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Parables of Rejection and Reconstitution
Matthew’s use of Ps. 78:2 in Matt. 13:35



NT use of the OT

Biola University Fall 2006

2 “So was fulfilled what was spoken through the prophet: ‘I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter things hidden since the creation of the world.’” —Matt 13:35 [Ps. 78:2]
Introduction The use of Ps. 78:2 in Matt. 13:35 fascinates. The psalm, at a surface level, seems to have nothing to do with the enigmatic, parabolic teaching of Jesus in Matt. 13. However, a deeper look at both the Old Testament (OT) Context and the narrative flow of Matthew’s gospel reveals a startling typological connection; Israel’s rejection of God is nothing new! In order to arrive safely at a theological destination we will have to examine briefly the text form; walk through the context of one of the longer psalms in the Bible; get a feel for the broader context of Matt. 13; and do some interpretive work in the first four parables of Matthew’s cluster. Once this process is completed the pieces can be put together. We will have at least a foggy notion of the richness which is intended with this quotation from the OT. We can then discover the author’s undergirding assumptions and see how the OT canon can be related to this gospel. Finally, we will tease out some of the theological implications of this text. Text Form Matthew’s “parables” quotation in 13:35 is one of 10 distinct “formula quotations” in his gospel. While Matthew’s other uses of the Old Testament (OT) are extremely close to the LXX, the formula quotations are consistently divergent from this tradition; 13:35 is no exception.1 The first line, “I will open my mouth in parables,” is a verbatim quote from the LXX and lends itself nicely to Matthew’s use.2 The last half of the quotation, “I will proclaim things hidden from the beginning”3 (aut.), has more in common with the MT, yet is not a direct quotation of it. Though

Cf. 1:22-23; 2:15; 2:17-18; 2:23; 4:14-16; 8:17; 12:17-21; 13:35; 21:4-5; and 27:9. I owe this statistic to Graham Stanton. See Graham Stanton, “Matthew,” in It Is Written—Scripture Citing Scripture: Essays in Honour of Barnabas Lindars, SSF, D.A. Carson, H.G.M. Williamson (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1988), p. CITE REST. 2 The LXX’s somewhat odd translation of the Hebrew ‫( םשל‬singular) as παραβαλαις (plural) fits the context of Matthew’s parable cluster in chapter 13. 3 The exclusion of κοσμου at the end of the clause is due to the fact that a strong manuscript argument can be leveled against its inclusion (see Bruce Metzger, A Textual Commentary of the New Testament: 2nd ed., (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1994), 28) coupled with the fact that απο καταβολης is seen to be a

much further analysis could be given, it will suffice to say that Matthew is either quoting from a now non-existent Greek rendering of the Hebrew, or beginning with the LXX as his springboard and tweaking the last half of the verse based on his own knowledge of the Hebrew text.4 Either way, it seems safe to say that we have before us an attempt to remain faithful to the original Hebrew psalm. Old Testament Context—Psalm 78 Dating/Author: The context and the subsequent interpretation of Psalm 78 has long been one of the more puzzling issues posed by the Psalter; the literary genre is debated, and certain dating can be elusive.5 The psalm is given the title “a maskil.” Carroll says that this term reflects a wisdom notion and “skillful handling of some matter…when used as a title for a psalm it indicates a poem displaying insight or wisdom about…certain events in particular.”6 The commentaries universally agree with him and call this a “didactical psalm,” rightly coming to this conclusion based on the psalm’s opening verses; “O my people, hear my teaching; listen to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter hidden things, things from of old—what we have heard and known, what our fathers have told us” (vv.1-3). That the psalm aims at instruction is not at all debated. The real issues to be dealt with when we come to Ps. 78 are: what does the psalm aim to teach, and what is the purpose of this teaching? If we are to understand Matthew’s use of the psalm’s second verse, it is important to first understand the context and interpretation of the psalm as a whole; the verse Matthew quotes is a pivotal introductory verse in Psalm 78. Though this is an Asaphite psalm, the speaker is unnamed. There are a few options to fill this void; kings,
popular expression in early Christian literature for the Hebrew phrase “of old, or of ancient times.” See W.D. Davies, and Dale C. Allison, Jr., A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel According to St. Matthew (3 vols.: ICC 40a-40c: Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1988-1997), 2:425-26. 4 The issue of the text form of Matthew’s use of the OT, particularly the comparison of the form of his LXX usages and the distinct formula quotations has relevance to the study of Matthew’s general use of the OT. A good place to start this exploration is Graham Stanton’s article (see n.1 above). 5 Antony F. Campbell, “Psalm 78: A Contribution to the Theology of Tenth Century Israel,” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 41 (1979): 51-52. 6 R.P. Carroll, “Psalm LXXVIII: Vestiges of a Tribal Polemic,” Vetus Testamentum 21 no 2 (Ap 1971): 133.

priests, prophets, teachers, or even laypersons.7 Pinpointing the speaker is impossible. Nasuti posits interestingly, and not unconvincingly, that the psalm could indeed have been used for Levitical preaching in the form of a song. At this point it is not worth entertaining the “who” of the psalm; whoever the speaker happened to be, the plural address in the first verse (and the first person plural in vv.3-5) makes it clear that the psalm was intended for communal worship/instruction (likely at the temple).8 I will proceed in the interpretation of this psalm assuming that the speaker is a Levitical worship leader sometime during the period between the kingdom-split of Rehoboam’s reign and the destruction of the Jerusalem temple in 587 BC.9 Introductory Verses (vv.1-8): Whoever the speaker was, as noted above, he had an agenda. In addressing his “people” (v.1) he declares “I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings from of old” (v.2). The Hebrew word for parable is mashal. This word brings with it the idea of “a comparison,” or a proverb containing deeper meaning.10 Dahood seems right in saying that this entire psalm is one mashal; the meaning of this mashal is to be found in the interpretation of the psalm as a whole.11 The reference to “dark sayings” is in parallel to “parable[s]” and seems to confirm that there is an air of mystery to the psalm “—for the true pattern of history is not self evident.”12 Though there is a mysterious element to the psalm, it is clear that “these parables and riddles were not ‘hidden’ in the esoteric sense”13 for the next verse reads “what we have heard and known, what our fathers have told us” (v.3). This passing on of tradition is further clarified as “the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD…” (v.4), and this tradition is
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Marvin E. Tate, Psalms 51-100 (WBC 20: Nashville: Nelson, 1991) 286-87. Harry P. Nasuti, “Tradition History and the Psalms of Asaph” (Ph.D diss., Yale University, 1983), 323324. Nasuti notes that to see the psalm in this way fits with some close biblical parallels; Moses’ song in Deut 32 and the Asaphites in 1 Chr 16. 9 It is hard to point to any scholars who date the psalm exactly this way (most are more specific); my date hypothesis is based on the interpretation of the material. 10 Mitchell Dahood, Psalms (3 vols.: AB 16-17a: Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1965-1970), 2:239. This simple definition is good. It is important however, not to restrict the term ultimately; “mashal…is used for all types of figurative speech—proverbs, riddles, taunts, simple comparisons and complex allegories.” See Craig L. Bloomberg, Interpreting the Parables (Downers Grove: IVP, 1990), 36. 11 Dahood, Psalms, 239. 12 Derek Kinder, Psalms 73-150: A Commentary of Books III-V of the Psalms (London: IVP, 1975), 281. 13 Willem A. VanGemeren, Psalms, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein (EBC vol. 5; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1991), 505.

