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Matthew Community Notes

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Matthew Community Revision

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The Gospel of Matthew R Ascough : Matthew and Community Formation Introduction Duling argues that Matthew's community was a 'fictive kinship group or fictive brotherhood association'. That is, it was a group that was create through voluntary association. Saldrini too understands Matthew's group as a private association, and it is within this social context that it must be understood. He understands the Matthean group to be a 'deviant association' i.e. an association that has been formed by those who have been rejected by the dominant forces in society and are attempting to defend and restore 'respectability to their 'deviant' behaviour'. Matthew's group recruits members / develops a coherent world view and belief system / articulates an ideology and rhetoric to sustain its behaviour / attacks competing social institutions and groups.

- There is a marked difference also from the Matthaean group - the inscriptional record reveals that association members were highly agonistic and competition among members was often encouraged in group legislation. With Matthew's community, association and active membership instead seemed to depend on feelings of solidarity with other members of the group. Michael Crosby - Argues that household-based, nonhierarchical voluntary associations are reflected in the house church envisioned by Matthew. Crosby emphasis the egalitarian nature of the associations and suggests that the Matthean community builds upon this 'potential threat to the status quo of patriarchy' by being even more inclusive. This is questionable.

- With the predominant emphasis on their own leadership structure, associations seem to have reflected both egalitarianism and hierarchy at the same time. B J Malina : The first three stages of community growth can be designated as community formation / community cohesion / community regulations : Forming / Storming / Norming. It is only after these stages are completed is the group in a position to enter the 'performing' stage, when members cooperatively work towards a particular goal.

- Seeing that dynamic against the background of the associations will help to understand what was unique and particular about the Matthean community.

- In Matthew's redactional activity we can also see how the writer attempts to address the needs of the group, and thus reflects the group's self-definition and structure.

Matthean Community as Voluntary Association Community Formation : Forming For the Matthean group, the need to organise arose from the perception that the social well-being of those who identified themselves with the Messiah named Jesus was not enhanced through continued contact with their former small group - the Synagogue. The Foundational Role belongs to Peter : Matthew changes the flow of his Markan source so that Peter's confession is no longer rejected / corrected and instead serves as a blessing in which Simon Peter is praised as the recipient of a divine revelation (16:17), called the foundation of the Church (16:18) and given special authority (16:19).

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- After the record of Peter's confession of Jesus' unique identity, Matthew expands the story by first explaining how Simon also came to be named Peter, a fact he received from Mark 3:16. It is Matthew who finds in this name a message for his church and interprets the name accordingly.

- Peter (Petros) is played off 'rock' (Petra) : 'You are Peter, and upon this 'rock' I will build my ekklēsia. Matthew has Jesus point out that Peter's insight did not come through human means. Rather, it was revealed 'by my Father in heaven' (16:17b) - It is divine revelation, and as such this adds tremendous weight and authority to Peter's position and claims about Jesus. 16:17-19 is unique to Matthew, Peter is presented as the (fictive) founder of the group while Jesus is the deified hero or deity who gives the directives to the founder. In this way, the origins of the group are analogous to the origins of many voluntary associations.

- Often the formation and propagation of voluntary associations was given divine sanction. In response to a manifestation of a deity via a dream / vision / oracle - an association might be formed to participate in the worship of that Deity.

- The ordinances given to Dionysius in his sleep were written up giving access into his oikos to me nada women : The area convinces Dionysius either to establish an association in his house or to allow others to have access to an association already existing in his house.

- In the case of Matthew's community the divine was revealed at both the supernatural and natural level supernatural through the revelation of Jesus' true identity to Peter by God (16:17) and natural through the physical presences of the human 'Son of the living God' with Peter (16:16) Community Cohesion : Storming The 'storming' stage is the painful process of transition from a collection of individuals to a collective. At this stage there is conflict within the group as individual members assert their own needs through argument and criticism of the leaders. We see this reflected in Matthew. Challenges were being made the the authority of the community and demands made for membership.

- False prophets attempted to attract some away while persecutions by both Jews and the civic magistrates were rife. As a result some were leaving the community. In describing the persecutions which the group endures, Matthew has divided and edited a single Markan passage (Mark 13:9-13). In 10:17-25 we read of the persecution from outside the community and betrayal within.

