“Greater Than Solomon” (Matt 12:42) -- By: Larry Perkins
“Greater Than Solomon”
* Larry Perkins is Dean of Northwest Baptist Seminary, Academic Director of Associated Canadian Theological Schools, and Vice-President of Northwest Baptist College and Seminary, Langley, British Columbia.
In Matt 12:38–42 Jesus compares himself to two OT figures - Jonah and Solomon. In both cases he indicates that “one greater than” either of these individuals is now present and active among the people of God.1 It seems apparent from Matthew’s arrangement of the gospel materials2 that the choice of these particular individuals for comparison is connected to the response of Gentiles to their messages - the people of Nineveh in the case of Jonah (Jonah 3), and the Queen of Sheba in Solomon’s case (1 Kgs 10:1–3; 2 Chr 9:1–2). Neither Solomon nor Jonah did any great “sign” to command such response to God’s word. Yet, in contrast, the Pharisees, who pride themselves in being people of God, demand of Jesus, who claims to be “greater than” Jonah or Solomon, some “sign” (Matt 12:38) to vindicate the claims that he is making and justify their belief in his message. But in what sense exactly is Jesus in the Matthean3 context claiming wisdom4 such that “one greater than Solomon is here”?
David Hill5 in his commentary on Matthew’s gospel is somewhat typical of treatments of this passage in that a great amount of attention is given to the “sign of Jonah” and defining the way in which “something greater than Jonah” is present. However once the reference to “Solomon’s wisdom” (v. 42) is mentioned, its seems to be assumed that readers will understand that “the one greater than
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Solomon” must be greater in terms of “wisdom”. Yet, this begs the question of the content of that wisdom.
When Robert Gundry6 comes to comment on this text, considerable discussion is given to establishing what the “sign of Jonah” refers to. However, apart from asserting that “the greater than Jonah and Solomon is Jesus,”7 he says nothing about the nature of Solomon’s wisdom or in what precise way Jesus is “greater than ...
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