Matthew Part Two: Deep Dive
THE OLD TESTAMENT IN THE NEW
At times the New Testament and Old Testament are considered to be separate, and unrelated entities. When this occurs we can fall into the trap of not using the word of God to its full potential. Yes, we acknowledge that the NT (New Testament) and OT (Old Testament) are different writings, but we also need to come to terms with what Paul writes in 2 Timothy 3:16; “all scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.”
If we read the OT and NT concerning each other, we cannot deny the ability they have in helping each other be unpackaged and implemented in our lives.
Matthew does this perfectly. He draws together Israel’s sacred history with the person of Jesus Christ in such an elegant way that it could be considered an art form. Richard B. Hays in his book Reading Backwards states, “Christian interpreters lulled by the familiarity with Matthew’s Gospel may not fully appreciate the immense scope of the Christological assertions made at every turn by Matthew.” Most of us know a large amount of the Jesus story, we can overlook and almost take for granted the work Matthew has done in emphatically painting Jesus as the Messiah - as ‘The One’ we have been waiting for.
The main way that Matthew links the NT to the OT is by ‘revealing’ many prophecies from the OT as now being fulfilled by the person and actions of Jesus Christ. Matthew does so in a way that scholars now refer to as his ‘formula quotations’. These ‘formula quotations’ are a distinct characteristic that is repeated in the Gospel of Matthew. Matthew will narrate a certain event and then declare something along the lines of: “this was to fulfil what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah…" and then proceed to quote the OT passage.
Such formula quotations occur ten times in the book of Matthew. They can be found at 1:22, 2:5, 2:15, 2:17, 2:23, 8:17, 12:17, 13:35, 21:4, and 27:9. There are also five more similar instances found in 3:3, 11:10, 13:14-15, 15:7-9, and 21:42.
Such passages are a clear emphasis of Matthew's interest in the theme of fulfilled prophecy. In a way, Matthew reorganises the vast history of Israel using the prophets as a mouthpiece of God to predict the events and life of Jesus Christ.
In other words, for the readers at the time it was a giant red arrow pointing to Jesus like, "this is the guy! This is the one we've been waiting for! He's right there! P.S did I say Jesus is the messiah? Because He is!"
The Eternal Christ
Now Matthew also has a more subtle way of declaring the divinity of Jesus Christ that can be easily missed. Matthew does so through the poetic device known as metalepsis. Metalepsis is a technique where a fragment of a larger context is quoted, calling the reader to uncover the broader context and apply its meaning to the context at hand.
For example, we can see in Matthew 2:15b it says,
"This was to fulfil what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, "Out of Egypt I called my son."
This is a direct reference to the passage in Hosea 11:1-11 which speaks of God redeeming the Israelites out of Egypt. It is an example of how regardless of Israel's unfaithfulness God's love continues to persist. So when we hold this scriptural reference in its context, we bring such theological context and apply it to the context at hand - the person of Jesus Christ. Just as in Hosea, Jesus Christ is now the one who continues to love not only through Israel’s unfaithfulness but now also the unfaithfulness of all humanity.
An understanding and awareness of the Old Testament will revolutionise how you view the person of Jesus Christ.
Just as the New Testament helps us read the Old Testament, the Old Testament helps us read the New Testament. It not only reveals the beauty of Matthew’s writing but also reveals to us the person of Jesus Christ in a way we could never have imagined.
Reading Backwards – Richard B. Hays
Matthew – D.A. Carson
The Gospel of Matthew – R.T. France