives and push it a day later to the Feast of Unleavened Bread on the 15th of Nisan (Friday night / Saturday), therefore arriving at Palm Sunday.  As we saw above, this means that Jesus’ arrival into Bethany would have been on a Sabbath, which would have been equally unacceptable.  On the other hand, if one accepts Good Thursday, the entrance into Jerusalem naturally falls on Palm Friday.

Cleansing the temple a day late?
At this point we must observe that whereas Matthew (21:9-13) and Luke (19:37-46) both give the impression that Jesus cleansed the temple immediately on arrival into Jerusalem after His triumphal entry, Mark corrects this with a very valuable historical note in 11:11.  “Jesus entered Jerusalem into the temple; and after looking around at everything, He left for Bethany with the twelve, since it was already late.”  It was only on the following day that He returned and cleansed the temple.  One can hardly help wondering, if Jesus was so upset at what was going on in the temple courts, why would He merely look around and then leave?  Was He just a bit too tired to make a fuss?  Did it take Him a while to get zealous enough to go back and sort things out?  Had too many traders already closed up shop to make it worth His while to cause a scene so late in the day?

If one holds to Good Friday and Palm Sunday, cleansing the temple on the Monday makes practically no sense.  However with Good Thursday and Palm Friday, an explanation is immediately apparent.  Jesus saw everything in the temple late on Friday afternoon, but the Sabbath was drawing in (“it was already late”), and He wanted to be back in Bethany for the Sabbath meal with Mary, Martha and Lazarus.  The following day He walked into Jerusalem rather than riding, which was acceptable since it was “a Sabbath day’s journey” away (Acts 1:12), but the difference was that this time He was entering the temple on a Sabbath day.  What a difference!

Two details of Mark’s account of the cleansing of the temple support our interpretation.  The first is the note in 11:16, peculiar to Mark, that “He would not permit anyone to carry a vessel through the temple”.  Carrying was particularly forbidden on the Sabbath, and Jesus’ actions are reminiscent of Nehemiah’s in Nehemiah 13, when he rebuked those carrying “all kinds of loads” into Jerusalem on the Sabbath, and instead forbad traders from entering Jerusalem on the Sabbath.

Furthermore, when we consider the context of Jesus’ quotation of Isaiah 56:7, “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations”, we find in Isaiah 56:2-8 that both eunuchs and foreigners are encouraged specifically to observe the Sabbath as their way of becoming acceptable to God, receiving a memorial “in my house and within my walls”.  In Jesus’ day, trading happened in what was known as the “Court of the Gentiles”, and when this took place on a Sabbath, foreigners who wanted to draw near to God were prevented from doing the very thing the Scriptures required of them.  How appropriate that Jesus cleared space for Gentiles to draw near, and prevented people carrying vessels through the temple.

One more post to follow, matching up the other events of Jesus’ passion week with regulations concerning the Feast of Passover, and then a summary of our argument.

March 7, 2009

Matthew’s Gospel structure: a Messianic reflection on Isaiah

Filed under: Structure — alabastertheology @ 4:38 am
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This exploration of the structure of Matthew’s Gospel came out of an idea I had while studying Matthew 13 for my previous post on “What is the point of theology?” .  I have done very little study of the Synoptic Problem (the literary relationships between Matthew, Mark and Luke), but as I delved further into the structure of Matthew I found myself arriving at a tentative opinion on the subject far removed from what I had previously assumed was the most ‘obvious’ explanation.  But that is jumping ahead of myself.

I will start with the principles I believe Matthew used to structure his material (clusters of tradition arranged around quotations from Isaiah), followed by a simple summary of the structure I believe I have uncovered.  Then I will justify my separation of the different sections through a more thorough explanation of each section and the way it hangs together.  Finally I will draw in a comparison with Mark’s Gospel, and from there make a few initial suggestions about a ‘new’ (or ancient!) way to think about the ‘problem’ of the Synoptic Gospels.  [Having just completed the ‘brief’ examination of my proposed structure, I have decided to post this as is, and leave the comparison with Mark’s Gospel and Luke’s Gospel along with suggestions regarding the Synoptic Problem to a separate post.]

Previous structural suggestions about Matthew’s Gospel:  Donald Hagner’s ‘Word Biblical Commentary’ on Matthew 1-13 (Dallas: Word, 1993. pp. li-liii) gives a very helpful summary of the main scholarly approaches to identifying the structure of this gospel.  One of the most important points to start with is Matthew’s obvious love for literary arrangements, including the use of groups of 3, 6, 9 or 7, chiastic structures (A-B-C-B’-A’), alternation of narrative and dialogue, and various other types.  Although some suggestions of smaller structures are somewhat forced or inconclusive, it is hard to deny that literary arrangement is a feature of the text at least on a small scale.  The question is whether there is any overall large-scale structure apparent in Matthew’s Gospel.

