Mosaic Imagery In The Gospel Of Matthew -- By: Wayne S. Baxter

Journal: Trinity Journal
Volume: TRINJ 020:1 (Spring 1999)
Article: Mosaic Imagery In The Gospel Of Matthew
Author: Wayne S. Baxter

Mosaic Imagery In The Gospel Of Matthew

Wayne S. Baxter

Wayne S. Baxter is the Youth Pastor at Emmanuel Alliance Church in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

I. Introduction

It was said by the ancient rabbis that as the first redeemer was so shall the latter redeemer be.1 Similarly, Barnabas Lindars has remarked, “If the work of Jesus is redemption, then it is a new Exodus; and if he is the leader of a new Exodus, then he must appear (at least implicitly) in the character of a new Moses.”2 Although few would deny that Jesus came to redeem his people, the extent to which Jesus is characterized in the synoptics as a new Moses is hotly debated. The significance of this issue for NT studies is that it not only reveals the Jewish flavor of early Christianity—something ignored or de-emphasized in many church and academic circles3 —but that it also bears striking implications for Matthew’s Christology. The purpose of this paper is to investigate Mosaic imagery in Matthew’s gospel. The study will begin by critically reviewing swathes of the gospel where Mosaic imagery seems most apparent.4 Some concluding reflections will then be offered which summarize the findings of the study and discuss the contributions of Mosaic imagery to Matthew’s Christology.

II. The Birth and Infancy Narrative

A number of commentators have argued for a Moses typology in the opening narrative of Matthew’s gospel.5 Certainly the events of Matthew’s birth story bring to mind the opening of the Exodus narrative.6 When Herod learns that a child has been born king of the Jews, he secretly plots the child’s destruction (Matt 2:13b). But an angel of God warns Joseph and tells him to flee with his son to Egypt (Matt 2:13a). When Herod discovers that he has been duped by the magi, he gives orders that all male children in the area under the age of two are to be killed. Matthew’s plot sounds all too familiar: when Pharaoh suspects that the proliferate Hebrews may align with his enemies in a time of war and emigrate (thus greatly disturbing his own kingdom), he gives orders that all newborn male Hebrews be killed (Exod 1:10, 16). The baby Moses, however, is spared this fate because of the actions of his parents...

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