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Structure of Matthew

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The allusions to Exodus early in Matthew fit into a larger theological and literary thrust of the first gospel. Commentators have often noted that the gospel is organized around five large discourses, some of which are virtually monologues: The sermon on the Mount (chs. 5-7); Jesus・mission instructions to His disciples (ch. 11); Jesus・parables of the kingdom (ch. 13); Jesus・instructions about the corporate life of the disciples (ch. 18); and Jesus・prophecies about the doom of Israel (chs. 23-25).

Various schemes have been offered to explain how these fit into the overall story of Matthew. My own suggestion is that each of the large discourses, together with its surrounding narrative, corresponds to one of the periods of Israel痴 history. Matthew痴 gospel begins with 鍍he book of the genealogy,・reminiscent of the toledoth statements of Genesis. The chapters leading up to the Sermon on the Mount recapitulate the Exodus, with the Sermon itself filling the slot of the revelation of Torah. When He comes down from the Mountain, Jesus embarks on a ministry of healing and exorcism, a spiritual 田onquest・of the land led by a greater Joshua. The Twelve are made participants in this conquest in chapter 10. Rising opposition from the Jewish leaders leads Jesus to begin speaking in parables, employing the genres of wisdom literature. So, in chapter 13, Jesus speaks in conundrums and riddles, as Solomon did, and his talk is all about the kingdom. As Jesus・ministry continues, He withdraws from Israel to be with His disciples, the core of a new Israel, and gives them instructions about how they are to conduct themselves within this 電ivided Israel.・ Finally, the rhetoric of Jesus・denunciation of the scribes and Pharisees, and His prophecies of doom on the temple, is drawn extensively from the pre-exilic prophets, especially Jeremiah and Ezekiel. In His suffering and death, Jesus experiences exile from His Father, and His resurrection is the return from exile. In short, Jesus・life, as Irenaeus saw, recapitulates the history of Israel, as Jesus relives the story and does it right this time around.

posted by Peter J. Leithart on Wednesday, April 06, 2005 at 12:25 PM

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