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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 8. The Matthean Community and Judaism


Chapter8.TheMattheanCommunityandJudaism The observation has already been made several times that the Matthean Community had clearly-defined boundaries. The community was able to differentiate clearly between who was “in” and who was “out.” Yet to date little has been said about what or who was outside of the community. The community might have been defining itself, but what was it defining itself against? The answer that emerges from a consideration of the Matthean Sondergut is that the most significant “other” against which the Matthean Community defined itself was “the Jews” and “their synagogues.” The scribes and Pharisees were a favourite target for invidious comparison throughout the Gospel. The relationship between the Matthean Community and wider Judaism, the topic of this chapter, will be explored from several directions, beginning with a consideration of whether the concept of mission in Matthew is considered to be restricted only to Jews, or are Gentiles also in view? Later consideration will be given to the place of Gentiles within Matthew, and to several aspects of the Gospel that would have particular relevance to Jews, but not Gentiles. Analysis of these issues provides further evidence that the community had left Judaism, and gives some indication as to how recently this parting of the ways had taken place. 8.1.TheIssueofMission Within the material unique to Matthew are two clear statements that limit missionary activities to Jews alone, and two more that expand the horizon of this activity to all nations and the whole world. Much debate has centred on these...

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