Saturday, 9 April 2011


Written by a Jewish Christian for a Jewish audience, hence its frequent citation of Hebrew scripture and emphasis on Jesus as the fulfiller of the law. Matthew uses the phrase ‘the kingdom of heaven’, rather than ‘the kingdom of God’, which was taboo for Jews.
At the same time, Matthew has some virulent anti-Jewish rhetoric – see, 21:43, where Matthew adds to the Markan parable of the wicked husbandman (see Mark 12:1-12) a comment that God’s kingdom will be taken away from Israel; and the ‘woes’ to the scribes and the Pharisees in chapter 23. Frustration with Jewish/Christian split? A warning to Jewish groups? Is Matthew stressing that the hostility of Jews is all the more tragic given the continuities of Judaism and Christianity?
An important contextual factor might be the hypothetical Council of Jamnia (AD 90 – first proposed by Heinrich Graetz in 1871), where Jews regrouped after the destruction of the temple in AD 70. At this council, the Pharisees became the controlling groups (explaining Matthew’s virulently anti-Pharisee ‘woes’?). The canon of the Hebrew Bible was finalised, and a curse against Christians was added to the Jewish liturgy, making the split between church and synagogue complete.
The Gospels of Matthew and Luke were written independently, each using Mark and a second document called Q (German ‘Quelle’, meaning ‘source’). Q is defined as the material common to Matthew and Luke but not found in Mark, eg the temptation, the Beatitudes, the Lord's Prayer and many individual sayings. The notion that Mark was written first is called ‘Markan priority’ (see notes on Mark).
In addition to Mark and Q, there is also material which is unique to Matthew. This consists of sayings of Jesus, a number of parables, the tradition behind 1 and 2 Matthew, and the ‘fulfilment’ citations of the OT. This material has been called ‘M’, although it is so diverse that it is probably not from a single source.
The two-gospel hypothesis
·         Also know as the Griesbach hypothesis, after Johann Jakob Griesbach, an 18th century German biblical textual critic.
·         The hypothesis was given its modern form by William Farmer in 1964.
·         The most serious rival to the two-source hypothesis.
·         The theory: Matthew was written first to smooth relations between Jews and Christians in Jerusalem. Later, when Christianity had spread, Paul commissioned Luke, his associate, to write a gospel that de-emphasised Mosaic law and Jewish history. Paul asked Peter, who was a first-hand witness of Jesus’ ministry, to testify that Luke’s account was accurate. He made a series of speeches to senior Roman army officers, which were transcribed by Mark, and eventually became Mark’s gospel. (Eusebius claims that Mark wrote down Paul’s testimony.) Peter would have known Matthew better than the (as yet unpublished) Luke, and this explains why there are more details found in Mark and Matthew but not Luke than there are details found in Mark and Luke but not Matthew. Peter was giving his own testimony, which explains why Mark starts abruptly with Jesus’ public ministry.
·         Griesbach's main support for his thesis lies in passages where Matthew and Luke agree over and against Mark (eg Matthew 26:68; Luke 22:64; Mark 14:65). These are called the Minor Agreements.

Matthew has five distinct discourses:
·         the Sermon on the Mount (chapters 5-7)
·         the mission instructions to the twelve (chapter 10)
·         Parables (chapter 13)
·         instructions for the ecclesiastical community (chapter 18)
·         the Olivet discourse: the seven woes on scribes and Pharisees, and the second coming (parousia) (chapters 23-25)

Some believe this was to reflect the five books of the Pentateuch.

Matthew uses the word ‘righteous’ seven times. Mark doesn’t use it at all, and Luke only once. Whereas Paul understands righteousness to refer to the gift of grace which allows man to stand in right relation to God, Matthew sees it in terms of the ethical behaviour that God demands of his disciples. (Both, however, relate forgiveness of sins to the death of Jesus.) Matthew = strong ethical emphasis.

Matthew has far more of a concern with discipleship than the other gospels. Whereas Mark writes a historical record, Matthew is addressing Christian followers in his own day. Matthew is the only gospel to use the word ‘church’. Take the parable of the lost sheep – in Luke (5:3-7) it functions as an explanation as to why Jesus associates with tax-collectors and sinner, while in Matthew (18:12-14) it addresses the issue of what to do with an errant member of the church community.


