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The Matthew Project

Matthew’s Use of the Old Testament

Gospel of Matthew2Matthew, of course, writes his gospel to show that Jesus fulfills Scripture’s messianic expectations.  In doing this he records Fourteen instances of formula quotations from the Old Testament.  This is one of the  most distinctive features of Matthew’s Gospel:

  • Matthew 1:22–23a
  • Matthew 2:5b–6
  • Matthew 2:15b
  • Matthew 2:17–18
  • Matthew 2:23b
  • Matthew 3:3
  • Matthew 4:14–16
  • Matthew 8:17
  • Matthew 12:17–21
  • Matthew 13:14–15
  • Matthew 13:35
  • Matthew 21:4–5
  • Matthew 26:54-56
  • Matthew 27:9–10

 Twice the formula occurs on the lips of Jesus himself

  • Matthew 13:14–15;
  • Matthew 26:54–56:

Continue reading Matthew’s Use of the Old Testament

Matthew 3:1-12 – Kingdom & The Ministry of John

John Baptizing in the Wilderness
John Baptizing in the Wilderness

(1-2) The message of John the Baptist.

In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”

In those days John the Baptist came: Matthew introduces us to one of the fascinating characters of the New Testament. This was the John born to Zacharias and Elisabeth, whose miraculous birth to this too-old couple was announced, along with his call to be the forerunner of the Messiah, in Luke 1.

In those days: “It is a general term that reveals little chronologically but insists that the account is historical.” (Carson)
Preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, “Repent”: John’s message was a call to repentance. Some people think that repentance is mostly about feelings, especially feeling sorry for your sin. It is wonderful to feel sorry about your sin, but repent isn’t a “feelings” word. It is an action word. John told his listeners to make a change of the mind, not merely to feel sorry for what they had done. Repentance speaks of a change of direction, not a sorrow in the heart.
Is repentance something we must do before we can come to God? Yes and no. Repentance does not describe something we must do before we come to God; it describes what coming to God is like. If you are in New York, and I tell you to come to Los Angeles, I don’t really need to say “Leave New York and come to Los Angeles.” To come to Los Angeles is to leave New York, and if I haven’t left New York, I certainly haven’t come to Los Angeles. We can’t come to the kingdom of heavenunless we leave our sin and the self-life.  The call to repentance is important and must not be neglected. It is entirely accurate to say that it is the first word of the gospel.
  • Repent was the first word of John the Baptist’s message (Matthew 3:1-2).
  • Repent was the first word of Jesus’ gospel (Matthew 4:14 and Mark 1:14-15).
  • Repent was the first word in the preaching ministry of the twelve disciples (Mark 6:12).
  • Repent was the first word in the preaching instructions Jesus gave to His disciples after His resurrection (Luke 24:46-47).
  • Repent was the first word of exhortation in the first Christian sermon (Acts 2:38).
  • Repent was the first word in the mouth of the Apostle Paul through his ministry (Acts 26:19-20).
Time to remind ourselves of the definitions of a couple of terms we’ve already defined, but our 21st century cultural definitions are so predominant in our minds that it’s easy to forget.  So, when you hear John saying Repent, and when you hear him talking about the Kingdom of Heaven we want to remember the specific definitions:

Continue reading Matthew 3:1-12 – Kingdom & The Ministry of John

Matthew 2:22-23 “He Shall Be Called A Nazarene”

Herod Archelaus
Coins of Herod Archelaus H.503v
Obverse: Cornucopia
Reverse: Roman Galley
Date: 4BC – 6AD

Fearing the evil son of Herod (Archelaus), the family settles north in Nazareth.

But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: “He will be called a Nazarene.”

Matthew 2:22–23, NIV84

When he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea:

Joseph had good reason to be cautious regarding Archelaus. This son of Herod proved to be such an incompetent and violent ruler, that at the plea of the Jews of Judea, the Romans deposed him for misrule and replaced him with a governor appointed by Rome in 6 AD.

This Archelaus was as cruel as his father Herod the Great, but without any of his greatness.

