Lectionary Year A
February 17, 2002
Step III: Composition
A. Immediate Context
(JFC) Pre - Chapter three of Matthew tells about John the Baptist's preaching
repentance in the wilderness and baptizing many except the Pharisees and Sadducees until he could tell they repented and worked to bear fruit. And, he acknowledged that he was a forerunner for Jesus' coming to baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire. Then, it records Jesus' coming to be baptized by John who tried to dissuade him. John gave in to Jesus and baptized Him, upon the completion of which action, Jesus came up out of the River Jordan and saw the Holy Spirit descending from heaven onto Him and a voice was heard declaring His favor from God.
Post - The rest of Matthew 4 tells of Jesus' hearing of John's arrest and He goes to settle in Capernaum fulfilling Isaiah 8:23-9:1. In Galilee Jesus begins His preaching to repent for the Kingdom is at hand. He then began calling His disciples and teaching, preaching and healing the sick. His reputation was spreading and many followed Him.
B. Organization of the Compositional Whole
(JFC) As noted last week, Albright and Mann, observe in the Anchor Bible
commentary, "Matthew has two principal interests: the fulfillment of God's purposes in and through Jesus, and how this fulfillment will find its expression in the community which Jesus founded." Although the most concise outline of this Gospel is in Reginald H. Fuller's article in Harper's Bible Commentary, a more nearly complete summary might be: the first two chapters of Matthew's Gospel tell of Jesus' birth. 3:1-12 relate John the Baptist's activities. 3:13-4:11 give accounts of Jesus' temptation and baptism. 4:12-18:35 tell of His teachings and preaching in Galilee. These chapters include the Sermon on the Mount (5-7), commissioning and instructing the twelve (10), parables on the Kingdom (13), life in the new community/the New Israel (14-17) and Jesus' journeying to Jerusalem for His last week on earth (21-28). Through these segments, Matthew's Gospel seems to intend to depict Jesus as the Messiah the Old Testament Jews longed for. It seems to highlight Jesus' fulfilling more prophecies than the other Gospels do. It seems to want to clarify that the New Testament people are the true Israel (16:17-19), actually replacing the former Israel. Several commentaries give "five discourses in chapters 5-7, 10, 13, 18, and 24-25, that Matthew intended his work to serve as a foundation book for his community, . . . In fact, Matthew came to serve as the preeminent Gospel for the church as a whole." So states Fuller.
C. Issues of Authorship
(JFC) As previously noted, since early in the second century CE, when Papias, a
bishop of Hierapolis, referred to Matthew, the tax collector, one of Jesus' disciples (Matt. 9:9 and 10:3), it has been thought he wrote this Gospel. However, Papias says the work to which he refers contains only sayings of Jesus and that it was written in Hebrew. Matthew, as we have it, tells of actions and events, as well as sayings of Jesus and it was written in Greek, not Hebrew. So, evidently, Papias means another document, one now lost. This Gospel seems to have been written anonymously between 70-85 CE, since it is mentioned by Ignatius of Antioch in 115 CE and relies on Mark's Gospel, which was written about 70 CE. Ignatius also says it was written in Syria. Suzanna de Dietrich (LBC) notes that the community addressed by this Gospel is "experiencing persecution. Certain passages without doubt reflect this situation. The writer was concerned to fortify the faith of the Christians - to remind them that Jesus had foreseen these struggles and that He had foreseen the apostasy of some, the lukewarmness of others (5:11-12; 10:16-23; 24:9-13)." And, Eduard Schweizer (The Good News According To Matthew) says, "Above all, the method of learned interpretation of the Law, which 'loses' and 'binds,' was still central for Matthew and his community. . . Preservation of sayings such as 23:2-3, which support the continued authority of Pharisaic teaching, and above all the special emphasis placed on the requirement not to offend those who still think in legalistic terms (17:24-27) show that dialogue with the Jewish Synagogue had not yet been broken off. On the other hand, a saying like 27:25 shows that the Christian community had conclusively split with the Synagogue, even though hope for the conversion of Jews was not yet totally dead."
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