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Matthew's Tendencies (3)

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Material in red = Mark .. in blue =   Q   .. in green = Special Matthew .. in fuchsia = Special Luke

 

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Contents

Matthew’s Tendencies (1) .. §  Jewishness .. Torah as Obligatory .. Fulfillment of Scripture .. “Kingdom of Heaven” .. Exclusivism .. § Universalism .. § Anti-Pharisaism
Matthew’s Tendencies (2) .. § Heightening of End-of-Time Expectation .. § Heightening of the Miraculous       
     
Matthew's Tendencies (3) .. § Theological Tendency: Toward a Higher Christology .. § Toward the Idealization of the Apostles
Matthew’s Tendencies (4) .. § Popular Anecdotal Material .. § Concluding Observations

     

   

   

 §  Theological Tendency: Toward a Higher Christology

 It is not surprising that a Christian author, writing between A.D. 80 and 90, should reflect elements of the church’s Christology in his gospel account. Once again, this is evident in Matthew’s treatment of Mark.

     1. Son of the Living God  
Not only does Simon (Peter) acknowledge Jesus as Messiah, as in Mark, but adds the phrase, “the Son of the living God”. In effect, Peter in the pre-Easter period is acknowledging the theology of the church a half century later. (Of course, it would be difficult to prove that Mark himself is free from later beliefs.)
      

Matthew 16:15-16

Mark 8:29

Luke 9:20

15[Jesus] said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah [or, the Christ], the Son of the living God.” 29[Jesus] asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Messiah [or, the Christ].”
     
20He said to them, “But 
who do you say that I  am?” Peter answered, “The Messiah [or the Christ] 

of God.”
    

A similar heightening of the Christology is evident in a previous chapter (Matthew 14:33), in connection with his walking on the water and calming the sea. Jesus is represented as receiving the worship of the disciples, who say, “Truly you are the Son of God.” This text is without parallel in Mark or Luke, and has the effect of making Peter’s confession in chapter 16 somewhat anticlimactic.

     2. The Sinlessness of Jesus, Preserved 
As already noted, Matthew (in 3:15) at least tries to solve the problem of why Jesus would submit to baptism by John if he was sinless, by having Jesus declare that this was the way to fulfill righteousness—and leaving us to wonder how this would be so. In another passage, The author also takes another precautionary measure, in his subtle re-working of Jesus’ conversation with the rich man (called a ruler in Luke, and young in Matthew): Matthew 19:16-30 || Mark 10:17-31 || Luke 18:18-30. As will be seen below, Matthew rewords both the man’s question and Jesus’ answer, so as to remove any doubt that Jesus was good.

Matthew 19:16-17

Mark 10:17-19

Luke 18:18-20

     
16Then someone came to him and said, “Teacher, what good
deed must I do to have eternal life?”
17As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”      
18A certain
ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
17And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.”
     
18Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. 19You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder . . . .’” 
     
19Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. 20You know the commandments: ‘You shall not commit adultery . . . .’”

In Mark and Luke, Jesus seems to exclude himself from ranking as good, whereas in Matthew it is a discussion about what the good is. By stating that there is only one who is good, Matthew at least leaves open the possibility that Jesus is the good one.

     3. Jesus Not Limited in Power 
Lest his readers should suppose that there was some defect in Jesus’ power, Matthew introduces a slight change in Mark’s report of the less than successful visit to his home town of Nazareth. 
     

Matthew 13:57-58

Mark 6:4-6

[Luke]

57. . . But Jesus said to them, “Prophets are not without honor except in their own country [= hometown] and in their own house.”  4Then Jesus said to them, 
“Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.” 
Cp. 4:16-30
58And he did not do many deeds of power there, because of their unbelief.

     
     

5And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. 6And he was amazed at their unbelief.     

Perhaps it is this conviction that the power of Jesus is not limited which lies behind the quasi-legendary material in Matthew 26:52-54.....
   

   

  §   Toward the Idealization of the Apostles

It is hardly surprising, in the period A.D. 80-90 when (probably) none of the apostles still survived, that their portraits should be touched up here and there by the author of Matthew.

    1. James and John
The reputations of James and John are partially salvaged in that their ill-considered request in Mark for positions of privilege in Jesus’ kingdom comes out in Matthew as a request made on their behalf by their mother!
     

Matthew 20:20

Mark 10:35

[Luke]

Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to [Jesus] with her sons, and kneeling before him, she asked a favor of him.      
     
James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.”     
     
 

 

    2. Peter  
Peter figures prominently in two enhancements of the esteem in which people would hold him: 
bullet

He walks on water (at least for a brief time), as does Jesus (Matthew 14:28-31), in an expansion of the narrative in Mark 6:45-52; and 

bullet

Later in Matthew, Peter is the one who announces Jesus’ messiahship and his divine sonship (see above); then Peter is singled out for further distinction: a blessing is pronounced upon him; he is named Peter, the rock; the announcement is made that the church is founded upon him (or upon his confession, as some have argued); and the keys of the kingdom are bestowed upon him (Matthew 16:16-19). 

 

Matthew 16:15-16

Mark 8:29

Luke 9:20

15[Jesus] said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah [or, the Christ], the Son of the living God.”  29[Jesus] asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Messiah [or, the Christ].”
        
20He said to them, “But 
who do you say that I  am?” Peter  answered, “The Messiah [or the Christ] 
of God.”
          
17And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. 18And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church (ekklêsia), and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. 19I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
    

In all fairness to Matthew, he does carry over from Mark the rebuke addressed to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan!” But otherwise, the transition into the post-apostolic age (sometimes referred to as the period of the apostolic fathers) is well under way. In Matthew’s gospel, Peter is a commanding figure, likely in the interests of holding the line for observant Christian Jews in pluralistic centers like Antioch. Ironically, this prominence of Peter in the Jewish gospel of Matthew seems to have contributed to a Petrine primacy for what became eventually an exclusively gentile church, centered in Rome.

     3. Institutionalization
Thus we see in these enhancements an important stage in the institutionalization of the Christian community: apostolic authority (for better or for worse) is being defined, and, as the following citation from Matthew implies, church discipline is being formulated, with the beginnings of what we might call canon law.

 

Matthew 18:15-18

[Mark]

Luke 17:3

15If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.  Take heed to yourselves; if your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. [RSV]
     
16But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church (ekklêsia); and if he refuses to listen even to the church (ekklêsia), let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. [RSV]
     

Thus Matthew seems to have a special interest in the church. Of the synoptic gospels, only Matthew uses the word church (ekklêsia). It is not entirely anachronistic for him to do so, but it does suggest a concern for ecclesiastical discipline and authority that is different from an earlier, more charismatic period.
     

Revised February 15, 2003

     

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