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Behind the Gospel of Matthew: radical Pharisees in Post-War Galilee?

Introduction: We need a body to locate a soul

The reception of the Gospel of Matthew was very successful in the early centuries, at least judging from its popularity, its influence, and the variety of settings in which this text was read, heard, and interpreted. It comes as no surprise that Matthew is the first Gospel of the New Testament canon. further, the diverse interpretation of Matthew through the centuries up to our own days certainly reminds us that we arc not objective readers, neither were those who went before us. Studying reception history certainly helps us to put our own ideas about this Gospel in perspective. (1) What seems to us to be obvious interpretations of almost any passage of the Gospel are often shown to be heavily dependent on our own modern worldview and cultural context when we become aware of how the same passages were interpreted in previous centuries. This reminds us of the fact that we always read from a certain place and that nothing floats freely in time and space; we are anchored rather firmly in our own time. But, we may add, so were the Gospel writers, and this opens up for us the possibility of attempting to reach back in time to be enriched by their understandings of the Jesus event, even though our historical tools are not sharp enough to provide one hundred percent certainty that we always reach our goal in this regard. However willing we are--or are not--to recognize our historical ability, it quickly becomes clear as we undertake such labor aimed at first century understandings of the postmodern doctrine that, after its production, almost anything can happen to a text, is easily confirmed.

How do we reach, then, probable readings that would reflect thinking around the Jesus event that took place 2000 years ago? The principles for such study must be the same as for any historical study of the understanding of the Gospel, including its reception in later history. We would have to pay particular attention to the reflections of socio-religious, economic, political and other aspects of society, which trickle through and manifest themselves in the text. Such aspects must by definition he those of the original context, and, if we are dealing with a text that came into being through a process over time, possibly earlier contexts which may have left marks in the text.

I am mentioning this since some recent scholarship has tended to emphasize that the Gospels were not written for specific communities but for all Christ-believers everywhere. This would make it difficult, they claim, to reconstruct a community in which a specific Gospel was authored, since the aim would be supra-local. (2) However, against such a position it may be argued that the individual authors would have had little or no knowledge of the specifics of other geographical and political settings. We cannot assume that they would have been able to insert details of such settings in their texts with the aim of adapting it for a universal audience. Rather, as with all texts, local circumstances and conditions would consciously or unconsciously but necessarily have made their way, to a greater or lesser extent, into the written product. If we aim at focusing on such aspects, we may well be able to reconstruct, more broadly, the original settings of the Gospel texts, since later circumstances or conditions would not make it into a text that has already been produced. In this sense, the text freezes time and culture, so to speak.

Regardless of intended audiences, by reading the text itself we may therefore always be able to say at least something about the context in which the text was produced, but never much about the places where it was intended to be read, if such intentions pointed beyond the local context.

The original setting(s) in which the text was produced thus have explanatory force when we try to reach conclusions about how the text was first understood, since no reading or interpretation happens in a vacuum. We understand, and the ancients understood, from a certain place, within a certain mindset, that was--and still is--intertwined with lived realities. The socialization of our brains is always heavily involved both when we produce text and when we struggle to understand text.

This leaves the historian little choice. In order to understand text, we need to reconstruct context. In order to find a soul, we need a body. If we aim at understanding mediaeval European interpretations of Matthew in church art, for example, we need to reconstruct the socio-historical setting in which this art was produced. If we want to understand the production and meaning of Matthew's Gospel in the first century, we need to reconstruct a context in which the text "happened." This is, in my view, a methodological necessity; it is an entirely different matter that such reconstructions are hard to achieve and that they are always to some degree hypothetical.

The point is that when we aim for historical understandings of a text we have no choice other than to proceed from context and hope that there is enough extra-textual evidence that may be used to reconstruct that context, so that we may avoid circular reasoning (i.e., a situation in which we reconstruct a context using only the text, and then use that context to understand the text). The alternative to contextual methodology condemns us to the shadowy world where anachronism rules. The soul cannot exist without the body, at least not in academia.

