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60Re: [ematthew] the mission to the gentiles

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  • L. J. Swain
    Oct 17, 2002
      Ernest,

      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
      Gentiles.

      This needs some fleshing out as you can see, but that's my take on it.

      Larry Swain
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