Hagner identifies two of the most common structuring features of the Gospel, the first being the phrase “when Jesus finished all these sayings” (7:28; 11:1; 13:53; 19:1; 26:1), which concludes each of the five main teaching discourses in the Gospel, and is followed by a narrative section as in John’s Gospel.  Some have tried to compare these to the five books of Moses or the five ‘festal garments’ books of the Old Testament (Ruth, Esther, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Lamentations), but without much success.  The five discourses are identified by Hagner as follows:
(1)  the Sermon on the Mount – chaps. 5-7
(2)  mission directives to the Twelve – chap. 10
(3)  parables of the kingdom – chap. 13
(4)  discipleship and discipline – chap. 18
(5)  eschatology – chaps. 24-25

Problems with this ‘five discourse’ structuring that Hagner notes are first, that the diatribe against the Pharisees in chapter 23 cannot easily be considered part of the following eschatological discourse; second, that chapter 11 has lots of teaching outside of the five discourse structure; and third, that the infancy and passion narratives do not appear to play a central part in this structure, and end up looking more like the prologue and epilogue, which can hardly be correct.  Some scholars do attempt to address these objections, but nevertheless the ‘five discourse’ structure hasn’t commanded general acceptance.

The second most common structuring feature is perhaps more widely accepted despite being less helpful for explaining smaller groupings of teaching or narrative traditions.  This is the two “pivotal points” marked by the phrase “from that time Jesus began…” (4:17; 16:21).  These two occurrences of the phrase separate the Gospel into three sections:
(1)  the person of the Messiah – 1:1-4:16
(2)  the proclamation of the Messiah – 4:17-16:20
(3)  the passion of the Messiah – 16:21-28:20
The main problem with identifying these as deliberate structural markers is that they cannot be divided neatly from the few verses that immediately precede them, so they are not really acting like ‘title’ phrases for the new sections.

Matthew’s obsession with Old Testament prophecies:  Hagner follows his introduction to structure in Matthew’s Gospel with a section on use of the Old Testament, and notes here (pp. liv-lv) that apart from the numerous allusions to Old Testament passages, Matthew has included over sixty explicit quotations of Old Testament texts, “more than twice as many as any other gospel”.  The quotations are clearly understood to be about Jesus, therefore assuming a (Jewish-Christian?) audience that would have known these prophecies and their relevance to Jesus.  Hagner says that Matthew obviously believed the “totality” of the story of Jesus “to be understood as the fulfilment of what God had promised in the Scriptures”.  Even so, he somewhat disappointedly admits, “The placement of the quotations in the book does not help us to discern the structure of the Gospel…”  Here I am afraid I must disagree.

Principles underlying my suggestion of the structure:
The first principle is the one just discribed – that Matthew had an obvious passion for applying Old Testament prophecy to Jesus, even if several of his applications seem counter-intuitive to modern scholars.
The second principle is that within the Early Church’s use of the Old Testament, certain books were more widely known and more often used and quoted than other books, with Psalms in the lead, followed closely by Isaiah, and then the books of the Pentateuch (particularly Genesis, Exodus and Deuteronomy).
The third principle is that Matthew fairly obviously arranged much of his material around certain ‘themes’, which explains why teachings that are together in Matthew sometimes appear in separate places in Luke (who was more interested in chronological arrangement).  This principle might be described as ‘clustering’ of traditions, and will become apparent in my explanation of the structure below.
The fourth principle is that editorial comments in the Gospels (i.e. explanatory comments that aren’t narrative or teaching of Jesus) are obvious clues to the intentions the author had in writing.  In Matthew’s Gospel there are several important and emphasised quotations of Old Testament passages that appear as ‘asides to the audience’, comments explaining the prophetic fulfilment significance of the events or teaching being narrated, but not essential to the telling of them.

