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Mainstream or Marginal?

The Matthean Community in Early Christianity

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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 9. The Matthean Community and the End of the Age

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Chapter9.TheMattheanCommunityandtheEndoftheAge Two themes in particular emerge from the apocalyptic materials in the Matthean Sondergut which are relevant to an investigation of the Matthean Community: the portrayal of the community as under threat of impending judgment, and the possible delay of the parousia. The first reinforces the observation that has been made in several contexts that the Matthean Community had clearly-defined boundaries, and the second is of potential help in establishing the time period in which the community should be placed. 9.1.ACommunityundertheThreatofImpendingJudgment Judgment is of particular interest to Matthew,1 who uses it to portray the world and his Community as under the threat of a none-too-distant apocalyptic judgment, when God will intervene in the world to destroy sin and sinners, some of whom are to be found within the Matthean Community itself. Indeed, the threat of judgment in Matthew is not something directed exclusively to those “outside” the community. Take, for example, the parables of the tares and the net in Matt 13 :24–30, 36–43, 47–50. It has been argued in an earlier chapter that these parables should be understood as addressing the issue of the mixed nature of the 1 The following table shows that judgment is of particular interest to the evangelist, at least when compared to the other Synoptic Gospels: _______________________________________________________________________ Word or Phrase: Number of Occurrences in Matt Mark Luke krivsi" [judgment] 12 – 4 hJmevra krivsew" [day of judgment] 4 – – eij" toV skovto" toV ejxwvteron [into outer darkness] 3 – – hJ sunteleiva tou' aijw'no" [the...

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