Sunday, August 26, 2012


About one year ago I started leading a small group of Christians in the Milwaukee area through a study of Matthew's gospel. My wife and I hosted this small group once a week, for two hours of study each time, with a couple hours prior to, and afterward, to enjoy plenty of fellowship together. The whole experience has been a real blessing to my wife and I, and we feel very fortunate that God brought together such a great group of people. But as of last week, when we finished chapter seven of Matthew, which is the end of Jesus' "Sermon on the Mount", the time had come for our group to 'shift gears' a bit.  

My wife and I are expecting our first child, Jadon Enoch, to come into the world any day now (literally any day now, because my wife is already five days past her due date), and my older brother will be taking the responsibility of leading our small group for at least the next few months. Consequently, this has freed up a little bit of time for me to start this blog! I've had a number of people ask me to post my notes and thoughts on a blog of some sort, and so I decided to just bite the bullet and learn how to get this blog going.

For my first post, I thought I'd start off a bit light, beginning where our study group started in Matthew's Gospel. Of course, I don't intend every blog post to be about Matthew's gospel, because I come across all sorts of interesting insights from scholars as I do my own studies each week, and on top of that, I run into enough interesting people to spark up conversations and get their insights as well. My hope is that over time this blog will become the home of many insights to help spark many more conversations and insights!
With all of that in mind, let's begin with some stuff concerning Matthew's gospel.
I suppose it would be cliche to say that Matthew's gospel is a very unique gospel. Of course it is. It's a gospel recorded centuries ago, to a specific audience, for a specific purpose, and based on internal evidence alone, it's obviously different than the other three gospels. But different in what way? Well, the beginning and ending is different. Matthew begins with a genealogy, while the other three don't. Matthew ends with a "Great Commission", and the others don't. Matthew structures his gospel around five "pillars" of dialog from the mouth of Jesus, which no other gospel does. But there's a lot more than just these cursory observations needing to be discussed if a definitive conclusion to the question is to be reached. Such questions as 'Who was Matthew's intended audience?' and 'Was there any central theme to his gospel?' need to be addressed first.

According to R. T. France, in his commentary on The Gospel of Matthew, there is an answer to the question about the central theme of Matthew's gospel. He writes: 
I have argued… that the central theme of Matthew’s gospel is “fulfillment.” The opening genealogy is designed to portray the coming of the Messiah as the climax of the history of God’s people… The opening of the book thus sets the tone for Matthew’s whole gospel. The UBS Greek New Testament lists fifty-four direct citations of the OT in Matthew and a further 262 “allusions and verbal parallels,” and that is a conservative figure based only on the most widely recognized allusions.

This “typological” understanding of OT scripture, which is widely deployed in the NT (notably in the Letter to the Hebrews) finds one of its most enthusiastic exponents in the author of the first gospel. It is thus for Matthew not only the explicitly predictive portions of the OT that can be seen to be “fulfilled” in Jesus, but also its historical characters, its narratives, and its cultic patterns.1 
Peter Leithart has also made a valuable contribution to this discussion of Matthew's central theme, except, far from providing a full-length commentary as France did, Leithart just focuses heavily upon the typological relationship between Israel and Jesus. In other words, according to Leithart, certain historical characters, narratives, and cultic patterns of Israel's history find fulfillment in the life of Jesus, which makes Matthew's gospel not just a gospel about Jesus, but a gospel about Jesus the faithful "Son" of God which Israel failed to be. And there seems to be something to these great insights from Leithart and France, but additional explanation will have to be saved for a future post. And Lord-willing, by the time the next post is ready, I'll be sitting in my office, reviewing my notes while holding my newborn son.

1.  R. T. France, The Gospel of Matthew (New International Commentary on the New Testament) [Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.; Grand Rapids, MI, 2007] p. 10

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