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72Re: [ematthew] the mission to the gentiles

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  • L. J. Swain
    Oct 21, 2002
      "Munachi E. Ezeogu" wrote:
      > 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.

      I will say that you give one plenty to think about in your posts. I
      have several issues here.

      a) what do you mean by a "missionary text". If you mean that Matt. 28
      should not be read as a general summons on Christians to go and make
      converts to a new religion I would agree. If you however mean that Matt
      28 is not a missionary text in the sense that the "disciples" here are
      not being sent out, I would have to disagree.

      b) I would like to see a defence of your position here on
      "poreuthentes". Yes, it is a participle, but how is that participle
      used? Attendant circumstance in which it is best translated as a
      parallel to the main verb (the typical understanding). Circumstantial,
      explaining the the circumstances of the verb--such as temporal (as you
      go, while you go, etc)? I might accept this, but would like to see an
      argument for it. Supplementary, filling the action of the verb? I
      don't see how this makes sense in the context--Make disciples of all
      nations going, ....baptizing.....teaching. The "going" hardly fits this
      description, though certainly the baptizing and teaching do.

      c) How is "poreuthentes" a pleonasm--if it were "Calling, make
      disciples..." or "teaching, make disciples..."I could see it, but don't
      see how poreuthentes is pleonistic, and I would like you to explain this
      to me, I don't have Malina's article and it will take me a few days to
      find a library that does, get to it, and read it.

      > 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.

      What exactly does this mean? a) I would like to see a systematic study
      of Matthew's use of "ethne", Saldarini did in his _Matthews
      Christian-Jewish Community_, but I see nothing in there that would
      indicate that Mt. 28.19 is a special and unique use of "ethne" to mean
      "those nations liviing only within a "Jewish milieu"?
      b) What do you mean by a Jewish milieu? "Nations" living within Jewish
      hegemony? There wasn't any. Nations having Jewish communities within
      them? Hardly counts as a Jewish milieu then. Or do you mean specific
      "gentiles" who have become "god-fearers" are eligible to become
      Christians? I'm not sure "ethne" can bear that but would entertain an
      argument. c) what do you mean by "geographic" meaning or intent to
      ethne? I'm not sure territory is a necessary component to the notion of

      > 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."

      Then why not say so in the text? Where else in Jewish or Christian
      literature does PANTA TA EQNH refer to only those non-Jews living in a
      particular region? Doesn't this understanding exclude "Jews", and
      suggests that Matthew's view is Galilee and Galilee alone, nowhere else
      on the planet quite fits the description there. This assumes a great
      deal about Matthew's community, its relationship to other Christian
      communities, and its mileau that I would like to see spelled out
      better. I'll have to get LaGrand's book.

      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.

      Agreed, but this doesn't change the tension any. One says, Only
      Israel. The other says, All Nations. We can tone down the import of
      that tension by not reading the latter as "missionary" text (though one
      can not help but think of it in those terms since chap 10 is clearly a
      "missionary" text), but the it does not do away with the tension.

      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.

      Ok, I would like to see an explication of this. But I do have
      questions: a) if Mt. 28:19ff relates to the making of leaders in the
      community and not to the rank and file, 1) how do interpret the
      participle "going"? 2) the mountain top experience? 3) how do you
      grammatically make sense of PANTA TA EQNH--it clearly isn't a genitive,
      so it can't be partitive or source. It says, "Disciplize all nations",
      not "make disciples FROM all nations" even if we restrict "ethnh" to
      Galilee. b) how do you picture the baptism? Were not all members of
      the community baptized? And if so, were those not in leadership only
      baptized into the F ather, not the Son or Spirit? Or some other
      formula? If on the other hand you take the baptism here as the same for
      all members of the community, how do you claim that "making
      disciples...baptizing them; is any different on a leadership level and
      indicates that this pertains only to leadership? c) similarly how do
      you take the "teaching them" to be different on this level....aren't all
      Christians, even the rank and file, to be taught all that Jesus
      instructed and observe it? Or do we have a division, and the gospel
      rather than written for the community, is really written only for the
      leadership since it contains all the things that Jesus instructed, to be
      observed by the leadership but not the rank and file?

      I look forward to you comments, Ernest. Thanks very m uch.

      Larry Swain
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