Category Archives: Matthew

Two Asses and Jesus (Matthew 21.2)

donkey3
Really, Joel? That’s the title you chose to go with? #clickbait

This is another quick post (mainly for memory’s sake).

In Mark 11.2, Jesus commands his disciples to go and get a colt. Matthew sees this, but expands this passage. In Matthew 21.2, Jesus commands the disciples to get the colt and the mother. But, Matthew (21.5-6) goes further and ties this to Zechariah 9.9. I believe the Hebrew assigns the gender to the colt as male.

So, here’s the thing. Matthew has 2 donkeys, one female and one male. This has caused some issues, not in the least with those who need every account to jive with the next. Did Mark forget one or did Matthew add one? If Matthew added one, is it because he can’t read the Hebrew of Zechariah correctly?

What if he was slipping one by? I mean, maybe his readers knew it (Luke didn’t) but maybe some in his ekklesia-synagogue did. So, where could he have received the image from?

What about Judges in the Old Greek, before kaige revisionism?

In Judges 5.10 (LXX, B), we read,

ἐπιβεβηκότες ἐπὶ ὄνου θηλείας μεσημβρίας, καθήμενοι ἐπὶ κριτηρίου καὶ πορευόμενοι ἐπὶ ὁδοὺς συνέδρων ἐφʼ ὁδῷ.

Those going upon a she-ass at noon, those seated upon a judgment seat, and those going upon the roads of councilors along the way: (Lexham)

There is a/the female donkey.

Could the time have been noon? Not sure, as it doesn’t say. Of course, noon was a time of Temple activity so we can speculate. Mark 11.11 does say the hour was late, but does this mean time or the “Jesus Hour,” that invisible number indicating the hour of the death of Jesus?

What else do we need? A judge. Does Jesus act as Judge (in Matthew) in anyway? Matthew 25 does something like that. Crowds of “councilors” are also present. Read the whole of Deborah’s song and apply it to the mission of Jesus (in the Gospels). See if you can find any other connection.

I am not suggesting that this is exactly the right answer, but I just find the connection interesting.

The (high) role of Mary in P.Oxy. 2 (P1)?, or Holy Protestant Heresy, Pope Peter!

Jones notes,

That early Christians continued to recognize Mary as the one who gave birth to Jesus is evidenced in a variety of early Christian texts and artifacts. One example is the ΧΜΓ symbol, probably signifying Χ(ριστὸς ὁ ἐκ) Μ(αρίας) Γ(εννηθείς) (“Christ, the one born of Mary”).

The Mysterious Flyleaf of P.Oxy. 2 (P1): An Odd Gospel Title – Brice C. Jones.

But why? Well… it proposes this as connected to the oldest version of the Gospel of Matthew.

So… if he is correct… then Jesus and the Gospel are connected to Mary… and Mary to the gospel story.

Holy Protestant Heresy, Pope Peter!

Joel Willitts 2, Warren Carter 1 (Jesus is Lord, Caesar is Not @ivpacademic)

I’ve never been one to take anything wholesale, including the theories and/or hypotheses I agree with.1 So, when it comes to reading Warren Carter, I do have my problems with him. I have thus found something more to agree with Joel Willitts than the awesomeness of his first name.

Willitts is sympathetic to Carter (84) although changes the direction of Carter’s Empire away from Rome to that-which-is-not-Jesus’s. The essayist displays Carter’s genius easily enough, and then precedes to challenge the extent to which the scholar has taken his conclusions. I must agree with many of the points in Willitts’ evaluation, including the all or nothing approach Carter seems to employ. To suggest Matthew is writing directly against the Empire from start to stop is to first deny Markan priority and second the historicity of the person of Jesus. Is Jesus just a literary vehicle for Matthew? Hardly. Further, as Matthew pulls a great deal from Mark, but loosens the anti-imperialist message found in that Gospel, I would argue Matthew’s main goal is not Rome, but Antioch.

I will not bore you with anything else, saving that for the review later; however, I must engage one area, and explain why I think Carter has at least one point in this round. Willitts only engages Carter and not Carter’s foundation. The Essayist does speak to Carter’s methodology (85–9) and does so without polemical swipes. However, when speaking about the “cultural intertextuality” (what I have called the memetext) and “hidden transcripts,” Willitts only engages Carter and not the originator of those concepts. The essential concept to investigate is Scott’s idea of transcripts, but throughout this entire essay, Scott is not mentioned. Unfortunately, this doesn’t allow me to completely agree with Willitts, but the points Willitts raises must force the Empire Critic to carefully reexamine any full reliance upon Carter’s methodology. The role of the hidden transcript must not be underplayed, as it seems Willitts has done.2

Another point I will raise is Willitts’ objection to the use of Matthew’ genealogy in Carter’s empire critical studies (85). A genealogy tracing back to David and then to Abraham does not mean it is not related to Rome. What better way to treat Rome as a temporary plaything of long dead gods than to toss it aside by highlighting the promises made to King David, but further, before time really began, back to Abraham? Thus, it is not the lineage of the Flavians that matter, but the linage of a conquered people rescued always from the garbage dumps of history. Unfortunately, we must be skeptical here, as the genealogy is just as likely to point to the doubt many may have had in Jesus as a rightful messiah. Further, I would personally argue that the genealogy argues more for continuity with David and Abraham for the Church rather than have anything to do with either Rome or Jesus himself. Yet, the anti-Rome flavor of it remains.

