5:43 PM

Divine ventriloquism? - 19b - by Michael

1. Jesus tells the disciples that when they are dragged into court before Gentile authorities, “what you are to say will be given to you at that time” (19b) by “the Spirit of your Father speaking through you” (20b). This sounds like a reference to Exodus 4:12 and 15-16, where God tells Moses that he will speak for him before Pharaoh (12), and then that Aaron will speak for him before Pharaoh (15-16). Is this an intentional reference, such that Matthew sees a connection between Jesus’ discourse and the dialogue at the burning bush? In Exodus 4, first God and then Aaron are said to speak for Moses, while in Matthew 10, the Spirit speaks for the disciples. In Exodus 4, God and then Aaron speaks for Moses because of Moses’ own doubt and insecurity (“I am slow of speech and slow of tongue” 4:10b). In Matthew 10, no explicit reason is given for why the Spirit will speak for the disciples. Jesus’ words function more like a promise or assurance that comforts the disciples in the face of certain, coming persecution.

2. Davies and Allison mention that “perhaps Matthew wanted his readers to recall the encouraging words of the Lord to Moses [in Exod. 4:12]. They also mention other biblical texts where “people are given words to speak” (Ps 119:41-6; Jer 1:6-10; Eph 6:19) (D&A, 185). Beyond that, they don’t explore the implications of this possible parallel. Luz believes that v. 19 portrays the disciples receiving the prophetic gift. He does not key into the potential parallel between this text and Ex. 4. Interestingly, Luz observes that Matthew rarely speaks about the Spirit, and that when he does, it is usually with respect to Jesus (Luz, 90).

3. My preliminary judgment is that 10:19 contains an intentional reference to YHWH’s discourse with Moses at the burning bush in Ex. 4. Elsewhere in his gospel, especially in the Sermon on the Mount in ch. 5-7, Matthew appears to make a concerted effort to place Jesus within the Mosaic tradition (even if Jesus’ message somehow alters Moses’ teachings). It would appear impossible for Matthew to overlook this connection, given his familiarity with and concern for the Mosaic tradition.

Comment (1)

Good post, M. It's a sign of our times/condition that we think of the exodus/Moses as one possible tradition a Gospel like Matthew's might invoke to tell the story of Jesus. Israel's prophetic expectations repeatedly anticipate a renewal/fulfillment of the exodus (e.g., Jer. 16:14-15). Israel's covenant law and festivals are saturated with memories of the exodus. The exodus provides the basic semantic framework for salvation language. Where else would the mission of Messiah come from?

Obviously you're on to something more specific than what I'm saying here, but what I'm saying should encourage us to expect all kinds of things like you've noticed throughout the Gospels and the rest of the NT. (N. T. Wright has written on this extensively.) The way Jesus feeds multitudes in the desert or walks miraculously across water acquire their significance from and within the history of Israel, specifically the exodus. Note, e.g., Luke's description of what Jesus is talking about with Moses and Elijah--"his exodus which he was about to fulfill in Jerusalem."

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