Intertextual Echoes in the Matthean Baptismal Narrative -- By: David B. Capes
BBR 9:1 (1999) p. 37
Intertextual Echoes in the Matthean
Houston Baptist University
Matthew’s story of Jesus’ baptism provides evidence of an “Immanuel” (“God with us”) Christology. In particular the first evangelist redacts Mark’s account and envisages Jesus as an apocalyptic prophet according to the order of Ezekiel. Moreover, the opening of the heavens and descent of the Spirit echo Isaiah 63-64 and portray Jesus as God’s answer to the petition longing for his presence and redemption. The dove image appears to have two intertextual functions: (1) to construe Jesus’ baptism as the end of judgment and the beginning of new creation through the recollection of Noah’s deliverance, and (2) to signal Jesus’ role as sufferer through a lesser-known image of the dove as a symbol for God’s suffering people.
Key Words: intertextuality, Matthew, baptism (of Jesus), Christology, apocalyptic, Holy Spirit
In The Theology of the Gospel of Matthew Ulrich Luz suggests that the First Gospel should be read as an extended inclusio bracketed at the beginning by the “Immanuel” motif, “God with us,” and at the end by Jesus’ promise, “behold, I am with you always.”1 The Immanuel motif, he notes, demonstrates that Matthew’s Christology takes on a coherent, narrative shape that cannot be contained in static titles or concepts; it is worked out through the story itself. In the end, Luz believes, Matthew’s Gospel advances a Christology “from above”—namely that, in Jesus, God acts. For Matthew, Luz writes, “Jesus is an occurrence of God.”2
Luz presents a persuasive argument, particularly when interpreting the Gospel canonically. He is able to show how the Immanuel
BBR 9:1 (1999) p. 38
motif influences the pericope and drives Matthew’s portrait of Jesus. Yet due to the nature of Luz’s book, the author can give only scant attention to any story. His proposal, therefore, begs treatment on the level of individual episodes.
Matthew’s story of Jesus’ baptism (3:13-17) provides an excellent laboratory to test Luz’s proposition. If for Matthew Jesus is an occurrence of God and this Christology is worked out in narrative and not titles, reading Matthew’s episode from this perspective may yield rich results. In what follows, this article will analyze Matthew’s narrative of Jesus’ baptism with a view to its Immanuel Christology. In particular, it will concentrate on the visionary aspects of the passage — namely, the opening o...
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