- One must stand firm in one's own convictions about Jesus and acknowledge him before others. Failure to do so results in rejection before God (10:32-33). This clearly echoes ou (par. Mark 13:12) where brothers and fathers and children are in conflict. Yet in Matthew 10:25, Matthew added 'If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household'. Clearly this is a reference to the Matthean community as a (fictive) kin-based relationship.

- When Matthew indicates that foes will come from one's own household (10:21) it is suggestive not only of divisions among families but divisions within the Christian group itself. Internal tensions are indicative of the 'storming' stage of community formation. Not only are internal tensions among group members evident in the text, something more sinister is afoot. These texts clearly reflect the Matthean community's experience of physical persecution. The most obvious source of this persecution in the matthean picture is the Jewish synagogues. The disciples will be delivered up to 'their synagogues' (10:17), clearly indicating a Jewish assembly.

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- Matthew 24:9-12 : 'Then they will deliver you up to tribulation, and put you to death; and you will be hated by all nations for my name's sake'. This can be connected with 10:18, 'you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me' : This is clearly a reference to the persecution of the Matthean Christians by Roman authorities.

- Most commentators struggle to determine what exactly the nature of charges against the Matthean Christians would be - We are not given sufficient information to know how and why the members ended up in court. Various suggestions have been made such as the Christian movement being perceived as suspect / devious /
dangerous / seditious / lawless - but little detail is given to suggest why or how they were perceived

- It is probably similar to the Roman sanctions against voluntary associations. Matthew is often read in light of Christians being singled out by the authorities, but they may be no more singled out than other association members were, who often suffered at the hands of those in authority. Such as the Roman senate acting against an association of worshipers of Dionysos (186 BC). At the beginning of the 1st Century the number of association grew - and in an attempt to control the associations, Augustus passed a law that every association must be sanctioned by the senate or emperor. This was continued under successive emperors during the 1st Century, but was enforced only sporadically. It is in this general context of official suspicion of associations, alongside their continued existence, that we might view the formation of the Matthean Christian community. The storming stage is also the stage at which hope for success and for betterment is instilled within the group for those who are members. We find this hope for the community reflected in the Beatitudes (5:3-12), which reinforced the blessing of God upon them despite their 'underdog' status. Community Relations : Norming The norming stage is marked by interpersonal conflict resolution in favour of mutually agreed upon patterns of behaviour … norming involves group members in the attempt to resolve earlier conflicts, often by negotiating clearer guidelines for group behaviour. There are a number of ways in which Matthew evidences a concern with community definition : naming / separation /
social organisation / association with a group / practices and ritual / invective against opponents / by claims to the exclusive centre for revelation / claims to be the true heirs and interpreters of a tradition.

Mt 16:18 : And I tell

Community Designations There is a distinctive use of ekklēsia in Matthew. The term is used three times in two verses. His use of this term is often highlighted in discussion of the Christian community's relationship to Judaism.

you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my ekklēsia, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.

There is discussion as to why the term ekklēsia was chosen, as opposed to synagogue. If they saw themselves as the 'true' Israel, why not retain the designator 'synagogue'. But ekklēsia is found in the LXX - so if they wanted to be distinct, why the need to find antecedents in the LXX?
The most obvious source from which these association have taken over the term is the civic government (not the LXX) where the world was commonly used of 'an assembly of the citizens of a 'free' city'. The use of ekklēsia was similar to the use of other civic terms used by the associations - taxis / syllogos
/ systema. In the environment of Greek cities, the term ekklēsia would almost certainly be understood (by all involved) as one the names for a voluntary association.

Mt 18:17 : If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the ekklēsia; and if the offender refuses to listen to even to the ekklēsia, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

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The Matthean Christians would hear ekklēsia as marking them off as distinct from the Jewish synagogue and as designating them as similar structure to a voluntary association - with a clear contrast. The language is made stronger through the language of 'their/your' synagogues : (4:23 / 9:35 / 10:17 / 12:9 ).

- In choosing ekklēsia Matthew wants the newly founded group to be readily understood as a different type of association than the Jewish associations from which he and his companions have been expelled. Conflict Resolution It is clear that Matthew's community experienced a time of internal conflict and division and had created regulations by which such a conflict could be resolved. This is seen particularly in the community discourse of chapter 18 but also in the regulations concerning respect for the brethren (5:1 / 7:29) and elsewhere in the Gospel.

