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2536Re: context of GOT

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  • joe lieb
    May 1, 2000
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      I wrote:> Firstly I basically disagree with those who say that the gospel of St Mathew was a Jewish text...

      Rick Hibbard:+ On the contrary, the evidence for MT's origin in an emphatically Judean Jewish-Christian community is almost overwhelming. This is a consensus joined by virtually every reputable NT scholar.

      I am not a scholar. I am not even reputable ( but don't tell anyone ;-} ). I was merely pointing out that since a) Christianity is a universalist religion, attempting to appeal to everyone, and b) Mathew is the fundamental text of Christianity and c) Christianity has been fairly successful in its spread, it follows that Mathew must have some sort of very general appeal.

      I am a writer. I am interested in the dramatic aspects of Mathew and Thomas. Indeed I tried writing my own gospel. It was meant to be only subtly related to the canonicals. But after several attempts I found that I could not do any better than Mathew. Take for example the birth of Jesus. Clearly Mathew wanted him to have a dramatic birth. But also he wanted him to be identifiable with the ordinary person. So Jesus is born in a stable.
      Dramatically ordinary. But Jesus is meant to be on a par with royalty. How can that also be put into the story? Well, 'Wise kings from the east' visit Jesus in the stable. You just can't devise a better birth scenario than that one. I put it to the 'reputable scholars' that if Mathew was only interested in appealing to Jews then it would have been wise rabbis from Jerusalem who would have been visiting Jesus.

      I wrote:> By contrast (to the Jewish religion being accepted by the Romans) the religions of India and Pakistan never rubbed off on the British during the era of the British Empire.

      RH:+ And this is evidence to support which particular hypothesis?

      It supports the hypothesis that 'Vishnu save our gracious Queen!" doesn't scan :-))).

      RH:+ Interested as the local populations of these communities may have been ( in Judaism ), what evidence can you cite that non-Jews participated in the life of those Jewish communities pre-70 CE? What about post 70? Moreover, do you assume the existence of a normative (quasi-orthodox) Judaism here, or a sectarian Judaism (such as Jewish Christian groups)?

      Of course direct evidence is scant. But whom were Daniel and Jonah preaching to? Answer: To foreigners interested in Judaism. Clearly some Jews were prepared to proselytise in those days. On the other hand, as you seem to admit, there were plenty of Romans prepared to listen. As to what form of Judaism they were more interested in, the answer I suspect is: the form that didn't require all the special dietary laws and other demanding practices. As for pre- and post- 70 CE, this was not significant. They were interested in religion, not politics.

      me:> Also there were plenty of non-Jewish religious beliefs that were incorported into Mathew to attract the audience. There is plenty of astrology; there is belief in Satan.

      RH:+ Perhaps these elements are present, but there is likewise indisputable evidence that there was Jewish interest in these same things as well (interspersed in talmudic and philosophical texts of late antiquity). The presence of these alone are hardly compelling evidence *against* Mt's Jewish character.

      Well, it is good, if not compelling, evidence of Mathew's non-Jewish appeal.

      RH:+ Against the assertion that GMt was preaching to *everyone* I say simply, No.... To argue otherwise is to embrace the proposition that Mt is imbued with eternallity and universality by virtue of its canonical status.

      I am arguing that Mathew has been successful for so long because it is dramatic and intriguing. And conversely its very success is dramatic and intriguing. You could scrap the entire rest of the NT and Christianity would hardly falter in its gait.

      me:> GOT on the other hand is clearly written for a select group since the sayings in GOT are 'secret'... 'Thomas' uses basically the same material as Mathew ...

      RH:+ Like Mt, GThom was written for a particular community. Within that community it was no less influential than Mt in its community. ... the way that that material is arranged and editorialized in Mt suggests that it was understood much differently in the Matthean community than in the Thomas community... Perhaps it was precisely because Mt was what he (Crossan) calls a "biography gospel" that it was ultimately canonized and therefore utilized a for catechetical and proselytizing (or as you say, "propaganda").

      Agreed, except that the 'Matthean community' may have been no more fixed in time and place than the 'Pauline community'. The biography aspect definitely makes Mathew more appealing.

      me:Perhaps Jesus himself was really only preaching to a niche market. Perhaps GOT captures the religious notions of the original Jesus group.

      RH: + Yes, Jesus went largely unnoticed. His original followers were few in number. ...Whether GThom "captures the religious notions of the original Jesus group" I think is debatable, but from my perspective, it does not (because in its present form it is so heavily Christianized).

      Your last statement is fascinating. Please explain 'Christianised'.

      - Joe Lieb.

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