yet further expounded upon in vv.5-8. The tension between mystery and “what we have… known” is resolved by the fact that the psalmist believes he has a special insight to the history that the people already know.14 First Recounting (vv.9-39) In the interpretation of Ps. 78, vv.9-10 contain the variable which can alter the whole equation.15 This section refers to Ephraim’s betrayal of God “in battle,” and their failure to keep his covenant. I here argue that these verses are in reference to an event that is contemporary to the writer and not an event in the distant past.16 It likely has something to do with the events of 1 Samuel 4 and the defeat of the Israelites at the hands of the Philistines (and the loss of the ark), an event which this psalm sees as the final straw between God and Israel (cf. vv.59-62). The tribe of Ephraim is most likely representative of the Northern people as a whole17, and is named here because Ephraim was the largest tribe and home to the capitol of Israel, Shiloh. In short, I believe that v.9 is referring maybe to a specific event that transpired in the loss of the ark (1 Sam 4) or more probably, to Israel’s rejection of God; it is poetic language comparing the people of Israel’s rejection of God’s covenant to men who are fully armed for battle but tuck-tail and run. In vv. 11-16 we see an introduction to the wonders God had shown the people of Israel; he describes in poetic language the miraculous deliverance in the exodus.18 Yet we see, in vv.1731 the people’s response to God’s miracles; they demand more miracles and mockingly spurn

Campbell, “Psalm 78: A Contribution to the Theology of Tenth Century Israel,” 53. From this point on in the OT context section I rely heavily on Campbell’s article; it was nearly universally cited in the commentaries consulted and his arguments are persuasive and compelling. By contrast, most commentaries seem to be horribly deficient at offering a sustained theological interpretation of Ps. 78. 15 Campbell, “Psalm 78: A Contribution to the Theology of Tenth Century Israel,” 53. 16 This view is inconsistent with every commentary I consulted and also with Campbell. However, it has much to commend itself; there is no specific event in the Bible that v.9 can tenably be said to refer to and since all other events captured in Ps. 78 are major events in OT tradition, a reference to an obscure event in the midst of exodus and conquest imagery just doesn’t seem likely. Nevertheless, both positions are arguments from silence. 17 Tate, Psalms 51-100, 289-290. 18 It is important to note here that the recounting of specific events and sins throughout the psalm is “insoluble unless the poet’s mind is moving on the plane of the logic of the psalm and not on the plane of historical chronology.” Indeed, many commentaries tend to treat the psalm somewhat woodenly and try to discern a strict chronology; it seems better to be more flexible in our reading of the psalm. See Campbell, “Psalm 78: A Contribution to the Theology of Tenth Century Israel,” 54.

Him to anger.19 God’s reacts with fiery wrath being poured out on his rebellious people. The people respond to God’s wrath with a short-lived repentance (vv. 32-39); they were deceitful even in this.20 The section ends with an emphasis on God’s mercy as Israel rebelled “time after time” (v.38). Second Recounting (vv. 40-64) This section of the psalm evidently constitutes a fresh recounting of past history.21 The first recounting (vv.9-39) emphasized the disparity between Israel’s rebellion and God’s graciousness. This present recounting is more concerned with showing the persistence of Israel’s rebellion from the time immediately after the exodus all the way up to their establishment in the Promised Land.22 Within this section vv.40-42 introduce again the theme of the people’s rebellion against God and how “they did not remember His power—the day he redeemed them from the oppressor.” Vv. 43-51 recall some of the specific plagues that predicated the exodus event; during this time the wrath of God was poured out on Egypt while being restrained and withheld from Israel (vv.52-53). Vv. 52-55 recount God’s successful leading of the people through the Red Sea, through the desert, and into the Promised Land, dispossessing the nations who before them and settling Israel into her inheritance. Yet we see again in vv. 56-64 (as in vv. 32-40) the people’s customary rebellion against God in the face of his saving deeds; here they are shown settled in the land and provoking God to jealousy with their idolatry. The psalmist says that, because of this continual rejection, God “…rejected Israel completely. He abandoned the tabernacle of Shiloh, the tent he had set up among men” (vv.59b-60). Here the author brings the events back to where he started; God’s departure and rejection of Israel at Shiloh transpiring in the events of 1 Samuel 4.23

The rebellious events alluded to in this section of the psalm are found in Ex 15:22-17:7; and esp. Num 11:1-35. 20 Kidner (A Commentary on Books III-V of the Psalms, 283) links vv.32-39 with Hosea 5:15-6:6. 21 See how vv.11-12 have their parallel in vv.42-43 (See Campbell, “Psalm 78: A Contribution to the Theology of Tenth Century Israel,” 55). 22 Campbell, “Psalm 78: A Theology of Tenth Century Israel,” 57. 23 Whether I am right about v. 9 referring to 1 Samuel 4 or not, the theology of the psalm remains unchanged.

