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"Perch stessero

con Lui"
Scritti in onore di Klemens Stock SJ,
nel suo 75 compleanno

a cura di
L ORENZO DE SANTOS e SANTI GRASSO

(;REfORIAt'\' & BIHLI CAL PRESS

ROMA 2010
IMAGE OF GOD THE FATHER IN MATIHEW 1-4

Artur Molino

l . lntroductory lssues

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus opery speaks of God as


Father for the frst time: [ ... ] so let your light shine before men,
that they m ay see your good works, and may glorify your Father
who [is] in the heavens (Matt 5:16) . It would be a grave error to
discover the image of God the Father solely from the explicit
ni.entions of the terms in question. Examining texts which direct-
ly name God as Father would not prove su:fficient. They do not
reveal the image of God the Father, but God as Father, and only
to a limited extent, since an account should also be taken of the
texts presenting Jesus as Son of God and other people as God's
children. An absence of such terms as father or son does not
necessarily mean a lack of content referring to God the Father.
The teaching on Him can be found in every part of Matthew's
text: in the words of various protagonists as well as at the narra-
tive level. Paterological content is already present in the Infancy
Narrative (Matt 1~2), even though the term father is never used
in relation to God 1 The same is true about the account of Jesus'

1
In some translations, the phrase (was] father ofo is used instead of begot to ren-
der the Greek verb yVVT}OEV. The noun fath en> does not occur in the genealogy, it
only appears at the end of the Infancy N arrative and refers to H erod as the father of
Archelaus.

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baptism in the Jordan and His temptation in the desert. The indi- His fathers. In the male line, the chain begun with Abraham ends
rect references contained in the first chapters provide a founda- with Joseph, not Jesus, who - as the evangelist emphasizes by
tion for the whole teaching of Jesus, who calls God His Father switching from the active to the passive form of the verb - was
and the Father of ali people. born of Mary. With the genealogy concluded that way, the origin
ofJesus presented there is open to the revelation of the identity of
His Father, which gradually takes place in the further pericopes.
111 2. Before Jesus' Pubi ie Ministry ( 1: 1-4: 11) The next three mentions of the term son refer to His birth of
Mary, without clearly pointing to the father (Matt 1:21.23.25). In
The texts from the beginning of the book are of great their context, the stress is placed on His relation with God: He shall
importance for the presentation of the Gospel theology. They save Israel from their sins (Matt 1:21); the name Emmanuel, by
reveal Jesus' identity as the Son of God, providing a foundation which the one born of the Virgin is calied, is immediately explained
for the authority of His teaching on God as Father. The teach- as God with us, a citation from Isaiah (Matt 1:23); the informa-
ing is contained in two parts: the Infancy Narrative and the tion that a Son was born of the Virgin Mary points to the fulfill-
description of the events relateci to Jesus' baptism. ment of the prophecy (Matt 1:25).
To describe the newborn, Matthew more frequently uses the
term muLov (Matt 2:8.9.11.13[2x].14.20[2x].21). The noun is
2. 7 God the Father in the lnfancy Narrative (I: 7-2:23) used with a similar frequency in two other parts of the Bible: in the
story oflsmael (Gen 21:12.14.15.16[2 x].17[2 x] .18.19.20) and in
Matthew's account focuses largely on the events relateci to the account of Moses' birth (Ex 2:3.6[2x].7.8.9[2 x].10). In both
the birth of Jesus, hence the important role of the nouns son cases, the frequency emphasizes a threat against a child, i.e. a help-
and child for describing the newborn Jesus in the first chap- less person. Furthermore, referring to lsmael and Moses as children
ters. The two terms deserve some special attention. is relateci to certain problems with their dignity as sons, or even
The first of the two, uL6, occurs less frequently (1:1[2x].20.21. with the identity of their fathers. Those two aspects - the motif of
23.25; 2:15). The evangelist never speaks on his own behalf about a threat and the problem of the child's identity - are clearly seen in
the meaning ofJesus' identity as Son.The terminology is consistent Matthew's Infancy Narrative. When he uses the word TTClLLOV, he
in the entire bo ok. The title of the Son of God (Mark 1: 1; J ohn describes the threat to the child's life (Matt 2:13.14.20.21), which
20:31) 2 does not appear at the narrative level, but in the words of is similar to the danger threatening Moses after Pharaoh's edict of
the protagonists of the story (Matt 4:3.6, 8:29, 14:33, 16:16, 26:63, death to ali newborn boys3 . The biblica! typology of Moses and
27:40.43.54). In the lnfancy Narrative, there are the first three Jesus is distinctly present in the First Gospel. The other aspect is
mentions of the noun modifed by a genitive attribute that point to even more evident. In the account ofJoseph takingJesus to Egypt
Jesus' sonship: son ofDavid, son of Abraham (Matt 1:1) and son at the command of an angel, Matthew consistently uses the term
of David (Matt 1:20). The genealogy makes the sonship relative: child, with no mention of son (Matt 2:13.14.20.21). Thus the
being His ancestors, Abraham and David could be considered as evangelist avoids presentingJoseph as the father ofJesus.

