The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Mark 1:1 NASB
Son of God – “What the sages have done with Scripture then becomes clear. They have taken its narrative and discerned a pattern within it, and this pattern then has guided them in thinking about the present. Whatever happens finds its place within the paradigm, or the model, that they have formed of Scripture’s narrative.” Neusner notes that this is the basis of rabbinic exegesis. It is not exegesis based on cultural-historical-linguistic analysis as we find in contemporary Christianity. It is exegesis based on repetition of patterns in Scripture, patterns that may have no apparent historical or linguistic connection. Unless we realize that this is what guides the authors of the New Testament, that they are the product of rabbinic Judaism, we will attempt to make their statements conform to our view of proper exegesis and in the process torture their efforts to communicate hidden patterns.
We can clearly see the influence of this rabbinic background in the genealogy of Matthew. Matthew pays some attention to historical personages, but he deliberately manipulates the sequence and the names in his genealogy in order to produce a particular gematria – a pattern of three sets of fourteen generations. Why does he alter the history to fit this pattern? Because the pattern is more important than the actual historical record. The name “David” has the numerical value in Hebrew of 14, and Matthew’s Hebrew gospel uses this numerical value in the construction of his artificial genealogy in order to demonstrate that Yeshua is the promised Davidic ruler.
If Matthew uses pattern paradigms in his writing, what makes us think that the other New Testament authors don’t do the same thing? Daniel Boyarin, a contemporary Jewish rabbinic scholar, argues that the term “Son of God” is part of a pattern paradigm. Drawing on Daniel 7, Boyarin demonstrates that Judaism already contained the concept of a second divine person called the Son of God in its pattern view of prophecy. According to Boyarin, the term “Son of God” was already part of the idea of the Davidic Messiah as king of Israel. “The Messiah-Christ existed as a Jewish idea long before the baby Jesus was born in Nazareth. That is, the idea of a second God as viceroy to God the Father is one of the oldest of theological ideas in Israel.”
Forget the mistake about the birthplace and the name of the infant and notice what Boyarin, a completely orthodox Jew, is saying. He is saying that the authors of the gospels were pattern-conscious Jews who wrote within the cultural context of theological thinking of their day. They recognized patterns from the Tanakh that fit (with some help) events they were experiencing in the present. They did not write new theology. They wrote stories that emphasized and elaborated these patterns because they believed that the ancient patterns were repeating and that the key to understanding the world was found in the examination of these repetitions. Imagine for a moment what impact this has on our view of interpreting the Bible. We see Scripture as a collection of historical sequence, cultural information, legislation, ritual and cultus. But if the actual authors don’t view Scripture that way, that means that the way they use Scripture will be entirely different than our examination procedure. How then are we supposed to understand what they meant if we bring the wrong interpretive scheme to the text? It’s like bringing a shovel to the garage to take apart a carburetor. Wrong tool for the job.
The interpretation of Scripture within Judaism is built on the idea that “events form patterns, and patterns govern what is going to happen in the future.” If we don’t look for the intentional pattern elaboration in the New Testament authors, are we really reading what they have to say? If Neusner and Boyarin are right (and they are, after all, Jewish), then what have we been doing all these years by trying to force the Jewish view of Scripture into the Western box of analysis?
Topical Index: exegesis, paradigm, Son of God, Mark 1:1, gematria
 Jacob Neusner, Judaism When Christianity Began, p. 81.
 Daniel Boyarin, The Jewish Gospels: The Story of the Jewish Christ, p. 44.
 Neusner, Judaism When Christianity Began, p. 80.