Rejected and Re-elected (vv. 65-72) Here now we see God arising as if he had been “asleep” (possibly in reference to David’s ascension), and bringing salvation to his people.24 The theme of rejection is continued here; God rejects “Joseph” and “Ephraim,” electing instead “Judah, Mount Zion which he loved” and “David his servant.” Following the capture of the ark at Shiloh, the temple was never rebuilt there. Instead, God used David to establish his temple in Jerusalem and especially chose the tribe of Judah to make a special covenant with (2 Sam 7).25 The language used in the psalm may make it seem that Israel is being completely rejected; upon closer inspection, however, this is not the case. David is said to be chosen by God “to be the shepherd of his people Jacob, of Israel his inheritance.” God has “rejected Israel completely” in one sense, but in another sense this rejection occasions a new beginning through a new vessel, David, and all that he stands for. Theological Sum-Up: This psalm is not merely a song composed to evoke feelings of grandeur or to drudge up past failures; rather, it is a ps0alm composed to teach a lesson. It is, as Campbell says, “a theological interpretation of history, an unmasking of the sharp transition from the old tribal pre-monarchic existence to the new Davidic monarchy.”26 God has indeed rejected the people of Israel after their continual rebellion, this the psalmist makes clear, and yet he also ends on an incredible high-note: God is, in the Davidic monarchy, resuming his relationship with his covenant people.27 This is the “parable,” this is the “hidden thing[s]” spoken of in v.2. In the midst of the tumultuous destruction of the northern kingdom the people need this theological recounting of their history in order to see the pattern that led to rejection by God, and to see that God has been persistently good throughout their history and is now extending his hand to them through David. SENSE AND REFERENTS:
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Campbell, “Psalm 78: A Theology of Tenth Century Israel,” 61. Charles A. Briggs, and Emilie Grace Briggs, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Book of Psalms vol. 2 (ICC; Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1906), 190. 26 Campbell, “Psalm 78: A Contribution to the Theology of Tenth Century Israel,” 61. 27 Campbell, “Psalm 78: A Contribution to the Theology of Tenth Century Israel,” 62.

“I…Asaph or another Asaphite worship leader. …will open my mouth in parables… the referent for parables here is the whole of Psalm 78 which tells of God’s deliverance of Israel and her flagrant sins in the face of his goodness. This sin eventually results in God’s rejection of her, though he mercifully renews and redirects his covenant through David. …I will utter things hidden from of old…” This is in parallel to the previous line and shows us that these parables are revelatory; interpreting history theologically. NT Context—Matthew 13 The Structure of Matthew 13 Scholars are nearly unanimous that chapter 13 contains seven parables.28 However, David Wenham has made, what seems to me, a fairly compelling case that there are actually eight parables. Taking v.52 (Jesus’ “…every scribe…” comment) to be a parable, he floats an argument for viewing the whole parable-cluster as a chiasm.29 A modified breakdown of this structure would appear as follows:
A Sower: Parable about those who hear the word of the kingdom B Disciples’ Q and A about purpose of parables/Interpretation of Sower C Tares: Parable of kingdom—good and evil D Mustard Seed: Parable of kingdom D.1 Leaven: Parable of kingdom E: Matthew’s Quotation of Ps. 78:2/Interpretation of Tares30 D.1’ Treasure: Parable of kingdom


See, for example, Birger Gerhardsson, “The Seven Parables in Matthew XII,” New Testament Studies 19 (1972-73): 16-37. 29 David Wenham, “The Structure of Matthew XIII,” New Testament Studies 25 (1978-79): 516. Wenham gives two positive reasons and one negative for seeing v. 52 as a parable. First, he sees a clear echo of the introductory formula in v. 52. Second, Matthew editorially concludes Jesus’ parables in v.53, after this eighth parable. Negatively, the argument that v.52 doesn’t actually describe the kingdom is faulty because neither does the parable of the Sower (it is a parenetic parable about the reception of the kingdom, not the kingdom itself). 30 At this point I am making a significant addition to Wenham’s proposal; he treats the quotation from Ps. 78:2 and the interpretation of the Tares almost as an editorial aside (Wenham, “The Structure of Matthew XIII,” 517-518). Seeing that 13:35 is one of Matthew’s special “formula quotations,” I assume that it is more than an aside and that Matthew has carefully crafted this section to center around this quotation. Part of this assumption comes from my understanding of Psalm 78 and its centrality to Matthew’s “rejection” theology at this point.

D’ Pearl: Parable of kingdom C’ Dragnet (w/interpretation): Parable of kingdom B’ Jesus’ Q and A about disciples’ understanding of parables A’ Scribe trained: Parable on those trained for the kingdom

This chiasm is not perfectly balanced as far as the length of the material in each section goes. Also, the interpretations of the parables present seem to upset what would be a much more precise balance.31 Nonetheless, the fact that Matthew 13 has been carefully crafted and heavily structured should be evident, and I think that as we move forward the centrality of Ps. 78:2 to Matthew’s parable collection will become clear. Broader Context: When we open Matthew’s gospel to chapter thirteen it is important for us to understand this parable-cluster in terms of its broader context within the book. Chapters 11 and 12 are especially important for understanding Jesus’ parables in Matthew 13 and particularly, as we are concerned, to understand Matthew’s editorial use of Ps. 78:2. Before chapter 11 Jesus has only once been opposed (9:34), however when chapter 11 kicks off, the hostility becomes full-fledged. Chapter 11 has implicit rejection all over it; the people have improperly responded to John the Baptist and have likewise treated Jesus wrongly.32 Jesus and John are both messengers from God and the people have rejected them in many ways: they have refused to hear, they have persecuted, and they have unbelievingly asked for miracles. The result of this rejection, according to Jesus, will be eschatological condemnation (11:21-24; 12:38-45).33 Chapter 12 sees the opposition made explicit and intensified, with the Pharisees plotting to kill Jesus (12:14) and saying that he works by the power of “the prince of demons” (12:24). The chapter ends with a somewhat shocking story: Jesus implicitly rebukes his own mother and brothers and boldly states that “whoever does the will of my father in heaven is my brother and