Ancestors of Jesus Christ listed – it is a royal line of succession, the line of David through Joseph, rather than a human genealogy through Mary, as in Luke. (OT history is divided into three lots of 14 generations – Abraham to David, David to Jeconiah at the Babylonian captivity, Jechoniah to Jesus. Jesus marks the beginning of the seventh seven, with seven being the number of perfection?) Mary is made pregnant by Holy Spirit. An angel appears to Joseph, telling him not to divorce her, and that she will bring forth a son who will save His people from their sins. Isaiah 7:14 referenced – a virgin shall conceive a son. Joseph marries Mary; Jesus is born.


Wise men come seeking the King of the Jews. Herod is troubled by this. The scribes cite Micah 5:2, which says that a ruler to shepherd Israel will be born in Bethlehem. The wise men worship Jesus, giving him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, but are divinely warned not to return to Herod and tell him where Jesus is. An angel tells Joseph to flee to Egypt. The massacre of the innocents – as foretold by Jeremiah. An angel also tells when he return – there is a further warning in a dream not to settle in Bethlehem, where Herod’s son Archelaus is governor, so they move to Nazareth instead.


John the Baptist preaches message of repentance in Judea and baptises in Jordan. John foretold by Isaiah – the voice of one crying in the wilderness. John confronts the Pharisees and Saducees, enjoining them to repent and prophesying one who will baptise not with water, but with the Holy Spirit and with fire. John baptises Jesus. The Spirit descends, and a voice from heaven says, ‘This is my son, in whom I am well pleased.’


Jesus fasts and is tempted in the wilderness. The temptations are to turn stones to bread (but you shall not live by bread alone), throw himself off the temple (but you shall not tempt you God), and to worship Satan in return for all the kingdoms that Jesus is shown from the top of a mountain (but you shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve). The temptations = possible ways of fulfilling the ministry – relieving the hungry and poor, performing miracles, assuming the role of a political leader? In fulfillment of Isaiah, Jesus brings light to the region of Galilee. Jesus preaches repentance, and calls Peter, Andrew, James and John as fishers of men. Jesus preaches and heals in Galilee.


Jesus ascends a mountain, and teaches the Sermon on the Mount. The Beatitudes (deliberately recalling the oppressed groups mentioned in Isaiah 61). Jesus’ followers are the salt of the earth, that is, precious – unless the salt loses its flavour. Light should not be hidden under a bushel. Jesus comes to fulfil the law, not to destroy it. The antitheses: ‘You have heard it said…but I say to you…’ Whoever is angry with his brother, or calls him ‘raca’ (idiot) or ‘fool’ is in danger of hell fire. We must be reconciled to our brother before we bring gifts to the altar. Agree with your adversary quickly. Whoever look at a woman lustfully has committed adultery with her in his heart. Better to pluck out an eye, or cut off a hand, than have it cause you to sin. Sexual immorality is the only grounds for divorce. Marriage to a divorced woman is adulterous. Do not swear at all, but let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’and your ‘no’, ‘no’. Turn the other cheek. If someone makes you walk a mile, go two with them (go the extra mile). Love your enemies and bless those who curse you. Be perfect, as your father in heaven is perfect.


Jesus warns against doing good to be seen by others. Do charity in secret – do not let your left hand know what your right is doing. Do not pray publically. Lord’s prayer. You will be forgiven if you forgive. Do not fast conspicuously. Do not lay up treasure on earth, but in heaven. You cannot serve God and Mammon. God will provide, as He does for the birds of the air or the lilies of the field. Seek first God’s kingdom, and do not worry about tomorrow.


Judge not, lest ye be judged. Remove the plank from your own eye before you remove the speck from your brother’s. Do not give what is holy to the dogs, nor cast your pearls before swine. Seek and ye shall find. Whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them. The narrow gate is the one that leads to life. Beware of false prophets, who come in sheep’s clothing. Whoever acts on Jesus’ words is like a wise man who built his house upon the rock, not a foolish man who built his house upon the sand. The people are astonished by Jesus’ teaching.

Interpretations of the Sermon on the Mount:


Jesus heals leper, who says that he can be healed if Jesus wills it. Jesus heals him, and tells him to make the offering as prescribed in Leviticus 14. Jesus heals centurion’s servant, demonstrating great faith by saying that Jesus does not have to visit his house. A sign that gentiles will inherit the kingdom of heaven, while some ‘sons of the kingdom’ (ie Jews) would be cast out, where there is wailing and gnashing of teeth. Jesus heals Peter’s mother-in-law. Jesus heals many from sickness and demonic possession, in accordance with Isaiah. Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head. To a man who wishes to bury his father before following Jesus, Jesus replies, ‘Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead.’ Jesus rebukes and calms the wind and the waves during a storm on the sea of Galilee. The demons in two possessed men ask Jesus permission to enter a herd of swine; the swine then run into the sea, and perish.


