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Matthew on Torah

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  • E Bruce Brooks
    To: Synoptic / GPG In Response To: David Mealand On: One of Ron s Logia From: Bruce I had suggested . . . well, here is the suggestion: (A4). It is easier for
    Message 1 of 5 , Feb 4 5:44 PM
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      To: Synoptic / GPG
      In Response To: David Mealand
      On: One of Ron's Logia
      From: Bruce

      I had suggested . . . well, here is the suggestion:

      (A4). It is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one stroke in
      a letter of the law to be dropped.

      BRUCE: This is an extreme legalism

      DAVID: Might that not depend on the tone of voice used when spoken? Could
      that possibly have been one of exasperation?

      BRUCE: I confess to being uneasy with this suggestion. If we are free to
      treat any given awkward saying as exasperated, or ironic, or otherwise to be
      interpreted in the opposite of its surface sense, we can certainly make a
      more consistent panSynoptic Jesus. I find the technique intrinsically
      suspect, in part a priori, because I don't see convincing signs of it in the
      texts. (Shakespeare's sarcastic "So are they all, all honorable men" has
      been ground deep into the literary consciousness of all modern persons, but
      that does not make it any less a modern attitude). Whole books have been
      written to show that Jesus was rigidly Torah-observant, but it seems to me
      that Matthew, not any earlier source, is home territory for this
      Torah-observant interpretation. I think for instance of "These you ought to
      have done, without neglecting the others," as preserving the whole Torah
      (meaning, the whole Pharisee list of minute purity rules and observances)
      while still directing emphasis to its more important parts.

      OTHER VIEWS

      In other texts, I get a very different view of the little rules, which is
      that they are too burdensome to be observed. Together with the rule that
      infraction of one is infraction of all, they condemn all who recognize their
      validity to being violators of the law. This idea is taken up by Paul (the
      Law kills), but it is also in the parts of Mark that seem philologically to
      be pre-Pauline. it seems, in short, to be Jesuine. It is common currency
      among Didache specialists (has everybody been going to those SBL sessions?
      If not, it is now too late, since 2011 was the last one) that the Didache
      recognizes only "the Second Table of the Law [Decalogue]." The point of
      interest, which I have tried with modest success to urge on the Didache
      people, is that the Markan Jesus does exactly the same thing. He is firm on
      the "honor thy father and mother" part, but contemptuous of the sacrificial
      piety part (Sabbath), not to mention the fine points of householding
      (washing of vessels, washing of persons, all that stuff). Second Table.
      (This is not a precise designation, but those who use it know what they mean
      by it, and so does everybody else, so it will do as a label).

      Accordingly, and on the merits of the larger evidence, I think that we have
      here two Jesuses, one Matthean and Full Torah, one Markan and Second Table.
      I think we must choose, and I think the historically responsible choice is
      in favor of the Markan Jesus as the authentic one. Matthew is then a Torah
      Reactionary, which is what I mean by saying that he is a Jerusalemite at
      heart. Since the Rabbinic hit list of five includes him, and since that list
      would fit the Jerusalem scene after the Agrippa purge (one Zebedee, not two;
      no Peter, etc), I think it is reasonable to put the Matthew mentioned on
      that hit list as being in Jerusalem in c45. It is this line of thought that
      leads to the idea, previously suggested in partial support of one of Ron's
      points, that Matthew may have gotten along not all that badly with the
      latecomer Jerusalem Biggie, James the Brother.

      Did that same Matthew write the Gospel of Matthew? If so, at least according
      to my calculations, it was considerably later, since Luke A had to come
      first, and we can deduce some things about Luke A. That the original Matthew
      was pre-70 is shown by his retaining without revision the Markan Caligula
      prediction (whereas at some point Luke, and most likely it was Luke B, did
      add a line unmistakably referring to Titus's siege).

      But it need not be long pre-70; I should think that sometime in the early
      60's would suffice.

      THE BIG PICTURE

      If we now go to the Roman world and squint through that end of the
      telescope: What would be the most likely external stimulus for the emergence
      of the Second Tier Gospels?

