1. Jesus-as-Israel in Christian Interpretation
In the Gospel of Matthew… Jesus is Israel, and Israel is Jesus… Because Old Testament Israel had not fulfilled its calling and righteousness had not sprung forth before all nations… God himself acted to place on earth the one who is both truly Israel and Israel’s king so that the righteousness of his kingdom would be established…. [T]he church, the people of God… are seen here as the remnant of Israel or as true Israel.
In light of recent events like the bouts of violence directed against Jews and the resurgence of new-Nazism in the West, many have the palpable sense that anti-Semitism is on the rise. The impact of trends like these is not completely lost on the field of New Testament studies…. In earlier days, gospels scholars would unflinchingly sling language suggesting that the church had radically supplanted Israel as the people of God…. In recent decades Matthew has been lumped in among the rouge’s gallery of those who stand contra Judaeos. This is not a trivial charge, as we are reminded in light of the aforementioned contemporary developments…. [Piotrowski’s] volume forces us to ask afresh… “If Christ is the solution, then what did early Christianity think the problem was?” How we answer this question is not unrelated to the tensions inherent in the task of doing post-Holocaust New Testament Theology. Sometimes it takes a groundbreaking project to get us to ask the important questions afresh. Perhaps this volume is just such a project. I suspect it may be.10
2. Israel and the Church in Matthew
3. Individuals and Israel in Matthew and Midrash
[God] said to Abraham our father, “Go out and tread the path before your children.” One finds that all that was written of our father Abraham was written of his children. Of Abraham it is written, “There was a famine (רעב) in the land” [Gen 12:10]; of Israel it is written, “For these two [years] the famine (הרעב)…” [45:6]. Of Abraham it is written, “And Abram went down to Egypt (מצרימה …וירד)” [12:10]; of Israel it is written, “Our ancestors went down to Egypt (מצרימה …וירדו)” [Num 20:15]. Of Abraham it is written, “To sojourn (לגור) there” [Gen 12:10]; of Israel it is written, “We have come to sojourn (לגור) in the land” [47:4]…. Of Abraham it is written, “Say that you are my sister, that it may go well (ייטב) with me” [12:13]; of Israel it is written, “God dealt well (וייטב) with the midwives” [Exod 1:20]. Of Abraham it is written, “As Abram came to (כבוא) Egypt” [Gen 12:14]; of Israel it is written, “These are the names of the sons of Israel who came to (הבאים) Egypt” [Exod 1:1]. Of Abraham it is written, “Abram was very rich with cattle, with silver, and with gold (בכסף ובזהב)” [Gen 13:2]; of Israel it is written, “[God] brought them out with silver and gold (בכסף וזהב)” [Ps 105:37]. Of Abraham it is written, “Pharaoh gave men orders concerning him, and they sent him out (וישׁלחו אתו)” [Gen 12:20]; of Israel it is written, “The Egyptians were urgent with the people to send them out (לשׁלחם)” [Exod 12:33]. Of Abraham it is written, “He went on his journeys (למסעיו)” [Gen 13:3]; of Israel it is written, “These are the journeys of (מסעי) the children of Israel” [Num 33:1].24(GenR 40:6)
Abraham lies in order to save his own life, for which he is ready to abandon his wife. The midwives, in contrast to Abraham, fool the king… in order to save the lives of the Hebrew male newborns…. In his distress, Abraham does not rely on God’s help, in contrast to the midwives who fear God …. Pharaoh is the one who favors Abraham, and improves his financial position, while it is God who favors the midwives. The contrast between the two stories emphasizes once again Abraham’s undignified behavior.
Conflicts of Interest
All translations are my own unless otherwise noted.
Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, 134–35 in (Roberts and Donaldson 1994), 1.267.
Clement, The Instructor 2.8 in Ante-Nicene Fathers, 2.256.
Lactantius, The Divine Institutes 4.20, in Ante-Nicene Fathers, 7.123.
Augustine, On the Psalms 114.3 in (Schaff 1994, 8.550).
See e.g., (Schniewind 1960, p. 220; Trilling 1964, pp. 95–96, 219, passim; Caird 1965, p. 7; Strecker 1966, p. 111; Pesch 1967, p. 412; Gibbs 1968, pp. 38–39); Rev. (Kirk and Obach 1978, pp. 127–30; Frankemölle 1984, p. 195; France 1985, p. 85; Scott 1989, pp. 241–42; Menninger 1994, pp. 135–57; McKnight 1999, p. 95; Martens 2000, pp. 158–62; Schnackenburg 2002, pp. 25, 212; Huizenga 2005, p. 54; Kennedy 2008, p. 225; Osbourne 2010, p. 791; Theophilos 2012, p. 223; White 2014, p. 374; Leithart 2017, passim, pp. 7–16; Barret 2020, pp. 110–12).