I am mentioning all this to emphasize, in light of recent debate in Matthean studies, that Matthew needs to be read in a convincingly reconstructed social and political setting in order for us--in the twenty-first century--to make first-century sense of the various parts of the Gospel as well as the Gospel as a whole. The problem is, of course, the difficulties involved in pinning down the location where the Gospel of Matthew was produced, which is part of the necessary information without which we cannot proceed. The scholarly opinions on the topic are legion. Traditionally, Antioch in Syria has been suggested as a possible hypothesis. Lately, however, there are a growing number of strong voices claiming that the text mirrors conditions in Galilee better than they mirror Syrian Antioch. (3)

Regarding the many arguments that have been put forward in favor of Galilee, I would like to call attention to the institutional realities described in the text, which fit perfectly with what we know about Galilean Jewish society from other sources. We shall return to this below. In brief (and this will become clearer as we proceed in the discussion), while there will never be certainty in this regard, Galilee (possibly the city of Tiberias or Sepphoris), seems to me to be a more likely candidate than Antioch. The Galilean context, then, shall be used here as the body in which we shall locate the soul of the Matthean text. The time period in which the text was produced was most likely after 70 C.E., around the 80s or 90s C.E., as the majority of Matthean scholars have argued. (4)

What "church"?

In order to define more closely what this context means for our reading of the Gospel, it is important to say a few words regarding the social and institutional world in which the text, as a Galilean text, came into being. We shall focus on the most important institution, next to the temple, mentioned in the text: the synagogue.

When we speak of a synagogue today, we refer to a religious institution and the building in which Jews come together for religious services. In first-century Galilee (and Judea) things were quite different. The situation may be summarized as follows. First, we may note that behind what we translate into English as "synagogue" in the ancient texts, papyri, and inscriptions lie hidden no less than seventeen Greek terms, five Hebrew terms, and three Latin terms. There is some overlap between these terms, but the terminological diversity is clear enough. The most common of the terms were the Greek terms proseuche and synagoge. Ekklesia was another such synagogue term, a fact that has implications not only for our reading of Matthew, but also for our understanding more generally of the New Testament texts. (5)

Second, and more importantly, these terms were used interchangeably for two types of institutions. I he first such type was a kind of municipal institution, or village assembly, in which people came together to make decisions regarding local affairs. Also, since religion was not thought of as separate from other spheres of society, including politics, Torah was read publicly and discussed on Sabbaths. It is important to note the public nature of this institution: no specific Jewish group, like the Pharisees, was in charge of public synagogues. Public synagogues were open to all (women and children included), and various people-could read, give sermons, and debate as they wished. Some groups used the public synagogues as a platform for proclaiming their own version of Judaism. Jesus and his followers did this according to all four of the canonical Gospels. (6)

The other type of institution that was designated by the same synagogue terms was a voluntary association type of institution, very similar to other such voluntary associations, in the Graeco-Roman world (Latin, collegia). Jewish association synagogues, as we may call them, were institutions created by Jews who belonged to specific groups, such as the Essenes and the Pharisees. These institutions were not public; they were for members only. We may note that Philo calls the Essenes' association a synagoge, (7) and we hear of a "synagogue of the Freedmen" in Acts 6:9. Also, from Jerusalem, we have the first-century synagogue mentioned in the Theodotos inscription. (8)

In other words, while all Jews came together in public synagogues to make local decisions and read Torah on the Sabbath, some groups of Jews also had their own association synagogues in which they interpreted Jewish life according to their convictions. While Jesus never belonged to an association synagogue as far as we know and never created a new formal association himself (he preached mostly in public), his followers did so after his death. We see this clearly in Matthew, Several scholars have pointed to chapter 18 specifically where we find Jesus giving rules for the disciples' community, the ekklesia. While I do not think it accurate to regard this chapter, or Matthew as a whole, as a community rule--it is simply the wrong genre--it is obvious that Matthew 18 does reflect such concerns. We shall return to this below.

What I want to stress here is that Matthew's use of ekklesia (16:18; 18:17 (9)) cannot be referred to in order to claim that "the church" has now come into being, as if "the church' were something other than a synagogue. Ekklesia was one of many synagogue terms in the first century, but our English word "church" presupposes that the institution it designates is something other than a synagogue. "Church" is a term, therefore, that should be avoided altogether in a first-century context, since it misleads us to interpret the texts anachronistically as something removed from a Jewish context. (10)

In summary, our conclusions so far on the way to the theory that what we see in Matthew's community is very much related to Pharisees and Pharisaism are as follows:

1. In addition to public synagogues, first-century Jewish society also included the institutions of specific associations. We call them association synagogues to distinguish them from the public institutions, which were designated by the same synagogue terms.

