Some contemporary evangelical scholars suggest that Matthew's use of the Old Testament is like to the way rabbis of that period used it. For example, the Qumran community contemporized the Old Testament (a.k.a. pesher) by holding that Old Testament scriptures were predictive of their own situation. Many modern scholars would argue that Matthew also interprets the Old Testament using pesher when, for example, he applies Hosea 11:1 to Christ's sojourn in Egypt. If it is true that New Testament authors interpreted the Old Testament this way, then it is a little unsettling. The most pressing concern is that pesher, peshat and many later misrash techniques are fundamentally eisegetical. That is, these hermeneutical approaches are hostile to the notion of objective interpretation. If this is the case, then it brings into question the legitimacy of many critical NT uses of the OT. Ultimately, if NT authors did use rabbinical hermeneutics, then one must question the very authority of the New Testament in critical matters of faith.
A second, if lesser, concern is the contribution New Testament authors make to the study of scripture interpretation. Even if Matthew was not using pesher techniques, what interpretive approach was he taking? Can modern scholarship use his methods or was he exercising the insights of a prophet when he interpreted the Old Testament? If so, then contemporary interpreters can gain little assistance in their own hermeneutical tasks from Matthew. The purposes of this paper are twofold: to investigate whether Matthew was using pesher techniques in his use of Old Testament and, if not, to identify what interpretive approach to the Old Testament he was taking in his gospel.
What is Pesher?
Several approaches to scripture analysis may be discovered in first century Hebrew documents including literalistic, allegorical, midras and pesher. Longman doubts that these methods were distinguished from one another in the first century. Of these methods, pesher is of the greatest interest to this study, principally because Matthew does not lie under the accusation that he interprets the OT literalistically or allegorically but rather through pesher. Perhaps Matthew uses midrashic techniques, as many contend, but it can be argued that first century midrash could be very much akin to the manner in which Psalmists interpreted the Pentateuch. Early midrash, as defined by Hillel, is a fairly objective hermeneutical approach. It is the claim that Matthew is using pesher contemporization of the OT, particularly in ‘fulfillment’ citations, that provides the most serious challenge to those holding to verbal, plenary inspiration.
The term pesher means, "to explain." In fact, however, pesher is an application of OT scripture with little to no concern for the context of the passage applied. Pesher may refer either to commentaries on the OT found amongst the Dead Sea scrolls or to the interpretive technique typical of these commentaries. Pesher interpreters assume that OT authors were speaking to the contemporary audience. This form of interpretation is tied to a word, text or OT allusion, which is then related to a present person, place or thing. The interpretations are generally aloof from the source context and appear to lack any coherent methodology. According to Lundberg, "This kind of commentary (pesher) is not an attempt to explain what the Bible meant when it was originally written, but rather what it means in the day and age of the commentator, particularly for his own community."
For instance, in the pesher Habakkuk the writers simply take Habakkuk’s references to the Chaledeans and apply them to the Romans without any effort to justify the application. The context of Habakkuk seems to hold little interest for such interpreters. In the same commentary all the destructive activities described by Habakkuk are attributed to the ‘wicked priest’ while all the good things are attributed to the ‘righteous teacher’ – the antagonist and protagonist typical of Qumran pesher writing. Again, the interpreter shows little inclination to justify the wholesale substitution of the authorial intent for that of his community.
Was Matthew Using Pesher?
Clearly, Matthew is not a pesher commentary. Such texts are line-by-line analyses of an OT text and Matthew’s gospel does not conform to this format. Rather, Matthew applies OT citations to his narrative of the life of Christ.
While Matthew cannot be construed as a pesher commentary, it could still be true that Matthew is using the pesher devise of OT contemporization. Matthew’s use of Hosea 11:1 seems so disinterested in its plain meaning that a cursory comparison of Hosea 11:1 with Matthew 2:15 certainly leaves the impression he is using this approach. However, there are several reasons to doubt that Matthew is using pesher techniques:
- While both Matthew and pesher commentaries use citations from a variety of sources, it appears that many of Matthew’s translations are his own and Matthew’s citations do not show interpretive or selection bias typical of pesher.
- The formal features of OT quotes in Matthew do not correspond to any such features in Qumran text.
- Qumran applications were treated as identical to interpretations without regard to historic context - few such tendencies are found in NT use of the OT.
- Matthew did not use many OT passages that conform to a fulfillment motif which is unexpected if he was simply grabbing proof-texts from the OT.
- Many fulfillment passages used by Matthew do not conform to known messianic prophecy material advanced in Jewish circles. If Matthew wanted to make a case about Jesus claim to be messiah he should have taken better advantage of accepted messiah texts.
- Some citations are so surprising that it is unreasonable to expect the NT author would have bent them to conform to the life of Christ (e.g. Jer.31:15 for Mt.2:16,18)
- Even in the most radical examples of pesher used by the Qumran community, the authors do not modify their history to conform to an OT passage. Yet this is what a proponent of pesher Matthew must claim for him.
- OT quotations in NT fall under a limited set of themes. This is much different than the piecemeal treatment in the DSS and in rabbinical writings. Motifs of NT citations of OT include the following:
- Jesus acts as YHWH
- Jesus is the predicted messiah
- Jesus is the predicted servant of the Lord
- Jesus is the son of man
- Jesus culminates the prophetic line
- Jesus is in a succession of OT righteous sufferers
- Jesus fulfills the Davidic dynasty
- Jesus reverses the Adamic curse
- Jesus fulfills the Abrahamic covenant of universal blessing
- Jesus recapitulates the history of Israel
- The priesthood of Melchizedek & Aaron…the latter sometimes contrastingly anticipate the priesthood of Jesus
- The Passover lamb and other sacrifices prefigure the substitutionary atonement of Christ and Christian service
- Jesus & manna
- The rock/living water
- The serpent
- The tabernacle/temple
- John the Baptist & Elijah
- The new covenant prophecy
- Judas Iscariot
- The law of Moses prefigured grace positively and negatively
- The flood - last judgment/baptism
- Red Sea/circumcision - baptism
- Jerusalem - eternal city of God
- Taking Canaan - spiritual rest
There are many reasons for doubting that Matthew is writing like an author of Qumran-pesher materials but particular OT citations do seem as careless of context as pesher. This requires an explanation of which Stendahl’s failed pesher conclusion was an attempt to respond.
How was Matthew Interpreting the Old Testament?
Given that Matthew does not use pesher hermeneutics, what kind of interpretive approach is he applying and is it useful for contemporary interpreters?
It is important to realize that most of the time Matthew's use of the OT is so straightforward that it is not susceptible to the charge of OT misuse or misinterpretation. For instance, at times Christ utters language from the OT in ways that suggest he is calling forth the mood of the text he cites. This is entirely unsurprising for one steeped in the language and tone of the OT. At other times the OT is used by way of application. For example, Christ is recorded as using the OT for training when he frames OT narratives into question and answer sessions (e.g. 15:4; 19:4-7, 18-19). In other ways Christ draws particular applications out of OT narratives (e.g. Mat.12:3-8, citing Isa.21:6; Lev.24:5,9; Nu.28:9 to condemn Sabbath legalism). In these cases, however, Christ is generally using the OT the way OT authors used antecedent text. The psalmists often cited Pentateuchal narratives in order to draw out salient spiritual principles or theology. Even in those cases where Christ's application of the OT differs from the approach of OT authors, his use still is not at all like the approach seen in first century midrash because unlike much rabbinical midrash, Jesus works within the context of the citations he uses. When Jesus applies the OT differently from the psalmist application hermeneutic, he is speaking prophetically (e.g. "You've heard it said, but I say…"). In these ways he adds to earlier revelation, not in a way that disregards but rather extends the earlier revelation. This too is an interpretive role played by OT prophets in their use of antecedent and new revelation. In these uses of the Old Testament Christ, or Matthew as his biographer, are not guilty of interpreting the scripture in ways alien to how Old Testament authors interpreted the Old Testament.
Many of Matthew's citations are apologetic in nature, that is, Matthew cites the OT to show how Christ fulfilled OT scripture. It is because of this that Matthew is often charged with deriving from the OT meanings no competent OT scholar could ever develop independently. As a result of some of the more extraordinary examples of fulfillment citations Matthew is often held to be using pesher approaches to the OT. How is Matthew using the OT in these cases? How can modern interpreters make use of this approach?
As we saw earlier, a fairly common solution to this dilemma is to suggest that everybody was using the OT this way during the first century (i.e. midrash pesher). This not only appears unlikely but unsafe for the veracity of much of Matthew's gospel, to say nothing of the rest of the New Testament. Other scholars recognize the problem but suggest that careful analysis of the relevant OT citations would vindicate Matthew's interpretation. Some suggest that God's intent when he inspired the OT author was much more profound than the OT author himself realized. Still others say that Matthew was simply noting historically analogous situations for his audience with the suggestion that Christ completed the earlier motifs. Each of these attempted solutions to the problem of OT usage in NT fulfillment passages have provided some important insights into NT use of the OT but each also serves to raise critical questions about the appropriate use of the Old Testament. A few points must be considered before the question of Matthew's OT use can be fully addressed.
