c) Matt 27:54: At the time of Christ, a Roman centurion represented the most powerful military on earth. After overseeing the flogging, mocking, and crucifixion of Jesus, this commander and his men observed the supernatural darkening of the sky (Matt 27:33–37, 45–49).[1]

They saw that “in this way he breathed his last” (Mark 15:39),[2] and they experienced the earthquake (Matt 27:50–51).

As a result, the members of the execution team recognized their victim’s true identity.[3] Taking the title used to mock the dying man in Matt 27:40, these gentiles made it the confession of their hearts.[4]

They recognized Jesus’s innocence and repented for their complicity in his death.[5] Thus, they acted as the “two or three witnesses” required for official testimony (Deut 19:15; John 8:14–18).[6]

Normal Roman usage of the term “son of God” might refer to a semi-divine hero or the son of a deity, such as the Roman emperor.[7]

For example, the Priene Inscription (9 BC) notes that “the birthday of the god Augustus was the beginning of the good tidings (euangelion) for the world.”[8]

Some sects hold that the lack of a definite article “the” (ho) before “God” (theos) means that the centurion confessed, “This was a god.”

However, in Greek grammar, nouns without “the” (ho) occurring before “to be” verbs (ēn) express the nature or character of the subject.  In other words, Jesus had the same nature as God,[9] and he perfectly reveals God to us (Cf. Phil 2:5–11).[10]

When a creature has the characteristics and nature of a duck, it’s a duck.

Thus, the Greek structure of the sentence indicates that the centurion confessed that Jesus was the Son of God (Cf. John 1:1).[11]

These soldiers concluded that truth was on the side of Christ rather than with his mockers.[12]

Jesus’s death became the definitive event which proclaimed his true status.[13]

Matthew had hinted at the inclusion of gentiles within God’s people from the very beginning of his gospel. Except for Mary, he included only gentile women (Tamar, Rahab, and Ruth) in the genealogy of Christ (Matt 1:1–16).

Nevertheless, this pronouncement by the soldiers accentuated Jesus’s post-resurrection command to “make disciples of all the people-groups” (Matt 28:19).[14]

Image via Wikimedia Commons

 

Read Matt 27:54. How were the Roman centurion and the soldiers with him affected by what they had witnessed? Why did Matthew include these men in his account of Jesus’s death? When did you recognize the divinity of Christ?

 

 

 

 

 

Go to A New Dawn

 

[Related posts include A Most Cruel and Ignominious Punishment (Matt 27:26–37); Forsaken (Matt 27:38–49); The Death of God (John 19:28–30); God Rends the Barrier (Matt 27:50–51); In the Beginning Was the Word (John 1:1–2); The Light Shines in Darkness (John 1:3–5); Equality with God (Phil 2:5–6); A Summary of Trinitarian Creeds (Appendix to Phil 2:5–6); Taking the Form of a Slave (Phil 2:7); Obedient to the Point of Death (Phil 2:8); and The Name Above Every Name (Phil 2:9–11)]

 

[Click here to go to Chapter 7: The Seed of the Serpent and the Seed of the Woman (Genesis 3:14–15)]

 

[1] Wilkins, Matthew, 920–1.

[2] France, The Gospel of Matthew, 1083.

[3] Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary, 688.

[4] Davies and Allison, Matthew 19–28, 635

[5] Hagner, Matthew 14–28, 852.

[6] France, The Gospel of Matthew, 1083.

[7] Keener, IVPBBCNT, Matt 27:54.

[8]Evans, “Mark’s Incipit and the Priene Calendar Inscription: From Jewish Gospel to Greco-Roman Gospel,” 69, http://www.jgrchj.net/volume1/JGRChJ1-5_Evans.pdf.

[9]Harner, “Qualitative Anarthrous Predicate Nouns: Mark 15:39 and John 1:1,” JBL 92, 87, http://digilander.libero.it/domingo7/H7.jpg.

[10]Harner, “Qualitative Anarthrous Predicate Nouns: Mark 15:39 and John 1:1,” JBL 92, no. 1 (3 January 1973): 75–87, 75, http://digilander.libero.it/domingo7/H1.jpg.

[11] Osborne, Matthew, 1047.

[12] France, The Gospel of Matthew, 1084.

[13] Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary, 688.

[14] Wilkins, Matthew, 921.