Matthew: Introductory Notes

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N.B: For main structure and understanding of Matthew see Matthew & Wisdom, Power and Wellbeing.

1.  Mark 1.1-16.8 (including 6.45-8.26, the Markan Greater Interpolation, which Matthew integrates into his lectionary sequence).
    2.  Ur-Mark or 'Proto-Matthew', a gospel used by Mark, Matthew and Luke.  It had fuller materials on the Baptist (picked up in identical sequence by Matthew and Luke), presented Baptist as viewing his successor as coming to  judge ('holy wind and fire' - threshing imagery - and 'winnowing fork', 'threshing floor', 'wheat', 'chaff', 'unquenchable fire', Matt 3.11-12 // Luke 3.16-17), which Mark shifts to Christian baptism ('holy spirit' only, Mark 1.8).  It may have had a fuller temptation narrative, truncated by Mark (1.12-13), and re-arranged either by Matthew (4.1-11 - to the Israel typology of Deut 6-8) or, I think more likely, by Luke (4.1-13 - to an anti-Ezra, anti-priestly, hence anti-Qumran pattern; cp. Luke 3.23-4.13 to Ezra 7.1-10).  It probably included the story of the centurion's servant (Matt 8.5-13 // Luke 7.1-10).  It may have included teaching material, omitted by Mark.  (All this is educated guesswork.)
   3.  The so-called Q logia - all sayings materials, some written, perhaps some oral; possibly circulating in two editions (one to Matthew's community, one to Luke's).  This may be what Papias (c. 60-130 C.E.), bishop of Hierapolis in Asia Minor, was referring to when he wrote, 'Matthew collected the Logia in the Hebrew language [? Aramaic] and everyone translated them as he was able' (cited in Eusebius, H.E. III.39.16).
    4.  Materials peculiar to Matthew, including the infancy narratives (most of which are based, or shaped, on Passover traditions).
    5.  A pre-Matthaean catechetical unit, Matt 5.1-7.29 x 22.15-24.35, which is a chiastic unity and a continuous lectionary sequence.  This appears to be an expansion, using Q and Matthaean material, of a brief nucleus of 'happys'/'luckies'/'fotunates', μακάριοι (mis-named 'beatitudes, which would be εὐλογητόι), and 'woes' as found in Luke 6.20-26.  It is perhaps akin to the 'Two-Ways' document as found in Didache 1-6 (which includes material found in the Sermon on the Mount) and Epistle of Barnabas 18-21, with probably a Jewish writing lying behind both of these.  The 'Way of Life' is the Sermon on the Mount, while the 'Way of Death' would be encompassed by the 'Woes' against the scribes and Pharisees in Matt 23.  (See
Chiastic Structuring in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5.3-7.11) & the Chiasm of Matt 5.1-7.29 against 22.15-24.3.)

Aspects of the situation faced by the evangelist's community:
A.   Weaker Jewish-Christian ethos than Mark's community; i.e. more Gentiles.
    B.    Opponents: leaders of Pharisaic synagogue across the street.
    C.    'Faith', πίστις, shifting to mean credal belief.
    D.    Moving toward conventical outlook (i.e., more inward-looking).
    E.    No longer large numbers of converts coming in, and early enthusiasm waning.

What Matthew does about these aspects:
    1.  Greater stress ('masters', 15.27) than Mark (Mark 7.28: 'children') on priority of Jewish believers to Gentiles in story of Canaanite (Mt) / Syro-Phoenician (Mk) woman.
            2.  Makes explicit (because those not steeped in OT would miss it) what Mark leaves implicit time and again.
                 E.g. Mark 1.6: John's clothes identify him as Elijah (2 Kings 1.8); 9.13: Elijah has come (i.e. John the Baptist.
                 Matt 17.13: explicitly John = Elijah.
            3.  Matthew, like Mark, writes his gospel against the Jewish lectionary, but adds the 'fulfilment quotations ('This was done to fulfil that which was spoken by ... saying   '), thus making explicit links to the Scriptures (like adding a traffic policeman for those who might not observe the traffic lights - as was done at the junction of Mahatma Gandhi Road and St John's Road in Bangalore!).
            4.  Combats any idea of Jesus as a Hellenistic wonder-worker (a misconception that Gentiles might have).
                    a.  For detailed handling of this see H. J. held, 'Matthew as Interpreter of the Miracle Stories', in G. Bornkamm, G. barth & H. J. Held, Tradition and Interpretation in Matthew (1963), pp. 165-299.
                    b.  Thus neither Jesus nor those who would follow Jesus have any δύναμις , 'power', of their own.
                            i.  The δύναμις that goes forth from Jesus to the haemorrhaging woman in Mark 5.30 (further emphasized in Luke 8.46; 5.17) is omitted in Matthew's version (Matt 9.20-22), and she is made well only at the end of the story and on the basis of her faith and a direct 'I-Thou' meeting with Jesus (9.22).
                            ii.  All healings (as in Mark), but more emphatically in Matthew, and unlike Luke) occur only with the faith of the ones healed or of those who bring them.
                            iii.  δύναμις , 'power'', is omitted from Matthew's version of Deut 6.5 (Matt 22.37) about loving God ('Summary of the Law'), for God alone has δύναμις for Matthew.  (The Hebrew has 'heart', 'soul', 'strength/might'; the LXX doubles the translation of lebab, 'heart', using the equivalents of 'heart', καρδία, and 'mind', διάνοια
, cf. Mark 12.29-30; Matthew keeps both of these).  Thus Matthew maintains both Jesus' and the disciples' total dependence upon God.