First, as many scholars have noted, Matthew's terminology pertaining to fulfillment is much richer than such words suggest to most readers. Matthew indicates 15 times that Christ fulfilled an OT scripture. The term pleroo and related terms have wider semantic range than simple predictive realization. These words can communicate the idea of ‘completing’, ‘establishing’ or ‘filling up’ as well as prediction-outcome. For Matthew to suggest that some aspect of the life of Christ fulfills some antecedent scripture could mean that an OT passage made a prediction and Christ expressed that precise prediction. But, fulfillment can also mean that Christ "filled to overflowing" or "completed" the antecedent scripture. This second sense is the way a reader can comprehend Christ's claim that he fulfilled the Law & Prophets in Matthew 5:17. Fulfillment quotations are infused with the concept of God's redemptive purpose in human history and so Matthew quotes texts that directly predict but also passages that have thematic significance that exceeds the OT author immediate meaning. This is different than sensus plenior because the NT author is not uncovering meaning hidden to the OT author. Instead, he is using the OT passage as an example of a broad theme of which the OT author was aware. Thus, some concerns over Matthew's use of the OT may be tempered by a better sense of what Matthew intended when he said Christ fulfilled a scripture.
Second, C. H. Dodd has shown that the NT use of the OT is not haphazard proof-texting but the use of a few text plots in the OT. For instance Isaiah 53 is cited 34 times in the NT. For the early church, it is likely that a limited citation served as a pointer to an entire theme of which the audience was well apprised:
- Apocalyptic-Eschatological Scriptures (e.g. Joel 2, 3; Zech.9-14; Dan.7; Mal.3:1-6; Dan.12
- Scriptures about the new Israel (Hosea; Isa.6:1-9:7; 11:1-10; 28:16; 40:1-11; Jer.31:10-34; Isa.29:9-14; Jer.7:1-15; Hab.1,2)
- Servant of the Lord scriptures (Isa.42:1-44:5; 49:1-13; 50:4-1; 52:13-53:12; 61; Ps.69; 22; 31; 38; 88; 34; 118; 41; 42-43; 80; Isa.58; 6-10)
- Unclassified scriptures ( Ps.8; 110; 2; Gen.12:3; 22:18; Deut.18:15,19; Ps.132; 16; 2Sam.7:13,14; Isa.55:3; Am.9:11,12; Ex.1-4; 24; 34; Nu.23; 24; 2Ki.1; Ps.78; Dan.2; Isa.13; 34; 35; Micah 4; 5; 7; Zech.1-6; the rest of Micah beyond 3:6)
Given this, it is possible to look, not merely to a limited citation used by Matthew, but to the whole theme of which Matthew's citation is simply a pointer.
Case Study: Matthew 2:15
In this citation, Matthew takes the MT approach of literally translating "son" rather than the LXX "His children." It is possible that Matthew may have intended to allude to the entire section through the use of a single citation (c.f. Hosea 11:1-11). It is difficult to concede that Matthew is using midrashic interpretive approaches for the reasons articulated above. On the other hand, efforts to find ways to argue that Matthew's use is appropriate analysis of a prediction are also hard to concede.
Howard sees Matthew’s use of Hosea as retrospective analogical correspondence rather than an effort on God’s part to embed a projective type or prophecy about Christ in Hosea’s words. That is, Matthew noted that Jesus was like Israel in that he also went to Egypt but that, unlike Israel, he was the son obedient to the covenant. When Israel left Egypt they dropped the ball. Whereas, when Christ left Egypt he was the son, in whom God was very pleased. In this way, Christ fulfilled (i.e. competed) all that God intended for Israel.
An alternative view is that the Exodus event was a prototype that was subsequently echoed when it was recalled for the purpose of instruction and that was repeated in the coming of Joshua to Palestine & Judah from the Babylonian exile.
The approach taken to the interpretation of this passage will include the following stages: 1. Analysis of the context of Matthew's citation of Hosea; 2. Analysis of the context of Hosea 11:1; 3. Assessment of the retrospective and projective function of Hosea's citation and 4. Assessment of Matthew's use of Hosea as an example of fulfillment.
Analysis of the context of Matthew 2:13-15
The narrative passages before and after Matthew 2:13-15 appear to be arguments from the Torah that Jesus was the messiah and the fulfillment of the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants. The genealogy of chapter 1:1-17 is framed at the beginning and end with the claim that Jesus was the messiah. Chapter 1:18-25 is a reference to a passage that culminates in the promise of a God/king who would rule from the throne of David (Isa.7:14-9:7). Chapter 2:1-12 contain a reference to a messianic scripture that contains allusions to both the Davidic and Abrahamic covenants. After 2:13-15 Matthew cites Jeremiah 31:15 which is a clear reference to the mourning associated with the Babylonian captivity but is at the beginning of a long prediction of the restoration of Israel leading to a new covenant that will result in the laws of God being internalized by his people (c.f Isaiah 31:31-34). It is difficult to make definitive statements about Matthew 2:19-23 but many scholars believe it refers to prophecies concerning the 'branch' found in Isaiah 4:2, Zechariah 3:8,9 & 6:12. Finally, Matthew's citation of Isaiah 40:3 appears to be a pointer to a lengthy passage concerned with God's redemption of Israel through Cyrus and through the Servant of YHWH (Isa.42:1-7).
The context of Matthew 2:13-15 is the correlation of Jesus with significant OT scriptures that address God's redemptive activity toward Israel and toward Gentiles - scriptures that identify Jesus as messiah and the fulfillment of the covenants of Abraham and David. It would be expected, therefore, that Matthew's citation of Hosea 11:1 would also anticipate his role as redeemer or sovereign.
Analysis of the context of Hosea 11:1
Hosea is citing the exodus in Hosea 11:1. This event was a critical one in the OT because it demonstrated God's remembrance and redemption of Israel. The expression "out of Egypt" appears several times in Hosea (e.g. 11:1; 12:9, 13; 13:4). Hosea 11:1 is in the context of God's love for Israel. Hosea 12:9 speaks of God's discipline. Chapter 12:13 talks of how God used a prophet to redeem an ungrateful people. Hosea 13:4 uses the exodus to promise God will assert his sovereign rights over Israel once again. These passages and the core narrative of Hosea's redemption of Gomer make it clear that Hosea 11:1 is intensely focused on God's once and future redemption of Israel (c.f. Hosea 2:14 - 3:4).
Assessment of the retrospective and projective function of Hosea 11:1
The exodus account is a deferred hope in critical respects. Israel could have been a nation of priests (e.g. Exodus 19:4-6) but it chose not to satisfy the terms of the covenant. In this sense the exodus was incomplete. Hosea addresses the exodus to remind Israel of God's love, power and sovereignty and to anchor his promise for future redemption both from Assyria and ultimately from their own rebelliousness.
When Matthew cites Hosea 11:1 he is citing the entire redemptive context, not only of Hosea but of the rest of the Old Testament. Citation of Hosea 11:1 reminds Israel of their double redemption from Egypt & Assyria/Babylon but also anticipates their final redemption from themselves.
Assessment of Matthew 2:15's use of Hosea 11:1 as fulfillment
When Hosea records, Out of Egypt I have called my son, he is tapping into an exodus motif that was expressed in the original event; reiterated and extended to "the king" of Israel by Balaam (Nu.24:8); reiterated when Joshua entered Palestine; reiterated when the principle of redemption was applied repeatedly in OT didactic material; that would be reiterated later when Israel was restored after her impending discipline (Hos 6:1-3; 8:1-10:5) and again when God would permanently redeem his people. Matthew was simply noting something implicit in Hosea, namely, Christ was the ultimate fulfillment of God's promised redemption of Israel (Hos.11:1-14:5). Hosea certainly understood that his recollection of the Exodus was anchored in God's past redemptive history as well as his future promise of final redemption. And, this is exactly what Matthew did by pointing to its manifestation in Christ. Christ returned to Israel from Egypt, as an obedient son and also as God coming again to dwell in the tents of Shem. The resonance with the exodus motif is so remarkable that Matthew could say Christ 'filled up to overflowing' the entire theme. If we were contemporaries of Matthew we too could have anticipated a final redemption of Israel and rejoiced when we saw its penultimate fulfillment in the first advent of Christ and hoped in its ultimate fulfillment in his second advent.
Interestingly, Christ’s exodus not only recapitulated the return of Israel to the land but also the advent of God dwelling with his people. For Christ's return to Israel was also the return of God dwelling in the tents of Shem. In these ways Christ filled to overflowing the exodus. And, in this sense, Hosea’s recall of the exodus has a projective role because it is connected both to the past Exodus event and to God’s redemptive commitment to Israel yet unrealized. When Matthew considers the words of Hosea he is not merely saying, "Gee, isn’t this interesting how both Israel & Christ returned to the land from Egypt." What he is communicating must not merely be analogical correspondence. Isn’t Matthew also saying, "What Hosea hoped for, the redemption of Israel from sin, was fully realized in Christ?"
What is clear from this preliminary study is that Matthew was not using pesher-like eisegetical techniques, when he used the Old Testament in his gospel. He apparently often used his own translations of Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic sources rather than isolating extant translations that fit an interpretive agenda. Significantly, his putative interpretations are not self-serving but correspond to interpretations found in Septuigental, Masoretic, Syrian and rabbinical materials from the same era. Similarly, his applications of the Old Testament to New Testament events do not have the tortured appearance of those found in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Even in some of the more challenging ‘fulfillment’ materials Matthew’s use of the Old Testament does not correspond with pesher techniques used by the Qumran community.
