How to Read OT Quotations in Matthew

Sunday Musings

Reading with the Pastor
Matthew 21  and  Psalm 26

Dead Sea Scrolls

This is a story from history that will show you how to read Old Testament quotations in the New Testament.

“One afternoon late in 1946” a Bedouin shepherd boy threw a stone into a cave and heard the sound of pottery breaking. By 1948 news began to break that ancient manuscripts had been found in that cave dating from the time before the time of Christ.

But forty-five years later, many manuscripts were still inaccessible to all but a tiny team of researchers, much to the outrage of scholars everywhere. A young graduate student by the name of Marty Abegg had been introduced to the ancient documents by one of his professors, Emanuel Tov. In the course of doing other research, Abegg stumbled on a way to reconstruct the text of the other scrolls, and in 1991, he published a section for all the world to see. “The effect was like a thunderbolt. The cat was out of the bag,” he said. Soon the rest of the scrolls were forthcoming. Abegg had forced the hand of Tov, who had by then become the chief editor of the Dead Sea Scrolls team.

Tension was thick in the air when Tov and Abegg encountered each other at a Scholarly meeting later that year. The balding Jewish scholar paused, uttering just three words to his former student:

“Banim gidalti veromumti.”
“I have raised children and brought them up.”

. . . Abegg vaguely recalled the phrase, recognizing it as a passage from the book of Isaiah. But it wasn’t until later in his hotel room, when he cracked open his Bible and read Isaiah 1:2, that he felt the brunt of Tov’s rebuke: “I have raised children and brought them up, but they have rebelled against me!”

Here’s the point

Abegg winced, knowing that Tov was using a classic rabbinic technique, quoting part of a verse and leaving the rest unstated. As an observant Jew, Emanuel Tov . . . knew that Abegg would get the point as soon as he discovered the full context of the message.

Now listen to the words of another brilliant Jewish scholar . . . He [Jesus] had been preaching and healing people within the Temple grounds. The crowds were cheering for him. Even children were shouting out “Hosanna to the Son of David!” Indignant, the priests and teachers of the law stormed over to Jesus to confront him: “Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked.

Jesus replied, “Have you never read, ‘From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise’? (Matthew 21:16)

Instantly, the rest of Psalm 8:2 would have reverberated in their minds:

From the lips of children and infants
.      you have ordained praise
.     because of your enemies,
.     to silence the foe and the avenger. (italics added)

The psalmist is saying that God’s glory is so great that even children instinctively worship him, to the shame of those who hate him.

—Ann Spangler and Lois Tverberg
Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus,
(Zondervan, 2009) p, 36-37.

Lesson:  When you see an Old Testament quote on the lips of Jesus, always go back to the quote and read the context. You will be amazed how it fills out the meaning or the point that Jesus is trying to make.

Don’t forget to read Psalm 26 today.


One thought on “How to Read OT Quotations in Matthew

  1. Aye an important lesson that. Read the entire passage or verse and do not rely only on a partial reading or a phrase or two. Context is so vitally important as well.


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