Jesus heals palsy, rebuking the scribes who object to him forgiving sins. Matthew the tax collector is called. Jesus eats with tax collectors and sinners: ‘I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.’ The disciples of John ask why Jesus’ disciples do not fast. Jesus replies, ‘Can the friends of the bridegroom mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them?’ Noone puts new wine into old wineskins. A woman of faith is healed by touching Jesus’ garment. Jesus raises a girl from the dead, despite some initial mockery. Jesus heals two blind men – it is their faith that really enables the miracle. A mute man is healed. The Pharisees think his power is demonic. Jesus teaches and heals, harvesting his people, though the labourers are few.


Jesus empowers his disciples to heal and cast out unclean spirits. They are to minister to the lost sheep of Israel. Message = the kingdom of heaven is at hand. If you are made welcome in a house or city, let your peace come upon it; if you are not, shake the dust from your feet. Persecution will ensue. When Jesus’ disciples are brought before rulers, God will defend and speak through them. Even in the midst of persecution, however, Jesus’ disciples should not fear, but be bold in their proclamation of the gospel. ‘He who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it…He who receives you, receives Me.’


John the Baptist’s disciples ask a question on behalf of John to Jesus: are you really the Messiah? Jesus replies that the lame are healed, the blind can see etc. (A redefinition of the Messiah’s role – a healer and preacher rather than a political insurgent?) Jesus says that John is the messenger prophesied in Isaiah 40. Jesus says that from the age of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. Jesus says that if his hearers are prepared to accept it, John is the Elijah who has come. Jesus rebukes those who find something to criticise in both Jesus’ and John’s ministry. Jesus rebukes the cities of Chorazin and Bethsaida, because they do not respond with repentance to his ministry. The Father is only known to those whom the Son chooses to reveal Him to. ‘Come to me, all you who labour and are heavy-laden…my yoke is easy and my burden is light.’


The Pharisees condemn the disciples of Jesus for plucking and eating grain on the Sabbath. Jesus’ response: David ate the showbread when he was hungry (1 Samuel 21), and priests work hard on the Sabbath, and yet are blameless. Jesus heals a man with a withered hand, and says that it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath. The Pharisees plot how they might kill Jesus. Matthew emphasises the gentle character of Jesus, citing Isaiah 42. Jesus heals a man possessed by demons; some think he is the son of David (ie the Messiah), others that he works through Beelzebub. Jesus replies that if he casts out Satan by Satan, then Satan’s kingdom is divided. ‘He is not with me is against me.’ Offences against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but not offences against the Holy Spirit. Our words are like the fruit of a tree, and may be either good or bad. Jesus will be in the heart of the earth for three days – a comparison with Jonah is drawn. Nineveh and the queen of the South (the queen of Sheba) responding well to lesser people (Jonah and Solomon); the fact that religious leaders respond poorly to one who is greater than either is indefensible. The current wicked generation is conmpared to a man who is rid of an evil spirit, then repossessed by that spirit and seven others. Jesus’ true family is whoever does the will of his Father.
Jesus uses parables to hide the truth from those who would not listen to the Holy Spirit (Isaiah cited). The people are Nazareth are amazed by Jesus’ teaching, given his humble origins – a prophet is not without honor except in his own country and in his own house.


Herod fears that Jesus is John the Baptist raised from the dead. John had attacked Herod for marrying Herodias, his brother’s wife, so Herod threw John into prison. Herodias’ daughter dances for Herod, and asks for John’s head on a plate. The feeding of the five thousand with five loaves and two fishes. The disciples board a boat, Jesus goes up a mountain to pray. A storm brews; Jesus walks on water and appears to the disciples. Peter comes to walk on the water, but his faith fails him and he starts to sink. Jesus catches him and mildly rebukes him for his little faith. Multitudes are healed by touching the hem of Jesus’ garment.


Scribes and Pharisees ask Jesus why his disciples do not wash their hands before they eat bread. Jesus replies that they break a commandment, failing to provide for their parents by claiming that their goods are a gift to God. A man is defiled not by what goes in his mouth, but by what comes out of it. The Pharisees are the blind leading the blind. A gentile woman asks Jesus to heal her demon-possessed daughter; Jesus replies that the focus of His mission is the lost sheep of Israel, but the woman persists, saying that the children’s bread may be thrown to little dogs. Jesus rewards her faith. Healing of multiudes in Galilee. The feeding of the four thousand with seven loaves and a few fish.