My proposed structure of Matthew’s Gospel:
1)  1:1-2:23  –  ‘The virgin shall bear a son’  [Mt 1:23 = Isa 9:6]
2)  3:1-4:11  –  ‘The way of the Lord in the wilderness’  [Mt 3:3 = Isa 40:3]
3)  4:12-7:29  –  ‘A great light in Galilee’  [Mt 4:15-16 = Isa 9:1-2]
4)  8:1-10:42  –  ‘He carried away our diseases’  [Mt 8:17 = Isa 53:4]
5)  11:1-12:45  –  ‘Bruised reeds & Gentile judgement’  [Mt 12:17-21 = Isa 42:1-4]
6)  12:46-13:58  –  ‘Hearing and understanding’  [Mt 13:14-15 = Isa 6:9-10]
7)  14:1-16:12  –  ‘Teaching the traditions of men’  [Mt 15:8-9 = Isa 29:13]
8)  16:13-21:11  –  ‘The King coming to Zion, gentle’  [Mt 21:5 = Isa 62:11 & Zec 9:9]
9)  21:12-25:46  –  ‘House of prayer’ or ‘robbers’ den’  [Mt 21:13 = Isa 56:7 & Jer 7:11]
10)  26:1-28:20  –  ‘Shepherd and sheep’ (& Galilee)  [Mt 26:31 = Zec 13:7 & Isa 53:4-6]

In identifying this structure I was not intending beforehand to identify ten sections, nor had I looked at the commentaries for what other scholars had noted were important verses for structure or theology.  However it is interesting the number of agreements I have found with observations in the commentaries since then.  I have not even scratched the surface of explorations about the significance of this structure related to Matthew’s theology, or the number ten, or why only (or primarily) Isaiah quotations, or why this order of quotations, or a whole host of other things.  Nevertheless, I think this structure does have strong explanatory power for understanding the overall structure of Matthew’s Gospel as well as the clustering of different traditions within it.  In the following explanation, the last three sections are dealt with at somewhat greater length due to a mixture of ambiguous prophetic source texts, larger sections of material, or more smaller units of tradition clustered together.  The insight afforded into Matthew’s compositional technique, though, makes the reading worthwhile!

Brief justification of the ten fulfilment clusters:

1)   1:1-2:23  –  ‘The virgin shall bear a son’
[Mt 1:23 = Isa 9:6] Isaiah 9:6 is a prophetic announcement to the ‘house of David’ about the birth of an heir, specifically contrasted with the kings of Damascus, Samaria and Assyria.  Its quotation in Matthew 1:22-23 is an editorial comment about the angel’s announcement to the Davidic heir Joseph about the son to be born to the virgin betrothed to him (1:18-21).  Explanation of Joseph’s lineage is necessary for the application of this Isaianic prophecy, hence the genealogy of 1:1-17.  Other stories about the birth of the Davidic king are then added after Joseph’s response to the announcement (1:24-25), and specifically those which contrast His kingship with the kingship of Herod – the story of the Magi (2:1-12), Herod’s reaction (2:13-18), and Herod’s heir (2:19-23).

2)  3:1-4:11  –  ‘The way of the Lord in the wilderness’
[Mt 3:3 = Isa 40:3]
Isaiah 40:3 describes a voice announcing the coming of the Lord, and both here in Isaiah and in Matthew’s quotation the phrase ‘in the wilderness’ is found between ‘calling’ and ‘prepare’, meaning that it can be understood to relate to either verb.  It could be that the voice is calling in the wilderness, or it could be that the prepared way of the Lord is in the wilderness.  The quotation of this verse in Matthew 3:3 applies explicitly to John the Baptist calling out in the wilderness, and follows it with further explanation of what this ‘voice’ was saying (3:7-12).  But then we find that the Lord Himself goes out to this ‘voice’ in the wilderness to ‘fulfil’ all righteousness (3:13-17), and after that is led out ‘into the wilderness’ for fasting and testing (4:1-11).

3)  4:12-7:29  –  ‘A great light in Galilee’
Mt 4:15-16 = Isa 9:1-2]
Isaiah 9:1-2 prophesies a ‘great light’ coming to the land of Galilee, and elaborates over the next few verses about the ‘child to be born to us’, the ‘wonderful counsellor’ who will rule ‘on the throne of David’ (Isa. 9:6-7).  Matthew’s quotation of this verse in 4:14-16 is explicitly connected with Jesus’ return to Galilee and especially His choice of Capernaum, ‘in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali’, as His home base (4:12-13), from whence He began to preach of the coming kingdom (4:17).  It is no surprise therefore that 4:18-22 recounts the call of the sons of Jonah and of Zebedee ‘by the way of the sea’, and 4:23-25 continue with Jesus’ ministry ‘throughout all Galilee’ resulting in people coming to Him from the entire territory of ‘Syria’, including ‘beyond the Jordan’ as specified in the quoted verses.  After these Galilee-focussed stories, we are then introduced to the teaching of the ‘wonderful counsellor’ in 5:1-7:29, interestingly beginning with blessing on those ‘poor in spirit’ and ‘mourning’ (5:3-12; compare those ‘in anguish’ and treated ‘with contempt’ in Isaiah 9:1-2), followed by the ‘light of the world’ shining in 5:14-16.  The rest of the Sermon on the Mount follows on after that introduction, apparently as a collection of general sayings suitably arranged together.  I suspect that the teachings found here are probably those that didn’t naturally relate to themes in later parts of the book, and some of these teachings were probably already linked to each other in normal preaching (for example, 5:13 linked to 5:14-16, or 5:17-48 connected with each other).

