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Matthew Collected Notes

Theology Notes > The Gospels of Matthew and John Notes

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Matthew General important questions (and possible answers..) Was Matthew a Jew or a Gentile? A Jew, but a recent convert!
Were his intended Christian readers Jews or Gentiles? Jews Were Matthew's communities still under pressure from surrounding Jewish communities, or was Jewish persecution a matter of past history by this point circa (70-100)? Yes, still under pressure Upon what theological principles did Matthew base his reinterpretation of his sources (Mark, Oral, Q)?
Theological principles are a tricky thing to look for - Matthew's focus more pastoral/catechetical Is Matthew primarily concerned with Ecclesiology or Christology? Probably ecclesiology, given his situation To what extent is Matthew 'anti-Jewish'? See below!
Structure Matthew's gospel is divided into five lengthy discourses of Jesus: Chapters 5-7 (the Sermon on the Mount); Chapter 10 (the mission discourse); Chapter 13 (parables); Chapter 18 (community instruction); Chapters 24-5 (the future; the 'woes' of chapter 23 should perhaps be thought part of this discourse). Each discourse ends with the phrase 'when Jesus had finished these sayings', except the final discourse, which adds the word 'all': once Jesus has finished all his discourses, the passion story unfolds.

Matthew's "theology" The approach from redaction criticism: the modifications the evangelist makes to his sources reflect his own particular theological emphases. Importantly, Matthew was not necessarily consistent! The redaction critics zeal is in danger of glossing over inconsistencies in the bid to construct a comprehensive and coherent 'Matthean theology'. Equally, we must be careful not to only make use of passages that evince Matthean redaction - by doing so we would fail to appreciate the frequent use of traditions with little or no modification in Matthew, indicating that such traditions are accepted by the evangelist, who wishes them to form as much of a part of his portrayal of Jesus, and of his theological message, as those parts he has edited. The search for a 'Matthean theology' pre-supposes that the evangelist's primary concerns were theological, thus analysing Matthew in terms of a framework of systematic theology, not simply in light of the gospel itself. Stanton asserts that some modifications of Mark (Mt 14.19 cf. Mk 6.41, for example) are in fact more stylistic than theological. Matthew's gospel does not seem, in the same way that John's does, to be the work of a theologian. Matthew's concerns seem more pastoral and ecclesial - this is illustrated by the five discourses: if we suppose the evangelist to have been working toward a coherent overarching theology, we find a number of loose ends (should the SotM be taken as a proclamation of 'grace' or of 'demand', for example). Matthew lays out Christological, eschatological and ecclesiological concerns through his gospel but they are often juxtaposed, rather than cohesively interrelated - even then, Matthew's doctrine of the church is hardly conclusively coherent: in

16.18 Peter is singled out as the 'rock' upon with the Church will be founded, whilst later, at 18.18, this authority is conferred upon all the disciples, with Peter taking only a marginal role in that discourse (at 18.21-2). There is no doubt that theological concerns exist and are dealt with in Matthew, but to consider Matthew's gospel as primarily a theological work poses more questions than it answers, since the author does not consistently reshape or utilise his sources in light of an overarching coherent theology. Rather, the products of Matthew's gospel are catechetical and pastoral.

Matthew's Church Where?
The mention of 'their' synagogues implies an area where Judaism is dominant, but equally where a Christian population exists within this society. Schweizer argued that non-Jews are evidently a majority in Matthew's community, since the fall of Jerusalem is of little importance in Matthew's gospel, mentioned only at

22.7. The central role played by Peter is important: Peter had to leave Jerusalem around 44AD (reported in Acts 12), and apparently decamped to Antioch (Gal. 2.11ff). This leads us to suppose that Antioch was strongly under Petrine influence, while James had more power in Jerusalem (opposed to Paul's antinomianism and a 'Judaizing' influence on the early Church), and Pauline influence was stronger in Asia Minor and the Greek communities. Since Peter plays an important role in Matthew, and James plays almost none, Antioch or Syria more generally seems the most probable supposition as Matthew's home. Prophetism Prophetism apparently remained a living force in the Matthean church, since Matthew refers to the danger of false prophets at the end of the Sermon on the Mount, and their being referred to as 'ravening wolves' in 'sheep's clothing' suggests that it is what they preach - what is 'inward' to them - not that they preach, which is the issue: there must have been proper sheep acting in similar ways, but not veering from the Matthean path.

23.34 and 10.41 indicate that prophets did exist within the Matthean church. 23.34 comes from a Q tradition echoed in Luke 11.49, which is more likely the original. Matthew's adaptation takes the passage into the present tense, and puts the words of the 'Wisdom of God' into the mouth of Jesus. The original is an oracle that damns mankind, foretelling both the sending of prophets into the world of man, and also their rejection by man. In the mouth of Jesus, in explaining that 'I am sending to you prophets and wise men', the words also take on a meaning as legitimising the actions and existence of the prophets.

10.41 implies that these prophets were meant to be itinerant, and that rewards await those who give even a mere cup of water to these travelling preachers. These prophets, then, should apparently be understood as taking up discipleship in a literal sense, abandoning possessions and livelihoods to travel across the countryside, as Jesus did, acting and proclaiming as charismatics. This is clear at 10.8, where powers reported of Jesus at 9.18-26 are expressly promised to the disciples as a part of this itinerant discipleship. The charismatic deeds of the prophets of the Matthean community were to be understood, then, as 'deeds of Christ', and to answer questions of doubt. This idea also seems clear at 9.8, when Matthew talks of the authority given to 'men' (instead of the 'Son of man', as at 9.6, following Mark 2.10) to forgive sins. It is certain that Matthew has the community in mind at this point, wherein forgiveness of sins on Christ's behalf is still practised. The story of the epileptic boy in chapter 17 also reinforces the point, where in Matthew it is truncated so that the focus falls upon the concluding saying, that 'nothing will be impossible for you' (17.20) if the disciples act in faith of what Jesus has promised them: 'Even after Easter, recourse must be had to Jesus' earthly activity'.

Matthew's ecclesiology, use of the OT and preoccupation with 'fulfilment' It is important to avoid imposing an artificial unity upon the diverse themes and interests of Matthew's gospel. R.T France, however, suspects there might be a unifying element, and that element that unifies the themes of Matthew's gospel is FULFILMENT. Matthew's use of 'fulfil' as the only active, positive sentiment in 5.17 is crucial: it makes the message undeniably clear that whatever else one thinks of Jesus, one must NOT think that Jesus has come to defy or abrogate Jewish law. He has, emphatically, come to FULFIL. Matthew's prologue as a manifesto on 'fulfilment': The way in which Matthew's gospel is to be orientated is clear from the outset. The opening 17 verses present a genealogy intended to link Jesus as closely as possible with the God of the Old Testament, and with Abraham, David and the royal line of Judah. The verses are

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