      One motive for writing down the life and/or sayings of some leading figure
      is the death of that figure; whence the Analects of Confucius (in its first
      layer); whence the Gospel of Mark (ditto). But history marked another strong
      line of division with the deaths of the two leading Apostles, Peter and
      Paul, both probably by the end of 64 (that Nero continued to burn Christians
      while in exile from Rome seems not among the likelier speculations). That
      defined the end of an era, and allowed others to take up the burden of
      making authoritative pronouncements; in fact, of filling the empty Apostolic
      function of authoritative pronouncement. There were three foci from which
      such an effort might have been made: (1) Galilee or other focus of primitive
      Christianity, (2) Jerusalem, or other focus of reactionary Christianity, and
      (3) Ephesus, or other focus of Pauline Christianity. I think all three were
      heard from within a couple of years, as follows: (2) Luke A, expressing a
      somewhat radical poverty development of the primitives, (3) Matthew,
      expressing the pro-Torah and otherwise conservative Jerusalem view, and (3)
      the entire deuteroPauline literature, starting with the collection of the
      letters known to their compiler and the composition of Colossians as an
      summary and introduction to the rest.

      These people all take part in the general trends affecting Christianity as a
      whole, but they also express their different and sometimes conflicting
      views. In fact, even among the deuteroPaulines there are three lines of
      development and replacement: 2 Thess on updating the Second Coming
      expectation, by then an extreme problem; the Pastorals, pushing local church
      organization in the disappearance of the wandering authority pattern of the
      Apostolic age, and the Colossians-Ephesians Gnostic sequence (whose Gnostic
      tendencies are in fact deplored in the Pastoral group; the Paulinists
      themselves had factions and differences of opinion).

      This is a messy picture, but if we are to get all the NT on the
      flannelgraph, some messiness is inevitable. We can only try to make it the
      appropriate messiness. I submit that the Matthew/Luke split and opposition,
      on some key points of doctrine and practice, is analogous to the
      intraPauline wars. It seems to me that everybody, in their sometimes waspish
      way, is trying to pick up the torch of authority which had just been dropped
      by the two leading figures - figures of the time when the satellite churches
      could successfully be run by correspondence and occasional visits of persons
      of recognized standing, working from a central headquarters.

      Not only do we know from Paul that both Peter (on the primitive side) and
      James the Brother (on the strict reactionary or Jerusalem side) went about
      filling precisely that roving-supervisory function, but we know that they
      took their wives along when they did it. A homey touch, that.

      CONCLUDING

      Matthew and Luke are, or aspire to be, the replacement for that suddenly
      inoperative process. The authorities for all Christians. There is a race for
      the tomb of Peter and Paul, just as cJn recounts the race of two disciples
      to be first at the Tomb of Jesus. On evidence so far, Matthew seems to have
      won that race over Luke, if only by a few steps, and except for a few weeks
      around Christmas time.

      Which is a long way of saying, No, I don't think any of these sayings can be
      read in an opposite sense. I think that all the sayings, the remembered and
      especially the invented, attest the passions of the day. It is merely that
      the passions of the day were so often doctrinally and organizationally
      opposed to each other. Stuffy rich Matthew and economically radical Luke. I
      should think that no one familiar with the intricate and fratricidal Left
      Deviationism and Right Deviationism in the communist persuasion of recent
      memory will need any further help in imagining the Christian scene in the
      late 60's and beyond.

      Respectfully suggested,

      Bruce

      E Bruce Brooks
      University of Massachusetts at Amherst
    • David Mealand
      (A4). It is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one stroke in a letter of the law to be dropped. Bruce (or at least my extract from his posting)
      Message 2 of 5 , Feb 5 10:43 AM
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        (A4). It is easier for heaven and earth to pass away
        than for one stroke in a letter of the law to be dropped.

        Bruce (or at least my extract from his posting)
        ...Matthew is then a Torah Reactionary...

        David
        The version of the saying under discussion
        was the one found in Luke, and the issue what
        it might have been before Matthew phrased his
        version as he did.

        David M.



