Understanding the context of the writing of Matthew has caused scholars to imagine that he is writing in Antioch Syria and is writing in the midst of the tension between Judaism and the developing Christian community.
Four Puzzles about Mt that keep scholars up late at night!
1) Social circumstances that Matthew was written towards?
Examining fingerprints left by the clues
Urban context, language of city 26 times
Sophisticated and cosmopolitan
So a study of the situation of a Matthean community may involve the setting of…Early part of 1st century Judaism was centered towards the temple but the synagogue was beginning to be formed but was related to the Temple. AD 70 the Temple is destroyed by the Romans was a crisis for Judaism just as much as the holocaust is a crisis of faith in the 20th century. Web of centers are connected around a center that is absent. Synagogue prayer, preaching and teaching becomes the center instead of sacrifice of the Temple.
Could Matthew be written in the context of this change, maybe Antioch of Syria. Trying to stay inside the synagogue at first. The Jews who believe in Jesus as messiah try to live alongside the Jews who do not believe. But the tension is too great and Matthew seems written right in the middle of that tension. Tremendous acrimony between these groups. Jack Dean Kingsbury imagines a large synagogue with the new ecclesial group across the street. The reason for placing Matthew into this tension is because the rhetoric of Matthew has the strength present in the midst of a church split.
“His blood be on us and our children”
“Rabbi” is a curse word in Matthew, “Don’t call yourself rabbi.”
Mischief can be done with Matthew when the rhetoric is pulled out of the context of the first century is put upon our contemporary relationships.
“Friend” is not used in a positive way in Matthew, so you probably don’t want to sing, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” when preaching a “friend” text in Matthew. i.e. wedding banquet, laborers in the vineyard
In Gethsemane the greeting between Judas and Jesus brings the irony of these words into that capstone moment “Greetings Rabbi…Hello Friend”
Antioch is urban, prosperous, cosmopolitan, center of missionary work, Clement of Alexandria quotes Matthew and this is the first quote of Matthew and is located in Antioch of Syria.
2) Matthew is presenting a manual for a new Christian community
Joseph is described as a righteous man, what Judaism and Christianity is aiming for in a man, fully formed by the Torah
“What must we do to bear the sufferings of another…
Joseph is in the point of conflict between the tradition and what to do with a new context and the tradition
Matthew wants us to get to the place where we do not easily cut ourselves off from the Torah, but remain immersed in the Torah, but always aware that God is doing a new thing in Jesus. Genealogy is introduction to Jesus incorporates the tradition and the ambiguity of the new (with the woman) in genealogy.
The disciples understand more in Matthew. “The wise scribe is the one who takes what is old out of the storehouse and what is new…”
hasidic is the one who is in the Torah but seeing it consistently lived out in the present
3) Structure of Matthew
HW Bacon created in the 19th century a theory out of the five major discourses that have the five comments, “After saying these things…”
– Five torah books, Jesus is the new Moses
– but this does not completely work because Jesus is not in the Moses position on the Sermon on the Mount
Fritz Kunkel “Creation Continues” Matthew is a series of narrowing gates and at each gate is a guard whose job is to embarrass you. Moving towards the ultimate embarrassment of Christ crucified.
Synagogue Sermon – Text is Mark and other sources
format of synagogue sermon preaching
Sermon two main parts
Q and A between the Rabbi and the men
Revealing through a story in action of the teachings from the question and answer
4) Why is Matthew so mean?
Does Matthew sound like the assistant principal of the high school?
People are going to get thrown into weeping and gnashing of teeth in the outer darkness
a) Temperamental character of the writer
b) Matthew is most Semitic writer, but some scholars think he is not Jewish because 1) Sadducee and Pharisee are lining up together, which would not have been caught up in the same environs, but MT is showing power of Jesus and enemies combining against him 2) Parallelism, not simply the restating of one line upon another, but an extension, “Behold your king is coming …. ” Matthew has him coming in on two animals, Matthew has a movement towards amplification with his parallelism
c) Matthew does not hold that culture is benign. He thinks that the Christian life is a well lit narrow path going up a dangerous mountain path. He is the good guide taking you up the mountain path and does not want you to make a misstep as he leads you on this path. Your soul is in peril and you need wise guides to help you choose the way of life because the way of death looks so seductive at times.
d) Judgment is a very good thing, which can be hard for some to understand. Judgment is not the angry parent punishing capriciously but is God setting things right. The intention of God is to restore creation and in all of its goodness and wholeness and anything that damages the divine purpose of God will be thrown into the eternal fire. Some of this is self-reflective. The love of Jesus burns away all that damages and stains away, but this is not horror story burning. God’s judgment is setting the whole creation right and joy at the end of this judgment and not terror.
Matthew is speaking against a Jewish community, but is our enemy the Jewish community or more the individualism that seeks to separate us away from the new reality of community that is shaped in Jesus.
LONG and Lukan Themes
Road to Emmaus is a key passage in Luke
“must” used over fifty times by Luke
Not determinism but it is inevitable that when the Gospel collides with the world.
Liturgical interpreting of Scripture
pressed to stay, late afternoon (earlier church often celebrated the Eucharist in the late afternoon)
Walking the way with Jesus and experience of Jesus in the table causes us to reflect on the mediated presence of Jesus on the way
Along the way, Jesus reassembles the guest list of the banquet that God intends, summoning the leper, the woman, the sick, as he moves there is the experience of the penultimate gospel. Then in Jerusalem he weeps because they did not know. Then the ultimate gospel is that this good news is being offered through the resurrection.
Guest list: Who has gathered for Pentecost? Sounds like a bus station call (Medes, which have not been around for hundreds of years, Elamites, did not travel from across the country they traveled from across the OT. This is an eschatological list.
Between now and that banquet day, there will be a great reversal and so every one who thinks they are on top will be outside and those that thought they were not welcomed will be at the table. We better befriend the outcast because they will be the ones that will be welcoming us to the table.