Friday, September 21, 2007

Matthew: Anti-Pauline Sentiments

This began as a) reading a new article by David Sims in the latest New Testament Studies on Matthew 7 as specifically anti-Pauline. The bloggers at Deinde offered a response to the article, which I had read a couple days before running into the blog. I posted the following comments on the E-Matthew list:

Deinde has a 2 part post on Daniel Sims' latest article. I just read
this over the weekend, but I'm one of those who while perhaps not
going quite as far as Sims think that it is hard to read Matthew as
pro-Pauline or reconcile some of Matthew's statements with Paul. The
post is interesting in that it seeks to disprove Sims central thesis,
that Matthew is writing directly against Paul and not those who have
distorted Paul. IN my view though, the blogger raises some good
issues, but in the end doesn't assail Sims position. For example, one
objection is that Paul like Matthew has the.....

I didn't quite finish it, but continued in another post....
First, this assumes that some points of agreement must mean that
there can not be significant points of disagreement.

Second, most of the passages to which he points, save one, don't seem
to me to address the issue the blogger desires: none of them are the
defense of Torah or statements about its usefulness. So even if
"Matthew" has read Paul's letter to the Romans, which in itself is
doubtful, those passages are not going to warm the cockles of
Matthew's heart. Even the passage in Romans 13 which Deinde (a team
of bloggers, not sure who did that entry), points out is an
agreement between Matthew and Paul (Paul's recitation of the
"commandments" of which the greatest is love of neighbor as self)
does not set these in the context of observing the Torah as Torah--in
fact this proto-"love and do as you please" may in fact be read as
"set aside the Torah IF you "love" for love fulfills the Torah (or
"love is all you need" from the Boys from Liverpool). So rather than
affirm Matthew's view of the Law, the statements in Rom 13:8-10 might
despite their verbal similarity mean opposite things.

Third, even if Paul and Matthew agree on the point of "love your
neighbor as yourself" as the greatest commandment, it might be noted
that so do the Pharisees. Yet, one can hardly claim that such
agreement with the Pharisees means that these Pharisees, Matthew, and
Paul have no sources of rather significant disagreement with one

Fourth and lastly, I think the blogger at Deinde has forgotten or at
least overlooked passages like Acts 21: 20-21 and further 21:28. The
charge against Paul as preaching AGAINST the Torah seems not only a
very real one, but Luke takes some pains to illustrate a) the
Jerusalem churches' full blessing and acceptance of Paul's message to
the Gentiles [note though that he does not here mention James or any
other leader] and b) that he subsequently presents Paul as an
observant Jew well versed in the Torah and "pirke avoth" to borrow a
title. Luke, writing at least Acts after Matthew, is well aware of
the attacks on Paul and the perception of Paul, not Paul's followers
who are at issue here, but Paul himself. Such a testimony I think
underscores the veracity of Sims reading of Matthew 7.

Just to add a few points too: Matthew's Jesus deals with other Jewish groups. In the Sermon on the Mount there are several statements criticizing the practices and positions of Pharisees, Sadduceess, and perhaps even "Essenes", at least positions taken by the Qumran community. And we know from the NT itself that all is not peaceful and unified in the early CHristian movement and that the writers of the NT documents made no bones about criticizing those with whom they disagreed, including the famed disagreement between Peter and Paul recorded in Galatians. Should it then be a surprise if Matthew while criticizing other non-Christian Jewish groups in the gospel should not also be taking to task other Christians who have gone awry from his point of view? Rhetorical question....of course it shouldn't.

No comments: