This is HARDLY a comprehensive New Testament blog, though that is something I would like to do some day. But inasmuch as the LDS Gospel Doctrine course of study is New Testament this year, I wanted to at least have a venue where I could post some links, resources, excerpts from other things I have written, and, as the title suggest, "thoughts."

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Matthew 3–4

Today's post(s) really will be just "New Testament thoughts," because I do not have much time and do not have any pre-written material that I can draw from.  But here are a few things for the first half of lesson 4.
Dore, Jesus Preaching on the Mount

I accept the basic observation that the body of the Gospel of Matthew is divided into five parts by analogy to the five books traditionally attributed to Moses. Hence 5 books of the Law of Moses and now 5 "books" of the words, and to a lesser extent the deeds, of the New Moses, Jesus.  Each part consists of blocks of mostly narrative followed by an extended sermon or block of discourse.  The fivefold body of the gospel is framed by the Infancy Narrative at the beginning, telling who Jesus is, and the Passion and Resurrection Narratives at the end, telling what he came to do.

Genealogy and Infancy Narrative (1:1–2:23)

Part 1: Proclamation of the Kingdom (3:1–7:29)
•    Discourse: Sermon on the Mount (5:1–7:29)
Part 2: Galilean Ministry (8:1–10:42)
•    Discourse: Mission Sermon (10:1–42)
Part 3: Opposition to Jesus (11:1–13:52)
•    Discourse: Sermon in Parables (13:1–52)
Part 4: Rejection by Israel (13:54–18:25)
•    Discourse: Sermon on the Church (18:1–35)
Part 5: Journey to and Ministry in Jerusalem (19:1–25:46)
•    Discourse: Eschatological Sermon (24:1–25:46)

Climax: Passion, Death, and Resurrection (26:1–28:20)

Matthew 3–4, the first half of this week's reading (lesson 4), constitutes the narrative section of Part 1: Proclamation of the Kingdom (3:1–7:29). It would be natural to follow it next week with a study of the associated discourse block, The Sermon on the Mount (5:1–7:29), but, alas, that is not scheduled until lesson 8.

Here is my working outline for Matthew 3–4:

•    Proclamation of John the Baptist (3:1–12)
    ◦     sixth formula quotation, 3:3 = Isaiah 40:3
•     Baptism of Jesus (3:13–17)
•     Temptations of Jesus (4:1–11)
•     Jesus Begins His Galilean Ministry (4:12–17)
    ◦     seventh formula quotation, 4:15–16 = Isaiah 9:1–2
•    Jesus Calls His First Disciples (4:18–22)
•    Jesus Ministers to Crowds (4:23–25)

Although I am adamantly against harmonizing in most instances, it *can* be a useful exercise in source and redaction criticism to compare how one gospel account handles and adapts an episode or some material from another.  Accepting Marcan priority, which is the general consensus in biblical scholarship, seeing what Matthew adds or changes to the basic material he has taken from Mark is revealing.

Proclamation of John the Baptist (Matt 3:1–12; cf. Mark 1:2–8)

Note the addition of a considerable interchange between JBap and the Pharisees and Sadducees, which is in harmony with Matt's generally more strident anti-Jewish leadership tone.

Baptism of Jesus (3:13–17; cf. Mark 1:9–11)

With my family at the Jordan River
Mark's account is much more eschatological in feel, with the heavens literally being "torn open" (Greek, schizomenous; the KJV "heavens opened" does not convey this adequately. "The heavens were opened unto him" of Matthew 3:16 KJV is a good translation, since in the Greek the word is the more neutral ēneōichthēsan.

Of course the striking difference is that the voice of God in Matthew 3:17 says the familiar "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." In fact, this is so familiar (because of the Transfiguration experience and perhaps because of the canonical First Vision account?) that many readers do not realize that Mark 1:11 reads "Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased," which is also the reading of Luke 3:22.  In short, in Mark and Luke, God proclaims to Jesus that he is the Son of God, and only in Matthew does the voice witness this to JBap or perhaps to others standing by.

Temptations of Jesus (4:1–11; cf. Mark 1:12–13)

At Wadi Qelt in the Judean Wilderness
Note the brevity of the Marcan account, which does not relate the three specific tests. Also, always remember that the KJV's "temptation" and "tempt" and renderings of the Greek peirasmos and peirazō, which mean tests/trials or test/try as much as they do temptation/tempt.

The tests deal with physical needs, Jesus' identity as the Son of God, and Jesus' status as the true king (which makes Satan's attempt to "give" him the kingdoms of the earth rather ironic). Although I have not really focused on Lucan redaction here, the Third Gospel interestingly inverts the last two tests (Luke 4:1–13).  As a result, in Matthew the reader is left thinking of Jesus as the True King, while in Luke she or he thinks of Jesus as the Son of God.

Jesus Begins His Galilean Ministry (4:12–17; cf. Mark 1:14–15)

Matthew significantly expands Mark's simply summary of Jesus' coming to Galilee to preach the gospel by introducing a formula quotation, here Isaiah 9:1–2.  Notice that in both Mark and Matthew, the pre-Easter "good news" is the coming of the Kingdom. It is not until Easter that the definition of "gospel" becomes the good news that Jesus has made salvation possible.

Jesus Calls His First Disciples (4:18–22)

We'll delay a discussion of this until lesson 6 and Luke 5.

Jesus Ministers to Crowds (4:23–25)

This is the first example of a Matthean summary, a form that appears often at the transition between narrative and discourse blocks or between sections. And here it is significant that the first references to miracles in Matthew are not to a discrete miracle story (like casting out a devil in Mark 1:23-27 or water to wine in John 2:1-11) but is simply a summary statement of the kind of miracles Jesus performed. For reasons we will see, Matthew delays a description of the first miracle story until after the Sermon on the Mount.  

Here I do have pre-written stuff to bother you with:

 From The Miracles of Jesus, 131.

Another way that the evangelists describe the miracles of Jesus can be found in another distinct literary form, the summary.  The first example of this in the Synoptics occurs at the end of a busy day of preaching and healing in Capernaum that was perhaps intended as a paradigm of the work of Jesus: “And at even, when the sun did set, they brought unto him all that were diseased, and them that were possessed with devils.  And all the city was gathered together at the door. And he healed many that were sick of divers diseases, and cast out many devils; and suffered not the devils to speak, because they knew him” (Mark 1:32–34).  Such summaries tend to describe groups, not individuals, and types of miracles performed, not particular cases. 
Thirteen such summations appear in the four gospels, but the greatest number in a single gospel, 10, occurs in the gospel of Matthew, which regularly uses summaries at the beginning or end of sections of his text or at pivotal transition points.  Matthean summaries direct the focus of attention on Jesus, not the sick persons or crowds, and often pair Jesus’ miracle-working with his preaching and teaching ministry, though for Matthew miraculous deeds take less priority than the power of the word (e.g., Matthew 4:23–25; 9:35–38).[1]  Perhaps the most powerful Matthean summary is that gospel’s restatement of the Marcan summary of the paradigmatic day at Capernaum, which is made theologically more meaningful by Matthew’s linking it with a formula quotation from Isaiah 53:4, “When the even was come, they brought unto him many that were possessed with devils: and he cast out the spirits with his word, and healed all that were sick: That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses.” (Matthew 8:16–17, emphasis added).

[1]Gerhardsson, Mighty Acts of Jesus, 20–24.

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