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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 6. Leadership & Structure of the Matthean Community


Chapter6.Leadership&StructureoftheMattheanCommunity The previous two chapters have established that the Matthean Community had well-defined boundaries, and so regarded itself as a recognisable entity. This chapter will explore some of the evidence that will enable an assessment to be made of the internal organisation of that community. Of particular importance is the emergence of some clearly-defined, if informal roles within the community, including some leadership roles, and these will be investigated first. Also of interest, and of potential relevance to the issue of leadership is a group of sayings unique to Matthew concerning Peter, which will receive attention towards the end of the chapter. 6.1.TheEmergenceofInformalRoleswithintheMattheanCommunity 6.1.1.Matt23andChristianRabbis/Teachers Matthew 23 provides the greatest concentration of clues concerning the roles emerging within the Matthean Community. It is a chapter rich in material that is unique to Matthew (Matt 23 :1–3, 5, 8–10, 15, 16–22, 27–28, 32–33), and structured in a way unique to the Gospel.1 Implicit in the comprehensive attack on the scribes and the Pharisees found in this chapter is the contrast between what they and Jesus teach about the law and the consequences of each set of teachings. The chapter begins by stating that because the scribes and Pharisees sit upon the seat of Moses, one should listen to what they say, but what they do is an entirely different matter (Matt 23:1–3, unique to Matthew). That several stone seats have been discovered by archaeologists in the ruins of synagogues2 raises the possibility that the...

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