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73Re: [ematthew] the mission to the gentiles

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  • L. J. Swain
    Oct 20, 2002
      Steve Black wrote:
      > 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,
      > 24:14)
      > 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.
      > and
      > 3. These two texts can be explained by a pre-textual history.

      Includes both, yes. I'm suggesting that the tension be read on multiple
      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.

      Larry Swain

      > 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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