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RE: [Synoptic-L] The Lips of Jesus

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  • E Bruce Brooks
    To: Synoptic On: Certain Passages in Matthew From: Bruce Ron had cited certain passages in Matthew as presumptively early material. I had argued that they
    Message 1 of 6 , Jun 30, 2012
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      To: Synoptic
      On: Certain Passages in Matthew
      From: Bruce

      Ron had cited certain passages in Matthew as presumptively early material. I
      had argued that they instead reflect Matthew's own reactionary sort of
      Judaism, and thus cannot be attributed to an earlier time than Matthew's
      own. I discussed all these passages as though they were uniquely Matthean,
      but this was not quite correct. I here repeat the list, but not the error.
      The result is the same, but there may be some profit in reaching it more

      Mt 6:7 "And in praying do not heap up empty phrases like the Gentiles do,
      for they think that they will be heard for their many words." Unique to Mt,
      and my previous comment will stand.

      I had also cited "Mt 5:47, 6:32, 10:5, 20:19, 20:25, and perhaps especially
      the excommunication formula in Mt 18:7, which combines tax collectors as
      objects of automatic contempt." These need separate notice:

      Mt 5:47. The Lukan parallel to Mt's "tax collectors" and separately
      "Gentiles" has "sinners" in both cases. The meaning is roughly the same.
      Which passage is the source of the other we need not here debate. The
      passage is not uniquely Matthean, but it is found only in the Second Tier
      Gospels, and so has no Markan credentials as an early saying. My previous
      comment will more or less stand.

      Mt 6:32. Mt Gentiles ~ Lk 12:30 "nations of the world." Same meaning, same

      Mt 10:5. Go nowhere among the Gentiles, etc. This IS uniquely Matthean, and
      goes far to show where this particular line is coming from. previous comment

      Mt 20:19. "will deliver him to the Gentiles." From Mk 10:33 (so also Lk
      18:32) but in this case historically accurate: it means the Romans rather
      than the Jews. It does not show disapproval of Gentiles as such.

      Mt 20:25. "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them." From
      Mk 10:42 (cf Lk 22:25). An early (if probably imagined) saying, but a
      factual reference to the non-Jewish world (and the pomp of its rulers), not
      a disapproval of Gentiles as such.

      Returning now to Ron's list, we had:

      Mt 7:6. "Do not give gods what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before
      swine, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you." Uniquely
      Matthean. Not unambiguously anti-Gentile, but if so, it speaks to Matthew's
      attitude, and not to Jesus's.

      Mt 10:5b-6. "Go nowhere among the Gentiles." Uniquely Matthean, and showing
      Matthew's hostility to the Gentiles.

      Mt 10:23b. "You will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before
      the Son of Man comes." Uniquely Matthean; see above comment.

      In sum, Matthew, when on his own and not beholden to previous text, does two
      things vis-a-vis Gentiles. (1) He shows contempt for them. (2) He portrays
      Jesus as excluding them from his mission.

      --------THE GENTILE MISSION IN MARK-----------

      As I remarked, the contempt in Matthew for "tax collectors and sinners" does
      not apply to the earliest Mark, whose Jesus conspicuously goes among unclean
      persons, and chooses a tax collector as one of his inner circle. But these
      are unclean Jews. What about Gentiles?

      I wish life were simpler, but the fact seems to be that the idea of
      accepting Gentile converts, let alone mounting a mission to the Gentiles,
      seems to have grown gradually in the early Jesus movement. By its nature,
      the Davidic Messiah plan of the Historical Jesus envisioned only Jewish
      converts, since only they could possibly affect the reconciliation of Israel
      with its angry God. Gentiles were theologically irrelevant. By stages, they
      came to be accepted, and finally, sought. Those stages can be seen in Mark
      as follows.

      1. [Gentiles are irrelevant]. The Israel only nature of the first program is
      shown symbolically by the Choosing of Twelve, and also by the Feeding of
      Five Thousand, with their symbolically suggestive Twelve Baskets of
      Leftovers. The tribes of Israel are being sought, and they will be

      2. Gentile converts are irrelevant, but accepted. This is the symbolic
      meaning of the Syrophoenician Woman episode. She is entitled to benefit at
      least from the leftovers of the movement proper, symbolized by the healings
      of Jesus.