        ---------
        David Mealand, University of Edinburgh


        --
        The University of Edinburgh is a charitable body, registered in
        Scotland, with registration number SC005336.
      • E Bruce Brooks
        To: Synoptic / GPG In Response To: David Mealand On: Legalism From: Bruce David had recapitulated a bit of my previous note to Ron, and then added his own
        Message 3 of 5 , Feb 5 1:19 PM
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          To: Synoptic / GPG
          In Response To: David Mealand
          On: Legalism
          From: Bruce

          David had recapitulated a bit of my previous note to Ron, and then added his
          own comment. Here is the entire group, beginning with my quote of Ron's
          saying A4:

          (A4). It is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one stroke in
          a letter of the law to be dropped.

          Bruce (or at least [David's] extract from [that] posting) ...Matthew is then
          a Torah Reactionary...

          David: The version of the saying under discussion was the one found in Luke,
          and the issue what it might have been before Matthew phrased his version as
          he did.

          Bruce (now): I think the issue is the directionality. Is Luke B taking on a
          Matthean saying, or is Matthew incorporating a Lukan A one?

          Matthew's Sermon on the Mount is at its core a transfer (and
          middle-classification) of Luke's Sermon on the Plain, Beatitudes and all
          (though not the Woes), and so my default presumption is that the other bits
          of the Matthean Sermon which have parallels in Luke were all scrounged by
          Matthew from Lukan A originals. But the default presumption is not always
          the final conclusion, and I think the present case is a good example.

          On the Matthean side, we have a continuous exposition, from Mt 5:17 (our
          passage) to 5:48 inclusive, showing how one must exceed the conventional
          law: not only love your neighbor, but love even your enemy (this detail is
          indeed from Luke). The theme of this whole section of the Matthean Sermon is
          given at the end of the 5:17-20 passage (no Lukan parallel): "Unless your
          righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never
          enter the Kingdom of Heaven." This is what I call "extreme legalism." There
          is here no question of a Lukan or other outside original.

          On the Lukan side, we have three sayings which come from nonconsecutive
          places in Mt:

          Lk 16:16. Law and prophets were until John ( ~ Mt 11:12-13)
          Lk 16:17. Easier for Heaven/Earth to pass away ( ~ Mt 5:18, SM)
          Lk 16:18. Against divorce ( ~ Mt 5:32, SM)

          M Goulder (2/629-632) argues for Lukan secondarity, as of course he would.
          He makes some perhaps useful points about Luke cleaning up Matthew's
          diction. The meaning of "violently" in Lk 16:16 has exercised the
          commentators greatly; I can't solve it either. But on the larger scale, I
          think MG misses, or rather gets wrong, the most impressive bit of evidence
          for Lukan secondarity of all three of these short passages, which is that as
          a group they interrupt a very consecutive sequence in Luke, on the theme of
          contempt for worldly riches and concern for heavenly riches. Thus:

          Lk 16:1-13. The Canny Steward (give away money)
          Lk 16:14-15. The money-loving of the Pharisees is an abomination in the
          sight of God
          - - - -
          16:19-31. Dives and Lazarus (the rich will go to hell)

          I have put in a little dotted line where the three verses under discussion
          go. I think it is obvious that the main sweep of Lk 16 is on the riches
          theme, and that the three verses now coming between the Avaricious Pharisees
          and the Condemned Rich Man are thematically (and given their brevity, also
          formally) intrusive.

          Then the implied order is here Mt > Lk for all three. If the Lukan saying on
          the tittles of the Law is milder than the Matthean thundering on the same
          subject (and thus perhaps more attractive for a modern florilegium), it is
          still a Matthean theme, which Luke A as a whole did not share, and which in
          Luke B is formally intrusive. It represents Luke B moving toward the
          Matthean position, as he does at many other places also, not least the
          Gentile Mission (where again, its introduction causes formal and thematic
          inconsecutivity in the final Luke).

          We can't really get next to the Sermon on the Mount until we can distinguish
          its borrowed and transfigured Lukan A elements from its firm and confident
          and portly Matthean additions. There may be a presentation on this subject
          at SBL in November; time will tell.

