Review of Moffitt, David M. “Righteous Bloodshed, Matthew’s Passion Narrative, and the Temple’s Destruction: Lamentations as a Matthean Intertext.”

Moffitt, David M.  “Righteous Bloodshed, Matthew’s Passion Narrative, and the Temple’s Destruction: Lamentations as a Matthean Intertext.” Journal of Biblical Literature 125, no. 2 (2006): 299-320. [Israel/Herod/Sacrifice/Offering/Destruction]

The simple thesis of this articles is that not only does Mt. 27:39 allude to Lamentations 2:15, but that Matthew explicitly draws on Lamentation in his account of events leading up to the crucifixion “in order to portray Jesus’ death as the primary act of righteous bloodshed by the hands of the religious authorities in Jerusalem that results in the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple.” (p. 300) The strength of this argument is based on 1) lexical and formal agreement of passages in Lamentations and Matthew, 2) thematic agreement, and 3) both texts are connected to the death of Zechariah at the temple.  The thematic agreement is the most interesting and persuasive argument.  The contact between the two texts is on three themes: 1) both condemn the religious leaders of Jerusalem, 2) both accuse the religious authorities of shedding righteous blood, and 3) both connect the shedding of that blood with the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple.  The use of Lamentations in Mt. 23-24 constitutes Jesus warning of such a destruction based on the religious leaders shedding “righteous blood” (rather than “innocent blood”), and then returning to these themes in the passion narrative in Mt. 27.

And interesting item was the note that in Mt. 23:38 the Lord tells them “your house is left unto you desolate” and in 24:1 Matthew reports that Jesus “went out, and departed from the temple…”  Moffitt observes that Jesus thus “embodies the departure of the Shekinah from “that house” by walking out of the temple….”  (p. 306.)   Another useful insight is that when the veil is ripped in Mt. 27:51, it is in the context of the condemnation of Jesus, a righteous man, by the Jewish leaders, and the resonances of Mt. 27:19 (“this just man”) and 27:24 (“I am innocent of the blood of this just person”) and 27:25 (“his blood be on us…”), and the warnings which were given in chapters 23 and 24 which parallel the themes in Lamentations.  Thus Moffit says, “The point is driven home, when in what in this context must prefigure the coming judgment, the temple veil is ripped in two when Jesus dies (Matt 27:51).” (p. 309).  The author continues to argue extensively and technically for Matthew’s use of Lamentation in allusions in Mt. 27:4, and 24.  (See pp. 313-319.)  The author concludes that this is not necessarily an anti-Jewish polemic on the part of Matthew.  Rather, his focus is on the Jewish leadership and their role in the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple.

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