Hosea 11:1 And Matthew 2:15 -- By: John H. Sailhamer

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 63:1 (Spring 2001)
Article: Hosea 11:1 And Matthew 2:15
Author: John H. Sailhamer

Hosea 11:1 And Matthew 2:15

John H. Sailhamera

I. Introduction

All agree that Matthew’s understanding of Hos 11:1 is eschatological and messianic. He applies Hosea’s words to Jesus literally and realistically. Jesus was taken to Egypt as a child (Matt 2:14) so the prophet’s words might be fulfilled, “Out of Egypt I called my son” (Matt 2:15).1

The chief difficulty lies in Matthew’s applying Hosea’s words to an individual, eschatological “son of God” figure, rather than to Israel in the historical exodus. Erasmus cites Julian the Apostate as the first to take issue against Christianity with Matthew’s use of Hosea. But already in the LXX, the Targum,2 and the commentaries of Rashi3 and Kimchi4 it is possible to see a line of interpretation that goes counter to Matthew’s eschatological-messianic view.

Modern commentaries take Hos 11:1 to refer to Israel and the historical exodus. The most common approach to the meaning of the verse in Hosea is to view the fragmented sayings of the book in light of a reconstructed life and message of the prophet. Such an approach has led to a deepening of the division between the OT and NT.

The common evangelical solution has been to adopt the earlier view of Surenhusius5 that Matthew’s understanding of Hos 11:1 was grounded in a typological, or sensus plenior, reading that was characteristic of the first century. Carson offers a helpful mediating position in seeing Hosea’s use of the term

“son” as part of a larger “messianic matrix” of images in previous revelation that pointed to Jesus.6

II. A Solution Offered by Brevard Childs

In his own words, Childs “seeks to do justice to the logic of the material in its canonical context.” His focus is on how Hosea’s words were preserved and shaped to serve as Scripture. “Hosea’s words were recorded in some form and gathered into a collection. This process of collection in itself involved a critical activity of selecting, shaping, and ordering of the material.”

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