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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 4. Matthew 18 as Evidence of Well defined Community Boundaries


Chapter4.Matthew18asEvidenceofWelldefinedCommunityBoundaries That the Matthean Community has clearly-defined boundaries establishes the feasibility of the rest of this study. These boundaries are most clearly visible in the rules for disciplining members of the community found in chapter 18, and thus this chapter is the ideal place in Matthew to begin an investigation into the community that lay behind the Gospel. 4.1.CommunityDisciplineasEnvisagedinMatt18 The instructions for reconciling estranged community members found in vss. 15–17 forms the heart of the discourse of Matt 18.1 These verses define the 1 That the five discourses in Matthew are a distinctive feature of the Gospel is a commonplace in Matthean studies. The wording that ends each discourse is nearly identical: Matt 7 : 28: KaiV ejgevneto o{te ejtevlesen oJ jIhsou'" touV" lovgou" touvtou", … [And it came to pass, when Jesus finished these words …]; Matt 11 : 1: KaiV ejgevneto o{te ejtevlesen oJ jIhsou'" diatavsswn toi'" dwvdeka maqhtai'" aujtou', … [And it came to pass when Jesus finished instructing his disciples …]; Matt 13 : 53: KaiV ejgevneto o{te ejtevlesen oJ jIhsou'" taV" parabolaV" tauvta", … [And it came to pass, when Jesus finished these parables …]; Matt 26 : 1: KaiV ejgevneto o{te ejtevlesen oJ jIhsou'" pavnta" touV" lovgou" touvtou", [And it came to pass, when Jesus finished all these words …]. The discourses appear to be constructed by the evangelist out of materials sometimes unique to Matthew, sometimes from Q material found in Luke in quite different contexts, and sometimes from the triple tradition, and each one deals with a specific...

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