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Mainstream or Marginal?

The Matthean Community in Early Christianity


Friedbert Ninow

This book constructs a profile of the Matthean Community by using insights from sociology and studies of oral and chirographic cultures, together with a careful investigation of the material unique to the Gospel of Matthew. A picture emerges of a self-regulating, independent community with the kind of strong self-definition and tension with its surrounding society characteristic of a sect. It had a high regard for law and practiced Sabbath-observance, as well as observing the distinction between clean and unclean foods. The community viewed its members as saved sinners who should conduct themselves in a manner appropriate to those who await the soon return of their Lord. Somewhat provocatively, this book argues that the Matthean Community was likely to be mainstream in early Christianity, not marginal.


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Chapter 1. Introduction


Chapter1.Introduction Once regarded merely as something to be mentioned in passing, or treated with a short discussion in the introduction of a commentary, for at least the last thirty-five years the Matthean Community has been a topic of investigation in its own right. This is to be welcomed, as the results of such investigation can throw important illumination not only on the how the Gospel might best be read, but also on an important and interesting moment in the development of early Christianity. Various methodologies have been applied to the process of discerning the community behind the Gospel of Matthew, and while general agreement has emerged on some points, there are enough important differences in the results of this research to warrant a new investigation, especially when consideration is given to the inadequacies in the methodology of some previous research. Indeed, this book has been written with the conviction that much previous work reconstructing the Matthean Community has been based on very insecure methodological foundations. It will be argued that little confidence can be placed on any conclusions arrived at after assumptions have been made as to: 1. where the Gospel was written; 2. the time of writing; and 3. the concept “Jewish Christianity.” It will also be argued that to use the two-source hypothesis as a solution to the Synoptic Problem only serves to alienate a large section of New Testament scholars. These four matters are dealt with in detail at various places in the book,1 and together...

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