Matthias Konradt on the Soteriological Significance of Jesus’s Death in Matthew

In today’s post I will look at another key quotation from this year’s BMSEC volume, namely Matthias Konradt‘s book Israel, Church, and the Gentiles in the Gospel of Matthew, which has been translated with great precision and elegance by Kathleen Ess. For my other posts on this book, see here.

As usual I will begin with the English translation so that the selective grammatical analysis can directly follow the German text.

Translation and Text

Israel, Church, and the Gentiles in the Gospel of Matthew (p. 298; trans. K. Ess, bracketed material added by W. Coppins): While the soteriological dimension of the Matthean model of Jesus’ divine sonship is made clear already in 1.18-25 as well as in the pericope of Jesus’ walk across the water in 14.22-33, this dimension is emphatically reinforced in the Passion Narrative. Matthew concisely expresses the soteriological significance of Jesus’ death by adding εἰς ἄφεσιν ἁμαρτιῶν [for the forgiveness of sins] to the words of institution in 26.28. Matthew left out these very words in the portrayal of John the Baptist, in contrast with Mark 1.4. In Matthew, the forgiveness of sins is linked not with the baptism of John but with Jesus’ death. In the preceding narrative, this soteriological significance is reflected in the authority of the Son of Man to forgive sins in 9.6, as well as Jesus’ ministry to the “lost sheep of the house of Israel” in general. Both elements together develop the basic christological statement of 1.21: “For Matthew the forgiveness of sins stands at the center of Jesus’ mission.” The connection between 1.21 and Jesus’ passion is not only achieved through 26.28 but also further substantiated in that the name Jesus, which in 1.21 is explained in the statement of salvation, is inserted in the titulus crucis in 27.37: the Markan ὁ βασιλεὺς τῶν Ἰουδαίων [the king of the Jews] becomes in Matthew οὗτός ἐστιν Ἰησοῦς ὁ βασιλεὺς τῶν Ἰουδαίων [this is Jesus the king of the Jews]. It is plausible to assume that Matthew here creates an intentional reference to the interpretation of the name in 1.21, and thereby, in line with 26.28, connects Jesus’ death with the forgiveness of sins.

* The quoted sentence is from the translation of U. Luz’ commentary on Matthew 21-28 (p. 381 = p. 116 in vol 4 of the German version).

Israel, Kirche und die Völker im Matthäusevangelium (p. 320): Wurde bereits in 1.18-25 sowie durch die Seewandelperikope in 14.22-33 die soteriologische Dimension der mattäischen Profilierung der Gottessohnschaft Jesu deutlich, so wird dies durch die Passionserzählung mit Nachdruck untermauert. Die soteriologische Bedeutung des Todes Jesu findet bei Matthäus einen konzisen Ausdruck in der Hinzufügung von εἰς ἄφεσιν ἁμαρτιῶν im Kelchwort in 26.28. Ebendiese Worte hat Matthäus bei der Präsentation des Täufers gegenüber Mk 1,4 ausgelassen. Sündenvergebung wird von Matthäus nicht schon an die Johannestaufe, sondern an den Tod Jesu gebunden. In der vorangehenden Erzählung steht dem in 9,6 die Vollmacht des Menschensohns zur Vergebung der Sünden wie überhaupt die Zuwendung Jesu zu den “verlorenen Schafen des Hauses Israel” zur Seite. Beides zusammen entfaltet die christologische Basis-aussage von 1,21. “Die Vergebung der Sünden ist für Matthäus das Zentrum der Sendung Jesu”. Die Verbindung zwischen 1,21 und der Passion Jesu erfolgt dabei nicht allein durch 26.28, sondern wird noch dadurch untermauert, dass der Name “Jesus”, der in 1,21 durch die Rettungsaussage erläutert wird, im titulus crucis in 27,37 eingefügt ist: Aus dem markinischen ὁ βασιλεὺς τῶν Ἰουδαίων wird bei Matthäus οὗτός ἐστιν Ἰησοῦς ὁ βασιλεὺς τῶν Ἰουδαίων. Die Annahme liegt nahe, dass Matthäus hier einen gezielten Rückvereis auf die Namensdeutung in 1,21 setzt und damit ganz auf der Linie von 26,28 den Tod Jesu als Ort der Sündenvergebung ausweist.

