Lectionary Year A
October 13, 2002
Step III: Composition
A. Immediate Context
(JFC) Pre - Matthew chapter 21 is of Jesus' entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday where He drove the money mongers from the Temple, where He healed the blind and the lame, where the chief priests and scribes objected to the children crying and He told them to hear their messages and from where Jesus retreated to Bethany. Back in the city the next day He cursed the barren fig tree, which prompted the disciples to question how He had done that and He told them that with faith and without doubt they, too, could do such things as well. Next, back in the Temple the chief priests and elders questioned by what authority He did these deeds. He kept it a secret. Then, Jesus proclaimed the prostitutes and tax collectors would get to heaven before the disciples for they believed John's message(s) more than did the disciples. Next He told the parable of the vineyard, which the disciples interpreted correctly and He quoted Psalm 118:22f. The chief priests and Pharisees wanted to arrest Him but were afraid to do so and they regarded Him a prophet.
Post - The rest of Matthew 22 finds the Pharisees and the Herodians trying to trick Jesus, who told them to pay to the emperor what belongs to the emperor and to God what is God's and they were duly impressed and went away and left Him alone. Next, the Sadducees objected to resurrection, to which Jesus pointed to God's being the God of the living and of the dead. The Pharisees were impressed with His dealing effectively with the Sadducees and they questioned the greatest of the commandments, to which Jesus replied, re: loving God and loving neighbor as self. Then, no one asked Him any more questions ever again after He silenced the Pharisees, re: whose son is the Messiah? They said David's son to which Jesus quoted Psalm 110:1.
B. Organization of the Compositional Whole
(JFC) As noted previously in these pages, 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 seems to be 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), Jesus' authority's source(s) (11-12), 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 highlights 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 basic book for his community, . . . In fact, Matthew came to serve as the preeminent Gospel for the church as a whole," says 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 that work 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. . . 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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