2. While the public synagogues had their own leadership structures, were open to all Jews, and were not controlled by any specific group, like the Pharisees, the association synagogues were independent of each other, had their own leadership and their own rules, and nurtured their own interpretive traditions.

3. Just as Klinghardt, Weinfeld, and others have noted that the Qumran community and its community rule belongs within the same "category" as Graeco-Roman associations, (11) we may speak of Essene association synagogues, Pharisaic association synagogues--and the association synagogue of the Mattheans. These association synagogues were all different expressions of first-century Jewish identities.

It is within such an institutional context, reconstructed on the basis of extra-Matthean evidence, as well as on matching elements in Matthew's text, that we shall begin looking for answers regarding Matthean-Pharisaic relations.

Ritual realities in Matthew's world

We now proceed to the world as described in the text, in order to see whether it reflects what we know about the Jewish Galilean world. We do so focusing on what was most important for ancient people as they related to what we today call "religion," namely ritual. Ritual life for Jews in the first century was primarily related to the temple, the public synagogues, the association synagogues, and the home. If we search Matthew's Gospel we will find a) that the text accepts most of the ritual practices central to Jewish identity, and b) that it adds nothing that we would be able to term "non-Jewish" or "un-Jewish." The following summary of rituals in Matthew is instructive:

1. Prayer (6:5-7)

2. Almsgiving (6:3-4)

3. Fasting (6:17-18)

4. The Jewish law/the commandments (5:17-19; 19:17),

a. Dietary laws (15:1-20),

b. Other purity laws (8:4, 5-13; 23:25-26),

c. The Sabbath (12:1-14,28; 24:20),

d. Festivals, specifically Passover (26:2, 17-35),

e. Tithing (23:23),

f. The temple cult and practices connected with the temple, including the temple tax (5:23-24; 12:3-5; 17:24-27; 23:19-21),

g. and, most likely, circumcision.

5. Public ritual reading of Torah in synagogue settings.

To this should be added that those upholding the rituals described and promoted in the text also partook in sacred meals (the Eucharist), and they required baptism of people who wanted to join their association. Both of these traditions go back to the historical Jesus in some form and fit firmly within a Jewish ritual world.

Judging from the ritual culture of the text, then, I find it very difficult to extract from this a non-Jewish setting in which the text would have come into being. On the contrary, instructions in the text as well as descriptions of daily routine, metaphors, and rhetorical points, etc., build on ritual patterns shared by Jews and foreign to non-Jews. The logic and rhetoric of the text depends to no small degree on a basic ritual worldview shared with other Jews. To this we may add repeated and generalized anti-Gentile comments (e.g., 5:57; 6:7; 18:17). (12) Note also how Gentiles are said to acknowledge and submit to a Jewish king in the story of the magi. There is a global centripetal force around Jesus, which functions to attract non-Jews to his person. In addition to the example of the magi, we may also think of the stories about the Canaanite woman (15:21-28) and the centurion (8:5-13). None of these non-Jewish individuals reject the Jewish-ness of the Messiah. On the contrary, Jesus' Jewish identity is an important part of the attitude of these characters as they approach him. What they ask for is to have a share of the blessings now bestowed on the Jewish people as their Messiah has arrived; they ask for whatever crumbs that may fall from their master's table.

Considering these facts, many of which are foreign to our modern ears, it seems to me to be very difficult to argue that we are here dealing with an author or redactor beyond Judaism, someone who would not be interested in belonging to Judaism but would want to distance himself from Judaism. If this would have been an aim of the author's agenda, there must surely have been better ways to delegitimize Judaism as such than to accept Jewish ritual culture and belittle non-Jews and their moral and religious stature.

However, having said this, there are still tensions in the text, severe tensions. These tensions and the aggressive rhetoric must be explained without referring to the word "Judaism," as if "Judaism" or "the synagogue" would be targeted by people not belonging within these religious-cultural and institutional frames. Let us attempt to address the problem from this perspective and see if such a procedure can make sense of the material at hand, the Gospel of Matthew as a whole.

