Monday, March 5, 2012

"Fulffillment" in Matthew

In my last post, I made a big deal about when Matthew uses this word "fulfill" (πληρόω). I now feel the need to be a little more systematic in my analysis, so here goes.

I'll just be focusing on the verb πληρόω here, and not any cognate nouns or verbs, though those surely should be taken into account to get a full picture.

The verb πληρόω appears 198x in the Greek Bible (LXX with apocrypha + NT). A typical use:
God blessed them saying, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill (πληρόω) the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth." (Gen. 1:22; NASB) 
The verb appears 86x in the NT:
  • Matthew: 16x--1:22; 2:15, 17, 23; 3:15; 4:14; 5:17; 8:17; 12:17; 13:35, 48; 21:4; 23:32; 26:54, 56; 27:9
  • Mark: 2x--1:15; 14:49
  • Luke: 9x--1:20; 2:40; 3:5; 4:21; 7:1; 9:31; 21:24; 22:16; 24:44
  • John: 15x--3:29; 7:8; 12:3, 38; 13:18; 15:11, 25; 16:6, 24; 17:12, 13; 18:9, 32; 19:24, 36
  • Acts: 16x--1:16; 2:2, 28; 3:18; 5:3, 28; 7:23, 30; 9:23; 12:25; 13:25, 27, 52; 14:25; 19:21; 24:27
  • Romans: 6x--1:29; 8:4; 13:8; 15:13, 14, 19
  • 2Corinthians: 2x--7:4; 10:6
  • Galatians: 1x--5:14
  • Ephesians: 4x--1:23; 3:19; 4:10; 5:18
  • Philippians: 4x--1:11; 2:2; 4:18, 19
  • Colossians: 4x--1:9, 25; 2:10; 4:17
  • 2Thessalonians: 1x--1:11
  • 2Timothy: 1x--1:4
  • James: 1x--2:23
  • 1John: 1x--1:4
  • 2John: 1x--v. 12
  • Revelation: 2x--3:2; 6:11
The following list contains the occurrences of the word, outside Matthew, when it carries the meaning "fulfillment of scripture," a quite infrequent usage. Verse citations in parentheses indicate that the reference to fulfillment does not cite a particular verse that is fulfilled, but more generally speaks of fulfillment of prophetic oracles.

(Mark 14:49;) Luke 4:21; (24:44;) John 12:38; 13:18; 15:25; (17:12;) 19:24; 36; Acts 1:16; 13:27; (Romans 13:8;) Galatians 5:14; James 2:23

Aside from Matthew's usage of the term, that of John is the most demanding of attention, which perhaps we will give it at some later time. But clearly the most pronounced usage of the verb πληρόω with the meaning "fulfillment of scripture" is in Matthew. Of the 16 appearances of the verb in that Gospel, only three do not carry this meaning (3:15; 13:48; 23:32).

The passages where it does appear in Matthew with the meaning "fulfillment of scripture" include three general references (like those in parentheses in the list two paragraphs up).
Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. (5:17)
How then will the Scriptures be fulfilled, which say that it must happen this way? (26:54)
But all this has taken place to fulfill the Scriptures of the prophets. Then all the disciples left him and fled. (26:56)
There are ten appearances of πληρόω in Matthew in the sense of "fulfillment of scripture" with an actual verse citation. Four of these (1:22; 2:15, 17, 23) we have already looked at, or will look at, in our series on the Explicit Quotations of Scripture in Matthew 1-2. The other six are these:
This [i.e., Jesus' settlement in Galilee, specifically Capernaum] was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, by the way of the sea, beyond he Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles--the people who were sitting in darkness saw a great light, and those who were sitting in the land and shadow of death, upon them a light dawned." (4:14-16; quoting Isa. 9:1-2)
This [i.e., Jesus' healing] was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: "He himself took our infirmities and carried away our diseases." (8:17; quoting Isa. 53:4)
This [i.e., Jesus' healing and warning to tell no one] was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: Behold my servant whom I have chosen; my beloved in whom my soul is well-pleased; I will put my spirit upon him, and he shall proclaim justice to the gentiles. He will not quarrel, nor cry out; nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets. A battered reed he will not break off, and a smoldering wick he will not put out, until he leads justice to victory. And in his name the gentiles will hope." (12:17-21; quoting Isa 42:1-3)
This [i.e., Jesus' parables] was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: "I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter things hidden since the foundation of the world." (13:35; quoting Psa. 78:2)
This [i.e., preparations for the Triumphal Entry] took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: Say to the daughter of Zion, Behold your king is coming to you, gentle, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden." (21:4-5; quoting Zech. 9:9)
Then that which was spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: "And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of the one whose price had been set by the sons of Israel; and they gave them for the Potter's Field, as the Lord directed me." (27:9-10; quoting Zech. 11:12-13)
This post has collected the data. Later I will offer some analysis.

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