There is rarely, anymore, a book I want to savor, to take apart piece by tender piece. This one, however, is one of them.

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  1. Well, except for the Farrer-Goulder Law. I take that wholesale because it’s true.
  2. I have looked ahead, into Pinter’s essay on Luke, to discover a mention there. Therefore, I want to save any discussion on the role of these transcripts for such a time.

The Prosperity Gospel Demeans the Christmas Story

christmas 2007
Image by paparutzi via Flickr

“The church’s life already centers around the wealthy and those with influence, those at the center on our society. Seminaries that cooperate with prosperity ministries remain complicit in working against the spirit of Christmas. Christmas, the Holidays, Thanksgiving, these are not just times to be giving charity. Charity is the last thing on Luke’s and Matthew’s mind when they told the birth story of Yeshua the Messiah.

To see more, read God is Santa Claus: How the Prosperity Gospel Poison the Spirit of Christmas

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Knowing Jesus Through the Old Testament – Personal Thoughts

I apologize for the delay for this final post. It’s the time of year for academic conferences. I just got back from a consultation on the use of Bible software in the classroom and pastorate.

This is the third and final post in my series on Christopher J. H. Wright’s Knowing Jesus Through the Old Testament from IVP-Academic. You can find my posts on the author and contents: here and here. In this post, I will give my personal thoughts on the book.

First, I will start with the good. I like the book’s focus on story. In a sense, the first chapter of the book does on a much smaller scale what John Goldingay does in the first volume of his massive three volume set Old Testament Theology. Wright begins by tracing out the story of Israel up to the point of the New Testament. I was also happy to see that he includes a section on what he calls the “intertestamental period” – Protestant terminology. I appreciated this especially in light of the fact that one of the things I thought didn’t work in Goldingay’s Old Testament Theology (vol. 1) was his lack of focus on this time period. In my opinion, the story doesn’t flow as well without reference to this time period.

I also appreciated Wright’s focus on the fact that the story of Israel is unique, but at the same time familiar. In other words, there is obviously something special going on in the history of Israel according to the authors of the Old Testament; however, the Old Testament also has a great deal to say about God being at work among the nations. Wright brings into the discussion Amos 9:7, which is a text that I always like to make mention of when teaching Exodus.

Second, I like that Wright takes a broader approach to the concept of promise-fulfillment. He makes a clear distinction between promise and prediction, which I think is helpful. He does this in connection to acknowledging the strange way that Matthew sometimes cites Old Testament passages.  Wright doesn’t go as far as someone like Peter Enns in situating Matthew’s use of Old Testament texts within Second Temple Jewish interpretation. But, he does at least make readers aware that the New Testament authors were handling Old Testament texts differently than many modern readers would and that prediction is not the best way to think about this. I do, however, wish he would have done something with the word “fulfillment” as well, though I’m not sure what word he might have used.

Third, I appreciated that Wright discusses at length the title “Son of God.” I don’t think most people I teach realize the background of this title. Learning that Israel is called God’s “son” in the Old Testament (e.g. Hos. 11:1) adds a whole new layer of depth to this title for many people that I teach, in both parish and undergraduate contexts, since they typically associate this title only with Jesus’s divinity. Wright’s discussion of this title spans about 30 pages and would be beneficial reading for many people.

In terms of negatives, I would mention two. First, the book is a bit light on critical scholarship. For example, in the section on the “inter-testamental period” Wright states:

The canonical history of the Old Testament comes to an end in the mid-fifth century, with Malachi, Ezra, and Nehemiah (p. 24).

Unless I missed it, Wright doesn’t make mention of the fact that many believe Daniel to be the latest book in the Old Testament. I realize, of course, that this may not be widely accepted by evangelicals and that, even if this is the case, Daniel is set during the Babylonian exile. Yet a brief nod to critical scholarship, at least acknowledging differences over the dating of Daniel, might have been helpful.

Second, I also didn’t like that Wright steers clear of Matthew 2:23. He steers clear of it on p. 56 and comes back to it briefly on p. 104. But, I don’t think he ever really does a good job of dealing with the text. I think this is one of the things I appreciate the most about Peter Enns’s Inspiration and Incarnation, namely he doesn’t steer clear of texts that seem exceptional, though this did lead him in a direction that many evangelicals didn’t like.

Overall, I would recommend Knowing Jesus Through the Old Testament. The positive aspects of the book far outweigh the negative ones. If, however, you are looking for something more thorough, I would recommend John Goldingay’s Old Testament Theology (vol. 1) – also from IVP-Academic. He gives much more on the story and includes a final chapter attempting to do something like what Wright has done in his entire book.

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