The myth of a "Jewish majority": Tensions between Mattheans and other Jews

a) Angry Mattheans

It is a well-known fact that the Gospel of Matthew is more focused on divine judgment than any other New Testament text (although Revelation is a close competitor). The Mattheans were angry, for some reason, and they were angry with a specific group of people: the Pharisees. (13) The Jewish people as a whole are not targeted. This is clear in several ways. Our author is specific when pronouncing judgment, pointing to Pharisees and scribes, and sometimes to the chief priests and the elders. The text also speaks about "the crowds," meaning the majority of the Jewish people (Greek, hoi ochloi), as opposed to the leaders, and this group receives positive, neutral, and only periodic negative treatment. From a historical perspective, "the crowds" in the narrative are thus more "real" in the sense that they are presented as having more complex and shifting attitudes. In contrast, Matthew's Pharisees are flat characters, portrayed as one-dimensional bad guys. (14)

Further, if we take a closer look at Matthean critique of Pharisees it seems to be lacking in substance. Indeed, rather than carefully argued cases against Pharisaic doctrine, for example, ad hominem attacks regarding their personal character are the most common form of verbal abuse in Matthew. Pharisees are accused of vanity, arrogance, pride, egotism (e.g., 23:5-7), greed (e.g., 23:25), and a general sense of superiority. It is understood that such generalized, unkind remarks have little to do with in dividual Pharisees and historical realities. More interesting is a feature of Matthean anti-Pharisaic attacks seldom noted in the literature. For Matthew, a major problem with the Pharisees is not that they are too focused on keeping the law, but, on the contrary, that they are deficient in Torah observance. Note Matt 23:16--24, esp. 23--24, in this regard and the accusation that Pharisees were associated with those who killed the prophets, which indicates lack of reverence for God and law (23:31). Indeed, Matthew wants to rid the land of those who break the law (Matt 13:41-42; cf. 5:17-20; 7:21).Thus, when the Pharisees are critiqued in terms of law, it is because they do not do enough; they neglect the most important aspects of the law, such as justice, mercy, trust/faith, while focusing on lighter matters such as tithing (which the Mattheans also adhere to, but without losing sight of justice and mercy: 23:23).

We find in Matthew no disagreements with other Jewish groups in terms of the relevance of the Jewish law. Rather, most of what we see seems to be based on animosity generated from other experiences than halakhic disputes. We shall return to this below. It is obvious from the text that Jesus and the disciples share the same basic point of departure in Torah and its interpretation as other Jewish groups and that the critique against the Pharisees, the very force of the arguments used by the Matthean Jesus, depends on this shared foundation. The aversion that Mattheans feel against Pharisees is so strong, however, that they have produced the only text in the New Testament that states explicitly that the Pharisees will have no place in the Kingdom (Matt 5:20; 23:13, 15, 33, 35-36). This prompts the question: who were these Pharisees?

b) Are "Pharisees'" rabbis in disguise?

It is clear that the group in the Gospel called Pharisees is a chosen target by those who redacted and produced the Gospel of Matthew. Some scholars have argued that behind the term "Pharisee" is a post-70 C.E. reference to the rabbis. This idea is connected to the assumption that the rabbis rose to power and prominence in Jewish society immediately after the fall of the temple. The Mattheans, so goes the argument, found themselves in a minority position in which they had to fight a powerful enemy who were redefining "Judaism" as "rabbinic Judaism." By that time, the Pharisees, it is claimed, had lost the influence they had during the time of Jesus in the 30s, but since the story is about Jesus' time, the redactors had to use that group's name when they attacked the rabbis.

