The issue of how the New Testament quotes (or misquotes) the Jewish scriptures was raised in my recent post ‘Rabbi Tovia Singer Debunks Church Claim that Matthew Misquoted Scripture Using ‘Rabbinic Method’. Now I want to do a separate post giving further examples of blatant misquotations and twistings of OT verses and the problems it raises.
In Matthew’s gospel chapter 2 we read about Jesus’s escape to Egypt:
13When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”
14So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, 15where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”
So Matthew claims that there was a specific prophecy concerning the “son” (ie Jesus) who God would bring out of Egypt and back to Palestine. Here is the ‘prophesy’ from Hosea 11 in its context:
“When Israel was a child, I loved him,
and out of Egypt I called my son.
But the more they were called,
the more they went away from me.
They sacrificed to the Baals
and they burned incense to images.
It was I who taught Ephraim to walk,
taking them by the arms;
but they did not realize
it was I who healed them.
I led them with cords of human kindness,
with ties of love.
To them I was like one who lifts
a little child to the cheek,
and I bent down to feed them.”
Now you do not need to be a scholar to see the problem with Matthew’s “prophecy”:
1) There is no prophesy! There is nothing about a future event concerning a boy (and his family) escaping to Egypt and returning home safely as Matthew claims
2) the “son” in Hosea is not the messiah but the people of Israel
3) the dramatic personification of the people of Israel as the “son” characterises the son as a rebellious child who worshiped and sacrificed to false gods the “Baals”
4) it is demeaning and insulting to Jesus to use such imagery about him
5) God had to heal the “son” ie Israel
6) Matthew has used and abused Scripture to create his gospel. In fact he misquotes the Bible repeatedly, even making up non-existent prophecies about Jesus. There are many famous examples of this.
So the author of Matthew’s gospel clearly did not feel obliged to quote Scripture with due regard for the context and meaning of the passages. If we practiced this sort of irresponsible mishandling of the Bible today we would be rightly criticised.