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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 2. A Century of Research on the Matthean Community


Chapter2.ACenturyofResearchontheMattheanCommunity Although most academics working on the Gospel of Matthew have had either an explicit or implicit understanding of the historical matrix out of which the Gospel arose, specific studies on the Matthean Community are a relatively recent phenomenon in New Testament scholarship. Various conceptions of the historical matrix of the Gospel have emerged, which, while using the same basic data set, have approached it drawing on different methodologies and assumptions. The following survey of work on the Matthean Community is developed thematically, and presented in roughly chronological order.1 In a number of places a representative selection has had to be made between several significant writers who have taken a similar position. This review raises important issues that need to be taken into consideration in any investigation into the Matthean Community, particularly with regard to methodology, and these will be explored towards the end of this chapter and into the next. 2.1.TheMattheanCommunityasaSchool In 1928 E. von Dobschütz suggested that the first evangelist was a rabbi,2 and saw in his use of stereotyped phraseology and love of numbers a Jewish Christian with rabbinic training who “now used his catechetical skills in the service of the gospel.”3 Dobschütz did not follow this suggestion with the idea that a rabbi would imply some kind of school, although such an implication could clearly be made.4 It 1 See also Robert K. McIver, “Twentieth-Century Approaches to the Matthew Community,” AUSS 37 (1999): 23 –38 for an account of research into the...

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