Observation of celestial phenomena in the Gospel of Matthew.
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A close reading of the gospel of Matthew highlights the striking reports of the observation of distinct celestial phenomena in the narrative (e.g. 2.1-12; 3.16-17; 17.5; 24.29-31). However, the motif of celestial phenomena in Matthew lacks a full or even comprehensive investigation. These have been addressed only in part both in journal articles and in individual chapters of various books. Looking at these celestial phenomena as interrelated parts of the evangelist’s wide theological perspective in the gospel, this study explores Matthew’s description of these occurrences in relation to the contemporary perspective on celestial phenomena and astrological application. It seeks to assess what meaning and significance the Matthean representation of celestial phenomena was designed to have in the process of the gospel narrative and for the readership. In so doing, this study discusses the conception of heaven and the attitude towards celestial phenomena in the Graeco-Roman world in the Second Temple period, the Sitz im Leben of the Matthean community, and the significance of the heaven motif in the gospel narrative, as preliminaries to the investigation of Matthew’s portrayal of celestial phenomena. This study will show that the motif of celestial phenomena in Matthew carefully crafted and thoughtfully arranged plays a significant role in authenticating the identity of Jesus.