The Gospel Coalition


Brandon D. Crowe. The Obedient Son: Deuteronomy and Christology in the Gospel of Matthew. Beihefte zur Zeitschrift für die neutestamentlicheWissenschaft 188. Berlin: De Gruyter, 2012. x + 284 pp. ₤149.95/$210.00.

In this volume, Brandon D. Crowe attempts to make sense of the connection between the theme of obedient sonship in Deuteronomy and its reuse in the book of Matthew. He asserts that "the best backdrop for understanding the obedient sonship of Jesus in Matthew is the call for Israel to be filially obedient as it is foundationally set forth in Deuteronomy" (p. 225). He does not analyze Matthew's citations of Deuteronomy, but uses them as a starting point to suggest that the author also utilizes Deuteronomy in a more implicit and allusive manner.

The methodological foundation for his study is Richard Hays's sevenfold methodology for "evaluating the significance of scriptural echoes:" (1) Availability, (2) Volume, (3) Recurrence, (4) Thematic Coherence, (5) Historical Plausibility, (6) History of Interpretation, and (7) Satisfaction (pp. 15-16). Moving forward, Crowe provides a broad, but helpful, survey of the possible text forms of Deuteronomy in antiquity and traces the use of Deuteronomy through large swaths of early Jewish and Christian literature (ch. 2). He continues by tracing the theme of sonship within Deuteronomy itself, arguing that sonship is closely linked to the concept of covenant because "the covenantal bond is often described in terms of a father-son relationship" (p. 92; ch. 3). For Crowe, filial love is the fullest expression of covenant obedience in Deuteronomy (p. 114). He finishes his discussion of preliminary issues by broadly sketching the dual themes of sonship and obedience in the OT, early Jewish, and early Christian literature (ch. 4).

Crowe begins the crux of the study by analyzing the use of Deuteronomy through a host of criteria. He identifies "strong and likely allusions" in Matthew beginning with 4:1-11 (p. 159). Crowe also identifies "likely allusions" in Matt 5-7. He identifies a "cluster" of possible connections to Deuteronomy (p. 166) and a number of "syntactical earmarks of having been influenced by Deuteronomy" (p. 167). Ultimately, he argues that Jesus "recapitulates" all of Israel as the obedient son and that Jesus is also portrayed a type of second Moses (pp. 170-75). Crowe finishes his study (chs. 6-7) by analyzing "significant possibilities" and "possible allusions" to Deuteronomy in Matt1:20; 3:15-17; 12:46-50; 17:1-21; 21:28-22:14. These connections to Deuteronomy are largely thematic or are made based on common phraseology such as "this generation" (p. 215). His concluding remarks are found in chapter 8.

Crowe's approach to "sonship Christology" in Matthew is particularly strong in three ways. First, he rightfully recognizes that the use of Deuteronomy in Matthew extends beyond explicit citations. Allusion and thematic use of antecedent texts are hallmarks of much of Second Temple literature, and this holds true for Matthew's use of Deuteronomy. Second, he correctly demonstrates that the author of Matthew utilizes multiple text types (Greek version[s] and proto-MT). This is not an objective of his study, and his articulation on the subject (see pp. 40-50) is not overly technical. However, it illustrates a larger trend: NT scholarship is beginning to acknowledge the demonstrable text pluriformity present in the first-century. Third, his summaries of his findings and arguments are helpful. For example, he clearly presents his summary of the ancient manuscript evidence that contain portions of or allusions to Deuteronomy (pp. 48-49).

His approach also contains a number of relative limitations. First, his study suffers from terminological ambiguity. This weakness is prevalent throughout this monograph, but especially poignant is the terminology he uses to describe the kinds of connection Matthew shares with Deuteronomy. For example, he differentiates between "explicit citation" and "implicit citation" (pp. 10-12) but refers to implicit citations as allusions throughout. Furthermore, his definition of allusion is too broad as he suggests that it refers to any passage that "draws upon language, images, themes, and/or structure from the OT" (p. 13). He then differentiates between strong, likely, and possibleallusions (p. 158) although he does not define possible allusion. Also his free use of loaded terminology like "story" (p. 26), "covenantal care" (p. 162), and "eschatological sonship" (p. 170) are indicative of his larger lack of terminological precision.

Second, Crowe's adoption of Hays's methodology weakens his argument. Crowe is interested primarily in the thematic/theological use of Deuteronomy, but his reliance on Hays requires that he investigate textual information, historical issues, and history of interpretation (p. 28). This not to say the Hays's methodology is imprecise in general, but its adoption here compels an unfocused approach to the main issue of the volume: Matthean Christology.

Finally, Crowe conceives first-century Judaism to be a monolithic movement. The logic he employs for applying Hays's methodology to Matthew is that both Paul and Matthew are "clearly Jewish, in dialogue with contemporary Jewish thought, and skilled in traditional Jewish interpretation of the OT" (p. 24). This position assumes that Judaism is more unified on a number of fronts than the evidence from the period suggests and that the author of Matthew and Paul share a common background, ideology, and interpretive strategy. Crowe does succeed in demonstrating his central argument. However, his terminological imprecision and methodology detract from his central finding.

In regard to the larger field of the reuse of Scripture in the NT, Crowe's work advances the broader discussion very little. His approach stands upon the broad shoulders of the likes of G.K. Beale, Richard Hays, and Steve Moyise. This volume's contribution to the field is that it highlights the Deuteronomic underpinnings of the Christology of Matthew's Gospel. Despite its limitations, this volume is a useful tool for those investigating the reuse of Deuteronomy, the use of Scripture in Matthew, or other related pursuits. This work serves as a broad introduction to these specific fields. For those who are pursuing these avenues of investigation, I recommend this book.

Garrick V. Allen
University of St Andrews
St Andrews, Scotland, UK

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