Essays in Honour of Dr. Norman H. Young
Edited By Kayle B. de Waal and Robert K. McIver
The Old Testament Background of Matthew 27:45, 51–53
KAYLE B. DE WAAL
Matthew 27:45, 51–53 continues to be a crux interpretum for interpreters of the first gospel. The text is studied in its final canonical form and reads: “From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land… At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus’ resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people” (Matt. 27:45, 51–53).
The unusual events mentioned by Matthew and the pressing together of theological ideas make this passage difficult to grasp. Recent studies have provided better literary analysis of the text and background studies in the Second Temple literature.1 My aim in this essay is to investigate the Old Testament background of Matt. 27:45, 51–53 and its rhetorical impact on Matthew’s first readers.2
While the first-century C.E. provides the contextual framework within which to understand the gospels, the Old Testament provides the sub-structure for the thoughts and perspectives of the New Testament writers. Richard Hays maintains that the Old Testament is the “generative mileu for the gospels, the original environment in which the first Christian traditions were conceived, formed and nurtured.”3...
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