‘I Will Give You Rest’: The Background And Significance Of The Rest Motif In The New Testament1 -- By: John Laansma

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 046:2 (NA 1995)
Article: ‘I Will Give You Rest’: The Background And Significance Of The Rest Motif In The New Testament1
Author: John Laansma


‘I Will Give You Rest’: The Background And Significance Of The Rest Motif In The New Testament1

John Laansma

This study examines Matthew 11:28-30 and Hebrews 3:7-4:11 as the New Testament passages in which the rest motif is expressed thematically. It investigates both passages as products of first–century Judaism and Christianity in the light of the realisation that the Old Testament is the most important factor for establishing the concerns and thinking of the New Testament writers. For both, God’s promises of rest to Israel, as those promises were expressed in the Old Testament, were coming to fulfilment in Christ.

The prevailing interpretation of Matthew 11:28-30 argues that Matthew joined this logion to one of the several Q passages that he was editing in order to further a ‘Wisdom Christology’ (11:19 [Q 7:35]; 11:25-27 [Q 10:21-22]; 23:34-36 [Q 11:49-51]; 23:27-39 [Q 13:34-35]). The salient points of this argument are as follows. In drawing on Q, Matthew was drawing on a sayings collection that some scholars compare with the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas; it belongs to a particular genre, ‘sayings of the wise’. It is often argued that one important aspect of Q’s Christology developed under the influence of the myth of personified Wisdom, especially the notion that Wisdom sent out her messengers into the world. Some of Q’s sayings might suggest that the Christians who used this collection understood Jesus to have been one of Wisdom’s messengers, possibly her final and greatest prophet. For Matthew, the argument continues,

this line of thought erred by not going far enough. He set out to correct Q by modifying the above mentioned sayings in such a way that Jesus was identified with Wisdom. We should thus view Matthew as an active participant in a type of Christological speculation drawing on wisdom thought and co-ordinated to a ‘trajectory’ extending from Wisdom to John’s Logos and ultimately the Gnostic Redeemer. The logion of 11:28-30 does not itself derive from Q, but the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas contains a version of 11:28-30 that might derive from a pre-Matthean source. This hints at the possibility that the saying originated in the circles just described, but the stronges...

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