This hypothesis is unlikely, however. (15) There is a growing consensus today that the rabbis did not become dominant in Jewish society until the fourth century, possibly later. (16) It is very improbable that the social situation changed radically in the decades after the fall of the temple in terms of the dominance of one group. It is much more likely that the priests continued to hold prominence in Jewish society, just as they had before. Sociologically, examples of similar situations are legion, and we have ancient evidence supporting such scenarios. Most often elites, with their experience of ruling society, adapt to new circumstances and therefore survive. Not even the rabbinic texts themselves exhibit any interest in society, or in public institutions such as synagogues, until later centuries. (17)

We must conclude, then, that, first, we have no evidence of a Jewish denominational majority (18) during this time, and Second, that those whom Matthew calls Pharisees most likely were Pharisees. The historical scene on which the Matthean drama is played out is thus one in which we find several Jewish groups, but even more Jews who did not belong to any specific association at all ("common Judaism"). The Pharisees were just one association among others; why, then, would Mattheansattack this specific group and not others?

c) Matthean interaction with Jewish society

If there was no specific denominational majority group in the society in which Mattheans lived, we may ask about this group's relationship to Jewish society. This includes details that we have already mentioned, such as paying the temple tax and adhering to the national cult. Here we can be very brief: there are no signs in the Gospel itself that Mattheans rejected these central aspects of Jewish society. Pensions are focused much more on the Pharisees than on society. Even when the other Gospels point to the chief priests as the culprits, Matthew makes sure to add to the passages the name of the Pharisees to make the Pharisees look worse (e.g., Matt 21:45; 27:62; compare the same stories in Mark and Luke).

d) Sociology, conflict, synagogues

How can this situation be explained? Sociological studies (as well as physics!) teach us that real friction can only happen when groups are very close to one another. If we take the conflict between Mattheans and the Pharisees seriously and note the lack of a Jewish majority during this time period, the most convincing way, as I see it, to understand this conflict is to suggest that it occurred within a specific institutional setting, of which both Mattheans and Pharisees were a part. At this point, the reconstruction of institutional realities becomes extremely important. We have already noted that Mattheans were not against the temple (and the Pharisees did not run the temple anyway). We have also noted that there is no evidence whatsoever that the Pharisees ruled the public synagogues either. This means that the conflict we see in the text was most likely played out in an association synagogue context, in a Pharisaic association in which the Mattheans were a minority, a sub-group.

Now, this may sound like a radical suggestion to modern ears, especially looking at almost 2000 years of reception of the Gospel of Matthew in the churches, but would this be strange from a first-century perspective? Some may think so, but it is often forgotten that the Pharisees are the only Jewish group that is mentioned as having members who believed that Jesus was the Messiah. We see this in Acts 15:5, and Nicodemus is another example (cf. John 3:1-2). Paul, of course, was a Pharisee, and Acts 23:6 presents him as claiming that group identity even as a Christ-believer, saying, in the present tense: "Brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. I am on trial concerning the hope of the resurrection of the dead." We may also note the great interest the Pharisees had in Jesus according to the Gospels, enough to repeatedly invite him to dinner and discussions (cf. Luke 7:39; 11:37).

Further, in Luke 13:31 a group of Pharisees tried to save Jesus' life by warning him of Herod's plans to kill him. We also see in Acts how Gamaliel defended Peter and "the apostles" against the council and the high priest and, in fact, saves them from being killed (Acts 5:34-39). Again, it is the Pharisees who defended Paul as trouble broke out in Jerusalem (Acts 23:9). Indeed, reading Luke we find that no less figures than Jesus, Peter, and Paul were at times protected by the Pharisees. From Josephus we learn that the Pharisees were very upset over the killing, ordered by the high priest, of James the brother of Jesus.

Nothing of this sort is said of any other Jewish group in the New Testament. Note also, with regard to Matthew's community, how Matt 23:2-3 states that the Pharisees sit on Moses' chair and thus must be respected in terms of their authority. Such language reflects a common institutional setting in which authority is agreed upon. (It is very difficult to imagine the Qumran community to say such a thing of the Pharisees or the Sadducees for that matter!) We shall return to Matt 23:2-3 shortly.