2
The high priest's question: [ ...] tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God (Matt 3
R. PESCH, Der Gottessohn im matthiiischen Evangelienprolog (Mt 1-2). Beobachtungen z u
26:63), comes closest to the complex phrase the Christ, the Son of God. rlen Zitationiformeln der Rejlexionszitate, Bib 48, 1967, 413.

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The description of danger contains a clear declaration that the with people. The call out of Egypt reveals the content of the rela-
child originates from God. It is found in the citation from the tionship between God the Father and Jesus, His Son, not only -
prophet, originally referring to Israel's exodus from Egypt: Out of :is it is in the context of Hosea - between God and Israel.
Egypt I have called my son (Hos 11:1inMatt2:15). For the frst I lowever, those words do not state unambiguously whether the
tin~e in Matthew's Gospel does God present Himself as a protag- rcvealed relationship is the only one of its kind.
orust ofhistory, definingJesus' relationship with God. No-one else
- neither an angel, nor the narrator's voice - but God Himself
reveals Jesus' sonship, thus presenting himself as His Father. 2. 2 God the Father in the Baptismal Theophany and the
There are only two biblica! citations introduced by the formu- Temptation (3 : 73-4: 7 7)
la [ ... J that it might be fulfilled that was spoken by the Lord
through the prophet (Matt 1:22, 2:15) .Though in all other intro- T he revelation of the mutuai relationship between the Father
~u~tions to the Bible quotations passivurn theologicum is used to and the Son comes directly from them. God the Father is the first
md1cate that G~d is the author of the words quoted, it is only in subject of that revelation in the Infancy N arrative. The initiative is
the ~b_ove-ment10ned two that the active subject of the words is also His after the baptism and during the transfiguration ofJesus.
explic1tly defined as the Lord: by the Lord 4 Both citations also ' I he first of those theophanies takes place immediately after Jesus
contain a ~irnilar content: they present Jesus in a very dose per- omes out of the water: the heavens are open, the Spirit of God6
sona! relat10nsh1p to God. The narrator formulates them in such iescends upon Him, and a voice comes from Heaven, callirig Him
a way that they do not have an explicitly defined addressee. They H is Son. That declaration is different from all the other statements
represent a form of the Lord's (KupLO without an article, i.e. )f the identity of Jesus which contain the phrase Son of God
Yahweh) self-reflection upon His Son5 . Being taken over from the (Matt 4:3.6, 8:29, 14:33, 16:16, 26:63, 27:40.43.54).After the bap-
Old Testament without any changes, they maintain the continu- tism in the Jordan and during the transfiguration on the mountain
ity of the revelation in the two parts of the Bible. However, rod does not announce that Jesus is the Son of God, but he says:
Matthew's framework provides them with a new meaning. For T his is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am pleased (Matt
the name _Emm~nuel, by which the born of the Virgin is called, :17, 17:5).The words differ from those spoken by other protago-
Matthew immediately offers an explanation: God with us (Matt n ists about Jesus as the Son of God, as the latter do not refer to the
1:23). Therefore, the birth of Jesus means that God is genuinely speaker's persona! relationship to Him. In the best case, one may
say that those who define Him in this way simply recognize or
4 iu estion His filial bond with God. God's declarations relating to
The introductions to Bible citations take different forms in Matthew's Gospel. The
introductory formula depends on both the content of the quoted passage and the context
J sus are of a very different nature. The first person singular pro-
in which it is used. Si.mi.lar formulas, pointi.ng di.rectly to God as the active subject, occur 11 oun (occurring also as a possessive pronoun in M att 2:15, 21:37)
only in Jesus' words addressed di.rectly at His main adversaries: the Sadducees (Matt 22:31- dctermines the speaker's bond with the person described that way.
32) and tl1e Pharisees (M att 22:43-44) . Their common motif is a promise of victory over Calling Jesus His Son, God presents Himself as Father. The
death a.nd His enemies, reinforced by expli.citly attributing the quoted words to God. :1ttribute the beloved ( &yanri16) points to, first of all, a feeling,
5
There is no phrase by the Lord in the introduction (in 12: 17) to the words that
could be attributed directly to God: Here is my serva.nt, whom I have chosen, my
beloved, with whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon him (12:18-21). 1
T he phrase tl1e Spirit of God reflects M atthew's theocentrism.. In the parallel
'

