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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 5. The Kingdom of Heaven and the Matthean Community


Chapter5.TheKingdomofHeavenandtheMattheanCommunity In the material unique to Matthew there are at least seventeen explicit references to the Kingdom of Heaven/ God, some of them embedded in material of significant length and importance in the Gospel.1 It will be claimed that many of them underline the intimate relationship between the Kingdom and the church, which, if it can be shown to be the case, has the potential to provide valuable insights into the Matthean Community and the claims it made for itself. Many, however, strongly disagree that there is any link made by the Gospel between the Kingdom and the church, so such a link will first need to be demonstrated to exist before any use can be made of it in this study. 5.1.ProtestsagainstlinkingtheKingdomofHeavenwiththeChurch Many scholars have raised protests against any identification of the church and the Kingdom of God. Says John Bright: There is no tendency in the New Testament to identify the visible church with the Kingdom of God. The church that makes such an identification will soon begin to invite God to endorse its own very human policies and practices, will equate the people of God with those nice people who share its particular beliefs and participate in its services, and will reckon the advance of the Kingdom in terms of its numerical growth. But it will not be the New Testament church! 2 Bright is not alone in denying any linkage between the Kingdom and the Church. George Eldon Ladd also strongly denies the identification, and backs...

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