In terms of proximity of religious convictions, Acts explicitly refers to Pharisaic belief in resurrection, angels, and spirits (Acts 23:8). Far from being a unique occurrence, it is quite likely that it was not impossible for Pharisees to accept the belief that Jesus had been resurrected. (Sociologically, this is also how it works. If people change religious outlook, it is usually to something not too far away from their previous tradition.) As such individuals became convinced by other Christ-believers, they began forming subgroups within Pharisaic associations, without giving up their Pharisaic identity. Rather, their Pharisaic identity was confirmed, not abandoned, in the claim that Jesus was resurrected. However, as we mentioned earlier, Matthew's Gospel shows clear indications of the formation of an independent association, especially in chapter 18. How does this fit into the picture?

e) Building a Mattbean community

It is my contention that the people who wrote down the originally oral traditions using Mark (19) were a breakaway group from a Pharisaic association, in which they previously had formed a subgroup. Such a scenario explains the tensions within the Gospel text and why doctrinal sections, like 23:2-3, were placed in the same context as the verbal attacks that follow in that same chapter. The separatists, as we may call them, referred in this passage to a tradition that they shared with other Pharisees, including Christ-believing Pharisees, that the Pharisees formed a legitimate group in charge of transmitting the law of Moses. Then, by delegitimizing these leaders through references to character flaws, etc., the separatists aimed at convincing everyone to follow them as they began to cut themselves loose and form their own independent association.

The question is, of course, why they would break away at this specific point in time, namely, the late 80s. The most likely reason, as I see it, would be an increased eschatological awareness following as a direct result of primarily two developments within the group: a) the fall of the temple, which most likely was predicted by the historical Jesus, and b) the increasing presence of non-Jews in the larger apostolic-Jewish movement, which was interpreted as an eschatological sign (cf., the earlier view expressed in Matt 10:5-6).

In addition to these factors within the group, it is also likely that there were factors external to the group affecting the situation. The larger Pharisaic movement had begun to undergo changes, which would eventually result in a coalition with other Jewish groups and individuals forming what became Rabbinic Judaism as we know it in late Antiquity. These developments were in opposition to messianic Matthean Pharisees, downplaying eschatology in a politically very sensitive period in Post-War Galilee.

I have mentioned Matt 18 several times. This passage especially indicates clearly that an independent association was being formed. However, it would be incorrect to assume, as some scholars have, that Matthew's Gospel would represent the community rule of this association. It is simply the wrong genre. We may compare it with the community rule at Qumran, or the rule of the Iobaccoi, or other association rules to realize that the narrative form was not used for such purposes. It is much more likely that what we see happening in Matthew is a legitimization of a community rule, not the community rule itself. Specific rules of the community receive legitimization from Jesus himself in the Matthew narrative, as he instructs his disciples. In other words, based on this mirror-reflection of an association in Matthew, and on what we know about the structure and rules of other Jewish and non-Jewish associations, we may theorize that there existed, in this Matthean community, another document, a community rule. This community rule would have governed the ritual and social life of the Mattheans, and the Gospel text would have been read on a regular basis in order to influence and inspire members to become more and more like "ideal" members, based on Jesus' example and instruction.

At this point in our discussion, I might be expected to say that, unfortunately, this document, this community rule, has been lost. However, I believe that would be a mistake. As it happens, there is one document that displays, in some detail, characteristics that fit perfectly with the Gospel of Matthew in the setting I have just described: the Didache. This document dates, in its redacted form, to about the same time as Matthew's Gospel and may be placed geographically and culturally in the same region. (20) shall not go into detail here,(21) but only note the strength of this hypothesis: it is supported by text-external historical and institutional evidence as well as by close comparisons between the two texts that reveal remarkable similarities with regard to theological and ritual worldview as well as social setting. In sum, I propose that the community history we see develop here had its roots in a Pharisaic association. It reflects the production of two texts, both of which are careful to preserve their memories of their previous history and at the same time to claim their independence by de-legitimizing their former association-siblings.

Concluding remarks: Beyond the "Was-the-author- Jewish-or- not" discussion

While a minority of scholars would understand the author of the Gospel of Matthew to have been a non-Jew (especially from Clarke's article of 1947 and onward), (22) the majority of Matthean scholars today would argue that the community that produced the text was indeed Jewish. These latter scholars would then differ among themselves regarding whether the Mattheans were still within "the synagogue" or whether they had left "the synagogue." My discussion here aims at problematiz-ingsuch use of "the synagogue'' to argue an intra- or extra-muros position. Recent synagogue research suggests rather that we are dealing with Jewish association synagogues here, and that we cannot speak of Mattheans ''leaving the synagogue."

