Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Review of France's Matthew, Part Three

Continuing the series of posts reviewing France's Matthew commentary in the NICNT, I begin addressing specific passages. The first is the Genealogy (Matthew 1:1-17)

France’s comments on the genealogy reveal his view on the question of the proper theological context for the interpretation of the First Gospel. France rightly presents Davidic Messianism as fundamental to Matthew’s presentation of Jesus.

Matthew’s genealogy is divided into three sets of 14 generations as is well known. Careful study shows that this can only be accomplished by a selective and historically imbalanced presentation. The point that France makes from this observation is that Matthew’s genealogy is a selective “survey of the history of the people of God” including a “royal list”, a “dynastic document” to imply that the succession of the Davidic throne continued while the actual monarchy had not. France concludes that the genealogy “focuses on the royal dimension . . . which finds its culmination in the coming of Jesus, the “son of David” and thus potentially in the restoration of the monarchy” (32).

The structure of the list with its two pivots at David (1:6) and the Exile (1:12), reveals Matthew’s interests in the issues of Davidic kingship and exile. France summarizes:

Its aim is clear enough: to locate Jesus within the story of God’s people, as its intended climax, and to do it with a special focus on the Davidic monarchy as the proper context for a theological understanding of the role of the person to whom Matthew, more than the other gospel writers, will delight to refer not only as “Messiah” but also more specifically as “Son of David” (33).

The Davidic character of the opening of the Gospel is absolutely the “proper context for a theological understanding” of Jesus’ mission. This observation is impressive and important. Although most would not disagree, few, even France himself, have yet to provide a reading of Matthew that is thoroughly Davidic.


Preston Sprinkle said...


How does the emphasis on Gentile women with shady pasts tie in with the Davidic theme? Two different emphases? Or do they fit together somehow?


TonyTheProf said...

Have you read Trevor Dennis "The Chrismas Stories" when he addresses the significance of the women chose in the narrative. They are all outsiders blessed by God, either gentile, or in the case of Bathsheba, forced into an adulerous affair by David. Yet they are still blessed by God.

Josh said...

This Davidic interpretation seems to set up the theme of two kingdoms that becomes apparent with the story of Herod's slaughter of infants. King Herod is frustrated in his effort to kill King Jesus. Jesus offers an alternative to the kings and kingdoms of the world (most obviously, Rome).

Does France suggest possible reasons for Matthew's approach? Did Matthew take this approach for missiological reasons--that is, because he had a Jewish audience with messianic expectations? Might Matthew have wanted to win over this audience by connecting the story of Jesus to the story of Israel?

Jason said...

Preston, my take on the women in my dissertation is that Matt's not interested in 4 women, but that he references 4 righteous or praiseworthy Gentiles: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and Uriah are all top shelf folks. And it is those four names that appear, not "four women". [Others have taken this track as well, it's not unique to me...just thoroughly overlooked in almost every commentary on Matt that surveys the issue.]