What Matthew's fulfillment citations often appear to do is often show points of resonance with well developed redemptive themes in the OT of which Christ is the consummation. If this is true, Matthew may show us how to interpret the OT by indicating that earlier scriptures have both projective and retrojective functions as they reiterate the theology of an earlier motif or prototype and yet anticipate complete realization in some future act of God.
Without prophetic authority we may have to hold conclusions drawn from such techniques more tentatively than Matthew does. Nonetheless, the use of interpretive methods consonant with those found in scripture substantially strengthens the confidence of modern interpreters who are committed to the kind of careful exegesis that honors the intent of the ultimate author.
 These techniques included: peshat (i.e. literalistic), midrash (i.e. there is quite a bit of variance within this tradition), pesher (i.e. complete contemporization of OT), apocalyptic (i.e. contemporization of some OT passages) & allegorical. Longman suggests that individual interpreters may have used all four methods and may not have distinguished them as distinct approaches. See Appendix E for methods of predictive prophecy interpretation. Return to Text
 This is not to say that midrashic approaches to interpretation were typically objective. Most rabbinical midrash used the OT as a springboard without concern for the context of the material cited. Midrash refers to a Hebrew method of citing, interpreting and then amplifying an OT passage. The term midrash also refers to the oral and then, later, the written collections of midrash expositions and applications. Haggadah midrash refers to the ethical and expository interpretation of non-legal materials from the Hebrew Bible.Halakah midrash applied the general principles of OT laws to specific situations. This was an application of the Torah in a kind of 'case law' format. Various midrash methods are claimed to find their origin in Hillel, Rabbi Ishmael and Rabbi Eliezer ben Jose ha-Galili. Hillel’s 7 methods include:
a. a fortiori arguments from OT texts (i.e. called qual yahomer).
b. When the same word is found in a proximate text then the principles of one are transferable to the other (i.e. called gezerah shawah)
c. When the same phrase is found in different texts, the principles of one context are transferable to the others (i.e. called binyan ab mikathub ‘ehad).
d. Meaning is established by its context.
e. Difficult passages are interpreted by comparison with clear passages containing similar principles (i.e. called kayoze bo bemaqom ‘aher, lit. as is found in another place).
f. A particular rule may be extended to a general principle and a general principle may justify a particular rule (i.e. called kelal upherat, the general and the particular).
g. A principle is developed by synthesis of related texts (i.e. called binyan ab mishene kethubim). Chain quotations are thought to be a form of this midrashic device.
The later methodologies of Rabbi Ishmael & Rabbi Eliezer opened the door for more eisegetical approaches to scripture. Return to Text
 According to Krister Stendahl (1954) The School of St. Matthew and Its Use of the Old Testament, p.14; See also Longenecker pp.144-145 and Tracy L. Howard, The Use of Hosea 11:1 in Matthew 2:15: An Alternative Solution. Return to Text
 The Matthean formal quotations are framed as examples of fulfillment but this is not the case with pesher text where the application is ongoing and matter-of-fact rather than apologetical. Also, in pesher Habakkuk, the formal expressions, "its prophetic interpretation" or "the interpretation of the prophetic word" are used at the start of each section of commentary. This is not at all like the formal language of Matthew. See Howard, Tracy (1986) The Use of Hosea 11:1 in Matthew 2:15: An Alternative Solution. Return to Text
 Op.cit. 153ff; Fitzmyer, as cited by Tracy Howard (i.e. endnote 30), has identified only seven examples of concern for the original context of the OT passages cited in Qumran literature. Return to Text
 The way that Isaiah expands what is known about the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants (e.g. that a servant would sprinkle the nations and that an anointed one would rule from David's throne). Return to Text
 Let us not forget that Jesus himself seems to authorize this OT use, as Matthew does not suggest he fulfilled any OT prophecy or type other what he himself indicated, a point made well by Gundry. Return to Text
 In sensus plenior God's intention and the authors intention for the meaning of a passage may not be the same. The problem with this approach is that it redefines inspiration and it subjects interpretation of antecedent texts much more open to eisegesis. See Douglas Moo or Tracy Howard for more information. Return to Text
 e.g. Ps.66:6-12 that it refined Israel; Ps.77:10-20 that is showed God’s might as Israel’s redeemer; Ps.114 that it was the onset of God’s presence with Israel – fulfillment of the promise to Shem in Gen.9:27; Ps.136:10-22 that it showed Israel God’s lovingkindness. Return to Text
Appendix A - A Summary of Matthew's Old Testament Citations and Allusions
This genealogy of Christ tracing his lineage back to Abraham establishes his racial, tribal and Davidic identity through adoption by Joseph (v.20 Joseph son of David). Official genealogies always moved from the oldest to the most recent.
|1:16||The title Christ|
A term used in the OT in several passages that were understood to apply to a single individual by later interpreters, leading to its use as a title. Matthew’s titular use of Christ serves as a reference back to all the recognized messianic OT texts.
|1:20||son of David|
The genealogy of Christ traces his lineage back to David through adoption by Joseph (v.20 Joseph son of David). This is significant because of the Davidic covenant that an anointed one from the line of David would sit on his throne to rule the world for all time.
|1:21-23||Isa.7:14 (8:8,10 LXX)|
|Virgin conception; transliteration of the term Emmanuel|
v.21 The messiah's name Jesus (i.e. Joshua - means the Lord is salvation) is significant because is connects Jesus with the suffering servant narratives of Isaiah (i.e. the one who would bear the sins of Israel).
Formal quote v.23
vv.22-23 Isa.7:14 (8:8-10) - this seemed to have contemporary meaning to Isaiah and yet Matthew indicates it is fulfilled in Christ.
|2:4||The title Christ||c.f. 1:16|
|2:6||Mic.5:2 (2Sam.5:2; 1Chr.11:2)||Bethlehem birthplace|
Formal quote possibly taken from a Targum or Peshitta
Micah 5:2 - a clear prophecy that a ruler born in Bethlehem, whose origins are from (i.e. literally) days of eternity will arise from Judah to rule the whole earth. There is even a preceding prophecy that the ruler of Israel would be struck down.
|Flight to Egypt|
Formal quote possibly taken from the Peshitta
Matthew takes the MT approach of literally translating "son" rather than the LXX "His children"
Matthew may have intended to allude to the entire section through the use of a single citation (c.f. Hosea 11:1-11).
The Exodus type produced an exodus motif with its associated terminology that was recalled for the purpose of instruction  and that was repeated in the return of Joshua to Palestine & Judah from the Babylonian exile.
|Killing of children|
Jer.31:15 - this is clearly a prophecy of the Babylonian captivity of Israel so in what sense does it get fulfilled in Christ’s day?
Formal quote v.18
|2:23||Judges 5-7; 16:17; Zech.3:8; 6:12; Isa.4:2|
Formal quote like the way the Qumran community translates it, emphasizing the lowliness of the messiah's origins (Gundry, ppl97-104)
Zech.3:8; 6:12; Isa.4:2 - This may be a play on words by Matthew since the term for branch nezer has the same sound as the root for the name Nazarene; alternatively Matthew may have a scripture in mind that is not part of the canon known to us.
differs only slightly from the LXX.
|3:3-11||Isa.40:3-5; also, the language of John is in the style of the OT (c.f. Job 20:26; Isa 34:8-10; 66:24)||John the Baptist; in the garb & ministry of Elijah||Mt.3:3; Mk.1:3; Lk.3:4-6; Jn.1:23|
Matthew's citation is compatible with the MT
Concerning the OT language of John the Baptist see Hosea 9:13. Did John intend a reference to this prophet?
2 Ki.1:8 - the garb and behavior of Elijah and John are remarkably similar…too much so to reject as coincidence. Both had ministries to believing Israel and against apostate Israel as well.
Winnowing fork allusion Hos.6:13
|3:9||Abraham cited||An illustration|
|3:12||Old Testament language|
Separation of righteous/unrighteous motif in prophecies of the kingdom of God (Dan.12:1-3).
|3:15||3:15 fulfill||Is this an anointing or identification with Israel?|
|4:2||Gen.6-9; Ex.34:28; 1Ki.19:8|
The 40 days/nights allusion here is a motif echoed from the flood judgment, from Moses fasting before the Lord on Sinai and Elijah's fasting as he traveled to Horeb to receive a commission and reassurance from the Lord.
This also corresponds to the 40 years wilderness experience of Israel.
|4:4||Deut. 8:3||Many parallels with the wilderness wanderings.|
Formal quote 4:6,7 shared with Luke; LXX
Formal quote 4:4,10 shared with Luke; different from but related to LXX
This messianic prophecy follows directly on the heels of a description of profound rebellion in Israel that will lead it to the judgment of God. The imprisonment of John and the subsequent preaching of repentance by Christ, because of the imminent onset of the kingdom, fits that motif nicely.
