The Jewish Leaders In Matthew’s Gospel: A Reappraisal -- By: D. A. Carson

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 25:2 (Jun 1982)
Article: The Jewish Leaders In Matthew’s Gospel: A Reappraisal
Author: D. A. Carson


The Jewish Leaders In Matthew’s Gospel:
A Reappraisal

D. A. Carson*

In the debate of the last few decades over the precise Sitz im Leben of Matthew’s gospel, a consensus has gradually grown on two points. First, a large majority of scholars hold that the gospel was written about A.D. 85, although there are several who argue for a much earlier date.1 Second, most hold that Matthew’s Church is in some kind of dramatic tension with Judaism and synagogue worship, even though the precise nature of that tension is hotly disputed. On the one hand, many scholars think the gospel of Matthew represents a kind of “Jewish Christian” congregation that still sees itself within the context of Judaism: The struggle is intra muros.2 Yet those who hold this view cannot agree on whether the Birkath ha-Minim (under the assumption of its pivotal importance)3 has been established by the time Matthew writes: Some hold that the gospel must be placed just after its promulgation and that the Church is still reacting to it,4 while others argue that the gospel must be dated before the Birkath ha-Minim.5 On the other hand, another group of scholars judges that the gospel of Matthew represents a form of Jewish Christianity that has broken with Judaism but is still

*D. A. Carson is professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois.

defining itself over against Judaism: The struggle is therefore extra muros.6 More recently a third group of scholars has followed the lead of Clark7 and Nepper-Christensen8 and argued that the first evangelist is not Jewish at all. The form of this position varies considerably, but one can argue that Matthew’s anti-Judaism language is so extreme that Judaism could not possibly still be a competitor for him,9 or that the anti-Judaism language tells us little of Matthew’s historical setting because it is essentially the result of a theological conviction that Israel had been displaced and succeeded by the Church,10 or, more subtly, that Matthew’s gospel reflects such a blending of Jewish and Gentile Christianity that it is injudicious to explain the text in terms of merely Jewish-Christian/Judaism polemic.

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