4)  8:1-10:42  –  ‘He carried away our diseases’
[Mt 8:17 = Isa 53:4]
Isaiah 53:4 is one verse from the description of the Suffering Servant that focuses specifically on ‘sickness’ and ‘pains’, and was therefore entirely appropriate as a prophetic summary of Jesus’ healing ministry.  We therefore find a collection of traditions on the theme of ‘healing’ after the Sermon on the Mount, beginning with the account of the leper (8:1-4) naturally linking what ‘Moses commanded’ about healing with the preceding teaching (compare 5:17-48).  Jesus then returns to Capernaum where he heals the centurion’s boy (8:5-13) and Peter’s mother-in-law (8:14-16), after which Isaiah 53:4 is quoted.  Then we have a larger group of tradition about Jesus travelling from Capernaum to the ‘other side’ of the sea and back again, in order to heal the demoniacs (8:18-9:1).  Clearly the aphorisms in 8:19-22 and the calming of the storm in 8:23-27 had become linked with this story in the tradition and are therefore included here even though they don’t refer to healing specifically.  After this we have another healing, of a paralytic, back in Capernaum (9:1-8), and this is followed by Jesus’ statement about ‘healing’ the ‘sick’ that is associated with tax collectors (9:10-13), and hence the description of the calling of Matthew in 9:9.  I suspect the question about fasting in 9:14-17 was connected in tradition either with the preceding story of Jesus dining or the following story of being called away from his teaching.  Then there is the double healing story of the woman and girl in 9:18-26, the healing of the blind men in 9:27-31, and the healing of the mute demoniac in 9:32-34.  From 9:35-10:42 we have another cluster of teaching tradition associated with the sending out of the Twelve, but it is clearly connected to the theme of healing, both by the circumstances that prompted Jesus to send them (9:35-10:1), and by the beginning of Jesus’ instructions that repeat the idea of ‘lost sheep’ (10:5-6; compare Isaiah 53:6) and the connection of their preaching with healing (10:7-8), as representatives of Jesus Himself (10:40-42).

5)  11:1-12:45  –  ‘Bruised reeds & Gentile judgement’
[Mt 12:17-21 = Isa 42:1-4] Perhaps the reference to the last ‘Servant Song’ in Isaiah 53 had prompted Matthew to consider next the first ‘Servant Song’ in Isaiah 42.  The quotation of Isaiah 42:1-4 in Matthew 12:17-21 is quite extensive, and lays emphasis on ‘judgement’, the ‘nations’, and Jesus’ care not to quarrel or break ”battered reeds’.  All the stories and teaching in this section are linked to this quotation in one way or another.  The story and teaching about John the Baptist (11:2-19) sprang naturally to Matthew’s mind with its description of John as ‘a reed shaken by the wind’ (11:7) whom Jesus takes care not to ‘break’.  Then there is an example of ‘judgement’ on the ‘nations’ (11:20-24), followed by another small collection of sayings that focus on dealing gently with the ‘weary and heavy-laden’ (11:25-30).  On either side of the quotation of Isaiah 42, we find two clusters of tradition about the Pharisees.  The first, 12:1-16, describes two stories from apparently the same Sabbath day that both speak of Jesus’ compassion, the first associated conceptually with breaking reeds (walking through fields of ripe grain on stalks), and the second clearly showing Jesus avoiding quarrelling with the Pharisees (12:14-16).  The second, 12:22-37, describes another healing to which the Pharisees objected, and Jesus’ response to their accusation.  His teaching mentions judgement on them three times (12:27, 31-32, 36-37).  Finally we have one further sermon of Jesus on the subject of ‘judgement’ and the ‘nations’ (12:38-45), paralleling 11:20-24.

6)  12:46-13:58  –  ‘Hearing and understanding’
[Mt 13:14-15 = Isa 6:9-10] The fourth and fifth sections of Matthew’s gospel were connected by their association with the Servant Songs of Isaiah, and the sixth and seventh sections are connected by their Isaiah quotations being found within the teachings of Jesus Himself.  Isaiah 6:9-10 is actually the essential message that Isaiah was commissioned to preach, paradoxically being a command to God’s people that they continue to hear his teaching but fail to understand and therefore respond to God and be healed.
In Matthew’s Gospel, the seven parables about the kingdom of heaven are enclosed by two stories of Jesus’ mother and siblings, the first (12:46-50) emphasising the importance of being an obedient disciple and apparently already connected in the tradition with the continuation of Jesus’ teaching that day in a boat near the beach.  The second (13:53-58) describes the rejection of the teaching of Jesus by His hometown, which resulted in fewer miracles there in accordance with the end of the passage quoted from Isaiah.  As for the seven parables that form the bulk of this section, they were collected here because Jesus Himself had related these verses in Isaiah with His own use of parables – ‘hidden’ teachings that had to be explained in private to the disciples, to whom had been granted “to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven”.