Furthermore, there is no evidence that Matthean Jews would have rejected participation in public synagogues. On the contrary, all indications point to the opposite conclusion, including the ambivalent position of the "crowds" in the narrative. Matthew's community was, in fact, much closer to Jewish society than, for example, the Qumran community was, since the latter withdrew both from temple and public synagogues.

As Alan Segal pointed out in the 1990s, it does not say much if we identify a text as Jewish in a period in which Judaism was very diverse. (23) "Which Judaism?" is a more interesting and pressing issue to deal with. This is the question I have focused on here with regard to one specific apostolic-Jewish community: the radical Pharisaic Christ-believers behind the Gospel of Matthew.

(1.) For treatment of specific passages and their history of interpretation, see the important three-volume commentary by Ulrich Luz, Matthew: A Commentary (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1989-2005). See also Howard Clarke, The Cospel of Matthew and Its Readers: A Historical Introduction to the First Gospel (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2003). The function of such reception historical studies for those who are interested in the earliest period in which the Gospel was formed is rather to destabilize out own feelings that we already know rather well what the text means. By noting the diversity of interpretation of the Gospel through the centuries, we prepare to meet the unexpected, as we proceed to analyse the situation in the first century.

(2.) See especially Richard Bauckham, ed., The Gospels for All Christians: Rethinking the. Gospel Audiences (Grand Rapids: Eerd-mans, 1998), and the debate that followed.

(3.) See, e.g., J. Andrew Overman, Matthew's Gospel and Formative Judaism (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 1 990); Church and Community in Crisis: The Gospel According to Matthew (New Testament in Context; Valley Forge: TPI, 1996), 16-19; Anthony J. Saldarini, " The Gospel of Matthew and Jewish-Christian Conflict in the Galilee," in Galilee in Late Antiquity (New York and Jerusalem: Jewish Theological Seminary of America, 1992), 23-38, 26-27; Ekkehard W. Stegemann and Wolfgang Stegemann, The Jesus Movement: A Social History of Its First Century (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1999), 223-225 (see also scholars mentioned by them who favor a place in the land of Israel but not necessarily Galilee: page 438, n. 20); Aaron Gale, Redefining Ancient Borders: The Jewish Scribal Framework of Matthew's Gospel (New York: T&T Clark, 2005). For a discussion of other locations, see W. D. Davies' and Dale C. Allison's discussion in A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel According to Saint Matthew (3 vols.; Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1988), 1:1 38-147. Davies and Allison suggest Antioch as a likely alternative, although acknowledging the difficulties involved.

(4.) For a good overview of suggested dates and arguments, see Davies and Allison, Matthew, 1:127-138.

(5.) For comprehensive coverage of all available source material on ancient synagogues up to 200 C.E., in original languages and English translation, see Anders Runes-son, Donald D. Binder, and Birger Olsson, The Ancient Synagogue From its Origins to 200 C.E.: A Source Book (Ancient Judaism and Early Christianity Series 72; Leiden: Brill, 2008; paperback edition by Brill, 2010), here abbreviated as ASSB. See especially the index on synagogue terms, p. 328.

(6.) Note especially John 18:20: "I have spoken openly to the world; I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all the Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret."

(7.) ASSB, No. 40. Interestingly, Philo says that these buildings were understood as sacred.

(8.) ASSB, No. 26.

(9.) Matt 16:18: "And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my ekklesia, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it." Matt 18:17: "If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the ekklesia; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the ekklesia, let such a one he to you as a Gentile and a tax collector."

(10.) Many other such terms are currently under debate. See, e.g., Paula Fredriksen, "Mandatory Retirement: Ideas in the Study of Christian Origins Whose Time has Come to Go," Studies in Religion/Sciences Religieuses 35:2 (2006): 231-246.

(11.) Matthias Klinghardt, "The Manual of Discipline in Light of Statutes of Hellenic Associations" in Norman Golb and Michael Wise, eds., Methods of Investigation of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Khirbet Qumran Site: Present Realities and Future Prospects (New York: New York Academy of Sciences, 1994), 251-267; Moshe Weinfeld, The Organizational Pattern and the Penal Code of the Qumran Sect: A Comparison with Guilds and Religious Associations of the Hellenistic-Roman Period (NTOA 2; Gottingen: Vandenhoek & Ruprecht, 1986).

