Bible Review 2:2, Summer 1986

From Moses to Jesus: Parallel Themes

By John Dominic Crossan

In an article in the February 1985 issue of Bible Review (“Different Ways of Looking at the Birth of Jesus,” BR 01:01), Kenneth Gros Louis discusses what he calls “narrative strategies in New Testament infancy narratives.” It seems to me that Gros Louis analyzes only minor tactics while completely ignoring the dominant strategy of the text—or at least the text of Matthew. (A similar case could be made for Luke but I shall leave that for another occasion.)

The dominant strategy of the infancy narrative in the Gospel of Matthew is parallelism with the story of Moses’ infancy, a parallelism that determines the underlying structure of Matthew’s entire account of Jesus’ infancy.

Matthew’s parallelism is based, however, not on the concise biblical account of Moses’ infancy contained in Exodus 1–2, but on the expanded, popular accounts of Moses’ infancy that were circulating at the time Matthew wrote and that are reflected in Midrashima and other Jewish sources of the time.

As we shall see, this parallelism determines not only the overall structure of Matthew’s infancy narrative, it also dictates and controls the general sequence and even the detailed elements of the Matthean text.

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