7)  14:1-16:12  –  ‘Teaching the traditions of men’
[Mt 15:8-9 = Isa 29:13] To those who know the book of Isaiah well, the idea of teaching being heard but not understood that we read of in Isaiah 6 is naturally associated with Isaiah 29.  Isaiah 29:10-12 describes the ‘entire vision’ as a ‘sealed book’ that cannot be read or understood by either the literate or illiterate, and then after 29:13 (the verse quoted in Matthew), Isaiah prophesies God concealing the wisdom of the wise (Isa. 29:14), and causing the deaf to ‘hear the words of a book’ and the blind eyes seeing (Isa. 29:18).  The central verse of that passage, Isaiah 29:13, condemns the outwardly righteous teachers of Judah whose supposed ‘reverence’ for God consists of ‘commands of men learned by rote’.
Jesus applied this verse directly to the Pharisees of His own day, and this prophetic fulfilment for Jesus’ own generation is the focus of an extended section of Matthew’s gospel.  The key to understanding this is found at the very end of the section – 16:11-12 – where Matthew explains that Jesus was speaking against ‘the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees’ rather than against ‘the leaven of bread’.  The preceding teaching of Jesus about the five loaves for five thousand and the seven loaves for four thousand (16:5-11) connects the ideas of ‘bread’ and ‘teaching’ with the Pharisees, and these themes have drawn together all the stories and teachings in this section.  First, Matthew had to tell the stories of the feeding of the five thousand (14:13-21), with the events that led to it (14:1-12) and followed from it (14:22-36), and the feeding of the four thousand (15:29-39), in order to explain Jesus’ summary of these events in 16:5-11.  After each of the two stories he put a question by the Pharisees and Jesus’ response, the first involving the eating of ‘bread’ without washing hands (15:1-20), and the second requesting a ‘sign from heaven’ (16:1-4), which in the context of the crowds having been given ‘bread from heaven’ like Moses (compare 14:19) was a rather stupid request.  And then at the centre, between the [5,000 + washing hands] and [4,000 + sign from heaven], Matthew has put the little story of Jesus’ interaction with the Canaanite woman, in which Jesus describes His healing ministry as ‘the children’s bread’ – comparing healing with ‘bread’ just as teaching is compared with ‘bread’ in 16:12.