   B.   1.  The Pharisees and scribes are especially attacked in Matt 23, but see also 3.7; 5.20; 7.29; etc.
            2.  The real issue with them is over the interpretation of Torah, cf. 15.12; 16.5-12, and they are called 'blind guides', 23.16, 17,19, 24, 26, who neglect the 'deep things of Torah', 23.23.
            3.  In effect, the scribes and Pharisees, as leaders of the unbelieving synagogue across the street, are keeping all those good Jews fom coming over to the believing (Christian) synagogue where they belong (Cf. Matt 23.13: 'You shut the Kingdom of Heaven against men and neither enter nor allow others to enter').  This appears to indicate a post-70 CE situation (i.e. after Jewish revolt of 66-70 CE), when Pharisees came to dominate continuing Judaism.

   C.   1.  Shift on 'faith' - see A.4 above.
             2.  Whereas in Mark 'faith' encompasses both obedient trust and understanding, which is found only by going in the way og the cross (hence the 'Markan Messianic Secret': until one goes in the way of the cross, one will not know who Jesus is), in Matthew the credal content, the understanding of who Jesus is, is known to the disciples (cf. confession of 'Son of God' at water-walking, 14.33, plus 'the Christ, the Son of the Living God' at Caesarea Philippi, 16.16, and the disciples' uniform addressing Jesus as 'Lord').  On this see G. Barth, 'Matthew's Understanding of the Law', in Tradition and Interpretation in Matthew, pp. 105-112; for Matthew understanding (i.e. credal content) is the presupposition and prerequisite of 'faith').
            3.  Matthew shifts the meaning of 'faith', πίστις, to obedient trust.  Thus it is disciples who are called ὀλιγόπιστοι , 'little faithful ones' (6.30; 8.26; 14.31; 16.8) who have ὀλιγοπιστία, 'little faith' (17.20) when their obedient trust falters.
            4.  Similarly, it is only disciples who 'doubt', διστάζειν, and that when they see the raised Lord (14.1: Peter at water-walking, a passion-resurrection story; 18.17: some on mountain in Galilee).  I.e., merely seeing the raised
Lord (as opposed to obeying him) does not generate faith.
            5.  Credal belief is insufficient.  Only once does Matthew use πιστεύειν ὅτι, 'to believe that', in 9.28, where two blind men believe that he is powerful (δύνασθαι, the verb from δύναμις, 'power'.  When he 'sternly charges', 9.30 (transferred from Mark's story of the leper, Mark 1.43), to tell no one, they disobey.  I.e., they have the wrong kind of faith, merely credal belief, and even that takes Jesus for a wonder-worker.  This is why Jesus says, 'According to the measure of your faith [κατὰ τὴν πίστιν ὑμῶν γενηθήτω ὑμῖν] be it done to you' (9.29), and only their physical eyes, ὀφθαλμόι, are opened (9.30); contrast 20.34 where the blind men have their spiritual eyes, ὄμματα, touched, they see again, and follow Jesus (i.e. in obedient trust).
            6.  The same problem was faced in the Epistle of James (James, Didache
, Ignatius of Antioch and Matthew all have the same related form  of the Jesus-tradition), but there it is attacked brutally: 'Show me your faith apart from your works [i.e. by creed] and I by my works will show you my faith [i.e. by obedient trust].  You believe that God is one; you do well.  Even the demons believe - and shudder,' Jas 2.18-19.  I.e., mere credal belief is ineffective.  Matthew's answer is the same, but more4 subtly presented.
            (This shift to 'faith' as credal content is a late first century phenomenon as concern for orthodoxy became crucial in the face of an increasingly Gentile membership which tended to bring in such de-stabilizing and distorting elements as Hellenistic dualistic syncretism and gnosis [i.e. knowledge] seeking, plus aspects of the mystery religions, much of which Paul was already trying to combat in 1 Corinthians as early as 51-52 CE.)