      3. A Gentile mission is not undertaken, but when undertaken by another, it
      is pronounced to be harmless. This (as Loisy was perhaps the first to see)
      is the only possible meaning of the Strange Exorcist passage, which refers
      to Paul's early preaching, and characterizes it as at least not harmful to
      the cause.

      4. A Gentile mission is accepted in parallel with the older Israel mission.
      The Feeding of the Four Thousand with its significant Seven Baskets of
      Leftovers. Lest anyone miss the fact that the symbolism of the Baskets is
      the one that counts, Mark is right there to dig his elbow into their ribs,
      and properly focus their attention. It has been widely noticed that this
      Feeding is a parallel to the other, and for those who still missed it, Mark
      has concluded his second sequence, as he did his first, with a distinctive
      Spit Healing.

      5. The Gentile Mission is a necessary precondition of the End Days (Mk
      13:10, But first the Gospel must be preached to all nations). This
      astonishing statement is the end of the sequence.


      If Mark were written all at one time, we would conclude that he was
      inventing things, or putting together previously existing things, with no
      awareness of their deep incompatibility. He would be a world-class nitwit,
      and so indeed he is viewed in some circles. But if the implications of the
      various interpolations in Mark be sound, then there is a more rational
      alternative. It is this: Mark is a growth text, and in its successive
      additions it mirrors the growth of the Christianity of which the text and
      its author were directly aware. What it shows us in this case is the
      gradual, but eventually complete, acceptance of the Gentile mission as an
      integral part of the Christian enterprise.

      What do the signs of interpolation, the philological evidence, tell us? In
      the case of Mk 13:10, by good fortune, they tell us a lot. 13:10 is
      obviously incongruous and thus inserted into its immediate context, and that
      context in turn is an expansion of the original Markan Apocalypse. For
      details, see Vincent Taylor (at the back of the book; this is not something
      one puts where the Sunday School classes will see it). Those stacked layers
      can with due care be coordinated with other interpolations in Mark, and a
      reasonably firm stratigraphy of the whole can eventually be built up. The
      final picture is that Mk 13:10 is one of the latest passages in the whole
      Gospel. As the above list of probable chronological stages had suggested.
      The typology and the philological nature of the text coincide.


      Now, at last, to the basic question: Did Jesus himself have contempt for
      Gentiles, and was Matthew correctly reporting Jesus in showing him in this
      light? My answer would be, guardedly, Yes and No. Jesus was concerned solely
      for Jews; he operated (though in a distinctive Minor Prophet way) wholly
      within Judaism, and his idea of himself was as the agent for bringing Israel
      back to God, and (in the military sense of Maccabees) vice versa. In that
      self-concept he died. But his vision of how Israel was to reconcile itself
      to God, which was nothing more than the recommendations of the Minor
      Prophets before him, he in effect transcended Judaism by removing its
      cultural specifics (the Sabbath, the Temple cult) from its canon of right
      and wrong, leaving only the interpersonal or ethical Second Table of the
      Decalogue as binding on Jews. What he did not realize (as far as we have
      warrant for supposing), but what the later movement came to realize, with
      the undoubted help of Gentile pressure from without, was that in so doing he
      had universalized Judaism. It was this nascently universal Judaism which,
      after many troubles, finally emerged as a new religion.

      The interesting thing about Mark is that he was there for that development,
      and his text, layer by layer, records it. In this sense, Mark can function
      for us as a history of Christianity, even if it was neither begun nor ended
      with that conscious intention.


      So in a way Matthew is correct, that Jesus intended a Jews-only program,
      though the sayings he attributes to Jesus go far beyond what, on other
      evidence, we are justified in attributing to the actual Jesus. They express
      Matthew's repugnance toward the weakening of the Mosaic Law, which is what
      let the Gentile in, in the first place. Matthew resents the presence of the
      Gentiles, and their lax notion of proper behavior, within the movement. As I
      had earlier noted, this is exactly the public stance of the Historical
      James, Matthew's contemporary and perhaps also his colleague in Jerusalem.

      Respectfully suggested,


      E Bruce Brooks
      Warring States Project
      University of Massachusetts at Amherst
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