Tuesday, January 3, 2012

GNT2012 - Matthew 2-3

The “Magi [μάγοι]” are unique to Matthew’s gospel and fit awkwardly in the story. Nearly everything that occurs in Matthew’s infancy narrative is described as the fulfillment of prophecy (Mt 1.23; 2.6, 15, 18, 23). Even minute details, such as the escape to Egypt or settling in Nazareth, are fulfilled prophecy. Shockingly, the one exception to this fulfillment theme is the conspicuous Magi. Surely, Matthew’s creative exegesis could have made use of Isaiah 18.7, Isaiah 56.6-8, or Ps 72.10-11.  Or why not Isaiah 60.4-6, a text that mentions foreigners carrying “gold” and “frankincense” to Jerusalem in celebration of God’s glory dwelling in Israel? Yet Matthew’s Magi are not depicted as fulfilling prophecy. Matthew surely knew these texts for he cites Isa 56.7 later in his gospel (Mt 21.13). Why, then, are these significant characters uniquely not portrayed fulfilling prophecy? Perhaps Matthew intends an oblique allusion hoping his readers will make the connection? Maybe he hopes to focus his hearers’ attention on Jesus as Israel’s Messiah?

There are not many interesting textual variants in Matthew 2-3, save one. When Jesus comes out of the Jordan River, Matthew 3.17 reads, “And behold a voice from heaven saying, ‘This is my beloved son, in whom I am pleased.” Codex Bezea, a fifth century western text reads otherwise, “And behold a voice from heaven saying to him [προς αυτον], ‘You are [συ ει] my beloved son, in whom I am pleased.” The Western text turns Matthew’s public announcement into a personal message directed explicitly to Jesus. This reading is also found in synoptic parallels (Mk 1.11; Lk 3.22) which both read, “you are [σὺ εἶ] my son.” All three texts allude to the LXX Ps 2.7, an enthronement song of David that reads, “The Lord said to me, ‘You are [εἶ σύ] my son, today I have begotten you.’” This variant is possibly an attempt at harmonization with both the other gospels and Psalm 2. The allusion to Psalm 2 is also an interesting example of an instance where Matthew chose not to exploit an OT text for his fulfillment theme. It is curious to attempt to follow Matthew’s logic in applying the fulfillment theme.

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