Though I am not accepting of his structural analysis of the parables chapter (or his interpretation for that matter), Gerhardsson shows fairly conclusively that without the interpretations in the midst of the chapter we have an extremely well-balanced cluster of parables which probably existed as an oral body of teaching before the composition of Matthew. See Birger Gerhardsson, “The Seven Parables in Matthew XIII” New Testament Studies 19 (1972-1973): 16-37. 32 Craig L. Blomberg, Matthew (NAC; Nashville: Broadman, 1982), 183. 33 Ivor Harold Jones, The Matthean Parables (Boston: Brill Academic, 1995), 282.

sister and mother.” Most commentators make a strong link between this passage and the parablecluster in chapter 13; it is a startling reconstruction of the family structure, no longer based upon blood-relationship, but on discipleship and obedience to Jesus.34 The idea of “doing the will” of Jesus’ father is a foundational concept for understanding the parables-cluster and the nature of the material presented therein; it is those who truly “hear” and understand the message of the parables who are disciples of Jesus.35 13:1-9 The Parable of the Sower Vv. 1-2 Provide the introduction for the parable chapter; Jesus has left the house of 12:46-50 and is now addressing the crowds from the vantage point of a boat rowed-out just a short bit from the beach. Once seated in the boat, Jesus launches into the “Parable of the Sower.” It begins with a farmer liberally “scattering” his seed; some of it lands on the path, some of it on rocky ground, some among the thistles, and finally, some lands on good soil. Correspondingly, some of the seed is eaten by birds, some sprouts and dies, some is choked by weeds, and finally some brings forth an extremely bountiful crop. The parable was probably somewhat surprising to the hearers; why was this farmer so carelessly scattering his seed on ground that he undoubtedly knew was bad? “Surely he is heading for disaster!” they might have said as Jesus lulled them into thinking that the story would come to a bad end before surprising them by saying that the crop returned was more than plentiful enough to make up for the seed lost.36 What is the point of this parable? More generally, why is Jesus speaking in parables? Jesus explicates these issues in vv.18-23. 13:10-17 The interpretation of the Parable of the Sower In answer to the disciples’ question Jesus explains why he speaks to the crowds in parables; it is because parables divide the haves from the have-nots (vv. 10-12).37 Jesus’ parables are not here seen to be the cause of the hardening of the hearts; rather, the parables reflect the state of the hearers’ hearts. Those who are
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Blomberg, Matthew, 208-209. John Nolland, The Gospel of Matthew: A Commentary on the Greek Text (NIGTC; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2005), 522. 36 Nolland, The Gospel of Matthew, 526-529. 37 Blomberg, Matthew, 215.

softened to the person of Jesus hear his parables and perceive in them the messages about the kingdom contained therein; those who are already hardened against Jesus (e.g. the Pharisees, religious leaders, and their followers) dismiss his parables as just more nonsense from this rogue rabbi.38 Jesus quotes from Isaiah 6:9-10 (vv.13-15) to show how these Jewish rejecters are in continuity with those who have gone before.39 He then contrasts this state with the “blessedness” of the disciples who are able to hear and understand (vv.16-17). 13:18-23 The Interpretation of the Sower Here we receive the explication of the “parable of the sower” straight from the Messiah’s mouth. Though some have remarked that the sower is likely unimportant because he is scarcely mentioned and we are told nothing about him,40 the fact that Jesus names the parable by “the sower” shows the prominence of this figure in the parable.41 Surely it is Jesus’ ministry and even personhood, consumed as it was with declaring the “kingdom of God,” which is in view here as “the sower.”42 Jesus explains then, that the parable is concerned with the responses of men to “the message about the kingdom” (v.19). Jesus classifies four different types of responses; three have the same outcome and bear no fruit, while the last response, the good soil, produces a bountiful crop.43 Now, the crowds here are obviously composed of Jews and Jesus’ ministry was, except for a couple of extremely rare occasions, confined to the Jewish people (cf. Matthew 10:5; 15:24). Therefore, the reference to those who heard message of the kingdom can be seen first and foremost to be referring to the


Ulrich Luz, Matthew: A Commentary (3 vols.: Hermeneia 40 vol.1-vol.3; Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress Publishers, 2001), 2:246. In v. 13 Jesus says that he speaks to them in parables “because” (hoti) “hearing they do not see…” In Mark 4:12 we see Jesus saying that he speaks to them in parables “in order that” (hina) “they may be ever seeing but never perceiving…” Though it seems like the two evangelists could be in conflict over their use of these conjunctions, when taken in context their meaning is likely the same; the parables do indeed conceal “mysteries,” but only to those whose hearts are already hardened. Issues dealing with God’s sovereignty in choosing and damning men are probably not on Matthew or Mark’s mind (at least not here); they are more concerned to show how Jesus speaks in parables to give further disclosure to those who accept him and how these same parables keep hidden these same things to those who have not received his person. 39 Undoubtedly a fascinating use of the OT by Jesus, though not within the scope of this paper. 40 Luz, Matthew: A Commentary, 2:240-242. 41 Nolland, The Gospel of Matthew, 539. 42 Blomberg, Matthew, 222. 43 Luz, Matthew, 248-249.

nation of Israel.44 So the parable seems to be making the point that within Israel there are many (nay, all) who will hear the message (remember the liberality of the sower!) but only those who hear the word, accept it joyfully, and obey it are those who are truly part of the kingdom. It serves primarily as a parenetic plea to the hearers; they are to question themselves, “Which soil am I?”45 13:24-30 The Parable of the Weeds Here the narrative comes back to Jesus, presumably speaking with the crowds again (cf. v.3; 36), illuminating something about the kingdom; namely, why are so many unresponsive to its arrival?46 The parable is about a man who “sowed good seed in his field.” The statement by Jesus that the seed is “good” is highly superfluous; of course the farmer did not take bad seed to sow in his field! He is setting up the hearers for a conflict in the plot.47 While this farmer seeded his field with quality seed, an enemy has come at night and sown darnel, a wheat-like plant in which grows a poisonous fungus.48 In Jesus’ story the two rival crops have come to fruition at the same time and are discernible even before the harvest time. The farmer’s servants are concerned to follow normal procedure and try to eradicate the enemy’s plants immediately, but out of supreme concern for the wheat crop the farmer instructs them to wait until the harvest time when both crops will be harvested and separated, one gathered into “my barn” and the other tied in “bundles to be burned” (vv. 29-30).49 Matthew gives us Jesus’ interpretation of the parable in vv. 36-43, but for the sake of leaving-off with the analysis of his use of Ps. 78:2 (vv. 34-35); I will parenthetically deal with the interpretation of these interpretive verses here. (13:36-43 The Interpretation of the Parable of the Weeds) In vv.36 Jesus has apparently gone back into the house (v.1) after further delivering the parables of the mustard seed and the