Notice the Gentile connections.
|5:17||fulfill||Christ came to fulfill the Law & Prophets|
|5:21||Ex.20:13; Deut.5:17||Formal quote|
Citation and expansion of the meaning of the Law
|5:27||Ex.20:14; Deut.5:18||Formal quote|
Citation and expansion of the meaning of the Law
Citation and expansion of the meaning of the Law
|5:38||Ex.21:24; Lev.24:20||Formal quote|
Citation and expansion of the meaning of the Law
|5:43 (c.f. 19:19,22:39)||Lev.19:2,18|
An application of Lev.19:2 to Lev.19:18 to refute the rabbinical interpretation of Lev.19:18 that they could hate their enemies…meaning is established by context is the hermeneutical principle used by Christ here.
|8:11||Abraham, Isaac & Jacob cited||Illustration|
vv.11-12 Ps.107:3; Isa.49:12; 59:19; Mal.1:11 - the separation of righteous and wicked motif as well as allusions to the Abrahamic covenant of blessing to Gentiles.
Correlation of the ministry of Christ with the predicted ministry of the servant of the Lord.
|8:20||Dan 7:13||Son of man|
31x in Matthew; Jeremiah takes the title as a reference to humans. God repeatedly addresses Ezekiel as 'son of man.' Dan 7:13 identifies the 'Son of man' with the messiah.
|9:6||Dan 7:13||Son of man||c.f. 8:20|
God is expressing his disgust that Israel would offer gifts instead of fidelity to Him (i.e. hesed, translated mercy, means faithful love). In Hosea, even the priests are wicked (6:9)
|9:18-26||1Ki.17 & 2Ki.4|
Allusion to Elijah & Elisha in the inauguration of these ministries.
|9:27||Son of David|
12 disciples correspond to the 12 tribes to whom the disciples were commanded to go; win the lost sheep of Israel.
|10:15||Sodom & Gomorrah are contrasted with unbelieving Israel using an a fortioriargument.|
|10:18||Gentile testimony||An allusion to the Abrahamic covenant promise and subsequent prophetic revelation that God would redeem the Gentiles.|
|10:23||Dan 7:13||Son of man||c.f. 8:20|
On the face of it this doesn't seem to fit b/c Micah describes a depraved situation of familial disintegration but the Micah prophecy does mention a watchman who warns of impending danger (Isa.10:3; Hos.9:7) coming to Israel at the time of their worst sin to warn them of judgment where the most upright are no better than amesuka (thorny hedge) and so it would be come a time of their mebuka(confusion) (note the alliteration and assonance used by Micah). Perhaps this is an example of the use of OT language rather than prophecy.
|11:3||Isa.29:18; 35:5,6; Jer.6:21||The 'expected one' & several messianic passages.||Christ cited, particularly Isaiah, as an apologetic that he was the expected messiah.|
This is a composite quotation. The first part is compatible with LXX of Ex.23:20. The second part has some similarity with the MT of Mal.3:1.
This melding of Ex.23:20 & Mal.3:1 may precede the NT use of it since it is found in Jewish literature as well.
|11:14||Mal.3:1,23 (4:5-6)||John = Elijah||c.f. 11:10; 17:13; Lk.1:17, 76f|
|11:19||Dan 7:13||Son of man||c.f. 8:20|
|11:21-22||Joel 3:4; Amos 1:9||An a fortiori argument against unbelieving Israel.|
|11:23-24||An a fortiori argument against unbelieving Israel.|
|11:28-30||Ecclus 51:23ff||A possible citation from the apocryphal book.|
|12:3-4||Isa.21:6; Lev.24:5,9; Nu.28:9||David|
Christ's a fortiori argument challenges the hollow, literalistic way that the spiritual leaders interpreted the Torah. The priests work on the Sabbath, David ate the consecrated bread why shouldn't he who can heal the crippled work on the Sabbath.
|12:7||Hos.6:6||Formal quote used as an application.|
|12:8||Dan 7:13||Son of man is Lord of the harvest||c.f. 8:20|
|12:17-21||Isa.42:1-4; 17-21; 1Sam.42:1-4|
Formal quote v.18-21 possibly associated with a Targum
A historical analogy between Christ and Jonah shows correlation between the ministry of both to those outside of Israel as well as the intended analogy of a 3 day judgment. It also contrasts the interest of a gentile with the disinterest of Jews.
|12:23||Son of David|
|12:32||Dan 7:13||Son of man||c.f. 8:20|
|12:39-40||Jonah; Son of man||c.f. 8:20|
|12:42||Queen of Sheba & Solomon|
Queen of Sheba - an application from the intense curiosity of the queen contrasted with the lack of interest shown by the Pharisees/Sadducees/scribes of Christ's day. It also contrasts the interest of a gentile with the disinterest of Jews.
|13:10-14||Isa.6:9-10; Deut.29:4; Jer.5:21; Ez.12:2|
|the judgment of God is to grant the wicked their wishes to not submit to God|
|13:14-15||Isa.6:9-10||Polarizing ministry||Formal quote v.14f|
Formal quote v.35
|13:32||Isa.4:2; 11:1; 14:19; Jer.23:5; 33:15; Zech.3:8|
This had clear application to Israel in Isaiah’s day and so either God intended the saying to be a prediction or a historical analogy. Seed > Branch > Tree ?
|Parabolic teaching||Mark 4:33f|
|13:37,41||Dan 7:13||Son of man||c.f. 8:20|
|15:4||Ex.20:12, 17; Deut.5:16||Formal quote v. 4a|
Mk.7:10; Lk.18:20; Ex.20:12
The form is akin to the LXX but it is different than LXX, MT or Mark in its omission of a possessive pronoun but the following reasons offered by Gundry may explain the departure from the LXX: 1. The citation is used as an oral instruction, this may justify the authorial drop of the possessive pronoun 2. The LXX frequently drops possessive pronouns 3. Hebrew texts sometimes let suffixes be implied 4. The omission may be stylistic, letting the definite articles play a partial role in showing the possessives 5. Galilean Aramaic tends to use emphatic nouns
Formal quote v. 4b
Mk.7:10; Ex21:17…this is probably an LXX quote
Similar to Mk.7:6-7
Both are shortened renderings of the LXX
|15:22||Son of David|
|16:4||Jonah||Jonah’s experience in the fish is used to predict the death, burial & resurrection of Christ.|
|16:13||Dan 7:13||Son of man||c.f. 8:20|
|16:14||Elijah, Jeremiah||Cited as possible identities of Christ by the disciples.|
|16:20||The title Christ|
|16:27-28||Dan 7:13||Son of man; retributive justice||The retributive justice passage is an allusion to Pss 28:4; 62:12 (c.f. Prov 24:12).|
|17:3-4||Moses; Elijah||Appeared at the transfiguration.|
|17:5||Ps.2:7; Isa.42:1; Deut. 18:15||God's words at the transfiguration||Possible allusive use of three OT passages:|
Ps.2:7 This is my beloved son
Isa. 42:1…with whom I am well pleased
Deut.18:15…listen to him
|17:9||Dan.7:13||Son of man; resurrection||c.f. 8:20|
|17:12||Mal.4:5-6||John = Elijah; Son of man||c.f. 11:14|
|17:22||Dan.7:13||Son of man||c.f. 8:20|
|18:11||Dan.7:13||Son of man||c.f. 8:20|
|18:16||Deut.19:15||Citation of the law|
Mk.10:7; Eph.5:31 – Mark’s citation is LXX. Matthew differs from Mark & LXX: 1. Matthew’s use of duo shows a Hebrew variant 2. Eis sarxa mian contains an over literal rendering of the Hebrew character (p.17 Gundry) 3. Xai eipen is inserted between verses 4 & 5 which is a Targum-like difference between Matthew & Mark.
|19:18-19||Ex.20:12; Lev.19:18; Deut.5:16-20; a formal quote|
Mk.10:19; Lk.18:20 – since it serves as an oral instruction in the Q&A format it is difficult to correlate with any OT translations; some think it correlates with Lev.19:13 since that is a precept derived from the earlier material (i.e. rather than Dt.24:14 or Ex.21:10); Matthew here seems to be interacting with the MT
|19:28||Dan.7:13||Son of man||c.f. 8:20|
|20:18||Dan.7:13||Son of man||c.f. 8:20|
|20:28||Dan.7:13||Son of man||c.f. 8:20|
|20:30-31||Son of David||c.f. 1:20|
|Young donkey entrance||Formal quote|
Jn.12:15; According to Gundry, "Ambiguity in the gender of onos, however, gave him opportunity to make a distinction. That the male colt had not been ridden opens the possibility of a historical reminiscence in the mention of the two animals. For the sight of an unridden donkey colt accompanying its mother has remained common in Palestine up to modern times."
|21:9, 15||Ps.118:25f||Hosanna & Son of David||Mk. 11:9f; Lk.19:37f|
|21:13||Isa.56:7; Jer.7:11; a formal quote||Formal quote 13a – Mk.11:17; Lk.19:46; Isa.56:7…Lk & Mt. Both seem to use the LXX here.|
Formal quote 13b – Mk.11:17; Lk.19:46; Jer.7:11…dependent on LXX lhston (robbers) is used for the Hebrew (violent men)
not LXX; peculiar to Matthew
|21:42||Ps.118:22-23||Rejection of Christ by Jews||Formal quote|
differs from LXX and Mark.
differs from LXX and Mark.
|22:41-45||David, Son of David, the Christ title||c.f. 1:20|
|22:43-44||Ps.110:1||Davidic descent & exhalation of Christ.||Formal quote v.44|
Gundry sees the desolation in terms of Jesus’ absence.
