How do you respond to claims that Matthew (2:15) takes Hosea 11:1 out of context? What about Matthew 2:18 (weeping in Ramah)?

First I would like to mention that I am a Christian and am very grateful for your “questions and answers” section. I catch myself spending hours reading your answers for fun. I have been reading the ” Jewish annotated” New Testament(2011) which is a composition of various Jewish research and commentary on the New Testament(NRSV edition) composed by Amy- Jill Levine. She is a reputable professor and scholar who is a self-described Orthodox Jew teaching at Vanderbilt University Divinity school. Although I can tell the commentary is trying to be unbiased, I get the sense that they do not accept NT as God’s inspired word compared to the the “Old” Testament as they have several questions on the validity of Matthew and Luke. Without being too comprehensive, I have written some of the citations on their claim that the gospel writers were not inspired. I will add Parenthesis around their comments. -Matthew’s quotation of Hosea 11:1 in Matt 2:15. ( The literary context of Hosea’s quote does not support Matthews use of the verse, but such contextualizing is typical of biblical interpretation in post biblical and rabbinic periods) – Matthew 2:18 ( Ramah is approximately six miles NORTH of Jerusalem) -(The Matthew genealogy of Christ is missing 5 kings ahaziah, joash, amaziah to make the numbers add up to 14″-which means completeness) -They cast doubt on Luke’s knowledge of jewish law of Luke 2:22. ( No purification rites were required for fathers or newborns) – On Matthew 4:17 the scholars imply Jesus is not THE Son of God as modern christians understand it citing other “sons of God” ( Duet 14:1, 2 Sam 7:14, Isa 42:1, Jer 31.9 etc) this among many others.. I gathered that the jewish scholars are pointing out that it wasn’t Jesus who promoted his own diety but rather his anti-semitic or uneducated (in the law) disciples who took God’s Holy Word, torah, and put it out of context or edited/deleted and added things (examples above ) to prove Jesus fulfilled prophecy and being God … something Jesus never said for himself. On the other hand, they allow that Jesus was a true follower of Judiasm who may have been resurrected, rose from the dead, and who may have been a supernatural being like “son” or an angel that became “flesh”. Just as many supernatural dieties and miracles have occurred before. What would be your take on these? Some of the essays in the back argue that Jesus was a true Moses/law follower whereas it was Paul, Matthew, Luke etc. that took Jesus’ as man into Jesus as Diety too far citing Jesus saying ” I have come to fulfill the law”. Overall, I recommend this bible/commentary as I find it gives me a good perspective on the debate that rages between Jewish belivers in tTrah and Christian belief in the OT and then the inerrency of the NT


This kind of argument is a classic example of people reading the New Testament, not to learn what it teaches, but in order to find “dirt.” It is definitely not unbiased scholarship. It is debatable to call this kind of approch scholarship at all. Each of these criticisms of the New Testament are easily explained. Anyone with a good heart and an open mind would not use such examples of “proof” the New Testament is not inspired. Let me deal with these criticisms one at a time.

First of all, there is Hosea 11:1. This is a prophecy/prefigure on many levels. “Out of Egypt I called my son.” Matthew sees this as a prophecy of the Messiah (Matthew 2:15). The propehcy is fulfilled several ways in the scripture. It is fulled as a type when God called his people out of slavery in Egypt. It was also fulfilled as an antitype when God brought Jesus out of Egypt. It is also fulfilled every time one of God’s children is called out of spiritual slavery in spiritual “Egypt” in baptism. In the Bible, being called out of Egypt is a prefigure and a symbol of being saved from slavery of any kind, including physical slavery and slavery to sin. God called Jesus “Out of Egypt” when he returned from Egypt with his parents. However, this prophecy was fulfilled in many ways, and Matthew is well aware. As Moses freed physical Israel from physical slavery, Jesus freed spiritual Israel (the church) from spiritual slavery to sin.

Matthew quotes Jeremiah in 2:18. Herod killed all the young male children in Bethlehem. I believe we can assume that the people living in the nearby village of Ramah were mourning when this happened. Ramah is 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) from Bethlehem. Rachel, the mother of Benjamin, in whose territory Ramah lay, was buried very close to Bethlehem (Genesis 35:18-20, Genesis 48:7). We cannot know for sure, but it is possible that the citizens of Ramah had a special affinity with Bethlehem, the burial place of their “mother.” Besides, if you go to Jeremiah 31:15, the comment about Rachel weeping for her children does not appear to fit all that well with the context of Jeremiah 31, but it fits well with the events which occurred in Matthew chapter 2.

About the Matthew genealogy, it was common for Jewish genealogies to skip multiple generations. This is a pattern repeated often in the Hebrew Bible and in Jewish literature in general. “The father of” means the antecedent of, which would include grandfather, great grandfather of, etc. Obviously, there are a lot more generations betwen Abraham and Jesus. In a period of 1850 years, we can assume that there were over sixty generations. Scholars agree that the genealogy is not intended to be complete. For the sake of symmetry, Matthew chooses twelve of the ancestors of Jesus from each of the three principle periods from Abraham to Jesus. This is a common Jewish literary device and it certainly is not evidence that Matthew is not inspired.

About Luke 2:22, again, this critic of the New Testament is clearly looking for a reason to find fault. What the passage says is “when the days of their purification according to the Law of Moses were finished, they brought Him up to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord. It just so happens that when a child is born, the woman had a seven day period of purification which coincided with the eight days before the son was to be circumcised. Perhaps it is these critics who are not aware of the Jewish law in this situation, otherwise they would notice that God set it up so that the circumsision occurred the day after the purification time for the mother. There is no contradiction here!

I am not sure what these commentators are saying with regard to Matthew 4:17 as it is talking about the coming of the kingdom, not about Jesus being the Son of God. However, there are several prophecies in the Old Testament which predict that God’s “son” would come as the Messiah. For example there is Hosea 11:1 and Psalm 2:7 “He said to me [in the context, the Messiah] “You are my Son, today I have become your Father.” The type/antitype implications of Genesis 22:1f also has God figuratively offering his one and only son as a sacrifice. If scholars contend that the idea of son of God was occasionally applied to God’s children in a broader sense, then I could agree with that. In fact, the word son is applied to Christians in general in the New Testament as well. However, to say that the Old Testament did not envision God’s unique Son coming to earth, then that is simply not correct. It should not surprise us that a Jewish author denies that Jesus is the prophesied “Son of God” of the Old Testament, but we should take this for what it is worth.

Many have claimed that the followers made Jesus into something he never claimed to be. However, the evidence makes this claim a rather obvious falsehood. Jesus was raised from the dead. Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. Right before he raised Lazarus he said to him that he was the resurrection and the life. Are these people saying that John lied? What is their evidence? John was willing to die for Jesus and for the testimony that he was God in the flesh. People can say what they like, but I believe the evidence speaks for itself. We cannot explain the actions of the followers of Jesus in the first generation after he was resurrected if we do not assume that they believed the message they were preaching, which included his deity from the very beginning.

John Oakes

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