Grammatical Analysis

Rather than providing a selective analysis of the entire passage, let me now treat the last two sentences in detail as a model sentence: Die Verbindung … Jesu forms the subject of the verb erfolgt. Die Verbindung = the connection; zwischen = between + dative (1.21 und der Passion/the passion); Jesu is genitive (of Jesus); K. Ess has translated erfolgt with “is … achieved” rather than adopting a more wooden solution such as “takes place”. She appears to have left dabei untranslated (as I often do). nicht allein = not only. durch 26.28 = through 26.28 (it might have been preferable to write “is achieved not only through 26.28). sondern = but. I like the translation “is substantiated” for wird untermauert. She has rendered sondern … noch as “but also further”, which works well, since “not only” needs to be followed by “but also” in English. dadurch … dass has been translated with “in that”, which works well, though I might have gone with “but is further substantiated also by the fact that”. der Name Jesus / the name Jesus is the subject. It is modified by the non-defining relative clause der … wird: der = which; as usual the verb wird erläutert is moved to the end of the subordinate clause; durch die Rettungsaussage (acc) = “by the statement of salvation”. The verb of the main sentence, eingefügt ist has been moved to the end of the subordinate clause introduced by dass: I might have translated it with “has been inserted” rather than “is inserted” though I think it works well as it stands. In the German I would have expected (no doubt incorrectly!) the accusative (into the titulus crucis) rather than the dative im titulus crucis, which is correctly translated as “in the titulus crucis“. Aus X wird Y can be translated as “X becomes Y” (as K. Ess has done here). I always struggle with the translation of liegt nahe, and I might have rendered this phrase as “The assumption is suggested that” or “the assumption lies close at hand that”. But I much prefer K. Ess’s translation of this phrase as “It is plausible to assume”: dass introduces what is being assumed; that Matthäus … setzt und … ausweist. The object of setzt/creates is einen gezielten Rückverweis/an intentional reference, which is probably better than adopting a more expansive solution such as “an intentional reference back”. auf = to + die Namensdeutung/the interpretation of the name (accusative). damit is always troublesome. As K. Ess has done, I often translate it with “thereby”, which I think works well here, though I have increasingly begun to leave it untranslated or use “in this way”. K. Ess has left ganz untranslated, writing “in line with 26.28” rather than adopting a more cumbersome solution such as “completely in line with”. She has translated the last part of the sentence freely with “connected the death of Jesus with the forgiveness of sins” rather than adopting a more wooden translation such as “and thereby designated the death of Jesus as (the) place of the forgiveness of sins”, which might be preferable insofar as it retains the emphasis on place in the German.

Substantive analysis

I found this quotation to be a wonderfully compact presentation of the soteriological significance of Jesus’ ministry and death in Matthew. And for me at least Konradt’s interpretation of the significance of Matthew’s addition of Jesus’ name to the titulus was both convincing and new (it does not, however, appear to be a new idea as such; in his footnote to this point, Konradt writes: Compare Senior 1985, 131; Heil 1991a, 80; Luck 1993, 305; Repschinksi 2006, 264 (= CBQ 68); and Herzer 2009, 139).

Let me conclude this post by thanking Jason Maston again for interviewing me last week about the BMSEC series at Dunelm Road!

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German Mondays: Thank you for making it to the end of this blog post! Unfortunately, I have found it increasingly difficult to write a new post each Monday, but I hope to be able to write at least two or three Monday blog posts each month. We’ll see. Best, Wayne.


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