Obedient Son: Deuteronomy and Christology in the Gospel of Matthew
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This study argues that sonship and obedience are prominent and related themes in the Gospel of Matthew, and the Evangelist’s christological articulation of obedient sonship is drawn from the calling of Israel to be Yahweh’s obedient son in Deuteronomy. Thus, it is argued that a consideration of Israel’s scriptural traditions is necessary to understand most fully Matthew’s teaching of the sonship of Jesus. Chapter 1 explores Matthew’s use of the OT and, building on the work of Richard Hays, outlines a method for identifying subtle intertextual allusions, and suggests a composition criticism approach to Matthew that focuses on the gospel as a literary and redactional whole. Chapter 2 seeks to establish the historical plausibility for the claim that Matthew was heavily indebted to Deuteronomy by tracing the circulation and use of Deuteronomy in general in ancient Jewish and Christian literature. The purpose of this chapter is to provide a foundation for the claim that Deuteronomy would likely have been an important text for Matthew. Chapter 3 then focuses on Deuteronomy, tracing the covenantal context for the themes of sonship and obedience. It is argued that the sonship of Israel is a key motif in Deuteronomy, and this sonship was predicated on obedience. Key texts include Deut 1; 8; 14; 21; 32, and the themes of love, election, and inheritance are also considered. Chapter 4 traces the influence of Deuteronomy under the specific rubric of obedient sonship through ancient Jewish and Christian literature, including texts which Matthew may have known. Here it is argued that obedient sonship, in association with Deuteronomic themes, is prominent in a wide range of texts. Chapters 5–7 focus specifically on Matthew. It is argued in chapter 5 that the Temptation Narrative (Matt 4.1–11), the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5–7), and the accusation that Jesus was a glutton and a drunkard (Matt 11.16–19) all demonstrate rather strong resonances with Deuteronomy and the Deuteronomic call to obedient sonship. Chapter 6 proposes two significant possibilities: that the baptism of Jesus (Matt 3.13–17) and the Transfiguration (Matt 17.1–21) may also be influenced by the Deuteronomic perspective on sonship. Finally, chapter 7 suggests three additional clusters of texts that may also indicate Deuteronomy’s filial influence on Matthew: Matt 1.20; 12.46–50; 21.28–22.14. Chapter 8 offers a conclusion and synthesis, arguing that chapters 1–4 provide the foundation for the claims in chapters 5–7. It is concluded that the Deuteronomic teaching of obedient sonship was quite pervasive in the ancient world, and there is an historically plausible case to be made that Matthew was influenced by this tradition. However, it is also argued that Matthew has appropriated the Deuteronomic concept of obedient sonship in unique ways, applying it messianically to the person of Jesus as the New Israel, and consequently also to the disciples of Jesus, who are able to be a part of God’s family through Jesus, the preeminently obedient son.