          Bruce

          E Bruce Brooks
          University of Massachusetts at Amherst
        • David Mealand
          Bruce (now): I think the issue is the directionality. Is Luke B taking on a Matthean saying, or is Matthew incorporating a Lukan A one? Reply Well to focus on
          Message 4 of 5 , Feb 6 7:24 AM
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            Bruce (now): I think the issue is the directionality.
            Is Luke B taking on a Matthean saying, or is Matthew
            incorporating a Lukan A one?

            Reply
            Well to focus on just this and not the other 650 words
            in the response:

            You think that Mark included this in his text first
            \O OURANOS KAI \H GH PARELEUSONTAI \OI DE LOGOI MOU
            OU MH PARELEUSONTAI

            (Matthew and Luke both presumably know that, as they both
            include it with minimal changes.)

            Then your assertion is that either one, or the other,
            of these writers _created_ either the version of the aphorism
            that we find in Luke (the one under discussion), _ or_ the
            one found in Matthew, (which are differently formulated),
            and you consider the latter more likely.

            Have I understood you correctly?

            I am not demanding what I am told is the brevity some
            tea party or other specifies, but I would appreciate
            the focus being on the aphorism.

            David M.




            ---------
            David Mealand, University of Edinburgh


            --
            The University of Edinburgh is a charitable body, registered in
            Scotland, with registration number SC005336.
          • E Bruce Brooks
            To: Synoptic In Response To: David Mealand On: Directionality From: Bruce ... Bruce (earlier): I think the issue is the directionality. Is Luke B taking on a
            Message 5 of 5 , Feb 6 10:19 AM
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              To: Synoptic
              In Response To: David Mealand
              On: Directionality
              From: Bruce

              David had set up the problem of the "shall not pass away" saying this way:

              ------------

              Bruce (earlier): I think the issue is the directionality. Is Luke B taking
              on a Matthean saying, or is Matthew incorporating a Lukan A one?

              David: You think that Mark included this in his text first
              \O OURANOS KAI \H GH PARELEUSONTAI \OI DE LOGOI MOU OU MH PARELEUSONTAI
              (Matthew and Luke both presumably know that, as they both include it with
              minimal changes.)

              Then your assertion is that either one, or the other, of these writers
              _created_ either the version of the aphorism that we find in Luke (the one
              under discussion), _ or_ the one found in Matthew, (which are differently
              formulated), and you consider the latter more likely.

              Have I understood you correctly?

              Bruce: Yes, except that I would not call the Tittle saying a version; I
              would call it a derivative. Jesus's word in Mk 13, coming at the end of a
              vivid description of the Last Days, has its context here: [13:30] "Truly I
              say to you, this generation will not pass away before all these things take
              place. [31] Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass
              away."

              This promises two things: (1) The End Days will occur within the present
              generation, and some now living will see it, and (2) Despite the end of all
              other things, Jesus's word (his promise as to the survival of the elect)
              will not pass away, but will hold firm. There is nothing in this about the
              Law.

              Mt 5:17, on the other hand, has nothing to do with the End Days, it has to
              do with the permanence of the Law (right to the end of the End Days. The
              same can be said of the briefer but similar Lk 16:17. One of the two has
              then taken a guarantee about Jesus's promise to the faithful, whose
              permanence he guarantees, and borrowed a sonorous phrase from it to make a
              saying about the permanence of the Law.

              Of Mt and Lk, which one did this borrowing and adaptation? We can look at
              two kinds of evidence: (1) the characteristic emphases of Matthew and Luke,
              for which see my previous post, or (2) the structure of the respective
              sayings in context, which I venture to repeat. The point here is that Lk
              16:7 and its two neighbors, all with counterparts in Mt, are as a group
              intrusive into a series of poverty pronouncements and parables in Lk. Notice
              that Lk 16:14-15, criticizing the avarice of the Pharisees, segues very
              smoothly into Lk 16:19-31, the Dives and Lazarus parable, which illustrates
              it by showing that it is poverty, not wealth, which goes to Heaven. Then Lk
              16:17 and its neighbors are later introductions into Lk 16, while Mt 5:17,
              which is perfectly consecutive in its Matthean context, is original.

              This makes it a Matthean creation, based on a phrase picked up from Mark and
              used to quite a different end.

              Bruce

              E Bruce Brooks
              University of Massachusetts at Amherst
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