T he first person singular pronouns in the citation refer to God, however, Jesus is not :ospels, we fnd th e Spirit (Mark 1:10, John 1:32) a.nd the H oly Spirit>> (Luke 3:22,
called my Son but my Servant. )< hn 1:33).

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a loving relationship between the Father and the Son. The origi- A strong personal commitment of the speaker can be sensed in
nal direction of God's love is revealed: God loves first, while Jesus the second part of the declaration. T he words that God is pleased
1s the first loved one. The primacy of God's love is also confrmed with Him cannot be reduced to a mere pleonastic repetition of the
by a certain linguistic device in the Greek Bible: the adjective pronouncement of His being God's beloved Son. In Matthew's
beloved never refers to God. That primacy of God's love is close- Gospel, the terms derived from the verb EOOOKELV occur only in the
ly relateci to His fatherhood. In the Septuagint, the beloved son expressions used by God or Jesus: in the scene of baptism (Matt
often describes the only or the frst-born child7 . The semantic 3:17), in the prayer ofJesus praising His Father (Matt 11:26), in the
content of the adjective reflects the uniqueness of God the Father's citation containing God's words about His Servant (Matt 12:18) and
relationship to His only Son8 . God's revelation of the identity of in the scene of transfguration (Matt 17:5). In ali the above-men-
Jesus is not equivalent to calling other individuals or groups sons tioned cases, the terms refer to a tight, close-knit bond between the
of God, as it is in the case of angels (Gen 6:2,Job 1:6; 38:7) , Israel Father and the Son, not to the colloquial sense of liking, which can
(Isa 1:2; Hos 11:1, etc), the righteous one (Wis 2:13.16.18), the be interpreted as arbitrary fancy or subjective kindness.
addressee <?f the advice offered by wisdom (Sir 4:1), and, particu- What is the meaning of God's choice to reveal the pleasure
larly, the king (2 Sm 7:14; Ps 2:7; 89:27-28). The profession made He takes in His Son at the moment of the baptism in the Jordan?
by the voice from Heaven marks a distinct progress in the revela- It seems a legitimate question, since the bond between Them
tion of God' identity as Father compared to the first statement in was not formed only after Jesus carne out of the water: it had
Matthew's Gospel: Out of Egypt I have called my son (Matt existed long before He approached John the Baptist. If the Father
2:15).The frst declaration contained in the Infancy N arrative does is pleased with His Son, it is not because Jesus has been baptized,
not determine the uniqueness of Jesus' sonship, it is by the river but because H e is His beloved Son. Jesus' dignity as the Son is
Jordan that the whole truth of God having one and only Son is not a consequence of His Father being pleased with Hin, on the
revealed. T hus, God's fatherhood assumes a meaning which was contrary, the fact the Father is pleased with Him results from
not until then revealed in the stories of the Old Testament. Jesus' identity as God's beloved Son.
What then makes the Father express His liking precisely after
Jesus received baptism from John? When He comes to be bap-
tized, John protests, pointing to the higher position of the One
7
In H ebrew, it is expressed by the adj ective precious Oer 31:20/LXX 38:20: who comes and His eschatological baptism with the Holy Spirit
jaqqfr) or the word only (jd/:zfd) , whi ch can occur as either an attribute of son (Gen and with fre (Matt 3:14). In reply, he hears that he has to sub-
22:2.1 2 .16) or a substantive adjective meaning an o nly [one] = the only child Qer mit his own assessment to the necessity of fulflling every detail
6:26,Amos 8:10, Zech 12:10). For exampl e, the passage onJefte's daughter reads: S he
was his only [on e] (the Alexa ndrian C odex adds beloved), he had no son or dau gh- of God's plan of salvation, here referred to as all righteousness
ter except her Qudg 11 :34 in the Alexandrian C odex) . (Matt 3: 15). The words ab out the necessity offulflling ali right-
8
T he attributes should not be treated as synonyms though the texts sugaest their eousness are the very frst words spoken by Jesus in Matthew's
equivalen,ce; e.g. for God so loved (~yamiaEv) the world that he gave his ~nly Son Gospel, thus in the entire New Testament. They are placed as
(ovoy EvT)) Qohn 3:16, cf. 1 John 4: 9). The choice of the adj ective only (ovoyEv~) dose as possible to the beginning of the Gospel so as to show
rather than beloved (ayamii:o) results form the use of the verb love (ayaniv) in the
same sentence. Its subj ect is God and its direct object - the world (and the addressees that, from the very start of His public ministry, Jesus surrenders
of the lette.rin 1 John 4:9) . God's love for the world (and C hristians), though, is not to His Father's will and is thus fully uniteci with Him. H ence,
1dentical with H1s fatherly love for His Only Son, thus the attribute beloved does not the time for revealing Their relationship is determined by the
occur in those texts (cf.John 3:1 8 in the context ofJohn 3: 16) . words and actions of Jesus expressing His unity with God.

