The Matthean Community in Early Christianity
Chapter 3. Towards a Solution of the Methodological Challenges Facing Research on the Matthean Community
Chapter3.TowardsaSolutionoftheMethodologicalChallengesFacing ResearchontheMattheanCommunity On the face of it, any research into the Matthean Community is fraught with severe methodological difficulties. Aside from the Gospel of Matthew, for example, there are no extant written materials known to come from the same community.1 Likewise, there are no surviving contemporary or near contemporary works which give any reliable information about the community, or even who wrote the Gospel or where it was written. Thus, the only source on which any investigation can be based is the Gospel of Matthew. But the Gospel of Matthew itself presents methodological problems. Since it was written to give an account of the life, death, resurrection and teachings of Jesus, it only provides indications of the interests of the community in unintentional ways. In addition, the Gospel may well be the work of one individual, and the work of that individual may not be representative of the interests of the larger community of which he was a part. These and other considerations mean the issue of methodology needs thorough examination. This chapter begins with an evaluation of several of the points made by those who argue that the methodological difficulties are so great it is impossible to reconstruct the Matthean Community with any confidence. This will be followed by a glance at the current state of the debate on the relationships between the three Synoptic Gospels, which, if anything, will exacerbate the methodological challenges. After the methodological challenges are clearly in view, progress can be made in working towards...
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