Peter responds (Mk 8:29-8:29)

The response of Peter can be found in all four gospels, Matthew, chapter 16:16, Luke, chapter 9:20, and John, 6:69, but all slightly different.  The name of Peter is sometimes just Peter.  Are the Greek “Christ” and the Hebrew “Messiah” the same?  Matthew is the only one who had Peter say that Jesus was the son of the living God.  Matthew is also the only one that mentioned the special relationship that Peter had with his Father in heaven.  Peter gave a strong positive response in all four versions.  Mark said that Peter replied (ἀποκριθεὶς ὁ Πέτρος) to the question of Jesus immediately.  He said that Jesus was the Christ (λέγει αὐτῷ Σὺ εἶ ὁ Χριστὸς) or the Messiah that they were expecting in Israel.  Matthew had Jesus respond to Peter, but that was not in Mark.  Peter, as the leader of this new group of Jesus followers, asserted this important belief about Jesus.  For the first time, Jesus is called the Christ, the Messiah.  Here Peter, in the name of the nascent Christian community, proclaimed that Jesus was the Messiah, the Christ.

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Prologue

This Gospel of Matthew has a prologue with five parts that echo the book of Genesis.  First, there was the genealogy of Jesus via Joseph that began with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  Then this genealogy went through the twin sons of Judah and the descendants of Perez.  Then it went from Ruth to King David.  Then there was the kings of Judah from Solomon to the gap and up to and including the Babylonian captivity.  Finally, there were the unknown names in this genealogy that led up to Joseph and his father.  Matthew then explained the genealogy of Jesus, since there were differences of this genealogy with that of the Gospel of Luke.

The second part of this prologue was the virgin birth of Jesus.  First of all, there was the conception of Jesus from Joseph’s point of view, not Mary’s.  Joseph wanted to divorce Mary for being pregnant until an angel in a dream told him that Jesus would be a special child that fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah.  After waking up from his dream, there was the virgin birth of Jesus in Bethlehem.

The third part of this prologue was the visit of the Magi.  They brought their questions to Herod the Judean Roman king, who was annoyed and frightened.  He found out that Bethlehem was described by the prophet Micah as the place where the Messiah would be born.  Herod summoned the Magi and sent them to Bethlehem.  The Magi followed the star and found Mary with the child at the so-called Epiphany.  However, they went home another route so that they did not go back to King Herod.

The fourth part was the flight into Egypt, as Joseph had another dream.  They went to Egypt to fulfill another prophecy that the Messiah would come out of Egypt.  Meanwhile, King Herod killed all the under two-year old boys in the Bethlehem area as the fulfillment of the prophecy of Jeremiah.

Finally, the fifth part of the prologue was the return of Jesus to Nazareth when Joseph had a third dream.  He was told to return to Israel, or more specifically to Galilee in a place called Nazareth.  Thus, this prologue gave the unique perspective of Joseph.

The destruction of the Temple (Mt 24:2-24:2)

“Then Jesus asked them.

‘Do you not

See all these buildings?

Truly!

I say to you!

Not one stone

Will be left here

Upon another.

All will be thrown down.’”

 

ὁ δὲ ἀποκριθεὶς εἶπεν αὐτοῖς Οὐ βλέπετε ταῦτα πάντα; ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν, οὐ μὴ ἀφεθῇ ὧδε λίθος ἐπὶ λίθον ὃς οὐ καταλυθήσεται.

 

There is something similar in Mark, chapter 13:2, almost word for word, and in Luke, chapter 21:6, but slightly different.  Then Jesus answered them (ὁ δὲ ἀποκριθεὶς).  He asked them if they had not seen all these buildings (εἶπεν αὐτοῖς Οὐ βλέπετε ταῦτα πάντα).  Then in a solemn proclamation (ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν) he told them that not one stone would be left on another stone here at the Temple (οὐ μὴ ἀφεθῇ ὧδε λίθος ἐπὶ λίθον).  All of the Temple buildings would be torn down or thrown down (ὃς οὐ καταλυθήσεται).  In fact, in 70 CE, about 40 years after the time of Jesus, the Jerusalem Temple was destroyed by the Romans in their war with Israel.  Threats against the Jerusalem Temple had been common among the prophets in the Old Testament, especially before the Exile in the 6th century BCE.