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The theme of the unity between the Father and the Son is you are the Son of God [... ] (Matt 27:40). Like Satan in the
further developed in the narrative on the triple temptation of desert, they quote the Scripture when they evoke God's love for
Jesus with a repetitive pattern of actions: the tempter's endeav- His Son revealed on the Jordan: He trusts in God; let God deliv-
ors. targeted at Jesus; the tempter's words aiming to provoke er him now, if he wants to; for he said, "I am God's Son" (Matt
~ct10ns that belong to God's prerogatives;Jesus' refusal expressed 27:43).The service of angels shows the divine dignity ofJesus and
m the words taken from the Scripture. Each time the tempter marks God's response to the victory over the tempter. However,
tries to sub~ue Jesus' actions to his demands. Even though there the intervention of angels does not aim to remove the threat to
is no exphcit reference to God the Father in the story, its con- the life of the Son as the person closest to the Father (Matt 4:6;
tent is distinctly patrocentric. cf. 26:53): it takes place only afi:er the Son fulfilled ali righteous-
The substance of the relationship between God and Jesus is ness that is His Father's will (Matt 4:11, cf. 28:2)10 .Jesus declares
clearly revealed in the first two temptations. The tempter casts His submission to that will both before receiving baptism (Matt
doubts on His bond with God as Father, beginning the second 3:15) and before His passion and death (Matt 26:39.42).
temptation with the conditional lfYou are the Son of God
[... ] (Matt ~:3.6). The anaphora containing the nominal pred-
1cat1ve son m both questions stresses Jesus' relationship to God 3. The Significance of Matt 1-4 tor the Teaching on God the Father
as His Father rather than His God. It is striking that God is
shown as the One that satisfies hunger: not by providing ordi- After Jesus' victory over the tempter, a description of His
na.ry bread or performing a miracle in the desert, but by giving public activity begins and continues up to His death and resur-
H1s word as food. G1vmg food is a task that even bad fathers are rection. Jesus' teaching is targeted at two kinds of recipients.
prepared to do for their own children (Matt 7:9-11). From the very beginning ofHis ministry, He is followed by large
Putting into doubt Jesus' dignity as the Son, and thus God's crowds. The movement of those people is of different nature
fatherhood, culminates during the third temptation. Satan than the way of Jesus' disciples. The crowds from different
attributes to himself the highest prerogatives, using the words of regions follow Him because they have heard of His miracles
the promise which God gave to the king after declaring him His (Matt 4:23-35), while the disciples respond to His persona! cali
own son: And these I will give to you (Matt 4:9; cf. Ps 2:8) 9 (Matt 4:18-22) . It is the disciples that are the main recipients of
Jesus replies to Satan' contestations by invoking the absolute Jesus' words about God as His Father. Out of sixteen passages,
supremacy of God. He gradualiy strengthens the tone: [... ] but four are aimed at other addressees: ali those who say Lord unto
by every word coming from the mouth of God (Matt 4:4), Do Him (Matt 7:21), the Father (Matt 11:25-27, 26:39.42), an
not tempt the Lord your God (Matt 4:7), Worship the Lord anonymous interlocutor (Matt 12:49-50) . The disciples also play
your God, and serve only him (Matt 4:10). a significant roles in the above-mentioned passages or their clos-
In the scenes of temptation, the relationship between Jesus as est narrative context. Ali those who recognize Jesus as their Lord I
Son and God as Father is openly contested for the first time. The are summoned to do His Father's will (cf. 7:21-23) . In His prayer
last such attack is launched by those gathered under the cross: If of praise, He points at those to whom the Father reveals Himself I
9
]. BIENECK, Solm Cottes als C hristusbezeichn.u ng der Syn.optiker, Ziirich 1951 , 64 n.