This verse does not describe the exiles’ return from Babylon, but rather God’s journey to Jerusalem. See (Baltzer 2001, p. 51; Blenkinsopp 2002, p. 181; Goldingay 2005, p. 11). Piotrowski [New David, 186] acknowledges this, but also rightly notes that this wilderness “way” (דרך/ ὁδός) will also be the means of the exiles’ return later in Deutero-Isaiah (cf. Isa 42:16; 43:16; 49:9, 11).
(Piotrowski 2016, pp. 191, 203–03) New David. Why Jesus should need to “respond” to John’s call to “repent” in Matt 3:2 is unclear.
For Matthew’s other references to ethnic Israel cf. Matt 2:4, 6; 4:16, 23; 9:35; 13:15; 15:8; 21:23; 26:3, 5, 47; 27:1, 25, 64. For the “people” of 1:21 limited to Jews, see (Saldarini 1994, p. 29; Overman 1996, p. 36; Sim 1998, p. 251; Cousland 2002, p. 85; Repschinski 2006, pp. 255–56; Willitts 2007, p. 109; Baxter 2012, pp. 132–33).
Matthew’s magi (Matt 2:1–12) are also used to argue that Gentiles are among Jesus’ “people.” For instance, according to Piotrowski [New David, 38], the magi’s encounter with Jesus shows “the reader is justified in understanding ‘his people’ as whosoever follows and obeys Jesus be they Jew or Gentile.” Cf. Frankemölle, Jahwe, 211–18; Meier, Matthew, 12; Davies and Allison, Matthew, 1:210. However, the magi do not “obey” Jesus—one wonders what a baby could say for the magi to obey—nor do they “follow” him; they go back to “their [own] country” (χώραν αὐτῶν; 2:12). More, the magi underscore a distinction between themselves and Israel when they ask, “Where is he who is born king of the Jews?” (2:2)—they do not ask for “our king.”
Matthew may also envision the whole of biblically promised “land of Israel” (Matt 2:20-21), which included areas “beyond the Jordan” (see Joshua 17-18), thereby limiting Jesus’ followership to Jews. See (Konradt 2014, p. 51).
[(Levine 1988), p. 140] contrasts the Canaanite’s use of “son of David” (15:22) with the title’s next use by two blind Jews who, after being healed, “followed him” (ἠκολούθησαν αὐτῷ; 20:34).
The proposal [e.g., Gnilka, Matthäusevangelium, 2.171–72] that the disciples condemn, rather than govern, the twelve tribes of Israel falters in several ways. First, Jesus describes the disciples judging at the “regeneration” (παλιγγενεσίᾳ), which suggests a time after condemnation. Second, Jesus says that Gentiles will “condemn” (κατακρινοῦσιν) those in his own generation at the eschatological judgment (Matt 12:41–42)—condemning the unfaithful within Israel is not a task for the Jewish disciples (cf. Lk 11:32; 22:28–30). Third, Jesus’ references to “Son of Man” and “thrones” recalls the divine council in Daniel 7:9–27, which describes the “holy ones of the Most High” governing eschatological Israel; cf. Davies and Allison, Matthew, 3.56.
Based on ἔθνει in 21:43, (Stanton 1992) prefers “new people” for the church, rather than “new Israel.” Stanton’s term is also imprecise since Matthew never calls the ἔθνει “new.”
(Kynes 1991, p. 20). Kynes (pp. 172, 200–3) also refers to Jesus as the “true Israel.”
I posit no dependent relationship between Matthew and Genesis Rabbah. However, some see rabbinic literature responding to Christian ideas. [(Neusner 1991), p. 169] reads the discourse about Abraham and Israel in the above passage (GenR 40:6) as a rabbinic “refutation” of the Christian claim to be “Israel ‘after the spirit.’” While I find a lack of concrete evidence for this view, it is certainly possible that, at times, the rabbis responded to Christian theology. See. e.g., (Grypeou and Spurling 2009).
Hebrew from (Theodor and Albeck 1965), 1.385–86.
For metalepsis elsewhere in Genesis Rabbah, see (Schaser 2017, pp. 107–32).
Per (Holtz 1984, p. 191), “Sometimes the Midrash will only quote the first section of the biblical verse, but its concern may be with the end of the verse, or the verse that follows it.”
See, e.g., (Soares Prabhu 1976, pp. 261–62).
