Beyond Appearance: Irony and the Death of Jesus in the Matthean Passion Narrative (26:1-27:66)
Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Jeffrey A. Gibbs
Scripture References in this Resource
Matthew 26:1-27:66; Psalm 2:1--4; Matthew 1 :21; Matthew 20:28; Matthew 26:28; Matthew 27:4, 6, 19, 24; Matthew 9:36; Matthew 10:6; Matthew 15:24
Cho, InHee, "Beyond Appearance: Irony and the Death of Jesus in the Matthean Passion Narrative (26:1-27:66)." Ph.D. diss., Concordia Seminary, 2008.  pp.
If the Gospel of Matthew consists of a story about Jesus' life and ministry, the Matthean Passion Narrative (MPN) is not only the literary climax but also the goal of the entire narrative (26:1-27:66). Jesus has come to save his people from their sin and to give his life as a ransom for many (1 :21; 20:28). He will accomplish this divinely-willed salvation through the innocent blood of the covenant (26:28; 27:4, 6, 19, 24).This central theme of the MPN is presented through the lens of irony. Among the literary features of the MPN, the author's rhetorical use of irony (eironeia) has not yet received full scholarly appreciation. Therefore, the dissertation focuses on the MPN, and specifically on how irony contributes to the theological significance of Jesus' death.
Irony operates using the phenomenon of a dualistic story. The ironist carefully presents the two worlds of the story in dynamic juxtaposition. In contrast to the lower level of story which is inferior and false, the upper level of story is superior and true. There is more than meets the eye. This situation creates an irreconcilable incongruity between these two worlds-what appears to be vs. what really is-which produces the ultimate conflict. The greater the incompatibility of appearance and substance, the more critically revealing the irony that is present. The MPN is the very seat of revelatory irony within the Gospel of Matthew because the ironic dimension of the MPN reaches its greatest depth in Jesus' death on the cross. The Son of God saves his people by shedding his righteous blood. There exists a profoundly inescapable contrast between the nature of Jesus, as the Lord and the Son of God, and the nature of the cross, known as slavish punishment and dejection (supplicium servile), which he bore. Therefore, irony is inherent in the nature of the cross which is not only incompatible with but also repellent to the innocent and profoundly majestic figure of Jesus Christ. In fact, irony becomes a way of looking into the heart of Christianity which not only feeds on the saving effect of the innocent blood of Jesus (26:28) but also proclaims it (26: 13).
The single most important theme of the MPN is the idea that the saving will of God governs the MPN' s irony. God wills to gather and save his people who are like lost sheep without a shepherd (9:36; 10:6; 15:24) and Jesus came to his people to reclaim them as their shepherd (18:12; 25:32f; 26:31, whose true identity simultaneously encompasses Christ the Lord, the King of the Jews, the Son of God and the Son of Man. God not only wills human salvation but also the way of its achievement. According to the MPN, the passion of Jesus is described as the cup (26:39) in association with the will of God (26:42, 53-56) which only the Son of God can "drink." Jesus essentially performs the will of God through his obedience that leads to his death on the cross.
Since the locus of divine salvation is the very locus of humiliation (supplicium servile), the most unlikely place for divine activity, the MPN demands of a reader an ironic view of the cross to perceive the salutary impacts of Jesus' death unfolded through it. In essence, the MPN's irony enables the reader to view Jesus' passion story as an act of divine reversal which dramatically effects human salvation.
Cho, InHee, "Beyond Appearance: Irony and the Death of Jesus in the Matthean Passion Narrative (26:1-27:66)" (2008). Doctor of Philosophy Dissertation. 132.
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