God As The Agent Of Kingdom Growth: An Argument For Divine Passives In Matthew 13:32, 33 -- By: Robbie Booth

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 62:4 (Dec 2019)
Article: God As The Agent Of Kingdom Growth: An Argument For Divine Passives In Matthew 13:32, 33
Author: Robbie Booth


God As The Agent Of Kingdom Growth: An Argument For Divine Passives In Matthew 13:32, 33

Robbie Booth*

* Robbie Booth is a Ph.D. student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, 222 N. Wingate St., Wake Forest, NC 27587. He may be contacted at [email protected]

Abstract: Matthew frequently utilizes a literary and rhetorical device known as the passivum divinum (divine or theological passive) to indicate with subtlety the activity and work of God. Two possible cases found in Matthew 13:32, 33, however, are often overlooked. Based on Matthew’s historical-biblical convictions of God’s sovereignty even over everyday events and a thorough study of Matthew’s use of divine passives, this article will demonstrate that αὐξηθῇ in the parable of the mustard seed and ἐζυμώθη in the parable of the leaven should also be interpreted as divine passives. This conclusion carries implications for understanding Jesus’s teaching on the kingdom of heaven. God grows the kingdom of heaven from something miniscule into something unexpectedly great and powerful. God also causes the kingdom of heaven to transform everything it touches. These truths carry both theological and practical implications.

Key words: Gospel of Matthew, Parable of the Mustard Seed, Parable of the Leaven, divine passive, kingdom parables, kingdom of heaven, kingdom growth, sovereignty of God

Matthew frequently utilizes a literary and rhetorical device known as the passivum divinum (divine or theological passive) to indicate with subtlety the activity and work of God.1 By using both divine active and divine passive verbs Matthew “announce[s] God’s past, present, and future dealings with human beings.”2 This Gospel is a divinely directed story. Even where God is not explicitly mentioned, he is there, bringing about his will and ushering in his kingdom to earth.3 While the exact

number of divine passives in the Gospel of Matthew is debated, many scholars recognize over fifty such occurrences.4

Two possible cases found in Matt 13:32, 33, however, are often overlooked.5 Based on Matthew’s historical-bi...

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