- Aguzzi, Steven D. 2018. Israel, the Church, and Millenarianism: A Way Beyond Replacement Theology. Oxon and New York: Routledge. [Google Scholar]
- Bakhos, Carol. 2014. The Family of Abraham: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Interpretations. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. [Google Scholar]
- Bakhos, Carol. 2016. The Family of Abraham in Genesis Rabbah. In Genesis Rabbah in Text and Context. Texte und Studien zum antiken Judentum 166. Edited by Sarit Kattan Gribetz, David M. Grossberg, Martha Himmelfarb and Peter Schäfer. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, pp. 115–27. [Google Scholar]
- Baltzer. 2001. Deutero-Isaiah: A Commentary on Isaiah 40–55. Translated by Margaret Kohl. Hermeneia. Minneapolis: Fortress Press. [Google Scholar]
- Barret, Matthew. 2020. Canon, Covenant and Christology: Rethinking Jesus and the Scriptures of Israel. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press. [Google Scholar]
- Baxter, Wayne. 2012. Israel’s Only Shepherd: Matthew’s Shepherd Motif and His Social Setting. Library of New Testament Studies 457. London: T&T Clark. [Google Scholar]
- Blenkinsopp, Joseph. 2002. Isaiah 40–55. Anchor Yale Bible Commentaries 19A. New York: Doubleday. [Google Scholar]
- Brettler, Marc Zvi. 1995. The Creation of History in Ancient Israel. New York: Routledge. [Google Scholar]
- Brown, Raymond E. 1977. The Birth of the Messiah: A Commentary on the Infancy Narratives in Matthew and Luke. New York: Doubleday. [Google Scholar]
- Caird, George Bradford. 1965. Jesus and the Jewish Nation. London: Athlone Press. [Google Scholar]
- Cousland, J. R. C. 2002. The Crowds in the Gospel of Matthew. Leiden: Brill. [Google Scholar]
- Davies, W. D., and Dale C. Allison Jr. 1988–97. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel according to Saint Matthew. International Critical Commentaries. London: T&T Clark, 3 volumes. [Google Scholar]
- Eubank, Nathan. 2013. Wages of Cross-bearing and Debt of Sin: The Economy of Heaven in Matthew’s Gospel. Beihefte zur Zeitschrift für die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft 196. Berlin: De Gruyter. [Google Scholar]
- France, R. T. 1985. Matthew. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries. Leicester: InterVarsity Press. [Google Scholar]
- France, R. T. 2010. The Gospel of Matthew. The New International Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. [Google Scholar]
- Frankemölle, Hubert. 1984. Jahwe-Bund und Kirche Christi: Studien zur Form und Traditionsgeschichte des “Evangeliums” nach Matthäus, 2nd ed. Neutestamentliche Abhandlungen 10. Münster: Aschendorff. [Google Scholar]
- Garbe, Gernot. 2005. Der Hirte Israels: Eine Untersuchung zur Israeltheologie des Matthäusevangeliums. Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener Verlag. [Google Scholar]
- Gaston, Lloyd. 1975. The Messiah of Israel as Teacher of the Gentiles: The Setting of Matthew’s Christology. Interpretation 29: 24–40. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Gibbs, James M. 1968. The Son of God as the Torah Incarnate in Matthew. In Studia Evangelica IV. Edited by F. L. Cross. Berlin: Akademie-Verlag, pp. 38–46. [Google Scholar]
- Gnilka, Joachim. 1992. Das Matthäusevangelium, 2nd ed. Herders theologischer Kommentar zum Neuen Testament. Freiburg: Verlag Herder, 2 volumes. [Google Scholar]
- Goldingay, John. 2005. The Message of Isaiah 40–55: A Literary-Theological Commentary. London: T&T Clark. [Google Scholar]
- Grypeou, Emmanouela, and Helen Spurling, eds. 2009. The Exegetical Encounter between Jews and Christians in Late Antiquity. Jewish and Christian Perspectives 18. Leiden: Brill. [Google Scholar]
- Gundry, Robert H. 1994. Matthew: A Commentary on His Handbook for a Mixed Church under Persecution, 2nd ed. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. [Google Scholar]
- Hagner, Donald A. 1993. Matthew 1–13. Word Biblical Commentary 33A. Dallas: Word Books. [Google Scholar]
- Hare, Douglas R. A. 1967. The Theme of Persecution of Christians in the Gospel according to Matthew. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. [Google Scholar]
- Hare, Douglas R. A. 1993. Matthew. Interpretation. Louisville: John Knox Press. [Google Scholar]
- Harrington, Daniel J. 1991. Matthew. Sacra Pagina 1. Collegeville: Liturgical Press. [Google Scholar]