(12.) In these passages, non-Jews are described as examples of behavior that must be avoided by Mattheans: Gentiles do not love their enemies, they pray in flawed ways, and the Matthean who sins and does not repent should be looked upon as a non-Jew, i.e., someone with a low moral or religious standing, and therefore be excluded from the community of Mattheans. I am grateful to Serge Ruzer for pointing out that later non-Jewish Christians like Tertullian also despised "Gentiles," although not being Jewish themselves. For Tertullian, Christians were a "third race," neither Jews nor Gentiles. Such a distinction, however, was a later development in the non-Jewish Christian world. Matthew's Gospel reveals only one major distinction between religio-ethnic identities, and that is between Jews and non-Jews. The same is true also for Paul, who speaks only about Jews and non-Jews, and never mentions the term "Christian" or suggests that. Christ-believers would be something in between Jews or Gentiles. For Paul, those who are "in-Christ" are either Jews or Gentiles.

(13.) Statistics suggest the following regarding the presence of Pharisees in the New Testament: Matthew twenty-nine times, Mark eleven, Luke twenty-six, John nineteen. Acts seven, Paul once (Phil 3:5). These constitute a total of ninety-three explicit references to Pharisees.

(14.) This portrait of the Pharisees is unique to Matthew. For more varied and less one-dimensional portraits in the NewTcsta-ment, see the examples given below.

(15.) So also Ronald Deines, "The Social Profile of the Pharisees," in Reimund Bieringer et al., eds., The New Testament and Rabbinic Literature (Leiden: Brill, 2010) 111-132, 119, n. 21.

(16.) This theory is based both on rabbinic literature (only the latest layers display an interest in Jewish society generally and synagogues) and on archaeological remains of Late Antique synagogues, which do not conform to rabbinic standards but rather contradict them.

(17.) Gunter Stemberger, Jews and Christians in the Holy Land: Palestine in the Fourth Century (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 2000), especially 121-160; 269-297.

(18.) The priests were not associated with any specific party or denomination; they could be Sadducees but also Pharisees, or have no such affiliation at all.

(19.) I have not been convinced of the existence of a Q-source independent of the Matthean community. It is more likely, as I see it, that these traditions were transmitted within the Matthean community and were then used by Luke, who probably knew about Matthew's text. Luke could also have had access to common oral tradition independently that Matthew's community also transmitted before they produced their text. This may explain the minor variations between the two Gospels regarding these and other traditions.

(20.) Recent studies on the Didache in relation to the Gospel of Matthew include, Alan J. P. Garrow, The Gospel of Matthew's Dependence on the Didache (London: T&T Clark, 2004); Huub van de Sandt and David Flusser, The Didache: Its Jewish Sources and Its Place in Early Judaism and Christianity (Assen: Royal Van Gorcum, 2002); Huub van de Sandt and Jurgen K. Zangenberg, Matthew, James and the Didache: hree Related Documents in Their Jewish and Christian Settings (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2008).

(21.) I will present a full discussion of this matter in a forthcoming monograph, tentatively entitled: The Gospel of Matthew and the Myth of Christian Origins: Rethinking the So-called Parting of the Ways Between Judaism and Christianity.

(22.) Kenneth W. Clark, "The Gentile Bias in Matthew," JBL 66 no. 2 (1947): 165-172. Other scholars arguing similar cases include Paol Nepper-Christensen, Das Matthausevangelium: Fin judenchristliches Evangelium? University of Aarhus (Acta theologica Danica 1; Aarhus University Press, 1958); Wolfgang Trilling, Das Wahre Israel: Studien zir Theologie des Mattbaus-llvangidiium (Studien zum Alten und Neuen Testament 10; Munich: Kosel, 1964); John P. Meier, The Vision of Matthew: Christ, Church, and Morality in the First Gospel (New York: Paulist Press, 1979).

(23.) Alan F. Segal, "Matthew's Jewish Voice." in Social History of the Matthean Community: Cross-Disciplinary Approaches, David L. Balch, ed. ((Minneapolis: Fortress, 1991), 3-37, especially 15.

Anders Runesson

Associate Professor, Department of Religious Studies McMaster University, West Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
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Author:Runesson, Anders
Publication:Currents in Theology and Mission
Article Type:Essay
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Date:Dec 1, 2010
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