Book Reviews

Book Review: Matthew, Disciple and Scribe (Patrick Schreiner)

One benefit from Bible college was learning more about how each Gospel writer had their own perspective. While teaching through Mark, instead of looking at what all the Gospel authors wrote about say, Jesus’ transfiguration, it was important to see how Mark’s themes fit with his representation of the transfiguration. In Patrick Schreiner’s new book Matthew, Disciple and Scribe, he posits that Matthew is a scribe trained under his master, Jesus.

And he [Jesus] said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house, who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.” – Matthew 13:52

Matthew has learned from Jesus how he fulfills what came before in the Old Testament. Jesus is the new David, Moses, Abraham, and Israel. He is the ultimate righteous and wise king and the prophet who faithful represents God because he knew him from eternity past. He fulfills Israel’s exodus in his life, death, and resurrection, and gathers the nations of the world to himself.

Matthew emphasizes these aspects through “shadow stories,” stories that point us back to the Old Testament. Jesus’ life “reflects and completes the persons, places, things, offices, events, actions, and institutions of the OT” (55). Matthew tells his readers from the get-go that Jesus is the expected King, prophet, etc. Matthew begins his Gospel with many “fulfillment” statements (1:22; 2:5, 15, 17, 23) about how Jesus or events in his life “fulfill” certain OT texts, but after these first few chapters those statements become harder to find. Upon seeing that Jesus is the true King, prophet, and such, the reader is meant to keep these themes running in their head while they read the rest of the Gospel. They can pick up on these backward-looking shadow stories.

Parts One and Two

Without rehearsing the book, in the first section Schreiner looks at how Matthew is a scribe discipled by Jesus. The scribes in Matthew disregard Jesus and look down on him, so Jesus disciples new scribes who live according to his words. Matthew then shows how “Jesus fills up, completes, and perfects the history of Israel” by looking back to the OT (44). Matthew explicitly quotes and implicitly alludes to the OT to show how Jesus completes Israel’s story.

In the second half of the book, Schreiner shows how Jesus fulfills some of the major characters and events of the OT. The places he lives and journey through reflects David’s. He is “born into the family of David, grows up in the city of David, is exiled from his home, and then returns to the city of the king, conquering through humility, suffering righteously, and finally being enthroned on the cross” (99). He lives and acts as a wise and righteous king, shepherding his own people and including Gentiles who have faith.

Jesus is a better Moses because he not only gives a new “law” on a mountain (Matt 5-7), but he, unlike Moses, keeps it too! He keeps God’s law perfectly and lives what he preaches (pp. 107-108). Jesus is “the New Moses, who leads the people to the promised land of rest by discipling them in wisdom concerning the Torah.” While Moses only mediated the law, Jesus “takes the law upon himself as their wise teacher” (146). Moses could lead the people to the promised land, but he himself couldn’t enter because of his own sin. Even when they entered, Israel was still under sin’s slavery. Jesus, however, is the perfect Passover lamb who sheds his blood for his people, allowing God’s law to be written on their hearts. 

Irony

Schreiner acutely picks up on Matthew’s irony throughout his Gospel and the importance irony has in teaching truth. Irony allows you two say two things at once. For example, irony soaks the crucifixion scene. First, the people mock Jesus by calling him “Jesus, the King of the Jews” and tell him to save himself. Yet Jesus, the who who was “born king of the Jews” (Matt 2:2), came to earth not to save himself, but people from their sins (1:21). The one who was clothed in light (17:2; Ps 104:2), is stripped and clothed with a scarlet robe (signifying royalty). He is given a reed (instead of a scepter). They give him a crown of thorns. They then enthrone the King on his throne, the cross. Jesus takes Adam’s curse (i.e., thorns) and bears it on himself. He reigns here as King, and he conquers sin and death. They set Jesus up as king while they deny him his kingship.

Second, “it allows Matthew to connect the cross and the throne and his suffering with his wisdom” (98). The one who lives by God’s law and perfectly represents God’s character does not curse back when he is cursed. Jesus’ identity is revealed by those who mock him.

Recommended?

As a scribe under Jesus, Matthew wrote to form “a certain type of community” and “a certain type of individual” (251). Those who follow Jesus are to be theologically, practically, and ethically wise, and they find this in his example. They understand Jesus is the wise one who takes their heavy-burdens. Practically, they pray to God to reveal wisdom to them, to provide for them, to forgive them, and to give them strength through the Spirit’s power. We pray for eyes to see and ears to hear so that we can be humble and meek, showing justice, mercy, and faithfulness to all people so that they can give glory to God. This book goes for pastors and teachers who want to better understand how Matthew shapes his Gospel to explain to us who Christ is. 

Lagniappe

  • Author: Patrick Schreiner
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Baker Academic (September 3, 2019)
  • Sample: Read the first 30 pages!

Buy it from Amazon or Baker Academic!

Disclosure: I received this book free from Baker Academic. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.

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