18; E. L VESTAM , Son and Sa11iour.A S tudy ofA cts 13,32-37. With an Appendix : 'Son ef 9
These are th e only two passages in the Bible where th e angels come as the sub-
Cod' in the Synop tic Cospels, Lund - C openhagen 1961, 100. ject of the verb 11poopxE08a.t .

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and who are immediately called to learn from Jesus, the meek 11!1 Summary
and lowly in heart (Matt 11 :29). Praying in Gethsemane and
submitting His own desires to His Father's will,Jesus invites three A patrocentric content may occur in texts which do not point
of His disciples to watch and pray with Him (Matt 26:38.41). directly to God as Father. An absence of such terms as fathen> or
When He hears from His relatives, He immediately points at His son does not necessarily imply lack of content referring to God the
disciples and declares that those who do His Father's will are His Father. The study concentrates on ali the texts which contain explic-
true farn.ily (Matt 12:49-50).All other mentions ofHis Father are it or implicit references to God the Father in the Infancy Narrative
(Matt 1-2), in the accounts ofJesus' baptism in the Jordan (Matt 3:13-
part of His communication with the disciples. That theoretical
17) and ofHis temptation in the desert (Matt 4:1-11).All such refer-
teaching carries practical consequences. The last sentence in the ences contained in the first chapters of this Gospel provide a founda-
Gospel defnes the mission of the disciples: Go therefore and tion for the whole teaching of Jesus, who calls God His Father and
make d.isciples of ali nations, baptizing them in the name of the the Father of all people.
Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Matt 28: 19). The
baptismal command points to the Persons of the Holy Trinity
who legitimize the ministry of the disciples. The fnal passage of
the command determines the way in which the invocation the
Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit should be interpreted. It is
not an unspecifed early baptismal liturgy that gives meaning to
the baptism in the name of the three Persons, but the whole
Gospel narration presenting the words and actions of Jesus as
well as the interventions of Jesus' Father and the Spirit of the
Father (baptism and transfguration).

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