- In the sayings on forgiveness (18:15-22) instructions are given concerning a community member found to be in sin. A process is to be followed when dealing with an erring member. The steps are : I.

An individual approaches the erring member.

II. A group of two or three approach the erring member so that they may act as witnesses. III. The erring member's ways are brought before the entire community - ekklēsia IV. The erring member is expelled by the group.

- The dialogue is to be private rather than public. Only after such steps have been taken is it that the public pronouncement and expulsion are carried out.

Mt 18:21-22 : Then Peter

If at any point in the process the erring member verbalises a desire to change and be reintegrated into the group, then those overseeing the process must accept that

came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall

member back into fellowship. There is no limit on how often such a person may be confronted and ask for forgiveness.

I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to

This allowance for forgiveness is similar to voluntary associations - in terms of

seven

times?"

Jesus

answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-

internal conflict among members and regulated conflict resolution. The difference between the two is the Matthean emphasis within this Christian group on forgiveness - not defending one's honour according to typical pattens. In fact, the regulations concerning community discipline are prefaced with Jesus' sayings about humility (18:1-5) / proper treatment of the defenceless (18:6-9) / importance of

'little ones' in the kingdom (18:10-14).

- The onus is placed on the one who is wronged not to act as one would expect - rather s/he should forgive 'seventy times seven'. Egalitarianism This emphasis on forgiveness and the non defence in one's honour raises another important issue - that of the hierarchical versus egalitarian nature of the group. As Stephen C Barton notes : 'Potential sources of tension and conflict within the group are addressed by the attempt to encourage an ideal of the community as a non-hierarchical brotherhood (Matt 23:8-10), whose dominant ethos is one of forgiveness and pastoral care for the one who 'goes astray''.

- Such egalitarianism may 'represent the author's ideology about formal organisation' but the struggle over its implementation is evidenced in the text, particularly in contexts of leadership within the community.

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- Evidence for leadership within the community includes the power to 'bind and loose' being conveyed to Peter (16:19), the contrast of 'their' scribes (7:29) with scribes 'trained for the kingdom of heaven' (13:52).

- There are also a number of references to people in positions of leadership, such as apostles (10:2) / prophets (5:10-12
/ 11:9 / 21:11) / teachers (5:19 / 28:20) / wise men (23:34).

- Those in leadership are warned against declaring themselves with titles of honour. There is a clear contrast to the synagogues here. In sum, the typical Greco-Roman household structures are overturned within the community itself in an attempt at egalitarianism. Yet at the same time there remain in the community a structure and leadership which in themselves point to a de facto hierarchy. In this data we can see similarity and difference with the voluntary associations. Similarity : Within many association there was also both hierarchy and equality. The hierarchy existed among the founder and the officials of the association, many of whom received larger portions of the meat from the sacrifices than the general membership. However, among the members themselves it is not uncommon to find citizens and non-citizens
/ masters and slaves / me and women / rich and poor, all fellowshipping together in one association.

- In its all inclusivity and egalitarianism the Matthean community is similar to the general egalitarianism of the associations. Difference : The difference between the two groups lies in the emphasis put on titles of honour within the associations. They were given responsibilities for granting titles / banquets / festivals . A person might be elected to such a title. There was a quest for honour, and this was promoted as means to encourage members to contribute more and more lavishly to the social practices of the association. In contrast, within the Matthean group not only are titles and leadership positions subdued, one's piety is not to be displayed externally but in secret (6:1-18). Co-operative Work : Performing At the fourth stage of group cohesion there is an ability to look outward, beyond the formative stages and establishing the vision which first inspired the formation of the group :

- Members take social roles that make the group more rewarding to all. They work together co-operatively to achieve mutual goals. This is encapsulated in the Great Commission (28:19-20). This is the present experience of the Matthean community. It is only when the gospel has been preached to the entire world that the end will come about and the strife and persecutions of the Matthean Christians are suffering will come to an end (24:14).

- The group reflects a manifesto - it sets the agenda and defines the parameters of belonging to the group.

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