Matthew is probably the most well-known Gospel, whether due to its ordering in most copies of the New Testament at the beginning or its balance between being readable and theological, it is immensely popular. David Bauer seeks, with The Gospel of the Son of God, to introduce the book of Matthew to readers while also drawing out its theological insights and major themes.
The first part of Bauer’s text focuses on the “orientation” of Matthew: its form and genre, the approach and method of studying Matthew, the circumstances of Matthew’s composition, and the shape of the text itself. In this first part, it is the chapter on method for studying Matthew that I found most interesting, as Bauer surveys the many methods that have been leveled at the text, whether from various textual critical methods or more modern or ancient methods. What Bauer points out is that each of these methods tends to focus on just one aspect of the Gospel at the expense of others (40). He offers instead an inductive approach that attempts to work from the Gospel towards its interpretation, which includes many of the methods he discussed already.
The second part focuses on interpretation of Matthew, dividing the book into three sections. I found Bauer’s look at the earliest part of Matthew, that which most readers are both familiar with and probably skip over in parts, to be quite fascinating. I especially enjoyed Bauer’s analysis of the genealogy and its ties to various theological themes throughout the Bible and the New Testament. Bauer tends to avoid major controversy throughout the book with his interpretation.
Part three offers a reflection and conclusions on the book of Matthew, with particular focus on who Jesus is, discipleship, and eschatology. Time and again, the titles and works attributed to Jesus are aligned with those of God, demonstrating Matthew’s high Christology. Along with this, there are things like the formula of Matthew 28:18-20 that demonstrate the unity of persons in the Godhead (eg. the singular ‘name’ of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). Two chapters here are dedicated to the titles of Jesus and Christology, showing Bauer’s emphasis as well as Matthew’s as lying firmly within questions of who Jesus is and what he came to do. It’s a fairly detailed look at Christology within the broader work of interpreting Matthew.
As an aside, I’d like to mention the indices for the book are well-done, though I wish there a subject index. The author index, bibliography, and Scripture index are excellent.
The Gospel of the Son of God is a fascinating look at one of the most popular books of the Bible. For those readers looking to dive more deeply into the Bible, this introduction to the whys and hows of Matthew is an excellent work. Recommended.
Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of the book for review by the publisher. I was not required to give any specific kind of feedback whatsoever.
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