In this book, Wayne Baxter explores and unpacks the Shepherd Christology in the Gospel of Matthew. By examining Matthew's shepherd motif against the backdrop of the metaphor's appropriation in the biblical tradition, in the writings of Second Temple Judaism, and in the New Testament, Baxter's analysis reveals important convergences and divergences between Matthew and these three groups of authors. One the one hand, the Evangelist's shepherd motif closely echoes that of the Jewish Scriptures; on the other hand, at points Matthew's motif aligns with the trope's usage by Christ-believers over and against its deployment by Second Temple Jewish authors. Sometimes he agrees with the Second Temple writers over and against Christ-believers, and at other times he stands alone, deviating from both Second Temple Jews and Christ-believers. Baxter argues that the reason for these convergences and divergences is Matthew's high Shepherd Christology: In Jesus the messianic Shepherd, YHWH has personally returned in a dramatic way to shepherd his people, Israel.
Wayne Baxter is professor of New Testament and Greek at Heritage College and Seminary in Cambridge, Ontario, Canada.
Part One: The Shepherd Metaphor in Texts Related to Matthew
2 The Shepherd Metaphor in the Hebrew Bible: Of Rulers and Ruling
3 The Shepherd Metaphor in Second Temple Jewish Texts: Of Rulers and Ruling (Still)
4 The Shepherd Metaphor in the New Testament: Jesus and His Understudies
Part Two: The Shepherd Metaphor in the Gospel of Matthew
5 The Shepherd as the Sign of YHWH’s Fidelity to his Royal Promises
6 The Shepherd as YHWH’s Royal Agent of Mercy and Compassion
7 The Shepherd as the Eschatological Judge
8 The Shepherd as Atoning Sacrifice, Resurrected Gatherer, and Rejected King
Part Three: The Shepherd Metaphor: Comparisons and Considerations
9 Matthew Versus the Others
10 Matthew’s Shepherd Christology: How High is High?
Wayne Baxter offers up a superb study of Matthean Christology by expounding the meaning of the shepherd imagery used to describe Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew. Baxter shows with careful argumentation how that shepherd imagery, far from being innocuous, is freighted with immense Christological convictions so that Jesus shepherds Israel, his disciples, and the church in a way more fitting for one who represents and even embodies the God of Israel.
It is common to have the titles Son of God, Son of Man, Christ, and Lord examined under the banner of high Christology. However, Baxter looks at a less common image applied to Jesus: shepherding. Baxter rightly argues the shepherd motif is prevalent in Matthew and may indicate more than readers imagine on a first reading. The background to this motif reveals Yahweh himself must shepherd Israel. Therefore Matthew portraying Jesus as Israel's shepherd is suggestive. I would encourage you to pick up this work to get a better sense of how the shepherd motif functions in Matthew.
Good biblical scholarship often attends to a neglected idea or theme in Scripture. Baxter is a perfect model, drawing attention to Matthew's shepherd language and imagery used in relationship to Christ. Addressing the question, does Matthew have a "shepherd Christology," Baxter answers with a resounding "yes." And he meaningfully connects this to broader interest in whether Matthew had a "high Christology" or not. This is an excellent contribution to Gospel studies.
Does Matthew’s depiction of Jesus as “shepherd” indicate anything about the evangelist’s Christology? Few ponder this question deeply and none so well as Wayne Baxter. Reaching far back into the Hebrew Bible and through Second Temple Judaism, Baxter demonstrates the role of YHWH as Israel’s “shepherd” who rules over his people as King is embodied in the Matthean presentation of Jesus in his “Shepherd Christology.” In this new book the author’s analysis of the multi-faceted character of Matthew’s depiction of Jesus as divine shepherd will surely need to be taken seriously in debates regarding early Christology.
In this rich but accessible study, Baxter situates the Gospel of Matthew’s “Shepherd Christology” within its ancient Jewish context to depict Jesus as the singular messianic king who enacts God’s merciful and compassionate rule over his people. Students of Second Temple Judaism, the Gospel of Matthew, and the development of early Christology should take note!
Divine Shepherd Christology is a superb and thorough study of the Shepherd theme in Matthew. Baxter ably shows how important and unique this motif is for Matthew, as well as how important a theme it is for debates on whether the early church held to a high or low christology. This work is worth a careful read.
Matthew draws on the metaphor of Jesus as shepherd to communicate a high Christology. This is Baxter’s thesis, and one he ably argues through careful textual work, narrative sensitivity, and attentiveness to the nuances of intertextuality. He offers a wide-ranging analysis of the metaphor of shepherd within the Hebrew Bible, Second Temple Jewish texts, and the New Testament, demonstrating how Matthew’s Christological portrait compares with these texts. Baxter suggests a direct line from the Hebrew Bible’s portrayal of Israel’s God as the idealized shepherd to Matthew’s high Christology. A thoughtful study, well worth engaging.
This book should take its place as a source to be reckoned with in scholarly discussions of Matthew’s depiction of Jesus and of Christology in the early church.
11/9/22, The Two Testaments Podcast: Dr. Wayne Baxter talked about Matthew 3-4 on this episode.