8)  16:13-21:11  –  ‘The King coming to Zion, gentle’
[Mt 21:5 = Isa 62:11 & Zec 9:9] Until this point, every one of Matthew’s primary quotations has been taken exclusively from the book of Isaiah, although sometimes he goes on to refer to some of the ‘lesser’ prophets, for example Hosea (Mt. 2:15) and Jeremiah (Mt. 2:18) in the first section, or Asaph the psalmist (Mt. 13:35) in the sixth section.  The last three of Matthew’s sections were all inspired by passages in Isaiah, but they are each associated to a greater or lesser extent with expressions from other prophets, either because Jesus Himself made the connection, or because another prophet had elaborated more specifically on Isaiah’s earlier prophecy (or both).
Isaiah 62:11 says, “Behold, the LORD has proclaimed to the end of the earth, say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Lo, your salvation comes; behold his reward is with him, and his recompense is before him.'”.  Zechariah 9:9 seems quite clearly to reflect this verse both contextually and verbally, saying, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!  Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem!  Behold, your king is coming to you; he is just and endowed with salvation, humble, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”  However it was Zechariah’s elaboration that suited Matthew’s purposes better than Isaiah’s prophecy, describing the arrival of this ‘saviour’ to Jerusalem more specifically as a humble king.  In fact, Isaiah 63:1-6 describes the coming One in kingly terms, and then Isaiah 63:7-14 describe the ‘saviour’ also as a patient and compassionate shepherd of rebellious people.  Zechariah’s prophecy was simply a more convenient summary of Isaiah’s prophecy.
When we come to Matthew’s Gospel, however, the quotation of this verse is left until the very end of the section, to the point when Jesus actually arrives in Jerusalem.  Even so, as many scholars have noted, the journey towards Jerusalem begins in 16:21 when Jesus “began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem”.  This teaching was connected to Peter’s rebuke of Jesus and by Jesus (16:22-23), which was likewise associated in the tradition with Peter’s confession at Caesarea Philippi (16:13-20) and with Jesus’ association of discipleship with ‘taking up one’s cross’ (16:24-28), a passage also referring to ‘coming in His kingdom’.  Tradition recorded that Jesus’ transfiguration happened ‘six days later’ (17:1), which may also be connected in some way back to His prophecy in 16:28.  The teaching on the way down the mountain about Elijah and the suffering of the Son of Man links back neatly to Jesus’ prophecy of going to Jerusalem to suffer (17:9-13), and the healing at the bottom of the mountain was also linked to this story (17:14-21).  Jesus and His disciples progress to Galilee in 17:22-23 with another prophecy of suffering, and then to Capernaum in 17:24-27, with a story that refers to the ‘kings of the earth’ – one aspect of the ‘humble king’ theme spanning this entire section.  18:1-20 is another cluster of teachings, this time associated with the idea of the ‘greatest’ in the kingdom being those who ‘humble’ themselves like children.  The teaching about forgiveness in 18:21-35 has been included here because of its parable about ‘a king and his slaves’, and after a reference to Jesus leaving Galilee and arriving in Judea beyond the Jordan (19:1-2), the teaching about divorce in 19:3-12 has been similarly included because of the conclusion of the discussion where Jesus advocates the humiliation of making oneself a ‘eunuch’ for the sake of the kingdom.  Two stories are then recounted next to each other in order to contrast them – the first being about Jesus blessing children (19:13-15), and the second about a wealthy man who would not follow Jesus (19:16-26).  Then there is a prophecy about the twelve disciples who have left everything to follow Jesus sitting on twelve thrones as kings with Jesus (19:27-30), and a parable connected to this prophecy by the phrase ‘the last shall be first’ (20:1-16).  As Jesus is ‘about to go up to Jerusalem’, He again predicts His suffering (20:17-19), and contrasts His own serving with the selfish request of the disciples to sit enthroned on either side of Jesus (20:20-28).  They leave Jericho towards Jerusalem, meeting two blind men on the way (20:29-34), and approaching Jerusalem on the Mount of Olives, Jesus commandeers a donkey to explicitly fulfil the prophecy of the humble king coming to Jerusalem (21:1-3).  Finally, Jesus actually enters Jerusalem to the praise of the crowds (21:6-11), who describe him as ‘the prophet Jesus’, neatly paralleling the discussion of Jesus’ identity in 16:13-14.

