Matthew 21:43 and the Future of Israel -- By: David L. Turner

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 159:633 (Jan 2002)
Article: Matthew 21:43 and the Future of Israel
Author: David L. Turner

Matthew 21:43 and
the Future of Israel

David L. Turner

David L. Turner is Professor of New Testament, Grand Rapids Baptist Seminary, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

While giving several parables in Jerusalem, Jesus said, “Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing the fruit of it” (Matt. 21:43). R. T. France ventures the opinion that this verse is “the most explicit statement in Matthew of the view that there is to be a new people of God in place of Old Testament Israel.”1 In 1992 Graham Stanton published a collection of essays on Matthew entitled A Gospel for a New People.2 Stanton acknowledged that the title of his book summarizes his view of Matthew 21:43, in which the church as a new people, distinct from both Jews and Gentiles, replaces Israel in God’s plan. In Stanton’s view the community to whom Matthew wrote had already left Judaism and considered itself the true heirs of the blessings previously enjoyed by Israel. In their view the kingdom had been taken from Israel and given to the church. Although individual Jews might believe and become a part of this new people, the Jewish people as a whole had been rejected. Stanton says that Matthew’s theology anticipates that of the second-century text 5 Ezra, which speaks of the kingdom being given to another people or nation (ad gentem alteram, 1:24; other manuscripts read ad alias gentes, “to other nations”).3 Stanton’s view of Matthew 21:43 amounts to what Davies

and Allison call “the dominant interpretation in Christian history.”4

However, other scholars view Stanton’s approach as anachronistic, arguing that its strict bifurcation between Matthew’s Christian community and Judaism is not founded on Matthew itself but on reading later situations and interpretations back into his Gospel. In this second view Matthew’s community was still in contact with the synagogue, although deep disagreements had arisen and withdrawal from the synagogue may have already been in process. In this reading Matthew’s community did not view itself as a “third race” (tertium genus) in contrast to both Israel and the Gentiles. Rather, the community understood itself as the eschatological remnant of Israel, called from the nation by Jesus, who had promis...

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