The basis of this study by Richard Beaton, currently Assistant Professor of New Testament at Fuller Theological Seminary, is a doctoral study written under the supervision of Ivor H. Jones and presented to the University of Cambridge in January, 1999. The published work bears all the marks of its origins, including a lengthy bibliography, numerous and often technical footnotes, and directional "maps" provided by the author along the way. These details make the book a valuable source for New Testament scholars who are interested in delving into Matthew's characteristic use of fulfillment citations, particularly those of Isaiah. On the other hand, they also make this book a somewhat difficult read for those who are not specialists in the field.
Scholars will appreciate Beaton's careful attention to the form of Matthew's biblical text. Analyzing contemporary Jewish sources, the author shows both the variety and fluidity of biblical texts in the evangelist's socio-religious world as well as the tendency of scribes to adapt the text to their own context and interests. Those who are not biblical scholars, on the other hand, may well find themselves lost in a morass of details whose import they are unable to unify and evaluate.
Within these parameters the reader will surely note the author's judicious reflections on Bernhard Duhm's late nineteenth-century identification of four Suffering Servant canticles in the Deutero-Isaiah (Isa 42:1-4; 49:1-6; 50:10-11; 52:13-53:12). As a first century author, the evangelist Matthew would have been unaware of any "Deutero-Isaiah;" he would not have considered the four Isaian texts as a single body of textual tradition.
Beaton rightly asks whether it is correct even to speak of a "suffering" servant. Insightfully, he draws attention to the fact that diaspora Judaism interpreted the servant figure of Isa 42:1-4 in a corporate, nationalistic sense, as is attested by the presence of "Jacob" and "Israel" in Isa 42:1 [LXX]. In contrast, Palestinian Judaism interpreted this text in reference to an individual person, potentially a "messiah." Indeed, writing some eleven centuries after Matthew, Maimonides read Isa 42:1-4 as a text with messianic import. The culmination of Beaton's study is the analysis of Isa 42:1-4 within Matthew 11-13, specifically in the context of Matt 12:18-21, and an exposition of the evangelist's christology in the light of his use of the Isaian passage. Prior to this analysis and the subsequent theological study, Beaton examined Matthew's use of Isaiah in formula quotations prior to chapter 12, namely, Isa 7:14 in Matt 1:23, Isa 8:23b-9:1 in Matt 4:15-16, and Isa 53:4a in Matt 8:17.
This reviewer found the author's remarks on the use of Isaiah in Matt 4:15-16 particularly enlightening, albeit a bit stretched at times. He was also puzzled by the author's use of "Kingdom of God" (p. 151) with reference to Matthew; the evangelist clearly preferred the expression "Kingdom of Heaven" in comparison to the earlier Markan phraseology, "Kingdom of God."
Beaton's principal thesis is that the fulfillment citation in Matt 12:18-21 serves to highlight the identity of Jesus as the ideal Davidide, inaugurating the Kingdom with characteristic justice and mercy. The author has carefully teased out the relationship between the Isaian citation and the broader context of Matthew's gospel. Surely this effort is one of the strengths of his analysis. The biblical scholar and the non-specialist alike must also appreciate the relationship between the use of Isa 42:1-4 in Matthew and the heavenly words at both Jesus' baptism (Matt 4:17) and his transfiguration (Matt 17:5).
The final chapter of Beaton's study presents a synthesis and systematic christology that focuses on 1) an apologetic Jesus, a center of controversy and judgment; 2) the Spirit of God revealing Jesus' identity and the arrival of the Kingdom; 3) Jesus who identifies with the oppressed and the broken, offering liberation and justice; and 4) the ethical king whose rule is characterized by justice for the down and out, the impure, the poor, and the marginalized. The non-specialist will surely profit from these rich christological insights but will find the path to get to them a long one, perhaps tedious or even somewhat of a maze. The specialist, on the other hand, will appreciate Beaton's careful analysis and the many steps along the way.