|24:5||The title Christ|
|24:23||The title Christ|
|24:27||Dan.7:13||Son of man||c.f. 8:20|
|24:30||Dan.7:13||Son of man||c.f. 8:20|
|24:37-38||Dan.7:13||Noah; son of man||Illustration; c.f. 8:20|
|24:39||Dan.7:13||Son of man||c.f. 8:20|
|24:44||Dan.7:13||Son of man||c.f. 8:20|
|25:31||Dan.7:13||Son of man||c.f. 8:20|
|26:2||Dan.7:13||Son of man||c.f. 8:20|
|26:24||Dan.7:13||Son of man||c.f. 8:20|
|26:31||Zech.13:7||Cowardice of disciples||Formal quote|
differs from LXX and Mark.
|26:45||Dan.7:13||Son of man||c.f. 8:20|
26:54, 56 fulfilled
|Jesus arrest||An allusion|
|26:63,68||The title Christ|
|26:64||Dan 7:13||Son of Man||c.f. 8:20|
|Judas destruction||Formal quote v.9f|
Matthew attributes this prophecy to Jeremiah suggesting either that he got it wrong or that he was simultaneously alluding to Jeremiah 19, the potter's field (i.e. a similar thing is done in 2 Chron.36:21 in relation to Lev.26:34f & Jer.25:12; 29:10)
|27:15, 57||Isa.53:9||Joseph = rich man||March 15:43 calls Joseph a respected member of the council but Matthew describes him in a manner that fits the prophecy.|
 e.g. Ps 66:6-12 that it refined Israel; Ps. 77:10-20 that is showed God's might as Israel's redeemer; Ps.114 that it was the onset of God's presence with Israel - fulfillment of the promise to Shem in Gen.9:27; Ps.136:10-22 that it showed Israel God's lovingkindness. Return to Text
Appendix B - A Summary of Gundry's Analysis of Matthean Citations
Mark’s formal quotations are nearly always LXX. Various sources appear to be used by other synoptic authors.
Formal quotations 40
16 are common to Mark & Matthew - Mark's formal quotations are almost completely from the LXX. In some cases Matthew’s formal quotations differ somewhat from both LXX & Mark (15:4a, 19:5,18,19; 22:32, 37; 26:31). In other cases Matthew’s formal quotations vary only slightly or not at all with the LXX (e.g. slight 3:3; 11:10; 15:8-9 & none 15:4b; 19:4; 21:13a & b, 42; 22:39, 44).
4 are common to Luke & Matthew (all associated with the temptation narrative) – two are LXX (e.g. Mt.4:6,7) and two diverge from but are related to the LXX (e.g. Mt.4:4,10)
20 are peculiar to Matthew – 7 are LXX (e.g. 1:23; 5:21, 27, 38, 43; 13:14f; 21:16); 7 are non-LXX (e.g. 2:6,15,18,23; 5:31; 9:13 = 12:7; 27:9f); 6 are a mixture of LXX and non-LXX (e.g. 4:15f; 5:33; 8:17 this one may be non-LXX; 12:18-21; 13:35; 21:5); 2 may be associated with the Targum (2:6 & 12:18-21); 2 are associated with the OT Peshitta (2:6; 4:15f) and 1 with the Qumran literature (2:23 the concept of the lowliness of the messiah’s origins, c.f. Gundry pp. 97-104).
Allusive references - 108
40 are common to Mark – 11 are LXX (e.g. 8:4; 10:21; 12:4; 21:33; 22:24; 24:6b; 26:3f, 38, 67; 27:35, 48); 12 are non-LXX (e.g. 3:17; 9:36; 14:16; 17:5; 19:7; 20:28; 24:24; 26:11, 41; 27:39, 46); 8 are a mixture of LXX and non-LXX (e.g. 19:26; 21:9; 4:6a, 7, 21, 29, 31; 26:64); 3 Matthew agrees with LXX but not with Mark (e.g. 3:16; 13:13; 17:11; 2 differ from LXX & Theodotion (e.g. 24:15b, 34); 2 appear to agree with LXX but not Theodotion in some parts and vice versa in other parts (e.g. 13:32 & 24:30); 1 appears to both agree with LXX against Theodotion and to disagree with both in other parts (e.g. 24:15); 1 appears to both agree with Theodotion against LXX and in some parts disagree with both (e.g. 24:13); 6 are similar to one or more Targums (e.g. 3:17; 17:5; 24:24, 31; 26:28); 5 are related to the OT Peshitta (e.g. The Peshitta is a Syrian version of the OT – 19:26; 24:31; 26:28; 27:39); 1 may be related to an apocryphal passage (e.g. 24:21) and 1 may be related to rabbinical tradition (e.g. 14:16).
26 are common to Luke – 6 are LXX; 13 are non-LXX; 4 have points of concordance & disagreement with LXX; 1 differs from Luke and agrees with LXX; 1 partially agrees with Theodotion against LXX and partially disagrees with both; 6 are related to one or more Targums; 2 are related with the OT Peshitta; 1 is related to the Qumran War Scroll; 2 are related to rabbinical tradition and 1 is related to Josephus.
42 are peculiar to Matthew – 15 are LXX (e.g. 2:1f, 11; 5:4,5,8; 7:22; 10:6,29; 12:40; 18:22; 21:14; 22:34; 27:34; 18:16; 27:24); 17 are non-LXX (e.g. 1:21; 2:13; 5:7, 34,35; 6:6; 11:28; 13:41; 16:27; 21:41; 23:19; 25:31; 26:15, 52; 27:43, 57; 28:10); 3 appear to be a mixture of LXX & non-LXX (e.g. 2:20f; 3:4; 11:29); 2 agree with Theodotion rather than LXX (e.g. 13:43; 24:10); 1 agrees with LXX rather than Theodotion (e.g. 28:18); 1 has points of both agreement and dissimilarity Theodotion & LXX (e.g. 28:3); 1 wholly disagrees with LXX & Theodotion (e.g. 25:46); 1 is closely correlated to a Targum (e.g. 26:52); 2 are related to Targums (e.g. 5:5; 23:19); 1 is related to the OT Peshitta (e.g. 27:43); 1 is related to apocryphal literature (e.g. 27:24) and 2 use Targum-like phrases (e.g. 25:35f & 28:10).
 Gundry says that non-LXX should not be construed as meaning MT because in some cases the translation is poorer and in other cases the author uses a 'Targum-like' freedom to paraphrase or expand an OT allusion. Return to Text.
 Theodotion refers to one of several later versions of the LXX (e.g. Aquila & Symmachus are later versions as well) that exist in fragments. There are thought to be over 300 versions of the LXX. Return to Text.
Appendix C - A Sample of Pesher Hermeneutics
A Sample from Pesher Habakkuk
1. ... shall I cry and not (part of verse 1:2)
2. ... this generation
3. ... oth (fem pl.) upon them
4. ... his about me
5. ... m ... iyt ... (a portion of 2 words in verse 1:3)
6. ... to (or God) by exploitation and from
7. ... (fragmented word) and many
8. ... (2 fragmented words) he
9. ... therefore the Torah fades away (portion of verse 1:4)
10 ... which is his burden in the Torah of God
11 ... (direct object) the righteous
12 ... He is the Moreh ha-tsedek
13 ... therefore the judgement goes out (part of 1:4)
14 ... and not the
1. it be told him ... the treacherous with a man (1:5)
2. all the liars ... the Moreh Tsedek from the mouth
3. of God and concerning the trai(tors) ... the new (fragmented word)
4. our belief in the covenant of God ... those possessing ... and
5. truth. Pesher of the word ... ..gadiym to the last (aleph)
6. days. They are aro... ... ..oth which they will not believe
7 when they hear all the b... ... of the final generation from the mouth (1:5)
8. of the priest which God gives in ... to explain to all
9. the words of His servants coming ... hands God tells
10. all coming to his people and. ... (be)cause behold I am raising up (1:6)
11. the Chaldeans, the nation the bit(ter) ... ... (the has)ty (1:6)
12. Pesher about how the Romans a... ..h speedy ones and mighty men
13. in war to destroy r.. .... from the government of
14. the Romans to do evil ... ... and we do not say
15. according to their laws ...
1. and in contending and going to strike and to loot the cities of the land
2. because as he says: to possess inhabited areas that are not theirs. (1:7) Dreadful
3. and terrible they are and their judgement and pride proceeds from themselves. (1:7)
4. Pesher about the Romans by which their fear (...) upon all
5. nations and in fact all their thoughts to do evil and (...) to defraud
6. and to come with all the peoples. Their horses are lighter than leopards and more alert (1:8)
7. than the evening wolves. Their horsemen spread themselves from afar (1:8,9)
8. and they fly as an eagle hastening to eat. (1:8) All of them coming for violence multiplying(1:9)
9. by their faces the east (wind). Pesher about the Romans who
10. possess the earth with horses and with their beasts and extend themselves
11. and they come from the isles of the sea to destroy ... and (..)iyl the peoples as an eagle
12. and they are not sated and in them and their beasts ... and even their raging
13. faces and they speak with ... ... as he
14. says: ma(gemet) ...... .... as sand the captivity (1:9)
1. they shall mock (kings) and laugh at the princes (part of 1:10) Pesher that
2. they mock about many and despise the glorified kings
3. and rulers and they deceive and scorn many peoples. And he
4. (scorns) every fort and laughing at them he heaps up dust and captures them (part of 1:10)
5. Peshru about the rulers of the Romans who despised
6. the forts of the peoples mocking and laughing at them
7. and at many other peoples, imitating and making them foolish to hold them in fear
8. and take them in their hand to destroy them because of the sins of those dwelling
9. there. Then shall he change his spirit and he shall pass over attributing this, his power (most of 1:11)
10. to his god (end of 1:11) Peshru about the rulers of the Romans
11. who by the counsel of the house of Ishm(ael) and the servants of men
12. who rule in the presence of their neighbor ...afterward and they go
13. to slay the ..... ... ... his strength to his god. (part of 1:11)
14. Peshru about .................... .... (...)l the peoples
1. you have set them for judgement O Rock, you have established them for correction. (You have) purer eyes( parts of 1:12 and 13)
2. than to view evil and you are not able to consider wickedness (part of 1:13)
3. Pesher about the saying that God is not able to (to save) his people from the hand of the Gentiles
4. and God gives judgement in the hand of his "Chosen one" (to) all the Gentiles and in their reproaches
5. and their guilt to all those doing evil to my people which keep my commandments.