9)  21:12-25:46  –  ‘House of prayer’ or ‘robbers’ den’
[Mt 21:13 = Isa 56:7 & Jer 7:11] Isaiah 56 begins with a call to ‘preserve justice and do righteousness, for my salvation is about to come…’, and then defines this righteousness as specifically observing the sabbaths, even if one is a eunuch or a foreigner.  God’s intention is that His temple become known as ‘a house of prayer for all the peoples’ (Isa. 56:7).  Jeremiah 7 gives the opposite case, as Jeremiah is told to ‘stand in the gate of the LORD’s house’ to proclaim the coming destruction of the temple because of failure to defend the alien, orphan and widow, and instead breaking the commandments; the ‘house of the LORD’ has become a ‘den of robbers’ (Jer. 7:11).
As for Matthew’s use of this judgement of Jesus against the temple in Jerusalem (21:12-13), in a very general way the quotation of scriptures about the temple justifies his inclusion of any traditions associated with the temple in the last week of Jesus.  Although this may perhaps be thought to be a poor excuse for any stories or teachings that I can’t seem to connect to the primary quotation, it is worth remembering that the last week of Jesus was indelibly imprinted on people’s minds, much as the last scene of a film or the last chapter of a novel might be.  We would expect teachings or happenings of this week to have become connected to each other in the retelling of the tradition, such that any programmatic quotation holding the section together would necessarily have to be quite general.
In the last section the quotation came at the end, whereas here it kicks off the whole section right at the beginning, as Jesus first enters the temple (21:12-13).  Healings and shouting children are both located specifically in the temple (21:14-16), and the departure to Bethany is to set the scene for a judgement oracle against ‘this mountain’ (i.e. the ‘mountain of the LORD’ – the Temple Mount) paralleling the judgement on the fig tree (21:17-22).  Jesus’ return to the temple is met with a challenge to His authority over the temple (21:23-32), as He had established the day before when He cleansed it of traders.  The short parable of the vineyard, associated with Jesus’ response concerning John the Baptist, provides the link in the tradition with the following parable of the tenants of the vineyard (21:33-46).  The next parable about the wedding banquet (22:1-14) is linked to the prophecy quotation through the mention of the destruction of the city (22:7), as this directly parallels Jeremiah’s prophecy of Jerusalem’s destruction as Shiloh had been destroyed (Jer. 7:12-14).  The segments of narrative from 22:15 to 22:46, involving the testing of Jesus by different groups, are all focused on the Pharisees.  They join with the Herodians to question Jesus in 22:15-22, and then when they hear that Jesus has also silenced the Sadducees (22:23-33), they return to challenge Jesus again, this time about the greatest commandment (22:34-40).  After answering them, and ‘while the Pharisees were gathered together’, Jesus asked them a theological question related to Psalm 110:1, for which they have no answer.  All of these five stories are background for the following denunciation of the Pharisees in 23:1-31, including a central section of Jesus’ rebuke involving swearing oaths ‘by the temple’ (23:16-22).  His sentence of judgement on them (23:32-36) is then expanded in 23:37-39 so that the coming destruction of Jerusalem and her ‘house’ is ultimately blamed on the Pharisees, equivalent to the ‘robbers’ of the quoted prophecy.  This implicit judgement against the temple, as Jeremiah too had prophesied, is made explicit when Jesus tells His disciples of the timing of the destruction of the temple in 24:1-31.  The parable of the fig tree in  24:32-35 has probably been added here because of the earlier connection between a leafy fig tree and coming judgement on the temple.
In the remainder of the discourse that follows in 24:36-25:46, there is very little that might be connected specifically to the temple, the only possible reference being the ‘house’ in 24:43, although reading the temple into this reference would require special pleading.  The reference to the temple in the sequence of end times events in 24:15 (marked by an editorial comment ‘let the reader understand’) is seemingly the only explicit reference to the temple in all of Jesus’ response to His disciples’ questions about the timing of the temple’s destruction.  Even so, Matthew had a lot of material from Jesus’ teachings that was associated with His ‘coming’, and the end times, and this seemed an appropriate place in which to group all such teachings.  The disciples therefore ask Jesus not only about the timing of the temple’s destruction, but also about ‘the sign of Your coming and of the end of the age’ (24:2).  It is the link to the ‘coming of the Son of Man’ that justifies the inclusion of the false Christs teaching in 24:23-28 within the sequence of end times events (24:4-31), and the addition of the days of Noah teaching (24:36-42), the thief parable (24:43-44), and at the end the parable of the sheep and goats (25:31-46).  The idea of an unexpected arrival in the Noah teaching and thief parable explain the further inclusion of the parable of the good and evil slaves (24:45-51) and the parable of the ten virgins (25:1-13), and finally the parable of the talents (25:14-30) was added after the parable of the ten virgins to parallel the parable of the good and evil slaves in 24:45-51.  Thus we find a sort of chiastic pattern between 24:36 and 25:46: (A) Son of Man coming like Noah’s flood & like a thief; (B) parable of good and evil slaves; (C) parable of ten virgins; (B’) parable of good and evil slaves; (A’) Son of Man coming to judge between sheep & goats.  In any case, the clustering of traditions is still explained at the initial stage with the quotations of temple prophecies in 21:13.