The Sadducees and the Pharisees seek a sign from Jesus. The Pharisees and Saducees are described as leaven – the disciples are slow to understand the metaphor. Peter declares that he thinks Jesus is the Christ, the son of the living God. Peter is the rock upon whom Jesus will build his church. ‘I 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.’ Jesus reveals to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem, suffer, die and rise again on the third day. Peter rebukes Jesus and says this shall not happen to Him. Jesus reply is ‘Get behind me, Satan!’ Those who desire to follow Jesus must take up their cross. Whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Jesus’ sake will find it. Some present will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.


Jesus leads Peter, James and John up a mountain, and is transfigured: his face shines, his clothes become as white as the light. Moses (=law) and Elijah (=prophets) appear, and talk to Jesus. Peter, out of his mind, suggests they make three tabernacles. A voice from the heavens declares, ‘This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’ The disciples fall on the floor, full of holy fear, but when they look up, only Jesus is there. Jesus tells his disciples not to reveal their vision until after the Resurrection. Ratifying Malachi 4:5, Jesus says that Elijah will come again and restore all things. The first time Elijah came, however, he was not honoured; similarly, the Son of Man must suffer at others’ hands. Jesus heals a possessed boy whom the disciples could not heal because of their lack of faith. If one has a mustard seed of faith, one can ove mountains. Jesus again prophsies his death and Resurrection. Jesus explains that He is not liable to pay the temple tax, because kings demand taxes of strangers, not of their sons. Jesus pays the tax anyway, by miraculous provision of a coin that Peter finds in a fish’s mouth.


The disciples ask who is the greatest in heaven. Jesus tells them that unless they become as little children, they will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven. It would be better for someone to have a millstone tied around his neck and drowned in the sea that cause a child who believe in Jesus to sin. If your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out, etc. Do not despise children, because their angels in heaven (guardian angels?) see the face of Jesus’ Father. One lost sheep found is more rejoiced over than ninety nine which are never lost. If one among the church is adamantly unrepentant, they are to be removed from fellowship. ‘Where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.’ A man must forgive his brother seventy times seven times. Parable: a king forgives a servant a debt of 10,000 talents when the servant begs for more time to find the money. However, the servant does not forgive others who owe him far smaller amounts. The king is angry when he hears this, and delivers over the servant for punishment.


Jesus heads towards Judea and Jerusalem. The Pharisees ask Jesus if it is lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason. Jesus replies, what God has joined, let not man separate. Jesus repeats what he said about divorce in the sermon on the mount. Celibacy is fine for those who can accept it. Jesus blesses the little children, despite the disciples’ attempt to rebuke them. Rich man who follows the commandments must sell all he has and follow Jesus if he wishes to have eternal life. He leaves sad, for he has great wealth. It is easier for a camel to enter through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of Heaven. When the Son of Man sits in glory, the disciples will sit on twelve thrones, judging the tribes of Israel. Many who are first will be last, and the last first.


Parable: vineyard owner pays workers a denarius for a day’s work. Other workers are employed at different times of the day. All receive the same amount, despite the protestations of those who have worked all day. Many are called, but few are chosen. Jesus again predicts his death and Resurrection. The mother of James and John asks Jesus for her sons to sit either side of Him in His kingdom. Jesus says that the place is not His to give. True greatness lies in service. Jesus heals two blind men, who call to Him as the son of David.


In Jerusalem, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus instructs a disciple to fetch a tied donkey and colt. Jesus is received as the son of David. The crowds says the words of what we now called the Benedictus. Jesus drives out the sellers in the market, who make the house of prayer into a den of thieves. The children praise Jesus too – Scripture is cited: ‘out of the mouths of babes you have perfected praise.’ The hungry Jesus curses a fig tree that has only leaves on it. The fig tree withers. His disciples ask him how he did this, and he replies that with faith, one can cast a mountain into the sea. Jesus is asked by the elders on whose authority he acts. He says he will answer them if they tell him whether John’s baptism was from heaven or earth. The elders reason: if they answer ‘from heaven’, Jesus will say, ‘Why did you not then believe him?’; they do not dare answer ‘from earth’, however, because they will incense the multitude who hold John to be a prophet. They reply they do not know, and so Jesus refuses to tell them by whose authority he acts. Parable of the two sons, both instructed to work in their father’s vineyard: one (equated with harlots and tax-collectors) intially refuses, but then goes; the other (presumably equated with the elders) do not go at all. Parable of the wicked servants: a landowner leases out his vineyard. He sends his servants to receive its fruit, but they are killed or abused, so he sends his son. The tenants kill the son so they may have his inheritance; the landowner will come and destroy these wicked men. Jesus quotes psalm 118: the stone rejected has become the cornerstone.