Luz implicitly agrees with this viewpoint; he says that chapter 13 is concerned to show how “those outside” in 12:46-47 are the people of Israel. See Luz, Matthew, p. 233. See also Ulrich Luz, The Theology of the Gospel of Matthew (Cambridge: University Press, 1995), 87. 45 Luz, Matthew, 250. 46 Blomberg, Matthew, 218-219; Nolland, The Gospel of Matthew, 543. 47 Luz, Matthew, 254. 48 David Wenham, The Parables of Jesus (Downers Grove: IVP, 1989) 57. 49 Luz, Matthew, 254.

yeast (vv.31-33, dealt with below) and his disciples imperatively ask him to explain the parable of the weeds to them.50 Jesus obliges them and gives them a very detailed “sense-referent” dissection of the parable. He says that the farmer is “the Son of Man,” the field is “the world,” the good seed is “the sons of the kingdom,” the tares are “the sons of the evil one,” the enemy is “the devil,” the harvest is “the end of the age,” and finally the reapers are the Son of Man’s “angels.” The most interesting element in this dissection is Jesus’ description of the field as “the world.” The world is obviously, at least in this parable, synonymous with the kingdom; for in v. 41 it is “the kingdom” which the angels are sent into to “weed out” those who are not rightfully part of it. So, it appears correct to say that Jesus’ kingdom is here seen as coming to “the world” and somehow the world becomes his kingdom, yet foreign elements remain in it until the eschatological judgment. Interestingly, the term “sons of the kingdom” is used by Matthew in 8:12 in reference to Israelites who will be “cast out.” It appears that the use in 8:12 has the meaning of “should have been sons of the kingdom,” while here we are dealing with the issue of who is truly a part of the kingdom.51 The parable shows that within the Son of Man’s kingdom both true sons and wicked sons will remain until the time is ripe and the harvesters are contracted. If we are consistent in our approach to seeing the audience as wholly Jewish, at least in its original context as a parable on Jesus’ lips, it is right to see Jesus primarily making the statement that, even within Israel, where God’s kingdom has first touched down, there is not a homogenous composition of people; some are destined for fiery judgment (v.42) and some, “the righteous,” are destined for glory in “the kingdom of their Father” (v.43). 13:31-32 The Parable of the Mustard Seed Again in this parable we have a farmer who sows seed, except that this time only one seed is sown. This provides an allegorical feature of the

Blomberg notes that the fact that the disciples have to ask Jesus for further revelation of the parable seems to blur the distinction between them and the crowds. I don’t think that this is necessarily the case; Jesus’ disciples were able to ask him about the meaning of the parable because of their heart orientation towards Jesus; they were his disciples. This further confirms the notion that it was not primarily a supernatural revelation had by those who understood Jesus’ parables; those who believed in him already were led to inquire more deeply into the parables because they operated with the assumption that the parables did indeed communicate something about the kingdom of God. See Blomberg, Matthew, 221-222. 51 Luz, Matthew, 268.

story; God [via Jesus] has only sown one kingdom.52 It also shows us that the kingdom itself is at the center of this parable; not the individuals within it or the person who has originated it. Jesus doesn’t speak as a biologist here when he says that the seed is the “smallest.” Rather, he is speaking proverbially. By saying that the tiny seed grows into a “tree” large enough for the birds to come and nest in, he is deliberately exaggerating the size of a normal mustard bush which would be, at most, 10-12 feet tall. By speaking of birds nesting in this “tree” he is possibly alluding to Ezek 17:23 in which birds are seen nesting in a large cedar tree that is representative of the kingdom of God in Israel.53 In this parable Jesus is introducing a new motif to his teaching in these parables, namely that the kingdom of God has a surprisingly small beginning and yet ends in the same eschatological kingdom that has been foretold and hoped for by the Jewish prophets for centuries before (cf. v.17).54 13:33 The Parable of the Yeast This parable is paired with the parable of the mustard seed that has preceded it.55 This parable is about a woman who takes yeast and mixes it into an exceedingly large amount of dough; at least enough to make bread for 100 people.56 The meaning is similar in force to the last parable; a seemingly inconspicuous beginning resulting in grand endings. Yet there is something different going on with this parable. The emphasis here is not on the smallness of the beginning; it likely would have taken at least four pounds of leaven to leaven such an enormous batch of dough. The point being made is that the leaven is “hidden” in the flour but unstoppably yeasts the whole batch of dough. “Thus it is with the kingdom of God. Once the leaven is in it, an irresistible process leads to excessive fullness….”57 So with these final two parables we have Jesus displaying a further mystery about the kingdom; it begins in an incredibly unexpected, small way. Its beginnings are extremely inauspicious and “hidden” and

52 53

Nolland, Matthew, 550. Blomberg, Matthew, 220. 54 Nolland, Matthew, 553. 55 See the chiastic structure diagram on p. 7 56 Wenham, Parables of Jesus, 56. 57 Luz, Matthew, 262-263.

yet at the same time, these beginnings are the progenitors of the final kingdom which has been testified to by the prophets. 13:34-35 Matthew’s Use of Ps. 78:2 Finally the central point in our study has arrived. Jesus has concluded his discourse with the crowds. He is next seen explaining the parable of the wheat and the weeds to the disciples (see above) and then giving them three private parables that further explicate the nature of the kingdom (vv.44-50), asking them about their understanding of the parables (v.51), and giving them one last seemingly-odd parable about their role as those “instructed about the kingdom of heaven” (v.52). Though the way these private parables factor into Matthew’s use of Ps. 78:2 could be explored further, I have not seen them to be as pertinent to the formula quotation as the parables addressed to the crowds. Moreover, it is not within the scope of this present paper to explore these parables individually. So coming to v.34 we read “Jesus spoke all these things to them in parables; he did not say anything to them without using a parable.” Jesus’ teaching to the crowds was something that was primarily conducted using parables. It was not the case that he never said anything to them except parables, but rather that he did not say anything to them without using parables.58 The importance of parables in Jesus’ ministry is part of the basis for which Matthew follows with the quotation of Ps. 78:2, “So was fulfilled what was spoken through the prophet: “I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter things hidden from the beginning” (v.35, aut.). SENSE AND REFERENTS “I… Jesus, the teacher of parables. …will open my mouth in parables… Here the referent for “parables” is the four parables which have preceded this quotation in Matthew 13; parables which were publicly addressed to the crowds.59

58 59

D.A. Carson, Matthew (EBC 8; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984), 320. Maarten J.J. Menken, Matthew’s Bible: The OT Text of the Evangelist (Leuven, Belgium: Leuven University Press, 2004) 98.