“A man of kindred nature, suspicious, truculent (Josephus, Antiquities, 17,11,2), to be feared and avoided by such as had cause to fear his father.” (Bruce)

 Being warned by God in a dream, he turned aside into the region of Galilee:

Again receiving guidance by a divine dream, Joseph settled outside of the much more religious region of Jerusalem and Judea, and into the populous region of Galilee, which had a much more significant Gentile population than Judea or Jerusalem.

“Schanz, taking a hint from Augustine, suggests that Joseph wished to settle in Jerusalem, deeming that city the most suitable home for the Messiah, but that God judged the despised Galilee a better training school for the future Savior of publicans, sinners and Pagans.” (Bruce)

And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth:

It was remarkable that Joseph came back to Nazareth, the hometown of Mary and presumably Joseph (Luke 1:26-27). It was remarkable because Nazareth was an unremarkable town, and because it was where everyone knew Mary and Joseph and the strange circumstances surrounding the birth of their son.

Jewish society, like most pre-modern social settings, tended to be harsh, judgmental and exclusive.  Such notions as racial equality of the liberation of sexuality, as well as one’s own right to privacy were largely unknown.  Well, these things may have been talked about in their abstract sense, in the sense that each person had to make their own choices in life, etc.  However, the rumor mill in small towns was always in high gear, and people tended to look for reasons to exclude anyone unlike themselves.  So for Joseph to move his family back to the place where Mary had grown up, where they had met, and perhaps where it was well-known that she had become pregnant during the period of their betrothal, but prior to their marriage, meant that Joseph was potentially subjecting his family to a brutal barrage of rumor, innuendo and ultimate rejection.

Jewish culture, based upon the Hebrew Scriptures, particularly:

No one born of a forbidden marriage nor any of his descendants may enter the assembly of the Lord, even down to the tenth generation.

Deuteronomy 23:2, NIV84

. . . and the traditions of the teachers of the law, had a word  for Continue reading Matthew 2:22-23 “He Shall Be Called A Nazarene”

Davidic Christology & Matthew’s Gospel

Genealogy of Jesus
The Genealogy of Jesus – Frontispiece for Matthew Chapter 1 – The Saint John’s Bible

Previously we talked about the Old Testament roots of Davidic Christology, which is an understanding of Jesus that sees Him as the fulfillment of God’s promises to David in 2 Samuel 7.  You should recall that those promises and the Royal Psalms based on them, described the Davidic kings as:

  1. Raised up by God,
  2. Offspring or descendants of David, and
  3. Kings who sit at the right hand of God,
  4. Ruling over all nations, in a
  5. Kingdom that lasts forever.
  6. Lords who wear God’s title because they exercise the authority of God Himself.
  7. They are “anointed ones”, “messiahs” or “christs” upon whom God’s Spirit rests, and
  8. Adopted sons of God, whom the Deity treats as His own and
  9. Whom He disciplines as necessary. (This is a most important point)
  10. And finally, it will be a descendant of David who will bring to the world the “blessing for all nations” promise, made to Abraham in Genesis 12 and Genesis 22.

These promises formed the beginning and foundation of the Jewish expectation of the Messiah, the hope that one of David’s descendants would prove to be righteous, according to God’s covenant definition of righteousness, and would fully realize God’s promise of a universal kingdom under a Godly ruler. Continue reading Davidic Christology & Matthew’s Gospel

Matthew 2:13 – 21 There and Back Again

Matthew 2:13-15 The flight to Egypt and the return to Nazareth.

1. (13-15) Joseph, Mary, and Jesus find refuge in Egypt.

flight-into-egyptNow when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.” When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt, and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt I called My Son.”

a. Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt: The command was urgent, and came right when the wise men had departed. It would not have sounded completely strange to Joseph that they should find refuge in Egypt. There was a large Jewish community in Alexandria, so it wouldn’t have been strange for the Holy Spirit to guide Joseph to take his family there.

