60Re: [ematthew] the mission to the gentiles
- Oct 17, 2002Ernest,
Thanks very much for your response to Steve's point. However, I would
have to say that even when we accept your conclusion we really haven't
done away with the tension Steve points to. In 10:5, we have a
prohibition not to go to the Gentiles. In 28:19 we have a command that
involves all nations. The tension Steve points to lies in the audience,
and that tension persists even if we stress that we are not talking
about missions in the traditional sense, but about specifically making
disciples which has a specific kind of meaning.
Steve, your tension persists gospel wide, not just at these two points.
The problem is how do we reconcile the positive statements about
inclusion of the Gentiles with statements that Jesus is only for
Israel? On the one side we have the Gentile women in the Genealogy, the
reference to Abraham, the visit of the Magi who are the first to honor
him, and Jesus' first preaching is fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah
(the prophet who predicted the coming of the nations to Israel to
worship YHWH) and takes place in GALILEE of the GENTILES. In chapter 8
we have Jesus and the Centurion with the Centurion lifted up as more
faithful than Israel. Then Gentiles disappear from the gospel until
10:5 where entrance is prohibited, and in chap 15 with the Canaanite
woman where Jesus himself says that he is sent only to the lost sheep of
Israel. Gentiles don't come up again until 28:19ff. So the question
you ask is more than a tension between 2 verses but rather a tension of
the presentation of the Gentiles in the gospel of Matthew.
Part of the solution to the puzzle, if there is one, involves arguments
about Matthew's community, audience, date, provenance, and of structure.
Briefly though, let me suggest the following. For the immediate context
of Matt. 10, remember that at the end of 9 Jesus has just seen the
crowds as shepherd less and said pray to the Father that he send
laborers. The next section is Jesus choosing 12 and telling them to
preach the same message that Jesus preached, but only to Israel. Thus,
chap. 10 is a direct response to a need Jesus sees for the crowds who
have come to hear him.
I think the nomenclature here very interesting. In 10:1 it is the 12
disciples, in 10:2 it is the 12 apostles.
I wonder here if in Matt. 10, we have an example of internecine conflict
between the community in Jerusalem who are would be fairly conservative
and be concerned to keep the Jesus movement Jewish, and the more liberal
community in Antioch where I would place Matthew--a community not
originally evangelized by any of the 12, but rather by the apparently
some of the so-called "Hellenistic party" of Steven. Thus, the overall
view of the Gentiles in the gospel is explained by the situation of the
mixed, liberal community of Matthew, but the negative positions reflect
the older connections to the Jerusalem community--the overall picture in
Matthew then being an attempt at compromise.
Which brings me to look at the structure for a moment. The full
statement of Matt 28:19 is prefigured at the beginning of the gospel
through to chapter 8. After Jesus initial tour of proclamation, his
first major teaching in Matthew, followed by a string of miracles
Matthew begins to sharpen his focus. We move inexorably from all Israel
to Judea, to Jerusalem to a hill. Then we move outward from the tomb to
a mountain in Galilee to all nations, to the big picture, the end of the
age. The statements in chap. 10 and chap 15 about only to Israel take
place as the narrative focuses and leads us up to the Passion.
So rather than say "pre/post Easter" I would say that the conflict on a
thematic level is pre/post rejection by Israel of the message; and for
pragmatics of addressing the community 1) to the Jew first and then the
Gentile and 2) from an historical perspective of the original 12 in
Jerusalem working for the Jews only, others spread the message to the
This needs some fleshing out as you can see, but that's my take on it.
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