Parable: a king invited people to a wedding feast, but they do not come, but instead kill and abuse the servants who communicate the invitation. The king avenges himself, then makes a broader invitation to all, good and bad. A guest without a wedding garment is bound hand and foot and thrown into the outer darkness, where there is wailing and gnashing of teeth – for many are called, but few are chosen. The Pharisees ask Jesus whether it is lawful to pay taxes to Caesar. Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s. The Saducees (who deny the Resurrection) ask whose wife a woman who has married seven brothers who have each died in turn shall be at the Resurrection. Jesus replies that in the resurrection people do not marry, but are like angels of God in heaven. God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. A Pharisee lawyer asks Jesus which is the greatest commandment. Jesus quotes the shema, and summarises the rest of the law and the prophets by saying. ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’. The Messiah is not only David’s son, but his Lord (quoting Psalm 110).

The scribes and Pharisees bind heavy burdens and place them on other men’s shoulders. They desire to be seen, and called ‘Rabbi’ and ‘teacher’ – but whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and vice versa. Woe to hypocritical Pharisees and scribes, who shut up the kingdom of heaven for men, oppress the needy, value the gold of the temple and the gifts of the altar above the temple and altar themselves, neglect mercy, justice and faith, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel. The Pharisees and scribes are like whitewashed tombs. They honour dead prohets, but murder living ones. Jesus weeps for Jerusalem, and its unwillingness.

Jesus predicts the destruction of the temple, and warns his disciples to beware of false Christs, as well as wars, pestilences, persecutions and false prophets that shall come to pass before the second coming. When they see the ‘abomination of desolation’ in the temple (alluding to Daniel), they must flee to the mountains. There will be great tribulation – a reference to the destrction of Jerusalem by Rome in AD 70, or something more escatological? Afterwards, the Son of Man will return with honour and glory from heaven. This generation will not pass away till all things take place: heaven and earth shall pass away, but Jesus’ words will not. Jesus says that His coming will be when the world is as it was in the days of Noah – full of debauchery and sin. The second coming will be unexpected, and we must therefore live in a state of constant anticipation.

The kingdom of heaven is like ten virgins (bridesmaids), who conduct the groom into the house with lamps. The groom is delayed, and five foolish virgins do not take oil with them, and the groom actually arrives when they are off buying some. The doors are shut up against them, and they are denied entry. Parable: a man going into a far land gives various amounts of money to servants to marry. Those who trade and invest them are able to return double the amount they first received; but the servant who was given one talent buries it in the ground, and can offer up no interest. He is intrsucted to give his talent to the man who has ten – for to he who has, more will be given, but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away. When the Son of Man comes in glory, nations will be separated like sheep and goats, and judged. Those who feed and clothed the poor and sick will be at his right hand; those who did not are reviled. What people did or did not do to the least of their brethren, they did to Jesus.

Jesus reminds his disciples of his forthcoming suffering and crucifixion. Plotters against Jesus meet at the house of the high priest, Caiaphas, but decide not to act during Passover. A woman anoints Jesus with expensive oil – when the disciples gripes, Jesus replies, ‘the poor you have with you always, but Me you do not have always.’ Judas Iscariot agrees to betray Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. At the Passover meal, Jesus says that one of his disciplies will betray him. Lord’s Supper – bread = body, wine = blood of the new covenant. Jesus prophesies that Peter will betray him tree times. At Gethsemane, Jesus prays for the cup to pass from him. Jesus upbraids his disciples for sleeping – the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. Judas identifies Jesus with a kiss. Jesus is brought to Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin. A false witness says that Jesus claimed to be able to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days. Jesus keeps silent, then tells Caiaphas that he is indeed the Christ, and that Caiaphas will see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of the Father, and coming in glory. Caiaphas tears his clothes. Jesus is beaten and mocked: ‘Prophesy to us, Christ! Who is the one who struck you?’ Peter denies Jesus three times, then the cock crows.

