Saturday, April 21, 2018

Reading An Article by John Goldingay

I have been reading books, articles and watching videos about the use  of the Old Testament in the New and I came across this article: The Old Testament and Christian Faith: “Jesus and the Old Testament in Matthew 1–5” in Themelios 8, no. 1 (1982). He is dealing here with the issue of how Matthew handles the Old Testament in the first 5 chapters of His Gospel. If we do not understand the context of the Old Testament passages Matthew is citing as being “fulfilled,” we will miss the significance of what Matthew is saying. I am posting quotes from my Old Testament reading on my Facebook page on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday (NT is Mon-Wed-Fri) and we can discuss comments and questions about the passage there. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the theology are in blue below. I am using the Logos version of the article.

In his genealogy Matthew is making a statement that Jesus cannot be understood without the Old Testament background to his person and work, but the significance of the Old Testament events and prophecies cannot be fully understood without reading back into them their fulfillment in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Thus, there may have been "more" to what a prophet wrote than what he fully understood at the time. This is seen in the way Matthew pronounces "fulfillment" in 5 events in Jesus' early life (Matthew 1.18-2.23) of Old Testament prophetic texts. Goldingay would see this insight as a result of Holy Spirit inspiration of the New Testament authors. This is a tough issue for OT scholars, but I like the way Goldingay balances the need to interpret the OT in its context while allowing, as we see in the development of the OT itself, for subsequent events and revelation to provide new insights and meaning to older texts.

On the one hand, understanding the Christ event in the light of the Old Testament story indicates that the contemporary assertion that God is concerned for political and social liberation is quite justified. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is one who is concerned for the release of the oppressed from bondage; the nature of the Christ event does not change that. On the other hand, understanding the Old Testament story in the light of the Christ event highlights for us that concern with the spiritual liberation of the spiritually oppressed which is present in the exodus story itself and which becomes more pressing as the Old Testament story unfolds. Any concern with political and social liberation that does not recognize spiritual liberation as the more fundamental human problem has failed to take account of the development of the Old Testament story after the exodus via the exile to Christ’s coming and his work of atonement. Matthew 1.1-17, 6

In each of these vignettes from the opening years of Jesus’ life, then, a key place is taken by a reference to Old Testament prophecy, as if to say, ‘You will understand Jesus aright only if you see him as the fulfilment of a gracious purpose of God contemplated and announced by him centuries before.Matthew 1.18-2.23, 7

The second part of the article looks at the Old Testament connections between 4 scenes in Matthew 3-5: Jesus' baptism, the temptation, the Beatitudes, and Jesus discussion on Torah and his "fulfillment" of it. The baptism (3.13-17) shows how the OT provides the images and language for understanding for Jesus' identity and mission. Jesus is proclaimed by God as the Davidic king, the servant of the LORD from Isaiah, and the beloved sacrificed son like Isaac and we need to understand the OT context for each of these. From the temptation story, we need to see how Jesus was "steeped" in scripture and how he used it in its context to protect himself from the devil's misuse of it. The Beatitudes describe the kind of life a believer can and should live. Each beatitude is fleshed out in the books of the prophets and wisdom literature and, because of the cross and resurrection, can be lived out as Jesus did in the power of the Spirit. Finally, the idea the Jesus fulfills the law provides the basis for his moral teachings. God is concerned with both our attitudes and actions. Again the key is to read the Old and New Testaments in both directions. The OT provides background, explanation and depth to the NT, while the NT provides new insight and application to the OT.

The New Testament, then, invites us to interpret the Christ event in the light of the Old Testament’s over-all theological perspective, in the terms of its language world. The converse point is that we also have to understand Old Testament theology and images in the light of the Christ event. No-one had ever before brought together the figures of the powerful king, the beloved son, and the afflicted servant. They are highly diverse figures and it would have been difficult to see how one ought to go about relating them. They are only brought together in the light of the Christ event. John Goldingay, “The Old Testament and Christian Faith: Jesus and the Old Testament in Matthew 1–5, 6

Jesus thus sets the clear, direct demand of a fundamental passage in Deuteronomy against the devil’s application of another passage to a particular set of circumstances. The guideline for distinguishing between the use and abuse of Scripture offered here is thus, test alleged application of Scripture by the direct teaching of Scripture elsewhere. The need for a wide knowledge of the over-all teaching of Scripture is underlined by the nature of the devil’s misuse of it. Goldingay, Matthew 4:1-11, 8

The depth of Jesus’ insights on what it means to live with God is in large part due to the extent of his soaking in the Old Testament. Psalms and Isaiah, the books most clearly reflected in these Blessings, are the books most often and most widely quoted in the New Testament. Goldingay, Matthew 5:1-12, 9

The ‘fulfilling’ of Torah and prophets involves confirming them (God really made these promises and warnings, God really gave these laws), embodying them (Jesus’ own life puts into practice what the Torah demands and makes actual what the prophecies picture), and broadening them (you will begin at the Torah, but then go beyond its demands if you wish to understand the full depth of God’s expectations of his creatures; you will begin with these prophecies, but then go beyond what they envisage if you wish to understand the full depth of God’s purpose of salvation). Matthew 5:17-48, 10

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