6. in and enemy to whom because that which says you are of purer eyes to behold
7. evil (part of 1:13) Peshru that their eyes do not hunger after the evil end (time).
8. Why do the traitors look and plough evil swallowing (part of 1:13)
9. righteousness away from us. (part of 1:13) Pesher about the House of Absalom
10. and the men of their council which fall silent in reproaching of the Moreh Tsedek.
11. But they do not help him against the lying man who does violence to
12. The Torah among all the nations and makes men as the fish of the sea (part of (1:14)
13. as creeping things to watch over it. (part of 1:14) All of them take up into their net (part of 1:15)
14. and they gather them ..... in their seine. Therefore they are happy (part of 1:15)
15. .............. their portion.
1. The Romans, the ones gathering wealth from all the spoil
2. as fish of the sea, wherefore he says: (Begin 1:16) Therefore they sacrifice to their net
3. and offer incense to their seine (end part of 1:16) Peshru about them
4. sacrificing to their symbols and all the wars they
5. are showing because in them they fatten their portion. They eat from my table
6. Pesher about their dividing of the world and
7. their violence in devouring the peoples year after year
8. destroying with the sword many lands. (begin 1:17) Therefore they draw out their sword and continue
9. to murder the nations without compassion (end 1:17)
10. Peshru about the Romans who destroy many by the sword
11. youths, mature men, old men, women, infants, and on the fruit
12. of the womb they have no mercy. (begin 2:1 Let me stand fast on my watch tower
13. and present myself on the fortress and I will keep watch to see what He will say
14. to me and w(hat ... I will answe)r when he corrects me (end part of 2:1) (begin 2:2) And YHWH answered me
15. (and said write the vision and make it clea)r on tablets so that the one runn(ing) (end part of 2:2)
 Translation from Moellerhaus Publishing, https://www.ao.net/~fmoeller/peshtran.htm The bold print is text from the book of Habakkuk, the rest is commentary. The character of the "Wicked Priest." Is translated (koheyn ha-rasha') and the "Teacher of Righteousness" Moreh Tsedek. Return to Text.
Appendix D - Psalmists Use of the Pentateuch
Psalm 132:10f; 89:3-4 & 19-37 recalls 2 Samuel 7:4-16, the Davidic covenant, re-affirms its validity and uses that confidence to call on God to act on his behalf.
Psalm 104:9 recalls the Noaic covenant Gen.9:11 – God is powerful
Psalm 105:8; 106:45 identify the theme of these historical recollections - God never has and never will default on his covenant with Abraham.
Psalm 111:9 God is the goel for his people…God’s covenant is irrevocable
It is clear from these examples that the psalmists regard the covenants of YHWH as binding agreements that have ongoing relevance for Israel and the rest of the world. Man’s infidelity and God’s fidelity are frequent contrasting themes in these Psalms.
Ps.90:2 God-as-creator is identified for the theological purpose of affirming His eternal nature and that is contrasted with man’s brief life.
Ps.104:1-24 God is the creator so he is wise and powerful.
The exodus & wanderings of Israel
Psalm 66:6-12 is an apparent reference to the exodus (i.e. see vv.6, 11 & 12) but the author draws theological significance from the Egyptian exile (i.e. it served to refine Israel).
Psalm 77:10-20 The psalmist indicates this is a meditation on God’s works and mighty deeds. He argues that the exodus showed the nations YHWH’s superiority over their so-called gods and showed Israel God’s role as their redeemer shepherd. This conclusion is not novel relative to the conclusion drawn by Moses and Miriam, however (Ex.15:11).
Psalm 78:9-72 is a prolonged recollection of rebellious Israel and merciful God the history is not chronological and extends past the exodus to David’s monarchy. This chain reference approach to argumentation might be termed midrash by some scholars if it appeared in the New Testament and yet it predates midrash.
Ps.81:7 Asaph indicates that Meribah was God’s test of Israel (c.f. Nu.20:1-14); Ps.95:8-11 indicates that Israel tested God at Meribah; Ps.106:32-33 indicates that Israel rebelled against God’s Spirit there. The Psalms do not add to the account in Numbers, they simply apply the lesson’s learned there to their own audience.
Psalm 114 The exodus of Israel was the beginning of her theocracy and the onset of God’s dwelling with Israel (i.e. "Judah, God’s sanctuary"). It seem possible that this is a reference to the Noaic prophecy that God would dwell in the tents of Shem (Gen.9:27).  If so, then something new is being said here, that the onset of this promise began at the exodus.
Psalm 136:10-22 The exodus & wilderness experience demonstrated is unchanging lovingkindness toward Israel.
Taking the land
Ps.80:8-11 (Ps.72:8) indicates borders for Israel that match the promise to Israel through Moses (c.f. Ex.23:31) that were realized only under Solomon (1Ki.4:21).
Psalm 83:9-11 the psalmist recalls God’s militant actions against enemies in the past and calls on God for protection now…as he did, so let him do.
Psalm 3 – This is a psalm of David when he fled from his son Absalom. There’s not a direct reference to the event in the Psalm. There is an application derived from the event – that God can be trusted. There is also a petition for deliverance.
Psalm 7 – This is a psalm of David concerning Cush, a Benjamite. We have no references in the historical books to such an individual, so it’s impossible to observe any hermeneutical methods.
Psalm 18 – There are some differences between this Psalm and its telling in 2 Samuel 22; all but one or two are minor.
Psalm 34 – This is a psalm of David when he pretended to be insane before Abimelech, who drove him away and he left. There’s not a direct reference to the event in the Psalm. It is an application derived from the event – that God delivers his loved ones.
Psalm 51 – This is a psalm of David when Nathan rebuked him after he had committed adultery with Bathsheba. There’s not a direct reference to the event in the Psalm. It does contain applications derived from the event: 1. that only God can pardon sin, 2. that all sin is, ultimately, against God, 3. that only God can restore & 4. that repentance is more important than religious activity. It also contains petitions for mercy & forgiveness. Verse 11 may be David’s application of the downfall of Saul to his own situation through historical analogy. At the rebuke of Nathan he must have thought back to Saul who was cast aside for rejecting the will of God (1Sam.13:14; 15:10,22-23; 16:14-23). Now, David had ‘despised the word of the Lord’ (2 Sam. 12:9,10,14) what would God do? Also, verse 18 seems to correlate the welfare of Israel with the moral righteousness of the king. This may be an application of 2 Sam. 24.
Psalm 52 – This is a psalm of David when Doeg the Edomite told Saul where David had fled (c.f. 1Sam.21:7 & 22:9-19) resulting in the deaths of the priests. There’s not a direct reference to the event in the Psalm. There are some applications derived from the event – that God will destroy the wicked and deliver the righteous.
Psalm 54 – This is a psalm of David when the Ziphites revealed David was hiding amongst the people (c.f. 1Sam.23:19 & 26:1) resulting in Saul’s effort to find & kill him. There’s not a direct reference to the event in the Psalm. There is an application derived from the event – that God is the source of help. There is also a petition – that God would deliver him.
Psalm 57 – This psalm concerns a time when David hid from Saul in a cave.
Psalm 59 – This psalm concerns a time when Saul set up an ambush for David at his house. The text consists of imprecations and requests for deliverance.
Psalm 60 – This psalm concerns a time when David fought Aram Naharaim & Aram Zobah and when Joab killed 12,000 Edomites in the Valley of Salt. There are discrepancies between the information in the title and the apparent synoptic information in 2 Samuel 8:13. This is a lament and a request for deliverance.
Psalm 63 – This psalm concerns a time when David was in the desert of Judah. The title is not specific enough to glean much of value for our purposes.
Psalm 96 – This psalm echoes David’s psalm in 1Chronicles 16:23-33 (c.d. Psalm 105). There are some minor variations between the two poems but there is no apparent interpretive activity in Ps.96 relative to the Chronicles account.
Psalm 105:1-15 – This portion of the psalm echoes David’s psalm in 1Chronicles 16:8-22 (c.f. Psalm 96). There are some minor variations between the two poems but there is no apparent interpretive activity in Ps.105 relative to the Chronicles account.
Psalm 106:1,47-48 – This portion of the psalm echoes David’s psalm in 1Chronicles 16:34-36
Psalm 142 – This psalm concerns a time when David was in a cave. There’s not enough information for our purposes.
