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66Re: [ematthew] the mission to the gentiles

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  • Munachi E. Ezeogu
    Oct 20, 2002
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      Robert Brenchley wrote:

      If Gentiles are to have a status comparable to that of resident aliens in
      the Torah - accepted but not invited, as it were - then that might explain
      much of the text, but it still leaves 28:19 as a problem. It's tempting to
      regard it as an interpolation, but there seems to be a good deal of Matthean
      language there, and it seems like an easy way out.

      I respond:

      1. It should not surprise anyone that Mt accords Gentiles the same status as in
      the Torah. Mt is, after all, a very Jewish book and no other evangelist takes is
      so close to the Torah as Mt is. This reading leaves 28:19 as a problematic text
      only when one insists on reading 28:19 as a missionary text. But there are no
      grounds for that. For one thing, there is no command to "go." Poreuthentes is a
      participle and not an imperative. As a Hebraism, it could be explained as having
      a pleonastic sense, simply serving to reinforce the main verb Matheteusate. For
      more on this see Malina, Bruce "The Literary Structure and Form of Matt. XXVIII.
      16-20" New Testament Studies 17 (1970-71): 87-103.

      2. As I said in my first response to Steve, every word and phrase in this verse
      is a semantic and literary challenge. We usually assume that panta ta ethne "all
      nations" is geographic. It doesn't have to be. There is a view, among others,
      that "all nations" refers to Gentiles living within the Jewish milieu. In many
      ways this view seems more appropriate for the Matthean context. Even though he
      comes to the text with a decidedly missionary interest, James LaGrand [The
      Earliest Christian Mission to 'All Nations' in the Light of Matthew's Gospel
      (University of South Florida International Studies in Formative Christianity and
      Judaism, 1995) 239] points out that the initial reference of "all the nations"
      was probably to "kinsmen and resident aliens, with jews and foreigners who make
      their home in Galilee of the Goyim." In a monograph devoted to reconciling the
      apparent contradiction between the mission discourse (Matt 10:5, 35) and the
      Great Commission (Matt 28:19), T.W. Manson makes the illuminating observation
      that "It was the incorporation of Gentiles into the Christian body, not the
      inculcation of Christian ideas into Gentile minds, that was the living issue in
      the middle of the first century." [T.W. Manson, Only to the House of Israel?
      Facet Books Biblical Series (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1964), 5-6.] In other
      words, the issue was how and to what extent Gentile proselytes within the
      Matthean church are to be admitted to membership, not proactive mission to
      persuade Gentiles to accept the Christian faith. My opinion builds on that
      observation: the issue in the Great Commission pericope was the admission of
      Gentiles into the ministerial circle of disciples and not to ordinary membership
      which many of them had already attained by the 80s when Mt wrote.

      3. We have come a long way from the early days of form criticism when 28:19 was
      regarded as an interpolation. In the good old days of the Textus Receptus, maybe
      there was ground for that. But given the fact that the NT texts we use today are
      critical editions that have gone throught the sieve of textual criticism, we
      should be very slow in attributing any passage to interpolation simply because
      it does not fit neatly into our intrepretive model.

      Ernest Munachi Ezeogu
      Toronto School of Theology
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