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The Infancy Stories of Matthew and Luke: an Examination of the Child as a Theological Metaphor

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This paper is concerned with the recovery of the theological import of the infancy stories and to show that they are in fact theological masterpieces. It challenges a prevalent view which treats the infancy accounts as prologues to the Gospel texts and therefore as marginal in theological importance. The infancy accounts of Matthew and Luke are examined in turn as sources of theological creativity and innovation. Since the recovery of the evangelists as redactors in more recent years within biblical scholarship, the unique role of the evangelists Matthew and Luke as distinctive shapers of the tradition is examined, with particular reference to the complex theological themes developed by them in their opening chapters. The complexity, subtlety and paradoxes of the web of allusions in the infancy narratives are explored, both with reference to Old Testament texts and to larger theological themes within each of the respective Gospels. This discussion is based on the premise that the infancy accounts of Matthew and Luke represent mature theological reflection, an alternative Christological horizon, which is retrojected from the passion narratives to the time of Jesus' conception. The paper raises issues of divine pregnancy and divine filiation. The frequency of the use by the evangelists of the metaphor of the child is indicated by specific reference to the texts and the complexity of the interaction of this motif with the overall intention of each of the Gospels is indicated. These themes include the Kingdom of God and the nature of the household of God, for which the motif of the child is both an ethical imperative and an exemplar. Some detailed exegesis by way of elaboration of these themes is provided. The paper concludes with some suggestions as to the bases on which an alternative hermeneutic could be constructed which takes as central the metaphor of the child. The motifs of miracle and parable are relevant, and the nature of the child metaphor as a universal and unitive symbol is explored.

Affiliations: 1: Canberra, Australia


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