- Hays, Richard B. 1993. Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of Paul: Abstract. In Paul and the Scriptures of Israel. Edited by Craig A. Evans and James A. Sanders. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, pp. 42–46. [Google Scholar]
- Hays, Richard B. 2016. Echoes of Scripture in the Gospels. Waco: Baylor University Press. [Google Scholar]
- Holtz, Barry W. 1984. Midrash. In Back to the Sources: Reading the Classic Jewish Texts. Edited by Barry W. Holtz. New York: Simon & Schuster, pp. 177–212. [Google Scholar]
- Holwerda, David E. 1995. Jesus and Israel: One Covenant or Two? Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. [Google Scholar]
- Huizenga, Leroy Andrew. 2005. The Incarnation of the Servant: The ‘Suffering Servant’ and Matthean Christology. Horizons in Biblical Theology 27: 25–58. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Kennedy, Joel. 2008. The Recapitulation of Israel: Use of Israel’s History in Matthew 1:1–4:11. Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 2. Reihe 257. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. [Google Scholar]
- Kirk, Albert, and Robert E. Obach. 1978. A Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew. New York: Paulist Press. [Google Scholar]
- Konradt, Matthias. 2014. Israel, Church, and the Gentiles in the Gospel of Matthew. Translated by Kathleen Ess. Waco: Baylor University Press. [Google Scholar]
- Kugel, James L. 1983. Two Introductions to Midrash. Prooftexts 3: 131–55. [Google Scholar]
- Kynes, William L. 1991. A Christology of Solidarity: Jesus as the Representative of His People in Matthew. Lanham: University Press of America. [Google Scholar]
- Leithart, Peter J. 2017. The Gospel of Matthew Through New Eyes, Volume One: Jesus as Israel. Monroe: Athanasius Press. [Google Scholar]
- Levine, Amy-Jill. 1988. The Social and Ethnic Dimensions of Matthean Salvation History. Studies in the Bible and Early Christianity 14. Lewiston: Edwin Mellen Press. [Google Scholar]
- Luz, Ulrich. 2007. Matthew 1–7. Hermeneia. Minneapolis: Fortress Press. [Google Scholar]
- Martens, Allan W. 2000. “Produce Fruit Worthy of Repentance”: Parables of Judgment against the Jewish Religious Leaders and the Nation (Matt 21:28-22:14, par.; Luke 13:6–9). In The Challenge of Jesus’ Parables. Edited by Richard N. Longenecker. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, pp. 151–76. [Google Scholar]
- McKnight, Scot. 1999. A New Vision for Israel: The Teachings of Jesus in National Context. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. [Google Scholar]
- Meier, John P. 1980. Matthew. Collegeville: Liturgical Press. [Google Scholar]
- Meier, John P. 1991. The Vision of Matthew: Christ, Church, and Morality in the First Gospel. New York: Crossroad. [Google Scholar]
- Menninger, Richard E. 1994. Israel and the Church in the Gospel of Matthew. American University Studies 162. New York: Peter Lang. [Google Scholar]
- Neusner, Jacob. 1991. Confronting Creation: How Judaism Reads Genesis. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press. [Google Scholar]
- Osbourne, Grant R. 2010. Matthew. Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Zondervan. [Google Scholar]
- Overman, J. Andrew. 1996. Church and Community in Crisis: The Gospel According to Matthew. The New Testament in Context. Valley Forge: Trinity Press International. [Google Scholar]
- Perrin, Nicholas. 2016. Foreword. In Matthew’s New David at the End of Exile: A Socio-Rhetorical Study of Scriptural Quotations. Edited by Nicholas G. Piotrowski. Supplements to Novum Testamentum 170. Leiden: Brill, pp. XI–XIII. [Google Scholar]
- Pesch, Rudolf. 1967. Der Gottessohn im matthäschen Evansgelienprolog. Bibliotheca Sacra 48: 395–420. [Google Scholar]
- Piotrowski, Nicholas G. 2016. Matthew’s New David at the End of Exile: A Socio-Rhetorical Study of Scriptural Quotations. Supplements to Novum Testamentum 170. Leiden: Brill. [Google Scholar]
- Repschinski, Boris. 2006. For He Will Save His People from Their Sins: (Matthew 1:21): A Christology for Christian Jews. Catholic Biblical Quarterly 68: 248–67. [Google Scholar]
- Richardson, Peter. 1969. Israel in the Apostolic Church. Society for New Testament Studies Monograph Series 10. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. [Google Scholar]
