Gospel of Matthew: For or Against Judaism?

22 Dec

Udo Schnelle does for and against lists:

For Matthew being Jewish:

  • The fundamental affirmation of the Law (cf. Matt 5.17-20; 23.3a, 23b).
  • The sustained reference to the Old Testament and the emphatic application of the idea of fulfilment (cf. e.g. Matt 1.22-23;2.5-6, 15, 17-18; 3.3; 4.4-16; 8.17 and others).
  • The fundamental limitation of Jesus’ mission to Israel (cf. Matt 10.5-6; 15.24).
  • The Matthean community still keeps the Sabbath (cf. Matt 24.20).
  • The Matthean community still lives within the jurisdiction of Judaism (cf. Matt 17.24-27; 23.1-3).
  • The Moses typology in Matt 2.13ff.; 4.1-2; 5.1 and the five great discourses in the Gospel present Jesus as having an affinity to Moses.
  • The language, structure, reception of the Gospel of Matthew point to a Jewish Christian as its author.


  • The Gospel’s offer of salvation to all clearly points to a Gentile mission that has been underway for some time (cf. Matt 28.18-20; 8.11-12; 10.18; 12.18, 21; 13.38a; 21.43-45; 22.1-14; 24.14; 25.32; 26.13).
  • The nullification of ritual laws (cf. Matt 15.11, 20b; 23.25-26).
  • The Matthean critique of the Law. Especially in the Antitheses of the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5.21-48) Jesus places his own authority higher than that of Moses, for which there is no parallel in ancient Judaism.
  • Matthew presents a thoroughgoing polemic against Pharisaic casuistry (cf. Matt 5.20; 6.1ff.; 9.9ff.; 12.1ff., 9ff.; 15.1ff.; 19.1ff.; 23.1ff.)
  • Matthew avoids Aramaisms (cf. Mark 1.13/ Matt 4.2; Mark 5.41/ Matt 9.25; Mark 7.34/ Matt 15.30; Mark 7.11/ Matt 15.5).
  • The Matthean community understands its life to be at some distance from that of the synagogue (cf. Matt 23.34b ἐν ταῖς συναγωγαῖς ὑμῶν [in your synagogues]; Matt 7.29b καὶ οὐχ ὡς οἱ γραμματεῖς αὐτων [and not as their scribes]).
  • Ritual prescriptions for the Sabbath have lost their significance (cf. Matt 12.1-8).
  • The rejection of Israel, i.e. that Israel has lost its distinct place in the history of salvation, has been accepted by Matthew as reality for some time (cf. Matt 21.43; 22.9; 8.11-12; 21.39ff.; 27.25; 28.15).

He adds:
The tension between these two lists is best understood to mean that the evangelist Matthew is the advocate of a liberal Hellenistic Diaspora Jewish Christianity that had been engaged in the Gentile mission for some time. The lack of any reference to the debate over circumcision in Matthew points in the same direction, for in the earlier conservative Palestinian Judaism the relaxing of the practice of circumcision was regarded as contempt for the Torah, while in the broad circles of Hellenistic Diaspora Judaism circumcision was not considered an important issue.

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Posted by on December 22, 2009 in early Christianity


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