There is no evidence in these historical references that the psalmist viewed the narratives they referred to as anything other than actual history. The events cited correspond directly to the descriptions of those same events in the earlier parts of the Torah. In some cases the psalmists recount and apply the historical information. In other cases they derive deeper meaning from the text, although the deeper meaning is completely compatible with it. In a few cases the psalmists reveal something new about the historical event that was not contained in the original text.
- Psalm 105:17-19 God foretold the future of Joseph…this shows the truthfulness of God’s word.
It is fairly obvious that the wording of Psalm 51, "you do not delight in sacrifice…you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings" is remarkably similar to Samuel’s question, "does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices…" Yet 1 Samuel 15:22 emphasizes that obedience is better than sacrifice whereas Psalm 51 emphasizes that contrition & repentance are better than sacrifice.
Again, the language of 1 Samuel 15:22 is much like that of Psalm 40:6-8. In this case, both passages emphasize that obedience is better than sacrifice.
- God as the Rock
- Gen.49:24 In Jacob’s blessing of Joseph he indicates Joseph overcame his severe adversity because of the Rock of Israel.
- Deut.32:4 Moses says the God is the Rock; v.15,18 that Israel rejected the Rock his savior, his father when things were going well; v. 31 that Israel’s Rock causes them to overcome insurmountable odds
- 1Sam.2:2 Hannah indicated that Israel’s Rock is entirely unique as did David 2Sam.22:32 (c.f. Psalm 18:31).
- Psalm 18:2 The Rock is a fortress against David’s enemies
- Psalm 19:14 God is David’s Rock and goel; Psalm 78:35 couples the two in the same way;
- Ethan indicates that David called YHWH his Father, God, Rock & Savior (Ps.89:26; 92:15)
- David indicates that the Lord his Rock trains him for battle (Ps.144:1)
The psalmists certainly reiterate the Rock imagery of God as protector and redeemer found in earlier text but there is no indication of novel theological meaning for the term in the Psalms.
- Manna as God’s provision – Ps.78:25 reveals that manna is angelic food; In Ex.16:4 God simply says he will rain down bread from heaven; it does appear that this information is new in this Psalm and could not have been anticipated through study of the earlier text.
- Exodus as redemption (see the material under the exodus)
"May God extend the territory of Japheth; may he live in the tents of Shem" It is possible that Noah is claiming Japheth (i.e. who's offspring were Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan, Tubal, Meshech and Tiras; Northern Europeans?) will live in the tents of Shem but the rule of grammar is that the subject of a sentence satisfies all pronouns thus the 'he' most likely refers to God not to Japheth. Return to Text.
Most of these references are to Psalms connected to particular events in the life of David. I will assume, in most cases, that the superscript or postscript information associated with a Psalm is legitimate. Some historical superscripts seem unsubstantiated by the content of the psalm that follows (e.g. 34). It's not clear whether this is because titles were speculative additions to the psalm, whether the psalms are generalized principles relevant to the historical antecedent or whether, as some argue, the superscripts are really subscripts for the previous psalm. In most cases, however, these sidebar comments are very ancient. According to Anderson these are not only found, "… in MT, Qumran, LXX, and Targums, but it ought also to be noted that even by the time of the LXX translation (2nd - 3rd century BC) the technical terms contained there were so antiquated and obscure that the translators had a fair degree of trouble interpreting them. This is true also for the Targums. Furthermore, we find similar super/postscripts in other parts of Scripture (cf. Hab 3:1, 19b; Isa 38:9). There thus seems to be no reason not to take the super/postscripts seriously." This type of material differs from other references to the Pentateuch & Former Prophets because ostensibly the author is reflecting on the meaning of the events in his own personal history. Return to Text.
Appendix E - Methods of Predictive Prophecy Interpretation
Relevant Interpretative Schools
The grammatical historical technique assumes that words and sentences have fairly stable meanings during historical periods. As much as possible, passages are taken to have a straightforward meaning that can be determined through an understanding of vocabulary and syntax. This method allows for the use of literary devises like simile and metaphor. Usually, however, identification and interpretation of such devises is authorized by the text itself. The historic context of various texts is thought to be critically important for the interpretation process. This method is concerned with interpretation in context. It recognizes that biblical revelation is progressive and so interpretation of earlier material cannot be derived from our understanding of God’s activities obtained from later material. This method assumes that scripture is not contradictory and so opposing alternative interpretations are rejected. This method interprets uncertain material in light of incontrovertible texts.
The term midras, "to seek, examine, investigate"; this refers to a Hebrew method of citing, interpreting and then amplifying an OT passage. This approach is defined in various ways by modern thinkers. Part of this is due to the many approaches found in rabbinical materials. For instance, Hillel's rules of interpretation are remarkably like the grammatical historical method but the additional rules of later rabbis are much more eisegetical. As a result, midrash, as practiced, was a mixed bag of exegetical but largely eisegetical methods including:
Midrash also refers to the oral and then, later, the written collections of midrash expositions and applications. Haggadah midrash refers to the ethical and expository interpretation of non-legal materials from the Hebrew Bible. Halakah midrash applied the general principles of OT laws to specific situations. This was an application of the Torah in a kind of 'case law' format.
Application - This refers to the use of principles derived from antecedent texts in novel situations. As defined here, this approach to scripture does not confuse application with interpretation. Rather, application arises from interpretation. Obviously then, applications are going to differ depending on the hermeneutical approach used by the interpreter. Applications were clearly derived from earlier revelation by OT authors. For example, the psalmists use of the Pentateuch is typically application oriented but the applications are context sensitive and thus objective in their use of antecedent texts.
Methods of Predictive Prophecy Interpretation Applied to Matthew 2:15
Perspective on prophecy
The term pesher means, "to explain." In fact, however, pesher is an application of OT scripture with little to no concern for the context of the passage applied. Pesher may refer either to commentaries on the OT found amongst the Dead Sea scrolls or to the interpretive technique typical of these commentaries.Pesher interpreters assume that OT authors were speaking to the contemporary audience. This form of interpretation is tied to a word, text or OT allusion, which is then related to a present person, place or thing. The interpretations are generally aloof from the source context and appear to lack any coherent methodology.
Pesher is part of what could be called midrash but is being distinguished here because it could be considered an independent tool of interpretation. On one hand, pesher may be regarded as a school of interpretation because it is used for many different kinds of scriptures. On the other hand, pesher may be held to be a tool of interpretation used by interpreters from various hermeneutical schools for a limited subset of scriptures
Out of Egypt I have called my son, was about Christ's flight to and return from Egypt. There is no attempt to justify or correlate this use of Hosea with the context of the rest of Hosea's prophecy.
Concerning predictive prophecy, some proponents argue that God & the prophet's meaning are one and the same, thus the later meaning proposed by a Bible author is the same as the original meaning. Proponents are rightly concerned with the pitfalls of eisegetical approaches to scripture that arise when it is granted that a text may have more than one meaning.
When Matthew suggests that, Out of Egypt I have called my son, was fulfilled by Christ's flight to and return from Egypt he gives us God's meaning. Hosea meant for this passage to be predictive of the messiah.
|Projective & retrospective; objective, but not if pressed too far.|
This approach proposes that successive interpreters, perhaps with divine authorization, derive novel meaning from the original author’s text. That is, God had a double meaning in mind but only revealed the other sense to a later author. Thus, God guided Isaiah to say certain things with meaning in his own time but that God also intended Christ to fulfill. This approach was developed in response to NT uses of the OT that seem to treat apparently non-predictive or 'single meaning' OT material as predictive prophecy.
When Matthew suggests that, Out of Egypt I have called my son, was fulfilled by Christ's flight to and return from Egypt he means something quite different than Hosea meant. God had Hosea chose this words because Christ was going to fulfill them one day. No one could have anticipated this without Matthew's prophetic insight.
|Retrospective but only through revelation; subjective|
This perspective is defined in various ways. Generally speaking, typological interpretation involves identification of people, places, events or objects with significance that exceeds their immediate meaning. Once identified a type can be used to expose deeper meanings from typological reiterations or recurrences.
This method may be difficult to distinguish from sensus plenior or straightforward application in some cases. For example, was the brass serpent a type of Christ or was it simply an illustration application of the principle of substitution? Did God reveal to Moses that this event foreshadowed a more complete propitiation or did Christ expose a second meaning unknown to Moses?
When Matthew suggests that, Out of Egypt I have called my son, was fulfilled by Christ's flight to and return from Egypt he means Jesus was a type of Israel - ideal Israel.
|Retrospective; potentially subjective.|
This approach suggests that the NT authors are simply noting material from the OT that is analogous to their own situation. Proponents advocate that the term 'fulfillment' is probably used by NT authors in its broader sense of "completed" or "filled to overflowing," rather than "prediction/outcome". Proponents also hold that a citation may really serve as a pointer to an entire genre of OT scripture, thereby amplifying the analogical correspondence.
When Matthew suggests that, Out of Egypt I have called my son, was fulfilled by Christ's flight to and return from Egypt he means that Jesus recapitulated the history of Israel. Although, unlike Israel, Christ returned as an obedient servant.
This approach is consonant with analogical correspondence at many points. For instance, proponents would agree the term 'fulfillment' is used more broadly in many cases and that a simple citation may, in fact, refer to an entire block of relevant material. This position would argue, however, that when an author's material touches on well developed motifs he is cognizant of a deeper meaning carried in his words beyond the immediate context. This deeper meaning explains earlier expressions of the motif and also anticipates subsequent reiterations of the same motif.
