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New Testament and Mission

Historical and Hermeneutical Perspectives

Johannes Nissen

This book brings together insights from two fields of study: biblical scholarship and missiology. The Great Commission in Matthew’s Gospel is often seen as the biblical foundation for mission. The New Testament, however, reflects a variety of models for mission. Each model is examined with regard to historical meaning as well as hermeneutical significance. The final chapter focuses on three issues of great importance for the present situation: unity and diversity in mission, the gospel in relation to cultures, and Bible and dialogue models.


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2. Mission as disciple-making: The Gospel of Matthew 21


2. Mission as disciple-making: The Gospel of Matthew Introduction Any description ofmission in the Gospel of Matthew must begin with the so-called "Great Commission" in Matt 28:16-20. It is also commonly assumed that this text has offered the most powerful motivation for mission throughout the centuries. However, it has been demonstrated that it was not used as basis for mission until the end of the 17th century.1 But the fact that Matt 28:16-20 is considered to be the most important mission text has to some extent complicated the understanding of it.2 The text is often taken out of its context and read as an autonomous decree which speaks directly to our own situation. Where this occurs, the Great Commission is easily degraded to a mere slogan, or used as a pretext for what we have in advance decided, perhaps unconsciously, it should mean. Such a reading of the text is based an questionable exegesis because it ignores the results of the critical study of the Gospels, which have shown convincingly that Matt 28:16-20, as it now stands, is a composition of the evangelist. In fact, the text is a summary of — and a key to understanding — the entire Gospel.' 1. A Re-reading of the "Great Commission" 1. The term "mission command" The use of the text in modern time has obscured the original meaning in two direc- tions. The first relates to the use of the definite article in the "Great Commission", a misleading term, since there...

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