…I will utter things hidden from of old…” Again, this clause is parallel to the clause in the first line of the quotation. It refers not just to the fact that Jesus used parables as a teaching method, but that he used them as a teaching method that was revelatory; the parables directed at the crowds “declare new things, secrets (v.11), hidden things (v.35). Yet they are secret and new chiefly because they depend on an approach to Scripture not unlike Asaph’s—bringing together various pieces of previous revelation into new perspectives.”60 ANALYSIS OF MATTHEW’S USE OF PS. 78:2 (MATT. 13:35) It is now appropriate, keeping both the OT context and the context in Matthew’s gospel close at hand, to analyze 1.) the exegetical method being used by the gospel writer, 2.) the hermeneutical assumptions undergirding this exegetical method, and finally 3.) what NT/OT relationship this usage evinces. Matthew’s Exegetical Method in 13:35 (Midrash—Explanation from Context) D.A. Carson writes, “Contemporary NT scholars almost universally agree that Matthew has taken Ps. 78:2 badly out of context.” I think that Carson is absolutely right when he says that this opinion, though popular, is based on a misunderstanding of both Ps. 78 and Matthew 13.61 Ulrich Luz, though typically thorough, gives a very summary interpretation of this quotation in his Hermeneia commentary, and fails to mention it at all in his theology of Matthew’s gospel.62 He rightfully notes that the issue in this quotation is “Israel’s lack of understanding,” but he fails to connect the dots between the mashal of Ps. 78:2 and the mashalim which Jesus has uttered prior to this quotation.63 Most commentaries follow Luz’s lead and gloss over the editorial and theological purposes of the quotation in 13:35, dealing only implicitly, if at all, with Matthew’s exegetical method. I hope that this treatment can in someway fill that gap.

60 61

Carson, Matthew, 322. Carson, Matthew, 321. 62 Luz, Matthew, 265. See also Luz, The Theology of the Gospel of Matthew. 63 Luz, Matthew, 265.

Matthew is employing a Midrashic exegetical method, citing the whole context of Psalm 78.64 The “parable” in Ps. 78:2 has its referent in the whole of the psalm; it is all one parable aimed at explaining theologically what has transpired historically. To quote this verse, more than any other in the psalm, necessarily means that one is quoting the entire thrust of the whole psalm. It is, of course, theoretically possible that Matthew has just ripped the verse from its OT context and slapped it into a formula quotation for apologetic purposes, but this possibility quickly becomes remote when the glaring similarities between the OT parable and Jesus’ parables are held up to one another. It is possible to find similarities between each individual parable and Ps. 78, but it is better to see the parables as tangentially related to one another with Ps. 78:2 quoted at the conclusion that ties together all the loose ends. The main thrust of Psalm 78 is to show that Israel has repeatedly rejected God despite his persistent goodness and that God, correspondingly, has rejected Israel. The rejection is not total however, for God quickly “arises from sleep” and lays his favor on the tribe of Judah, the house of David, and Mount Zion, reconstituting the nation of Israel through these new means. The psalm itself has an extremely parenetic purpose; in v. 7-8 the reason for the psalm is expounded upon with “Then…they would not be like their forefathers—a stubborn and rebellious generation, whose hearts were not loyal to God, whose spirits were not faithful to him.” The hearer is to look at the reaction to God in the psalm and ask, “Am I also vulnerable to react in kind?” Jesus’ Parable of the Sower also functions parenetically; it highlights the fact that many will hear the gospel of the kingdom but that only a portion have actual understanding and bear fruit; again, the hearer is to ask “Which soil am I?” Another connection may be seen between Jesus’ parable of the sower and the parable of Ps. 78. Just as Ps. 78 is an explanation of what has happened historically, i.e. that the people of God have been in one way rejected by God (because they were not truly His!) and have been


i.e. “Midrash—Explanation from the Context.” Jonathan Lunde, “BBST 430 ‘The NT Use of the OT’ Class Outlines,” (Fall 2006), 12.

reconstituted, so the Parable of the Sower shows the same theme. Since the field has been justifiably shown to be in reference to Jesus’ ministry in Israel (see above interpretation of the parable of the sower), it is safe to conclude that Jesus’ parable is explaining the reconstitution of Israel; it is not just those who “hear” the message, but those who hear, understand, and bring forth fruit who are truly Jesus’ disciples. There may be a whole host of other responses in Israel to Jesus’ proclamation, but only that of true discipleship now constitutes membership in the people of God. The Parable of the Weeds piggybacks on the same theme as the Sower. If Jesus’ ministry is not universally accepted, why is it so? Jesus answers this question by giving the Parable of the Weeds; the people of ethnic Israel are not spiritually homogenous, some are “wheat” and some are “tares.” Some are “of the Son of Man,” while others are “of the evil one.” Both will grow together until the end, when some will enter eschatological glory and others eternal torment. Since the diverse responses of Israel seen in the parable of the Sower have likely troubled the people, and the heterogeneous nature of the kingdom and the delay of the eschaton evinced in the parable of the Weeds have bewildered them, Jesus offers two final parables about the kingdom to reveal something about its nature to the crowds. The parable of the Mustard Seed and that of the Leaven are rightfully grouped together (see above). These parables are Jesus’ didactical tools for explaining the surprisingly small and inauspicious nature of the kingdom’s arrival, and yet in them he preserves the traditional notion of the universal domination of “the Son of Man.” The hearers, if they were positively disposed to Jesus’ person, could look more deeply into these parables and see plainly that Jesus is making the point that the kingdom is being kicked-off in a way that no one could have expected; will this cause them to reject? Though there is not a direct correlation between each detail of Psalm 78 and each detail of each parable, it becomes clear that Jesus is teaching on a theme; namely, the response of Israel to the message of the kingdom contained in his teaching, preaching, and miracles. These have been evident for all of Israel to see, just as the miraculous deeds of the Exodus and the Conquest