   D.   1.  In Mark:  all controversies with Jewish authorities are over the boundaries of the community, trying to keep them open, (1,22); 2.6-11, 16-17, 18-20, 21-22, 24-28; 3.1-6, 22-30, etc.  (Roughly, 'Whom can we keep out, kick out, or make just like ourselves?' and Jesus' answer each time is, 'No one!')
                Mark 9.38-40 (Strange exorcist): John to Jesus: 'He doesn't follow us' [i.e. the Church] 'and we forbade him' (9.38), to which Jesus replies, 'Forbid him not! ... For he that is not against us is for us [i.e. Jesus and the Church] is for us' (9.39-40).
                Matthew omits Mark 9.38-40, for it would compromise his stress on the necessity of following Jesus.
            2.  Matthew limits ἀκολουθεῖν , 'to follow', severely to following Jesus.
            3.  The Great Assize, Matt 25.31-46, is concerned with how those inside and outside the Church treat the μικροί  , 'little ones', and μικροί means the ordinary members of the Church.
                  In Matthew:
                            Jesus = God-with-us (1.23);
                            'disciples', μαθηταί , the 'taught ones', are the teachers of the Church, and stand in the position of Moses (cf. 5.1;
                                     28.20); 'little ones', μικροί , are ordinary Church members;
                            'crowd/crowds', ὄχλος/ὄχλοι , are those who will be called to be the Church, true Israel.  (Cf. 5.1, wh
ere they are at the foot of the mountain, like Israel, when Moses went up Sinai [i.e. disciples in 5.1c]to receive Torah from God [i.e. Jesus seated in teaching position, 5.1b].
            4.  The situation that calls forth this delimiting of the community has been set forth above in the note appended to C. 6.  But note that although Matthew stresses the need to follow Jesus, yet he pastorally combats puritanical trends in the community, see the parable of the wheat and the tares, 13.24-31, the material on the
μικροί in Matt 18, especially vv. 15-35 on forgiveness in the community.  At the same time he combats free-loading, as in the wedding guest who doesn't even don a wedding garment, 22-11.14.  At all times in these stories and elsewhere Matthew stresses that the ultimate judgement lies with God.

    E.    1.  Matthew's version of the interpretation of the parable of the sower has decreasing yields: 100-fold, 60-fold, 30-fold, versus Mark's 30-fold, 60-fold, 100-fold (Matt 13.23, Mark 13.20). - i.e. a note of warning.
            2.  Matthew's imperatives on Jesus' lips are generally in the second person singular - i.e. a challenge to the individual.
            3.  Matthew seeks to put a fire under the tail of his readers/hearers with numerous parables of impending judgement at the end of teaching sections, e.g. the wise and foolish virgins (25.1-13).

         1,  Probably the converted scribe referred to in Matt 13.52 who brings out of the one treasury (i.e. the Scriptures) things old and things new.
            2.  Not Matthew the apostle, or he would not write in such dependence upon Mark.

Date and Provenance:
         1.  Post- 70 CE (See B.3 above).
            2.  Probably ca. 80-85 CE, as late enough for Mark (a) to have circulated widely (if Mark wrote at Rome and Matthew in North Syria, then time needed for this wide distribution of copies), and (b) to have become inadequate for the needs of the Matthaean community), and (c) for the impact of Hellenistic dualistic syncretism to have become potent enough for the 'Jewish' type reaction of Matthew to have become 'necessary' in order to keep the gospel on an even keel.
            3.  A 'quiet North Syrian town' is Krister Stendahl's characterization of Matthew's location.  Matthew omits much of Mark's baptismal materials (Cp. Matt 20.22-23, 'cup' only, to Mark 10.38-39, 'cup' and 'baptism').  Our current form of Matt 28.19: baptize in Triune Name, was probably added at Antioch where they had had a baptismal controversy; Matt 28.19, as given by Eusebius in his pre-Nicene writings is the original: 'Go make disciples out of all nations in my name, teaching them to hold fast to all that I have taught you'; after Nicaea (i.e. post 325 CE), Eusebius then quotes the usual form.  [My guess is the other bishops told him to toe the line, and he, being a compromising semi-Arian, did so.]
            4.  Hence, the characterization in B. 3 above of Matthew's opponents as the 'leaders of the Pharisaic synagogue across the street'.
            5.  A pointer to Syria is the Syrian or near-Syrian provenance of those writings which share a common form of the Jesus-tradition, namely, Matthew, James, Ignatius of Antioch, and Didache.