Matthew’s Christology is one that emphasises to a Jewish audience the Jewishness of Jesus. It will be the purpose of this paper to argue that the raison d’etre of Matthew’s Christology is to portray Jesus as entirely compatible if not with the Judaism of his day then with ancient Judaic tradition, namely the Old Testament. Whilst there are numerous titles given to Jesus that are exclusive/predominant within the Matthean account, such as that of Son of God, it is the writer’s assertion that these merely complement Matthew’s central theses; this being the portrayal of Jesus as Messiah and so, as such, will not be investigated except where they promote this conclusion. This fulfilment of Judaic tradition will be investigated in three separate yet interrelated areas: Jesus as the fulfilment of Hebraic messianic expectation, Jesus’ role as a Jewish teacher and Jesus as inaugurator of God’s Kingdom.
Matthew is a Semitic gospel written as an encouragement to Jewish Christians and as an apologetic to unbelieving Jews. From the outset Matthew identifies Jesus as one of royal Davidic lineage and Abrahamic descent. Matthew immediately identifies with Judaic tradition portraying Jesus with the Immanuel figure of Isaiah 7:14 (1:23). This motif of the Jewishness of the gospel is especially prevalent in its depiction of Jesus’ role as the fulfilment of the Old Testament’s messianic hope (2:4, 26:63) as well as running throughout the text on varying levels. Perhaps one of the most interesting theories offered in detailing this continuation between testaments is Leske’s proposal that Jesus’ role and ministry is antecedent to the Isaianic literature, and, in particular, the Servant nation of Israel. Whilst a comprehensive critique of Leske’s argument is outside the scope of this study, it would seem fair to concur that Matthew does indeed identify Jesus with the Servant (cf. 3:17; Isaiah 42:1). Consequently, we see in Matthew’s depiction of Jesus a fundamental tenet of Israel’s theological history personified.
Jesus is, as the Messianic Servant, shown to be the fulfilment of further Isaianic prophecy, that of the suffering Servant. Throughout Matthew’s gospel there are six direct allusions to Isaiah 53 indicating a definite link and identification by Matthew with this Israelite and Messianic hope. Further, Farmer suggests that direct allusions notwithstanding in 20:20-28 and especially 26:26-30 Isaiah 53's redemptive hope is supposed to be fulfilled through Jesus’ description of the outcome of his crucifixion.
Isaianic prophecy aside it is also clear that Matthew above the other three evangelists presents Jesus as the fulfilment of the law, a new Moses. The structure of the book into five sections is intended to help the Jewish readers identify Jesus as an antecedent of Moses. Jesus is according to some scholars a type of Moses bringing about a new exodus and a new Israel. More explicitly however, Matthew portrays Jesus as...