Proof Texts

Dan Wagner Dan.Wagner at
Wed Dec 20 16:45:07 EST 2000

John Richards asks:
> If this is the case, why does Matthew so frequently use the form "this
> happened so as to FULFIL what was spoken by the Lord through 
> the prophet . .
> . " - as he does with the "out of Egypt" quotation itself?

Concerning Matthew's use of "fulfill," first we must remember that usage
determines meaning, and that ancient writers did not all use terms in
precisely the same way, nor does a single writer always limit the reference
of a term to one meaning. In that light, consider Matthew's use of "fulfill"
in a couple specific contexts.

Matthew 13:14ff "And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which
says: 'Hearing you will hear and shall not understand, And seeing you will
see and not perceive....'" There is no reason we should think that Matthew
understands a specific accomplishment of a prophet's unique intent. On the
contrary, the context of the Parable of the Sower is teaching disciples what
to expect on a regular basis, not a one time event. I think Louw & Nida's
lexicon translates it here as "this applies to."

Matthew 2:23 "And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that it might
be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, "He shall be called a
Nazarene." Note that in this case "prophets" is plural, indicating that he
is not referring to a specific oracle of a particular prophet who spoke of
him as a "Nazarene." Such words do not occur in Biblical Hebrew or LXX, so
it is evident that Matthew intends a generic truth taught by the prophets.
Nazareth is not mentioned in the Hebrew, Targums, etc., and was an obsolete
town at best, but probably worse based on John 1:46: "And Nathanael said to
[Philip], 'Can anything good come out of Nazareth?'" Therefore, being known
as "Jesus of Nazareth," He was a "nobody," and Matthew appeals to this fact
as manifesting the lowly status prophesied in various ways by various
prophets. It is also probable that he especially had in mind a play on words
with Jesus being a lowly "sprout," a _NCR_ (Isa. 11:1) to the kingly line,
but with no appearance as a king. Rather, He was only a "nobody" among the
1000's of descendents of His "nobody" father, Jesse [not David!]. His
greatness would be by the Spirit (Isa. 11:2). 

Whether one agrees with him or not, this is Matthew's hermeneutic; i find no
fault with it. I intend to comment on your other post re: Isa. 7:14, etc.,
as time allows.

Dan Wagner

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