"Egypt was a natural place to which to flee. It was nearby, a well-ordered Roman province outside Herod's jurisdiction; and, according to Philo (writing circa a.d. 40), its population included about a million Jews."


b. Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him: This response is consistent with both the character of Herod and humanity in general. It doesn’t speak well of humanity to notice that when God added humanity to His deity and came to earth – in the most non-threatening manner possible – the almost immediate reaction of one section of humanity was to try as hard as they could to murder Him.

c. When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night: Joseph’s rapid (leaving the very night of the dream) and complete obedience is impressive. It is unlikely that Joseph ever imagined such events when he first was betrothed to Mary of Nazareth.

"We are not told into what part of Egypt Joseph went, nor how long he stayed there: some say six or seven years; others but three or four months."


d. Out of Egypt I called My Son: In the process, another prophecy was fulfilled. At first glance, we might wonder how this prophecy from Hosea 11:1 is fulfilled in Jesus. But Matthew makes it clear that even as Israel as a nation came out from Egypt, so would the Son of God.

Matthew 2:19-21 – The return to Israel.

But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, “Arise, take the young Child and Continue reading Matthew 2:13 – 21 There and Back Again

Matthew 2:16-18 Herod Strikes Back

Gustave Doré (French, 1832–1883) The Massacre of the Innocents, ca. 1869–72 Pen, ink and ink wash heightened with white on wove paper, 22 x 33 in. 1997.40

Matthew 2:16-18 The Slaughter of the Innocents.

Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying: “A voice was heard in Ramah, Lamentation, weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, Refusing to be comforted, Because they are no more.”

a. He sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts: Though there are no exact descriptions of this event in secular history, it is entirely in character with Herod’s well-known ruthlessness.

i. “Incredible? Anything is credible of the man who murdered his own wife and sons. This deed shocks Christians; but it was a small affair in Herod’s career, and in contemporary history.” (Bruce)

ii. Especially in his last years Herod was cruel and suspicious. When he knew that his death was approaching, Herod had many Jewish leaders of Jerusalem arrested on false charges. He ordered that as soon as he died, they should all be killed – he knew well no one would mourn his own death, so he was determined that some tears be shed when he died.

iii. “Actually, the story is in perfect harmony with what we know of Herod’s character in his last years…The death of a few children (perhaps a dozen or so; Bethlehem’s total population was not large) would hardly have been recorded in such violent times.” (Carson)

b. A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, weeping, and great mourning: This quotation from Jeremiah 31:15 originally referred to the mourning of Israel’s mothers during the conquest and captivity of the nation. Here Rachel is a representation of Bethlehem’s mothers.

i. “This prophecy was literally fulfilled when Judah was carried into captivity; there was then a great mourning in the tribes of Benjamin and Judah, for their children that were slain and carried away into captivity. It was now fulfilled, that is, verified, a second time.” (Poole)

ii. “Rachel was to the Hebrew fancy a mother for Israel in all time, sympathetic in all her children’s misfortunes.” (Bruce)


Introduction to Davidic Christology

TreeofJesseHaving seen the genealogy of Jesus, and looked around in the text of the early chapters of Matthew’s Gospel, dealing with Jesus’ birth and the events surrounding it, we turn now to a look at Davidic Christology.  This is probably an unusual phrase, and it’s a theological concept that most ordinary Bible students wouldn’t encounter, but it is a very important element in the proper understanding of Matthew’s Gospel.

What is Davidic Christology?

The term Christology comes from two Greek words, first Χριστός (christos) is the Greek word meaning Christ, one of the New Testament titles for Jesus. Second, λόγος (logos), is the Greek word for idea or understanding or word. Put them together and Christology means one’s ideas or understanding of Christ, or a word about Christ. Just as psychology is the understanding about man’s psyche or soul, and archaeologists strive to study and understand the ancient things, Christology is the study or understanding about Christ, particularly as it develops in scripture from the Old Testament into the New Testament.

Davidic Christology

Davidic Christology is an understanding of Christ based on the promises God gave to David in 2 Samuel 7. Davidic Christology is seen in most of the New Testament including the Gospel of Matthew.