were public knowledge for generations of Israelites to come. Yet, even as Jesus is present in the midst of Israel, healing and preaching about the kingdom, rejection is being intensified. Similarly, in Ps. 78 we see God’s acts of redemption and his law being spurned over and over again. God’s reaction in Ps. 78 is to reject the people and reconstitute them through the lineage of David. The implication in Matthew 13 is that God will act similarly here, rejecting the people of Israel who reject him and redefining the people of God, this time based on discipleship to Jesus. Matthew’s Hermeneutical Assumptions Matthew obviously assumes throughout the whole of his gospel that the OT is authoritative and relevant; he reads the Scriptures in a rich way and is continually concerned to show that the person and actions of Jesus are in fulfillment of what the prophets spoke about and what the Jewish people were hoping for. In the use of Ps. 78:2 Matthew tips his hand and shows us that he assumes that the OT reveals a pattern in history. God’s redemptive acts were met with unbelief and rebellion in the OT (as Ps. 78 recounts) and now God’s redemptive acts in Jesus are being met with the same characteristic unbelief and rebellion. The third hermeneutical assumption which this use of the OT exhibits is the assumption that “Jesus is the Christ to whom the Scriptures point.” The fact that Matthew could look at an Asaphite psalm and see a typological anticipation of Jesus’ teaching to Israel in parables shows us clearly that Matthew was unashamed to see Jesus prefigured widely in the OT canon. NT/OT Relationship shown in Matt 13:35 [Ps. 78:2] 1.) The primary relationship between the OT and the NT shown in this text is a TYPOLOGICAL-Prophetic relationship. It is hard to find a way to take Ps. 78 as something that was “prophetic” in the sense of predicting or forecasting future events. Rather, it is a theological recounting of past events. In the NT, however, we see a decisive pattern of rejection emerging in the people’s reaction to the ministry of Jesus. So, it is not primarily a prophetic text, but the prophetic nature of it has become apparent in the ministry of Jesus.

The fact that the relationship is typological is abundantly more evident. It is not Asaph and Jesus who are shown to be the respective type and antitype in this use of the OT. Instead, it is the reaction of the people of Israel to God’s OT redemptive acts as the type, and their reaction to God’s NT redemptive acts (in Jesus) as the antitype. The actions of God in respect to this are also typified and implied here. Just as the people rejected God in the OT, they are rejecting him here in the NT. Correspondingly, just as God rejected and redefined Israel in the OT, the implication is that he will do the same here. 2.) A NT/OT relationship secondarily evinced in this use of the OT is that of Divine Identification. It is Yahweh in Ps. 78 whom the people are guilty of rejecting over and over again; in Matthew’s gospel it is Jesus whom they are rejecting in kind. This is not necessarily an assertion that Jesus is divine, but it clearly puts him at the center of God’s redemptive work in the NT. Jesus has at least been portrayed in the role of divine agent, if not in the role of God himself. Conclusion: Theological Implications My sister is a sophomore at Arizona State University. Among her two majors she is also pursuing a certificate in Jewish Studies. She was rather disconcerted as I spoke with her recently about a class she is taking called “America and the Holocaust.” Apparently, the professor spent the first two weeks of the class lecturing not on the history of the last 100 years, but rather on the topic of Anti-Semitism in the New Testament. The professor unashamedly claims that the vast majority of the NT is anti-Semitic. This claim raises some interesting questions, particularly as it relates to Matthew’s gospel and God’s “rejection” of Israel. Is the gospel of Matthew antiSemitic? This question is important because it has broader horizons than just Jewish-Christian relations; it is an issue dealing with the very character of God himself. To answer the question in the affirmative would mean to say that the OT is also anti-Semitic. If we make this dualaffirmation, we have encroached on one of God’s sovereign rights: the right to judge. For the issue here is not God’s hatred of a certain people group or his arbitrary decision to condemn. In Matthew’s gospel we are seeing the beginning of God’s rejection of his rejecters. Of course,

more exciting for us is the fact that we are also seeing the beginning of a massive inclusion of every tribe, tongue and nation. Nevertheless, we can not forget about the other side of the coin; the kingdom’s arrival brings with it the beginning of a judgment and separation that will be complete at the eschaton. It is healthy for us and for our churches to keep God’s attributes in balance and to remember the divisive nature of the kingdom of God. I recently passed a United Church of Christ with a banner that read “God is still speaking.” The marquee at the front of the church read “Celebrate Inclusion, Not Exclusion.” The leaders of this church should be advised that God is still speaking and through Matthew’s use of Ps. 78:2 he has spoken to us that he retains the right to judge those who reject Jesus. So, Matthew’s gospel is not anti-Semitic, it is anti-rejecter. At the same time that this text affirms God’s sovereignty in judgment it also provides a healthy dose of emphasis on human responsibility. God’s rejection of the people in the OT psalm (remember, the same is implied in Matthew’s use of the OT here) is based on their continued rejection of him. Oftentimes those of us who lay special weight on God’s sovereignty really contort the Scripture and miss the tragedy of passages like this. We fail to allow them to threaten us and to threaten the world in a real way. We think that we have somehow went behind the text; we reason coldly that those who reject Christ are only doing what they were foreordained to do. This misses the tragedy of a passage like this. The early readers of Matthew’s gospel were probably Jewish, and reading of their countrymen’s rejection of the Messiah was no light thing. No doubt this was part of the reason for writing the gospel anyway; “why did so much of Israel miss the Messiah?” Israel was “the elect.” Israel was supposed to be the people of God. What happened?! This holy text is making a major statement; membership as God’s people is based solely on one’s relationship to Jesus the Christ. This was and does remain an evangelistic call to all the earth! We can never lose the importance of proclamational evangelism. At the same time, there are some things here in the text that must be deeply imbedded in the heart and mind of every person who has already given their lives over to following after Jesus.

