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The Gospel of Matthew. Context & Characteristics. Who?. Tradition: A tax collector named Matthew who became one of the Twelve (9:9, 10:3) Problems: Gospel itself makes no such connection Reliance on Mark would be unnecessary Adds relatively little historical data to Mark’s account

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the gospel of matthew

The Gospel of Matthew

Context & Characteristics

  • Tradition:
    • A tax collector named Matthew who became one of the Twelve (9:9, 10:3)
  • Problems:
    • Gospel itself makes no such connection
    • Reliance on Mark would be unnecessary
    • Adds relatively little historical data to Mark’s account
    • Theological developments seem aimed at Christians of a later era
  • The Consensus
    • Jewish Christian
    • Possibly an educated leader or scholar
    • Probably a second-generation Christian
  • There is enormous debate about whether Matthew saw himself as belonging to a Jewish sect or a separate religious entity
  • Appears to be written for a prosperous urban community
    • cf. Matt. 10:9, Mark 6:8
    • References to “village” often changed to “city”
  • Jewish community within a Gentile context
    • Possibilities include Alexandria, Caesaria Maritima, and Antioch
  • Majority of scholars place date somewhere in the 80s
    • Use of Mark as source puts it somewhere after 70
    • Had been around long enough to be quoted as authoritative by Ignatius of Antioch in 115
    • Appears to have been a source for the Didache, which is dated ca. 105
  • Question of Christian relationship to Torah
  • Sense that Mark was not only incomplete but inadequate
    • Mark does not present Jesus as currently present in the community of faith
    • Mark does not provide sufficient basis for ethics
    • Mark does not portray discipleship as a matter of progress
  • In short, Mark has no real doctrine of the church
matthew s sitz im leben
Matthew’s Sitz im Leben
  • The Jewish Crisis After 70 CE
    • How do we go on in a post-Temple world?
  • Rabbis gather in Jamnia to figure this out
  • Matthew attempts to describe Christianity as distinct from, and superior to, rabbinic Judaism
  • Attempt to establish legitimacy of Christianity over rabbinic movement
  • “We do Torah right!”
the what

The “What”

Characteristics of Matthew’s Gospel

1 a knack for organization
1. A Knack For Organization
  • Five great speeches or discourses
    • Intended as an analog to Five Books of Moses?
  • Exactly twelve fulfillment citations
    • Twelve tribes of Israel
  • Genealogy in three sets of 14 generations
  • Moves five of Mark’s miracle stories into Matthew 8-9, alongside other miracle stories
2 doubling down
2. Doubling Down
  • Matthew often doubles minor characters
    • Matt. 8:28-33; cf. Mark 5:1-14
    • Matt. 20:29-34; cf. Mark 10:46-52
    • Are the two donkeys in 21:6-7 an overly literal fulfillment, or another doubling from Mark 11:7?
  • In addition, several stories occur twice
    • Jesus’ teaching on divorce (5:31-32, 19:9)
    • Leaders seeking sign (12:38-42, 16:1-4)
    • Accusation of satanic influence (9:32-34, 12:22-24)
3 prominence of peter
3. Prominence of Peter
  • A number of Peter stories in Matthew occur nowhere else in the NT
    • Coin in the fish (17:24-27)
    • Question about forgiveness (18:21-22)
  • A number of stories from Mark are expanded to highlight Peter
    • Matthew 14:28-31; cf. Mark 6:47-52
    • Matthew 16:17-20; cf. Mark 8:27-29
  • NOTE: Not all of these expansions present Peter totally positively!
4 emphasis on church
4. Emphasis on “Church”
  • Only one of the four Gospels to use the word “church” (16:17-20; 18:15-18)
  • Matthew portrays Jesus as founding the church during his earthly ministry
  • Provides “institutional” rules and procedures for the church’s life
5 jewish or anti jewish
5. Jewish or Anti-Jewish?
  • Jesus’ pre-Easter mission directed exclusively to “lost sheep of the house of Israel” (15:24; cf. 10:5)
  • At times, Jesus is respectful of Jewish authorities (17:24-27 et al.)
  • At the same time, Jesus is more hostile to Jewish leaders, calling them “a brood of vipers,” evil and satanic, and “hypocrites”
  • Matt. portrays people as sharing guilt of cross
the need for historical context
The Need For Historical Context
  • It is important to remember that Matthew is writing in the context of the biggest crisis to hit Judaism in 600 years
  • Various parties jockeying to claim legitimacy
  • Matthew’s invective against the Jewish leaders is not inconsistent with the OT Prophets
  • Not so much “Christians vs. Jews” as “Christian Jews vs. Rabbinic Jews”
6 particular interest in torah
6. Particular Interest in Torah
  • Not one letter or stroke of a letter of the Law will pass away
  • Matthew appears to view dietary and Sabbath laws as still binding (cf. Matt. 15:17, Mark 7:19)
6 particular interest in torah17
6. Particular Interest in Torah
  • However, Jesus sets aside Moses’ teaching in favor of his own, usually more radical teaching (5:21-48; 19:3-9)
  • Great Commission is to be fulfilled by teaching Jesus’ commandments, not Torah
  • Commandments seen as being consistent with Torah
  • Jesus is, in a sense, the “super-Rabbi”, offering an authoritative reinterpretation of Torah
7 jesus fulfillment of prophecy
7. Jesus & Fulfillment of Prophecy
  • Jesus has come to fulfill the Law and the Prophets (5:17)
  • Twelve fulfillment citations based on the Prophets
  • Jesus himself makes sweeping prophecies of the destruction of the temple and of the end times (24:3-25:46)
8 apocalyptic dualism
8. Apocalyptic Dualism
  • Everything is divided into either a divine or demonic sphere of influence
    • Wheat vs. weeds
    • Sheep vs. goats
    • Children of the kingdom vs. children of the evil one
  • Seemingly trivial disputes are actually symbolic of cosmic clash between God and Satan
9 the presence of god
9. The Presence of God
  • Emmanuel, “God is with us” (1:22-23)
  • Jesus twice promises his presence to his disciples (18:20; 28:20)
  • God’s presence in the world may not be immediately obvious, but is nonetheless assured (25:31-46)
next week key theological emphases
Next Week:Key Theological Emphases
  • The Abiding Presence Of God
  • Jewish Law, Christian Faith
  • People of Little Faith
  • Life Together In Community