The tombs of the prophets (Mt 23:29-23:30)

“Woe to you!

Scribes!

Woe to you!

Pharisees!

Hypocrites!

You build the tombs

Of the prophets.

You decorate the graves

Of the righteous.

You say.

‘If we had lived

In the days

Of our ancestors,

We would not have taken part

With them

In shedding the blood

Of the prophets.’”

 

Οὐαὶ ὑμῖν, γραμματεῖς καὶ Φαρισαῖοι ὑποκριταί, ὅτι οἰκοδομεῖτε τοὺς τάφους τῶν προφητῶν καὶ κοσμεῖτε τὰ μνημεῖα τῶν δικαίων,

καὶ λέγετε Εἰ ἤμεθα ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις τῶν πατέρων ἡμῶν, οὐκ ἂν ἤμεθα αὐτῶν κοινωνοὶ ἐν τῷ αἵματι τῶν προφητῶν.

 

There is something similar in Luke, chapter 11:47-48.  Jesus continued to curse the Pharisees and the Scribes, much like earlier in verses 13, 14, 15, 25, and 27.  The first part of this diatribe is exactly the same as those earlier verses.  Woe to you (Οὐαὶ ὑμῖν)!  Scribes (γραμματεῖς)!  Woe to you!  Pharisees (καὶ Φαρισαῖοι)!  Hypocrites (ὑποκριταί)!  This time it was how they and their ancestors had treated the prophets of Israel.  They built the tombs of the prophets (ὅτι οἰκοδομεῖτε τοὺς τάφους τῶν προφητῶν) and decorated the graves or tombs of the righteous (καὶ κοσμεῖτε τὰ μνημεῖα τῶν δικαίων).  These Pharisees said that if they had lived in the days of their ancestors or fathers (καὶ λέγετε Εἰ ἤμεθα ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις τῶν πατέρων ἡμῶν), they would not have participated in the shedding of the blood of these prophets (οὐκ ἂν ἤμεθα αὐτῶν κοινωνοὶ ἐν τῷ αἵματι τῶν προφητῶν).  The problem is that there were not that many prophets murdered.

The first greatest commandment (Mt 22:37-22:38)

“Jesus said to him.

‘You shall love

The Lord,

Your God

With all your heart,

With all your soul,

And with all your mind.’

This is the greatest commandment.

This is the first commandment.”

 

ὁ δὲ ἔφη αὐτῷ Ἀγαπήσεις κύριον τὸν Θεόν σου ἐν ὅλῃ τῇ καρδίᾳ σου καὶ ἐν ὅλῃ τῇ ψυχῇ σου καὶ ἐν ὅλῃ τῇ διανοίᾳ σου.

αὕτη ἐστὶν ἡ μεγάλη καὶ πρώτη ἐντολή.

 

The response of Jesus can be found also in Mark, chapter 12:29-30, where there is the Shema cry for Israel to listen.  In Luke, chapter 10:27-28, Jesus responded that he had given the right answer to the question.  Here, in Matthew, it is separate from the love of neighbor, which is the 2nd commandment.  This Shema can be found in Deuteronomy, chapter 6:4-5.  These verses have had a great influence on the Israelites as the great commandment that is recited often and written all over the place on their hands, forehead, and door posts.  It is both a morning and an evening prayer, something you say at home and when you are away from home.  The Israelites were to teach their children this simple prayer.  Jesus and the early Christian followers will repeat this in the gospel stories of the New Testament as the great commandment of love of God.  This ‘Shema’ became the basis of the Abrahamic religions, the great commandment of monotheism and love that must always be remembered.  Jesus told this lawyer (ὁ δὲ ἔφη αὐτῷ) that he should love the Lord (Ἀγαπήσεις κύριον), his God (τὸν Θεόν σου) with his whole heart (ἐν ὅλῃ τῇ καρδίᾳ σου), his whole soul (καὶ ἐν ὅλῃ τῇ ψυχῇ σου), and his whole mind (καὶ ἐν ὅλῃ τῇ διανοίᾳ σου).  This was the greatest (αὕτη ἐστὶν ἡ μεγάλη) and the first commandment (καὶ πρώτη ἐντολή).  Just be a good human Jewish person and love God above all else with your whole being, heart, soul, and mind.