10)  26:1-28:20  –  ‘Shepherd and sheep’ (& Galilee)
[Mt 26:31 = Zec 13:7 & Isa 53:4-6] This final section gives us the most problematic of the Isaiah quotations, and yet whether or not one accepts my defence of its Isaianic character below, it is hard to deny the way traditions throughout this final section have been clustered around the scripture quotation in Matthew 26:31-32.  If that is so, my opponent would have to explain why a non-Isaianic prophecy serves a function elsewhere granted almost exclusively to prophecies from Isaiah.
The first point to note, therefore, is that Jesus’ citation of scripture in 26:31 very closely resembles Zechariah 13:7, the only differences being a future (‘I will strike’) instead of an imperative (‘Strike!’), and an elaboration of ‘sheep’ to ‘sheep of the flock’.  From a verbal similarity point of view, there seems to be little doubt that Jesus was quoting Zechariah here.  However the problem comes when one looks at the context of Zechariah 13:7.  In that passage God’s hand then turns ‘against the little ones’, two-thirds of whom perish, and only one third of whom survives to repent and be purified – hardly an appropriate summary of what happened to Jesus’ followers after He died.  On the other hand, the image of a shepherd struck by God and sheep scattered appears also in another quite well-known passage, namely Isaiah 53:4-6.  These verses begin by describing the servant ‘bearing’ our sicknesses and ‘carrying’ our pains, much like the shepherd who ‘gathers the lambs in his arm and carries them in his bosom’ (Isa. 40:11), yet this Servant is ‘struck down by God’ for our sake.  Then in Isaiah 53:6 we read how each one of us like sheep ‘has turned to his own way’, while the LORD causes all our iniquity to fall on the shepherd.  Effectively, God is declaring, ‘I will strike the shepherd while the sheep are scattered.’  The surrounding context is what makes this passage in Isaiah a more probable inspiration for Matthew, and possibly Jesus, even if as with section eight he was able to find a more succinct summary of the prophecy in Zechariah.
As we know, Isaiah 53 goes on to prophesy the resurrection of the Suffering Servant, and similarly Jesus connects His quotation of Zechariah 13:7 directly with resurrection, saying, ‘But after I have been raised, I will go ahead of you to Galilee.’ (Mt. 26:32)  We will find as we explore this section that Matthew here chooses to treat Jesus’ own prophecy of resurrection and return to Galilee as having an equivalent ‘clustering’ weight to the quoted prophecy from Isaiah (via Zechariah).  In this way the whole statement of Jesus in 26:31-32 fulfils the function of a crystallising agent for the traditions of this section, much as His statement about the temple was used to draw together the preceding section’s traditions.
Therefore 26:1-2 begins the section with Jesus warning His disciples of His impending crucifixion, and follows this with a reference to the conspirators gathering to plan Jesus’ death (26:3-5).  The story of Jesus being anointed with perfume is linked to His coming burial (26:6-13), and Judas then leaves to betray Jesus to the chief priests (26:14-16).  All of the traditions associated with the Passover meal in 26:17-29 are connected with Jesus’ betrayal or death, and Jesus’ prediction of Peter’s denials (26:33-35) merely emphasises that the sheep will all be scattered.  His prayers in Gethsemane are due to Him being grieved ‘to the point of death’ (26:36-44), and the account of His betrayal by Judas and arrest (26:45-56) refers twice to the importance of the fulfilment of scriptures associated with His death.  26:57-58 introduces Peter on the periphery of the Sanhedrin trial scene, to parallel the account of his threefold denial immediately after it (26:69-75).  In between, the story of the trial culminates in three expressions for the way they ‘struck’ Jesus, again modelled on the quoted prophecy.  Just as Peter ‘went out’ weeping, leaving Jesus, so 27:1-10 describes the ‘scattering’ of another of the sheep, this time Judas.  The tradition of his death and the use of the betrayal money is recounted here probably because the prophecies associated with it were so directly applicable and self-evident.  The account of Jesus’ trial before Pilate is an interesting one (27:11-31) particularly for its emphasis on the way Jesus was scourged by Pilate (27:26) and beaten by the Roman soldiers (27:30) – both examples of ‘striking’ the shepherd.  Furthermore, Jesus’ silence during both trials is most likely intended to reflect on this precise emphasis in Isaiah 53:7.  After the actual crucifixion (27:32-38), verses 39 to 49 describe how Jesus was ‘despised and forsaken of men… not esteemed’ (Isaiah 53:3).  At the point of Jesus’ death, the description of the resulting earthquake is separated to enclose a reference to Jesus’ coming resurrection (27:50-54), as He Himself had prophesied.  Once the shepherd has been struck down, we find that the sheep begin to gather again – first the women who had followed Him (27:55-56) and then also Joseph of Arimathea (27:57-61).  We then have a further tradition from the time Jesus’ body was in the tomb, that is directly associated with the prophesied resurrection (27:62-66), and this is followed with the account of the resurrection itself (28:1-7).  The angel who reports the resurrection to the women tells them, ‘behold, He is going ahead of you into Galilee, there you will see Him; behold, I have told you’ – a direct reference to Jesus’ own prophecy in 26:32.  As the women are going back to the disciples, Jesus Himself meets them and again reiterates the command to see Him in Galilee (28:8-10).  28:11-15 addresses a common Jewish objection of Matthew’s day to the report of Jesus’ resurrection, and then he concludes his Gospel back in Galilee, in fulfilment of Jesus’ prophecy (28:16-20).

We therefore have in Matthew’s Gospel essentially an early collection of traditions about Jesus that has been deliberately grouped around ten different verses or passages from Isaiah that were commonly believed to point prophetically to Jesus and His ministry.  I think it quite likely that the purpose of this Gospel was for use by Christian churches as an authoritative assembly of teaching about Jesus, helpfully arranged around ten themes of prophetic fulfilment taken from Isaiah, one of the most popular of Old Testament books in the Early Church.  We too would do well to recover an understanding of the genuine fulfilment Jesus brought to both the Law and the Prophets, fulfilling all righteousness in His ministry and sacrifice, and in His resurrection becoming Himself the greatest of the prophets, indeed, one greater than any prophet – the Messiah, the Son of the living God.

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