The foundational text for Davidic Christology appears in 2 Samuel 7. If you’re not familiar with this Old Testament passage, you should probably stop now and go read the first 8 or 9 chapters of 2 Samuel. Remember our principle that the answers to most seemingly unsolvable New Testament problems are usually found somewhere in the Old Testament.  So you should be familiar with David’s life and times, as recorded in Samuel’s books before you go on.  But, I’ll summarize.

At this point in his life, David has conquered his enemies and his kingdom is secure. So David decides he wants to build a great house, a great temple for the Lord. However God has other plans. He speaks to David through the prophet Nathan and says you will not build me a house, instead I will build you a house. God is not thinking of the house of wood or stone, he intends to build for David a royal house, a kingly dynasty.

God Promises a Line of “Davidic Kings:

“Moreover the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house. When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me. When he commits iniquity, I will punish him with a rod such as mortals use, with blows inflicted by human beings.”
2 Samuel 7:11–14, NRSV

Solomon was the particular offspring of David who built the temple of Jerusalem. But the Lord’s words did not concern Solomon alone. God also promises to establish a royal house, or dynasty of Kings, descended from David through Solomon. Since they are blood decedents of David, we refer to these rulers as Davidic Kings. The Lord describes how he will treat Solomon and the other Davidic Kings in vs. 14 to 16: Continue reading Introduction to Davidic Christology

Matthew 2:3 – 12 Herod and the Wise Men

herodMatthew 2:3 – Herod is troubled at the news brought by the wise men.

When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.

a. When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled: Herod was in a very insecure place.  Having been “appointed” king over the Jews by the Romans (actually he purchased the position in an historical episode that looks a lot like an EBay auction) he had to be constantly on guard against threats to his rule, especially from his own family. He assassinated many family members whom he suspected of disloyalty. His being troubled is completely in character.

i. Herod, who wanted to be accepted by the Jews whom he ruled, was not a Jew at all but an Edomite, and Rome recognized him as a vassal king over Judea. The Jews tempered their great hatred of him with admiration for his building projects, such as the magnificent improvements made to the second temple.

ii. Barclay reminds us of what a bloody, violent ruler Herod was:

"He had no sooner come to the throne than he began by annihilating the Sanhedrin...he slaughtered three hundred court officers...he murdered his wife Mariamne, and her mother Alexandra, his eldest son Antipater, and two other sons, Alexander and Arisobulus."

b. He was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him: The fact that all Jerusalem was troubled with Herod is significant. This was due either to the fact that the people of Jerusalem rightly feared what sort of paranoid outburst might come from Herod upon hearing of a rival king being born, or because of the size and dignity of this caravan from the East.

This trouble is again testimony to the greatness of Jesus, even as a young child. Continue reading Matthew 2:3 – 12 Herod and the Wise Men

Matthew 2:1-2 Wise Men From The East

camel-caravan-01Matthew 2:1-2 The wise men arrive in Jerusalem.

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.”

a. After Jesus was born in Bethlehem: Matthew actually tells us little about the birth of Jesus; Luke 2 records these familiar details. What Matthew tells us regards something that happened after Jesus was born in Bethlehem.

i. Bethlehem was the ancestral home of David, the great king of Israel and founder of their royal dynasty; however, it was not a large or significant town. “Bethlehem was quite a little town six miles to the south of Jerusalem. In the olden days it had been called Ephrath or Ephratah.” (Barclay)

ii. “A stir begins as soon as Christ is born. He has not spoken a word; he has not wrought a miracle; he has not proclaimed a single doctrine; but ‘when Jesus was born,’ at the very first, while as yet you hear nothing but infant cries, and can see nothing but infant weakness, still his influence upon the world is manifest. ‘When Jesus was born, there came wise men from the east,’ and so on. There is infinite power even in an infant Savior.” (Spurgeon)

b. In the days of Herod the king: This was the one known as Herod the Great. Herod was indeed great; in some ways great as a ruler, builder and administrator; in other ways great in politics and cruelty. Continue reading Matthew 2:1-2 Wise Men From The East

Understanding Jewish Apocalyptic (Part 3)

