73Re: [ematthew] the mission to the gentiles
- Oct 20, 2002Steve Black wrote:
>Includes both, yes. I'm suggesting that the tension be read on multiple
> As I said, I have [mostly] abandoned this theory because of other
> Gentile references later in the gospel that would forces me to posit
> too many interpolations in rather unplausible places. (Mt 21:43,
> Your approach. if I understand it correctly, falls within my
> previously "enumerated" approaches...
> 2. The tension can be dealt with by a "salvation history" approach.
> 3. These two texts can be explained by a pre-textual history.
In terms of Matthean structure, which chiastically moves us inward from
a general perspective (within certain parameters) slowly into focus on
Israel, Judea, Jerusalem, and then explodes outward at the last, and
most important section....the final words of Jesus on earth, on a
mountaintop, in Galilee, which "assumes" the going out of the apostles
from the mountain into all nations.
Narratively, the mission in chapter 10 is a response to Jesus'
perception of a need WITHIN ISRAEL of "harvesting", and it is then and
only then that the 12 are "summoned" and named (and the significance of
12 should not be overlooked here), and sent out to proclaim the same
message Jesus did (the kingdom of heaven is at hand) and to confirm the
message with the same wonders that Jesus had to that point performed
(except the power over the weather, which isn't specifically
mentioned). It is interesting that one half of the references to the 12
in the gospel are here in this passage. And in spite of Matthew's
persistent reminders of prophecies regarding the Messiah's extending the
"kingdom" to the Gentiles, Jesus himself has only so far been within
Jewish territory. As you pointed out the Gentiles generally come to
Jesus. Anyway, I'm getting far afield, I don't think we should read too
much into the narrative of chapter 10 in terms of Matthew's overall
scheme or understanding of the Gentiles: in chap 10 the 12 are
commissioned to do what Jesus has so far done: proclaimed the message to
Israel and confirmed it with signs.
Theologically, I think Matthew's community is hammering out its own
stance yet. And the solution they come to is the one Paul does (see
below.). That is, the message of the kingdom is principally a Jewish
message. The Gentiles will come to it by faith, hence the Isaiah
passages that Jesus fulfills which rather than promise that the Gentiles
will come to Israel, promise instead a going out of the message to
include the Gentiles (he will give justice to the Gentiles, NOT the
Gentiles will seek justice from him), the parable of the wedding feast
in 21 (go out into the highways and byways....), sheeps and goats in 25,
and finally at the end, make disciples of all nations.....(that is, of
Jews and Gentiles). Rather than a "to the Jew first and then the Greek"
Matthew seems to be saying "the Jews and the Gentiles through
faith"(remember that in pivotal points of the gospel a Gentile's faith
is upheld in the light of Israel's lack of faith, and also remember that
the gospel begins with relating Jesus to two men who believed: David
(and the promise of the universal kingdom) and Abraham (father of many
This still leaves something of tension, but not a large one. Last, the
text is explained by a historical situation. I think that Matthew's
community is Antioch. If Acts is in some way historical, we are told
that the Antioch community was founded after the persecution following
on Stephen's death, and that believers came there and preached to the
Jews, but others came and preached to the Gentiles (Ac. 11:19). Thus,
the picture presented to us of the 12 in Matt 10 suffering persecution
etc is not so much the current situation of Matthew's community, but
rather illustrates the historical situation from which the church in
Antioch sprang....a "mission"(I use the word cautiously) to Israel
alone, carried out by the 12, with resultant persecutions etc. that
resulted in the founding of the community. I think this is probably
where you and I differ most, for I think you would read these statements
in chapter 10 as referring to the Matthean community's current
It is interesting to me as well that this "tension" in Matthew's gospel
reflects the community's history in another way. It is the Antioch
community after all that sent out Paul who eventually came to stress a
mission to the Gentiles regardless of the original intent of the
tradition behind Matt 28:18ff, and also claimed to have had Peter, who
according to Acts was the first to preach to the Gentiles (Cornelius)
and at the same time according to Paul kept his sphere of preaching to
those of the circumcision. And here we can see both a tension in how
the church is to accept the Gentiles, their relation to the Torah, and
whether the Gentiles come to the church and express faith and so are
accepted (as the Gentile characters in Matthew's narrative do) or
whether they are to be sought out and made disciples (as the prophecies,
the parables, and the "commission" indicate). We see these tensions in
the gospel, but also in the history of the Antioch community.
Finally, at long last, I will point out that one answer to the question
of why there is a Jewish diaspora that if my memory serves (I'll have to
go look this up again) correctly is 1st cent. BCE states that the Jews
were scattered among the nations so that the nations be not left without
the light. Clearly, Matt. 28:18f conveys this very same attitude: the
Torah/Jesus message is a Jewish one, steeped in jewish tradition, rooted
in the Jewish scriptures, and yet is not for the Jews alone, but is to
be seen among the Gentiles as well.
In my meandering way, I guess, I would say that Matthew does have a
tension that ultimately he doesn't resolve so much as override.
> It certainly makes sense - but it seems to me to require that Mt's
> final redaction was very conservative. Not unlike the final redactor
> of the Pentateuch who left blatant holes/bumps in the narrative in
> order to preserve ancient traditions. I think Mt shows no hesitation
> in changes his sources to suite his agenda. Why did he not alter
> 10:5b-6 to suggest that this legislation was only temporary? (don't
> go to the Gentiles "until/yet/now/etc") As the text stands now we
> have to add this provision extra-textually to the story ourselves.
> Steve Black
> Vancouver School of Theology
> Vancouver, BC
> Strangers stopping strangers just to shake their hand...
> -Robert Hunter From SCARLET BEGONIAS
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