On Interpreting Matthew’s Editorial Comments -- By: Robert H. Gundry

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 47:2 (Fall 1985)
Article: On Interpreting Matthew’s Editorial Comments
Author: Robert H. Gundry

On Interpreting Matthew’s Editorial Comments

Robert H. Gundry

Thanks to J. W. Scott for bringing up in the last issue of WTJ (47/1 [1985] 68–82) an important question with regard to my Matthew: A Commentary of His Literary and Theological Art. That question has to do with proper interpretation of editorial comments. Scott thinks that in themselves Matthew’s editorial comments—in particular, his introductions to fulfillment quotations, which Scott takes as strictly historical in their thrust—carry a clear meaning and that therefore they clarify the meaning of the rest of Matthew’s text (hence the title of Scott’s article, “Matthew’s Intention to Write History”). I take the view that in themselves Matthew’s (or, for that matter, any author’s) editorial comments do not carry a clear meaning and that therefore we can accurately understand neither them nor the rest of the text except by allowing each side to affect the other—and to bring in from outside as many literary and more broadly cultural comparisons as possible.

But even in Scott’s view, the clarity of editorial comments needs considerable qualification. How chronological does an account have to be, how precise does a number have to be, how exact does a quotation have to be to qualify as “strictly historical, down to the last detail” (his phrase)? As we all know, biblical authors often quote others and one another differently, give different numbers regarding the same occasion, and put the same events in different orders. Most of these phenomena appear in noneditorial statements. Hence, Scott defines strict, detailed historicity in a way that allows for loose quotation, round numbers, and topical rather than chronological arrangement even though editorial comments standing outside but dealing with the quotations, numbers, and arrangements usually give no reason to make such allowances.

Since it is not the editorial comments of biblical authors but our (including Scott’s) comparisons of different scriptural passages with one another and with other pertinent literature that lead to these

allowances, Scott does not have a storm-free center of argument in the editorial introductions to fulfillment quotations any more than he has a storm-free center in general where editorial comments appear in the biblical text. If he wants to argue cogently against midrashic1 elements in Matthew, he will have to provide a convincingly nonmidrashic interpretation of the many comparative data (relating Matthean passages to each other, to the other synoptics, and to ancient Jewish literature) that I have adduced in favor of midrashic elements in Matthew. In themselv...

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