- Roberts, Alexander, and James Donaldson, eds. 1994. The Ante-Nicene Fathers. Peabody: Hendrickson, 10 volumes. [Google Scholar]
- Saldarini, Anthony J. 1994. Matthew’s Christian-Jewish Community. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. [Google Scholar]
- Schaff, Phillip, ed. 1994. The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers. Peabody: Hendrickson, 14 volumes. [Google Scholar]
- Schaser, Nicholas J. 2017. Midrash and Metalepsis in Genesis Rabbah: A Reappraisal of Rabbinic Atomism. In From Creation to Redemption: Progressive Approaches to Midrash. Edited by W. David Nelson and Rivka Ulmer. Judaism in Context 20. Piscataway: Gorgias Press, pp. 107–32. [Google Scholar]
- Schnackenburg, Rudolf. 2002. The Gospel of Matthew. Translated by Robert R. Barr. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. [Google Scholar]
- Schniewind, Julius. 1960. Das Evangelium nach Matthäus. Das Neue Testament Deutsch. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. [Google Scholar]
- Schreiner, Patrick. 2019. Matthew, Disciple and Scribe: The First Gospel and Its Portrait of Jesus. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic. [Google Scholar]
- Scott, Bernard Brandon. 1989. Hear Then the Parable: A Commentary on the Parables of Jesus. Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress Press. [Google Scholar]
- Shanks Alexander, Elizabeth. 2006. Transmitting Mishnah: The Shaping Influence of Oral Tradition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. [Google Scholar]
- Sim, David C. 1998. The Gospel of Matthew and Christian Judaism: The History and Social Setting of the Matthean Community. Studies of the New Testament and Its World. Edinburgh: T&T Clark. [Google Scholar]
- Soares Prabhu, George M. 1976. The Formula Quotations in the Infancy Narrative of Matthew: An Inquiry into the Tradition History of Mt. 1–2. Analecta biblica 63. Rome: Biblical Institute Press. [Google Scholar]
- Sommer, Benjamin D. 2012. Concepts of Scriptural Language in Midrash. In Jewish Concepts of Scripture: A Comparative Introduction. Edited by Benjamin D. Sommer. New York: New York University Press, pp. 64–79. [Google Scholar]
- Stanton, Graham N. 1992. A Gospel for a New People: Studies in Matthew. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press. [Google Scholar]
- Stern, David. 1991. Parables in Midrash: Narrative and Exegesis in Rabbinic Literature. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. [Google Scholar]
- Strack, Hermann Leberecht, and Günter Stemberger. 1996. Introduction to the Talmud and Midrash, 2nd ed. Minneapolis: Fortress Press. [Google Scholar]
- Strecker, Georg. 1966. Der Weg der Gerechtigkeit: Untersuchung zur Theologie des Matthäus. Forschungen zur Religion und Literatur des Alten und Neuen Testaments 82. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. [Google Scholar]
- Theodor, Jehuda, and Chanoch Albeck, eds. 1965. Midrasch Bereschit Rabba mit kritischem Apparat und Kommentar. Veröffentlichungen der Akademie für die Wissenschaft des Judentums. 2nd printing. Jerusalem: Wahrmann, 3 volumes. [Google Scholar]
- Theophilos, Michael P. 2012. The Abomination of Desolation in Matthew 24.15. Library of New Testament Studies 296. London: T&T Clark. [Google Scholar]
- Trilling, Wolfgang. 1964. Das wahre Israel. Munich: Kösel-Verlag. [Google Scholar]
- Turner, David L. 2002. Matthew 21:43 and the Future of Israel. Bibliotheca Sacra 159: 46–61. [Google Scholar]
- Vlach, Michael J. 2010. Has the Church Replaced Israel? A Theological Evaluation. Nashville: B&H Publishing Group. [Google Scholar]
- White, Benjamin L. 2014. The Eschatological Conversion of ‘All the Nations’ in Matthew 28.19-20: (Mis)reading Matthew through Paul. Journal for the Study of the New Testament 36: 353–82. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Willitts, Joel. 2007. Matthew’s Messianic Shepherd King: In Search of ‘The Lost Sheep of the House of Israel’. Beihefte zur Zeitschrift für die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft 147. Berlin: De Gruyter. [Google Scholar]
- Zakovitch, Yair. 1991. “And You Shall Tell Your Son…”: The Concept of the Exodus in the Bible. Jerusalem: Magnes Press. [Google Scholar]
Publisher’s Note: MDPI stays neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
© 2021 by the author. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).