Tag Archives: Old Testament

Three Major Themes in the Gospel of Matthew

In the previous post, I mentioned that the Gospel of Matthew has a special Jewish flavor in its contents and characteristics, since it was written especially for Jews in mind. It’s Matthew’s effort to tell the story of Jesus in the backyards and alleys of Jerusalem and the hills and plains of Galilee and beyond that Jesus was the Promised One, a true deliverer – Messiah – who came to establish the Kingdom of God. Let’s review briefly three major themes that run throughout the gospel account here.

1. Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament.

a. Jesus is the fulfillment of prophecy.

Matthew quotes prophet Isaiah (7:14) to point out how Jesus fulfilled the prophecy through virgin birth (Matthew 1:23). Micah 5:2 is fulfilled by being born in Bethlehem. The prophecies in Hosea 11:9, Micah 7:9 were also affirming that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies. Isaiah 40:1,2; 52 Psalm 118:12, Zechariah 12:10, and the Suffering Servant in Isaiah 52, all these are testifying Jesus as the Coming Messiah.

b. New Moses

Moses in the Old Testament and Jesus in the New Testament have significant similarities. Both were priests and teachers of the Laws. Their birth caused uproar and disruption in society. Moses received the Law in the Sinai, and Jesus gave the Golden Rules (first sermon) on Mount Olive. Moses is the mediator of the Old Covenant through animal sacrifice, whereas Jesus is the Mediator of the New Covenant through his blood.

c. Jesus as the King from the line of David.

The genealogy of Jesus clearly shows that he is from the line of David. A significant number of passages in the Scripture tell us that he is from the Davidic line. People in Israel addressed him as the “Son of David” during his earthly ministry (Matthew 12:21; 21:42). Therefore, He is the rightful heir to the throne of David.

d. Jesus is the Seed of Abraham

Jesus is attributed as the hope of nations, whereas Abraham is known as the blessing for the nations.

2. God (the Father/King) is the God of both Grace and Judgment

This theme also plays out throughout the book. The Parable of Weeds (13:24-42), the Parable of Talents (25:14-30), and the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard (20:1-16) show how gracious God is. At the same time, the Parables of the Great Banquet (22:1-14), the passage of the Seven Woes to the Scribes and Pharisees (22-25), and the signs of the end time and judgment day chapters show how strictly judgmental he is.
3. The Kingdom of God does not Belong to One Particular Ethnic Group.

It is extended to all people from all nations and tribes. Matthew 28:16-20 explicitly talks about people from the ends of the earth; the book of Revelation (7:9) also gives us the heavenly glimpse that a great multitude of people beyond our capacity to count come from every nation, and all tribes and people and tongues and worship the Lamb.


Biblical Nuggets: Inscription from Hezekiah’s Tunnel

Hezekiah, king of Judah, fortified Jerusalem at the end of the 8th century BC, just before the invasion of Sennacherib. As part of his building project, Hezekiah brought water into the city of Jerusalem through a tunnel carved from over half a kilometer of bedrock (2 Kings 20:20). A six percent gradient was designed into the excavation to allow water to flow from the Gihon spring into the pool of Siloam (compare John 9:7).

Sabbatum Excerpt: Adam and Eve, the First Self-Declared Humanists

In Genesis 3 we hear the insolent suggestion by Satan that God has no right to make statements about truth or morality: “Has God indeed said?” The sequel to this question shows that its goal was to undermine the confidence of the first human pair that anything certain could be known about God or His word. For that matter the entire universe could be a projection of one’s own state of mind – a universe as he or she wanted it to be! And this was precisely the option Adam and Eve chose: “You will be like God.” Man would henceforth “create” his own reality according to his own desire and conception. So Adam and Eve were the first self-declared humanists. The self-existent God would no longer be permitted to interfere in the affairs of a secular man. Consequently, god-less man has been miserable in the real world that was designed by its Creator for a society that loved God and kept His commandments.

Kenneth Boa, Cults, World Religions, and the Occult (SP Publications: Colorado, 1990), p. 246

Why Should We Care about Good Interpretation?

Many of us might have heard many a time in the church claiming that “this is what the Bible says” and so and so. Some people take the biblical text that was written to address specific people group in the particular time and history literally and apply the text the same way that was applied to the original audience. On the other extreme, people try to find some relevance from the original text and make the verse and message of their own. After all, it is God’s Word that is relevant to all generation! For example, Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” On the other hand, there are people out there in the churches who preach that the Sermon on the Mount regarding the teachings of Jesus on divorce and his call to be perfect like the Father does not apply to us. Is this what the biblical interpretation all about?

Taking both these cases, we need to be careful of what we make up of the meaning of the biblical text and apply it in our time to make the message still relevant for us. Bad interpretation can crush people’s faith and shatter their hope. Biblical interpretation is a pivotal job to get across the true meaning of the text to the target group without squandering the meaning that was intended for its original readers. Only proper interpretation can determine the intended meaning in the text.

What then does good interpretation look like? It is necessary that we understand historical, literary, grammatical, and theological context well before we interpret the biblical text. Without having proper knowledge of one of the contexts, our interpretation can become misleading and obscure and, to the extreme, even heretic. Let’s outline them.


i. Original Audience: We need to know who were the intended audiences when the book was written.

ii. Social Situation: When was this written and how was their social situation, culture, lifestyle looked like? What was the purpose of this writing? What happened in the history?

iii. Purpose: In other words, what might have motivated the writer to write the book? If we have answer to these basic questions, we can move along and work on the literary and grammatical area.


Pay close attention to the specific genre of the text. We simply cannot interpret the poem as a narrative and prophecy as an epistle. Scriptural context is another area that demands our attention. Look for language issues like word-meaning. The meaning of the word changes over time. A certain word might have utterly different meaning in the past than we use and understand it in our time. Writing styles are also important, since the Bible is comprised of 66 different books that was written by about 40 different authors over period of 1600 years. So, it is obvious that the writing style and meaning also vary from the time of its writing to in our present day. One more important thing to look for is the word-repetition.  Repeating words should trigger us to look into the text deeper and carefully, as the author is saying something important that he wants his audience to know.


Once we move from the historical, literary and grammatical context, we need to work on the text in its theological context to determine the application of the text. We need to do biblical theology in its framework: (i) Creation (ii) Fall (iii) Redemption and (iv) Consummation. Biblical theology helps us to see the progressive history that how God has revealed himself to humanity and also teaches us about his redemptive work throughout the Old Testament and the New Testament. The biblical theology seeks to understand how epochs of the Old Testament have pointed toward the fulfillment of the promise in the life and work of Jesus Christ. The biblical theology thereby encourages us to know the intended meaning of the biblical text by understanding whether the biblical text points toward something in the New Testament or back to the Old Testament. For instance, Luke 24:27, “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

From here on, we can see what the author’s message was for his audience back in the history. Today, our context is completely different than the time the book was authored. Next, we are not the original audience; however, we can now know the centrality of the message and apply it to our time without claiming or making the verses as our own.

Biblical Nuggets: Casuistic Law

Casuistic Law: A form of law characterized by an “if … then” condition where an action and its consequences are stipulated, and mitigating circumstances or considerations are specified. A biblical example is Exodus 21:12-13: “Whoever strikes a person mortally shall be put to death. If it was not premeditated, but came about by an act of God, then I will appoint for you a place to which the killer may flee.” It stands in contrast to *apodictic law.


Arthur G. Patzia;Anthony J. Petrotta. Pocket Dictionary of Biblical Studies (p. 23). Kindle Edition.

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