Adler RabbiNow, after having looked at Matthew’s account of the birth and genealogy of Jesus it might be good to rejoin our previous topic of Jewish Apocalyptic with a view to better understanding what Matthew is trying to say.  We’ve spoken at some length about some of the other writings of the faithful Jewish people just before and during the Second Temple period.  It would be a gross error to neglect to understand how passionately and poignantly these Apocalyptic writers portray their beliefs in these writings.  Even though they are not considered part of scripture, and hence may not contain the truth of God we seek, it becomes important for us to look into their beliefs to see the kinds of thinking that existed in Jesus’ time, the influences that were available to Matthew as he wrote Jesus’ story, and the manner in which people of that time perceived the world in which they lived.  Now let’s talk about another aspect very prevalent in Jewish Apocalyptic.

The Present Evil Age and The Kingdom of Satan

 Earlier we talked about how, in Genesis 3, God’s judgment upon mankind for their rebellion included pain in childbearing, painful toil in a resistant environment and human death.  The writers of Jewish Apocalyptic read those scriptural passages, consider their own situation as the outcome of the fall, and draw the following conclusion:

The sin of Adam and Eve caused the world to be a afflicted not only with the specific judgments mentioned in Genesis 3, but with all manner of evil.

In other words, all the chaotic, troublesome, resistant and evil circumstances they experience in life are the result of the fall.  Now this is a hotly debated point in theology today, and we might blanche at the direct statement of it.  Nevertheless, in Jewish Apocalyptic Theology the matter was settled, and one reason behind the writing of the literature is to establish it as fact.  As with ourselves, I’m sure there were some who read the Jewish Apocalyptic writings and remained unconvinced that the case was made, while others accepted the premise above.  My point, however, is that for most Second Temple Jews, this was a very present and attractive theme.

2 Baruch says:

“When Adam transgressed untimely death came into being, mourning was mentioned, affliction was prepared, illness was created, labor accomplished, pride began to come into existence, the realm of death began to ask to be renewed with blood, the conception of children came about, the passion of the parents was produced, the loftiness of man was humiliated, and goodness vanished.”

2 Baruch 56:6

Realizing that the entire human race has been adversely affected by Adam’s sin, the author of 4 Ezra comes close to despair.  He says:

“. . . it would have been better if the earth had not produced Adam or else when it had produced Adam had restrained him from sinning. Oh  Adam what have you done?  For though it was you who sinned, the fall was not yours alone but ours also who are your descendants.”

4 Ezra 8:48-49

Jewish Apocalyptic Theology was not so monolithic as to think, however, that it was simply Adam’s sin that warped creation and brought judgment upon mankind.  All creatures both human and angelic, who choose evil over the good; who ally themselves against God; have contributed to the ruin of God’s wonderful creation.  2 Baruch declares:

“For, although Adam sinned first and has brought death upon all who were not in his own time, yet each of them who has been born from him has prepared for himself the coming torment. And further, each of them has chosen for himself the coming splendor.  For truly, the one who believes will receive reward.   But now, turn yourselves to destruction, you unrighteous ones who are living now, for you will be visited suddenly, since you have once rejected the understanding of YAHWEH the Most High.   For HIS works have not taught you, nor has the artful work of HIS creation which has existed always persuaded you.   Adam is, therefore, not the cause, except only for himself, but each of us has become our own Adam.”

2 Baruch 54:15-19

Jewish apocalypticists and other writers of their era refer to this world corrupted with evil, this world marred by death, this world fallen away from its original goodness using a number of different terms.  For example, they call it the present evil age.  That’s a term from Galatians 1:4.  In other words they claim that the present age is characterized by evil.  They also describe this fallen world as the “kingdom of Satan”.  That is, a world where Satan and his allies, both human and Angelic, exercise a degree of kingdom, lordship or rule, a degree of power and influence for evil in the world.  Human beings have collaborated with Satan to transform God’s good creation into the present evil age, the kingdom of Satan, a world twisted and ruined by evil and death.

Now, the Jewish apocalypticists are hardheaded realists who see Continue reading Understanding Jewish Apocalyptic (Part 3)