The prophecy about parables (Mt 13:35-13:35)

“This was to fulfill

What had been spoken

By the prophet.

‘I will open my mouth

To speak in parables.

I will proclaim

What has been hidden

From the foundation

Of the world.’”

 

ὅπως πληρωθῇ τὸ ῥηθὲν διὰ τοῦ προφήτου λέγοντος Ἀνοίξω ἐν παραβολαῖς τὸ στόμα μου, ἐρεύξομαι κεκρυμμένα ἀπὸ καταβολῆς.

 

Matthew uniquely cited this prophecy from the Psalms, Psalm 78:2, where the psalmist Asaph explained the teachings from long ago.  Jesus was going to open his mouth in parables about the old-fashioned sayings, like the wisdom writers.  These sayings had been passed on from his ancestors, showing the great deeds of Yahweh that he had done for Israel.  Jesus, via Matthew, justified or fulfilled (ὅπως πληρωθῇ) what the prophet Asaph in the psalms had said (τὸ ῥηθὲν διὰ τοῦ προφήτου λέγοντος) about the use of parables.  He would open his mouth in parables (Ἀνοίξω ἐν παραβολαῖς τὸ στόμα μου) to proclaim the hidden mysteries from the foundations of the earth (ἐρεύξομαι κεκρυμμένα ἀπὸ καταβολῆς).  The parables were a way of conveying wisdom, with only the initiated able to understand them.

The servant of Yahweh (Matt 12:18-12:18)

“Here is my servant!

I have chosen him.

My beloved!

My soul is well pleased

With him.

I will put my Spirit

Upon him.

He shall proclaim justice

To the gentile nations.”

 

Ἰδοὺ ὁ παῖς μου ὃν ᾑρέτισα, ὁ ἀγαπητός μου ὃν εὐδόκησεν ἡ ψυχή μου· θήσω τὸ Πνεῦμά μου ἐπ’ αὐτόν, καὶ κρίσιν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν ἀπαγγελεῖ.

 

A series of scholarly debates has risen about who this servant of Yahweh is in Isaiah, chapter 42:1.  Is it the country and people of Israel or is it an individual prophetic person?  Sometimes the reference is singular as here, but is that also symbolic?  There are many chants or songs about the servant in Second Isaiah.  This oracle has Yahweh speak directly about his servant, who he will uphold, since he is the chosen one.  Yahweh’s soul delights in him.  He puts his Spirit upon him.  This servant of Yahweh will bring about justice for all the nations.  At first take, this appears to be an individual that Yahweh really likes.  Mathew made a clear choice about this servant of Yahweh.  Jesus is the servant of God (Ἰδοὺ ὁ παῖς μου).  God has chosen him (ὃν ᾑρέτισα).  He is God’s beloved (ὁ ἀγαπητός μου).  The soul of God has delighted in Jesus (ὃν εὐδόκησεν ἡ ψυχή μου).  God would put his Spirit on Jesus (θήσω τὸ Πνεῦμά μου ἐπ’ αὐτόν).  Jesus would proclaim a just judgment to the gentile nations (καὶ κρίσιν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν ἀπαγγελεῖ).  The text that Matthew used is not an exact copy of the Greek or Hebrew text, but close enough.