The Sanhedrin deliver Jesus to Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor. Judas seeks to return the thirty pieces of silver to the treasury, but it is refused, because it is the price of blood, so the elders buy a potter’s field with it (in fulfilment of Zechariah, although Matthew wrongly cites Jeremiah.) Judas hangs himself. Before Pilate, Jesus is silent. A prisoner will be released at Passover – the two possibilities are Jesus amd Barabbas, a notorious murderer. Pilate’s wife has had disturbing dreams on account of Jesus. The crowds insist that Barabbas be released, and Jesus crucified. Pilate washes his hands. Jesus is scourged. Soldiers put a scarlet robe and a crown of thorns on Jesus, mocking him by saying, ‘Hail, king of the Jews!’ Simon from Cyrene is compelled to carry Jesus’ cross. Given is given sour wine and gall to drink (numbing mind and body), but refuses it. Jesus is crucified. The soldiers cast lots for his garments. Jesus is mocked on the cross by the scribes and elders. Those crucified with Jesus revile him. From the sixth to the ninth, there was darkness across the land. Jesus says, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ Some think he calls for Elijah (not ‘Eli’, God, as Jesus actually said). The veil in the temple (separating the holy from the most holy place) is torn. Dead saints are raised from the dead and appear to many. A centurion present says, ‘Truly, this was the Son of God.’ Joseph of Armithea sets Jesus in his own tomb. The tomb is sealed, so the disciples cannot steal his body and claim he has risen from the dead.

Mary Magdalene and Mary of Bethany (the Mary of Martha and Mary) come to see the tomb. There is an earthquake; an angel rolls away the stone, and sits on top of it, with a countenance like lightning and clothes as white as snow. The angel tells the women that Christ has risen, and instructs them to tell the disciples. The risen Jesus Himself appears to them, and tells them to tell the disciples. The chief priests try to cover up the resurrection, maintaining that Jesus’ body was stolen. Jesus appears to the disciples at Galilee. The Great Commission: Jesus tells his disciples to make disciples of all nations – ‘I am with you, even to the end of the age.’ (The idea of Jesus being ‘with us’ picks up on the meaning of ‘Immanuel’ mentioned in 1:23.)

13          Parables:

·         Seeds – some falling on good ground, others not
·         An enemy planted tares (weeds) in a field of wheat. The owner of the field orders the tares to be gathered in bundles and burnt. Jesus explains the meaning – wailing and gnashing of teeth of those who are cast out.
·         Kingdom of Heaven like a mustard seed – the least of all seeds, but which grows to be a tree, greater than herbs
·         Kingdom of Heaven like leaven, hidden in meal until all is leavened
·         Kingdom of Heaven like treasure hidden in a field, spurring a man to sell all he has to buy the field
·         Kingdom of Heaven like a beautiful pearl, which a merchant sells everything so he can buy
·         Kingdom of Heaven like a net cast in the sea – the good and the bad are then separated
·         Kingdom of Heaven like a householder who brings both new and old things out of his treasure

·         Absolutist view – all precepts to be taken literally and applied universally (Francis of Assisi, Leo Tolstoy)

·         Modification viewall views other than absolutist view are some version of the modification view

·         Hyperbole view – precepts need to be ‘toned down’ if they are to apply to the real world

·         Double standard view – a distinction is made between the sermon’s general precepts (necessary for salvation) and evangelical counsels or counsels of perfection (chastity, poverty and obedience, only for those who wish to become perfect.) (Formulated by Augustine and Aquinas, and the official position of the Roman Catholic Church)

·         Two realms view – the sermon applies only to our spiritual life, not to secular life. A judge cannot reasonably forgive everyone; a soldier cannot turn the other cheek etc (Luther).

·         Repentance view - the Sermon makes absolute demands which are impossible for sinners to carry out; what it actually points to is the need for repentance (Lutheran; Gerhard Kittel).

·         Attitudes not acts – the sermon designates attitudes rather than prescribing behaviour (Wilhelm Hermann)

·         Interim Ethics view – the ethics of the Sermon pertain to the brief period of time before the kingdom of God would be established by God. Since the kingdom did not come, the Sermon now has no validity (Johannes Weiss, Albert Schweizter)

·         The Unconditional Divine Will View the commands of Jesus were given in absolute form, but those who follow after must make their own adjustments in the light of the earthly limitations and necessities. Eschatological belief that this will change when the Kingdom of Heaven is proclaimed and all will be able to live in a godly manner (Dibelius, Dostoyevsky’s Brothers Karamazov).

·         Dispensationalist – in the present, it is impossible to live up to the sermon, but in the future, when the kingdom of heaven is established on earth, it will not be.

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