22 1.) The centrality of Christ. Our status as people in God’s kingdom is secured by Christ,
we are able to “Celebrate Inclusion” because of Jesus, and we will be pardoned eschatalogically by Jesus. Furthermore, as Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 1:30-31 “But from him you are in Christ Jesus, who became wisdom for us from God; [namely] righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (aut.). It is Christ himself who is wisdom from God. Paul further tells us that the apex of all true wisdom is Christ and the righteousness and sanctification and redemption that he brings. We must, therefore, take great pains to keep Jesus at the center of our theology, our church doctrinal statements, our daily lives, and our hearts and our minds. Without Jesus we really have no participation in the divine nature.

2.) The legitimacy of judgment theology and exclusion. I offer this as a corrective
measure. We must never lose sight of grace and mercy. However, these are not God’s only attributes. God is also a God of wrath, a God of judgment, and a God of exclusion. As we affirm these realities we must always joyfully affirm the fact the we too were once excluded from God’s people (Eph. 2) but have now been made “alive together in Christ.” The gospel of judgment on wickedness and wicked man must forever remain part of the church’s proclamation. Rejecting Jesus brings with it huge consequences, this must be reiterated time and again. To compromise in this area is to deny God part of his holy character.

3.) The need for “membership-theology.” The flip side of God’s rejection of those who
reject him is his inclusion of them into one new people that he is forming. This means that those who are identified with Jesus hold a highly privileged position; they are part of God’s redeemed people. Many Christians do not emphasize or realize this aspect of their Christian life. We live far too often in a different worldview; we see ourselves as Americans or Latino-Americans, business majors or psychology

students, blue-collar or white-collar, skilled or menial. We miss the forest for the trees. We are part of the people of God. The vast majority of Christians will probably live somewhat regular and routine lives. They will rise early and work at the same place or at least in the same way for most of their life. Their lives will not be filled with spontaneity and excitement on a daily basis. This is the reality of life. However, knowing these heavenly truths and living in their reality are the things that make routine life exciting, enjoyable, and refreshing. If we strived to live in the reality of what we presently are and who we will someday become our lives would be filled with wonder and awe; can you imagine how much better our church services would be?

4.) Finally, I want to make one final application for those of us who are presently
studying the Bible or theology in a school setting. I hope that I will not take too much liberty with the text or become too mystical in my application, keep an eye on me. Notice how Jesus’ parables were not understood by the crowds. They just flat out did not get it, and they went away befuddled. It was not as if, however, the disciples had inherent understanding because they were of a superior character or because they were the elect of God. They were given understanding because they approached Jesus and received his explication of the meaning and application of the parables. They were given understanding (as stated above) based on their disposition to the person of Jesus. This is a present reminder for those who are studying formally that the presence of Jesus and the work of the Spirit is of utmost importance in the study of the Bible and theology, otherwise these will become mere academic disciplines which are concerned exclusively with history and linguistics. So we must maintain a constant effort to remain most positively disposed to Jesus. We should revere him. We should worship and adore him. In all of our pursuits we should actively ask him to give us understanding and to explain the meaning of texts and

books and verses and arguments. We should ask him to show us the way we are to teach things in our churches, classrooms, and homes. We must emphasize his role as rabbi in our studies. To this end, we must guard our hearts and minds against sin and we need to be quick to repent. It is far too easy to minimize Jesus’ role when you are standing face to face with a shelf of scholars, but Jesus is the true and final embodiment of wisdom and he alone should be our master-teacher.

Blomberg, Craig L. Interpreting The Parables. Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 1990. Blomberg, Craig L. Matthew. New American Commentary 22: Nashville: Broadman, 1982. Briggs, Charles A., and Emilie Grace Briggs. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Book of Psalms. 2 vols.: International Critical Commentary 19 vol.1-19 vol.2: Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1906. Campbell, Antony F. “Psalm 78: A Contribution to the Theology of Tenth Century Israel.” Catholic Biblical Quarterly, 41 (1979): 51-79. Carroll, R.P. “Psalm LXXVIII: Vestiges of a Tribal Polemic.” Vetus Testamentum, 21 no 2 (Ap 1971): 133-150. Carson, D.A. Matthew. In The Expositor’s Bible Commentary 8. Edited by Frank E. Gaebelein. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984.

Carson, D.A., and H.G. M. Williamson, ed. It Is Written: Scripture Citing Scripture, Essays in Honour of Barnabas Lindars, SSF. Cambridge: University Press, 1988. Dahood, Mitchell. Psalms. 3 vols.: Anchor Bible 16-17A: Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 19651970. Davies, W.D., and Dale C. Allison, Jr., A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel According to St. Matthew. 3 vols.: International Critical Commentary 40 vols.1-3: Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1988-1997. Gerhardsson, Birger. “The Seven Parables in Matthew XIII.” New Testament Studies, 19 (197273): 16-37. Jones, Ivor Harold. The Matthean Parables. Boston: Brill Academic, 1995. Kidner, Derek. Psalms 73-150: A Commentary on Books III-V of the Psalms. London: IVP, 1975. Lunde, Jonathan. “BBST 430 ‘The NT Use of the OT’ Class Outlines,” (Fall 2006). Luz, Ulrich. Matthew: A Commentary. 3 vols.: Hermeneia 40 vols.1-3: Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress Publishers, 2001-2005. Luz, Ulrich. The Theology of the Gospel of Matthew. Cambridge: University Press, 1995.

Menken, Maarten J.J. Matthew’s Bible: The OT text of the Evangelist. Leuven, Belgium: Leuven University Press, 2004.
Metzger, Bruce F., A Textual Commentary on the New Testament, 2nd ed., Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1994. Nasuti, Harry P. “Tradition History and the Psalms of Asaph.” Ph.D. diss., Yale University, 1983. Nolland, John. The Gospel of Matthew: A Commentary on the Greek text. New International Greek Testament Commentary 1: Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2005. Tate, Marvin E., Psalms 51-100. Word Biblical Commentary 20: Nashville: Nelson, 1991. VanGemeren, Willem A. Psalms. In The Expositor’s Bible Commentary 5. Edited by Frank E. Gaebelein. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1991. Wenham, David. The Parables of Jesus. Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 1989. Wenham, David. “The Structure of Matthew XIII.” New Testament Studies, 25 (1978-79): 516522.