When Hosea records, Out of Egypt I have called my son, he is tapping into an exodus motif that was expressed in the original event; reiterated and extended to "the king" of Israel by Balaam (Nu.24:8); reiterated when Joshua entered Palestine; reiterated when the principle of redemption was applied repeatedly in OT didactic material; that would be reiterated later when Israel was restored after her impending discipline (Hos 6:1-3; 8:1-10:5) and again when God would permanently redeem his people. Matthew was simply noting something implicit in Hosea, namely, Christ was the ultimate fulfillment of God's promised redemption of Israel (Hos.11:1-14:5). Hosea certainly understood that his recollection of the Exodus was anchored in God's past redemptive history as well as his future promise of final redemption. And, this is exactly what Matthew did by simply pointing out its manifestation in Christ. Christ returned to Israel from Egypt, as an obedient son and also as God coming again to dwell in the tents of Shem. The resonance with the exodus motif is so remarkable that Matthew could say Christ 'filled up to overflowing' the entire theme. If we were contemporaries of Matthew we too could have anticipated a final redemption of Israel and rejoiced when we saw its penultimate fulfillment in the first advent of Christ and hoped in its ultimate fulfillment in his second advent.
|Projective & retrospective; objective.|
This list is not exhaustive. I have focused on methods that are friendly to the interests of authorial intent and may have been used by OT authors related to antecedent texts. Thus, I have not listed the following methods of interpretation: Allegorical, Naturalistic; Neo-Orthodox or Ideological. Return to Text
An interpretive method is prospective if it attempts to show that a prophecy has meaning for the future. An interpretive method is retrospective if it attempts to show that a prophecy fits a subsequent event but can only do so post hoc (i.e. something unexpected before the fact but undeniable afterward). An interpretive method that tries to show a prophecy is a prediction from within its own context but also tries to show a prophecy is a prediction from the context of the putative fulfilled prediction is both prospective and retrospective. The qualifiers 'objective' and 'subjective' indicate whether the interpretations derived by a method could be produced by a neutral party using the rules of that method. Ideally a method should be objective and able to justify arguments that a prophecy is predictive from the context of the prophecy and also from the context of the event that is thought to have been predicted by the prophecy. Return to Text
Some hermeneutical schools might deny divine authorization for this use of antecedent scripture but still agree new meaning is made from the earlier text that the original author did not intend. Return to Text
Appendix F - Matthew's use of 'Fulfill'
Appendix G - The Immediate Context for Matthew 2:13-15
Matthew 1:1-17 The record of the genealogy ofJesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham:1 Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers. Judah was the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, Perez was the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram. Ram was the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon. Salmon was the father of Boaz by Rahab, Boaz was the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse. Jesse was the father of David the king. David was the father of Solomon by Bathsheba who had been the wife of Uriah. Solomon was the father of Rehoboam, Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asa. Asa was the father of Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah. Uzziah was the father of Jotham, Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah. Hezekiah was the father of Manasseh, Manasseh the father of Amon, and Amon the father of Josiah. Josiah became the father of Jeconiah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon. After the deportation to Babylon: Jeconiah became the father of Shealtiel, and Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel. Zerubbabel was the father of Abihud, Abihud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor. Azor was the father of Zadok, Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud. Eliud was the father of Eleazar, Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob. Jacob was the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, by whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah.2 So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; from David to the deportation to Babylon, fourteen generations; and from the deportation to Babylon to the Messiah, fourteen generations.3
1 Here, at the beginning of the narrative, Matthew indicates that he is establishing Jesus as the Messiah and the fulfillment of the covenants of David and Abraham. Isaiah makes it clear that the servant of YHWH would fulfill the Abrahamic covenant and the messiah would fulfill the Davidic covenant.
2 This entire genealogy is framed front and back with the claim that Jesus was Messiah. If this is the thesis of Matthew's narrative then we would expect many references to antecedent messianic and covenant scriptures in order to demonstrate that Jesus fulfilled the terms of the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants.
3 Matthew named 14 generations for each of 3 epochs but the list isn't exhaustive, a fact Matthew must have realized. It is not clear, then, what he is intending when he draws our attention to his symmetrical genealogy.
Jesus: Messiah, son of David & Abraham
Matthew 1:18-25 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly. But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins. Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD AND SHALL BEAR A SON, AND THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL, which translated means, GOD WITH US.1 And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife, but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus.
1 Isaiah 7:14 a prophecy used in the context of Isaiah's own time, the fulfillment of which would be a sign that another prophecy of an Assyrian exile would indeed come to pass. This second prophecy is extended forward for several chapters and includes the prophecy found in chapter 9:6-7 about the eternal rule of the messiah.
It seems that this single reference, while relevant for Joseph (i.e. the virgin shall be with child…) is simultaneously and perhaps more significantly a pointer to a larger promise of a God/King who will rule from David's throne.
Matthew 2:1-12 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him. When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They said to him, In Bethlehem of Judea; for this is what has been written by the prophet: "AND YOU, BETHLEHEM, LAND OF JUDAH, ARE BY NO MEANS LEAST AMONG THE LEADERS OF JUDAH; FOR OUT OF YOU SHALL COME FORTH A RULER WHO WILL SHEPHERD MY PEOPLE ISRAEL.'1 Then Herod secretly called the magi and determined from them the exact time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, Go and search carefully for the Child; and when you have found Him, report to me, so that I too may come and worship Him. After hearing the king, they went their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshipped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, the magi left for their own country by another way.
1 This citation of Micah 5:2 was taken by these religious leaders and indeed is argued in the Targums to be a messianic prophecy, probably because it goes on to say, "whose origins are from days of eternity." On the one hand the reference to Judah suggests fulfillment of Nathan's prophecy in 2Samuel 7:8-16 (c.f. Ps.89:35-37). On the other hand, the reference to Israel being abandoned until the rest of the messiah's brethren join the Israelites (5:3) may be a reference to Gentiles and hence to the Abrahamic covenant. Certainly the faith of the Gentiles is in view in the previous chapter 4:1-4.
Matthew 2:13-15 Now when they had gone, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, Get up! Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him. So Joseph got up and took the Child and His mother while it was still night, and left for Egypt. He remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: OUT OF EGYPT I CALLED MY SON.
[I will defer interpretation here since the purpose of this exercise is to establish the context for this particular part of the narrative.]
Matthew 2:16-18 Then when Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi, he became very enraged, and sent and slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and all its vicinity, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the magi. Then what had been spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: A VOICE WAS HEARD IN RAMAH, WEEPING AND GREAT MOURNING, RACHEL WEEPING FOR HER CHILDREN; AND SHE REFUSED TO BE COMFORTED, BECAUSE THEY WERE NO MORE.1
1 Jeremiah 31:15 is plainly a reference to the mourning associated with the Babylonian captivity but is also at the head of a long prediction of the restoration of Israel (31:16-30), God's love for Israel (31:20,28) and ultimately God's new covenant (31:31-34).
Matthew may be pointing out that the mourning in Jerusalem was like the mourning of the exiles to Babylon in order to point to the promise of the new covenant when people will have the Law of God written on their hearts.
Matthew 2:19-23 But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, and said, Get up, take the Child and His mother, and go into the land of Israel; for those who sought the Child's life are dead. So Joseph got up, took the Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Then after being warned by God in a dream, he left for the regions of Galilee, and came and lived in a city called Nazareth. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophets: "He shall be called a Nazarene."1
1 This is very difficult to pin down. Either Matthew is referring to some antecedent scripture of which modern scholars are unaware or he has something else in mind. Some believe this is a reference to a Nazarite vow but clearly Christ took no such vow, there is no such prophecy pertaining to someone who has taken a Nazarite vow and such vows are not associated with the city of Nazareth. Others believe this is a play on words, that Matthew is alluding to the homonymous relationship between the Hebrew word for branch (nezer) and Nazarene (nazor…).
If Matthew is referring to a text unknown to us then it is impossible to understand his use of that text.
If Matthew is referring to nezer (i.e. branch) then he is alluding to the messianic prophecies in Isaiah 4:2, Zechariah 3:8,9 & 6:12. However, if this is Matthew's meaning then an explicit meaning for his use of 'fulfillment' becomes hard to justify since simple plays on words could be construed by him as fulfillment.
Matthew 3:1-12 Now in those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying, Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. For this is the one referred to by Isaiah the prophet when he said, THE VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS, "MAKE READY THE WAY OF THE LORD, MAKE HIS PATHS STRAIGHT!'1 Now John himself had a garment of camel's hair and a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey.2 Then Jerusalem was going out to him, and all Judea and all the district around the Jordan; and they were being baptized by him in the Jordan River, as they confessed their sins. But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance; and do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, "We have Abraham for our father'; for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham. The axe is already laid at the root of the trees; therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.
1 Isaiah 40:3 is contained in a passage speaking of a cessation of God's discipline toward Israel (Isa.40:1-5), the contrast between man's weakness and God's power (Isa.40:6-31) and God's redemption first through Cyrus (Isa.41:1-29) and then through the Servant of the Lord (Isa.42:1-7).
2 2Kings 1:8 indicates that Elijah had similar attire. Matthew's mention of this detail seems deliberate.