Monday, February 16, 2015

Did Matthew Put Words Into Jesus' Mouth?

TWH: As many of you know, I'm translating one of Antonio's books on the life of Jesus Christ. I think the book is very interesting even though it espouses a number of different positions that I wholeheartedly disagree with. I came across one statement in Antonio's book this evening as I was translating. He uses the following expression in his discussion on Matt. 28:20: "the words that Matthew put into the mouth of Jesus at the end of his Gospel." Did Jesus say what Matthew records at the end of his Gospel, or did Matthew just say he did?

What are your top reasons for believing that Jesus did actually say what we see in Matt. 28:20, if you believe he did? If you don't, what are your top reasons for believing that Matthew just said Jesus said what we see in Matt. 28:20? I'm curious to see what you say. Post your reply in a comment within this blog post. Thanks!

10 comments:

  1. Hi, Thomas. Glad to see you're back. I hope everything was o.k. there in Peru!

    I guess that the main reason to dismiss Mtt 28:20 is that this is a logion said by the raised Jesus, together with the idea that Jesus preached that the Kingdom of God was going to break into this age very soon and the end of this world was inminent since Mtt 28:20 could be understood in terms of the foundation of a church that's going to last for years.

    Putting aside the very important question for a Christian of Jesus' resurrection, I'd say that Mtt 28:20a could be perfectly said by Jesus at any moment of his terrenal life. Even more, 28:20b could be perfectly said by the terrenal Jesus too. In fact, I don't think impossible that the terrenal Jesus said that he will be with his disciples and followers until the end of this age, at least in spirit: after all, the hypothesis of resurrection in the hearts of his disciples, as argued by some researchers such as Vermes, could be perfectly compatible with it. After all, such kind of a statement said by the terrenal Jesus could fuel the expectations that finally derived in the so-called "resurrection in their hearts".

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  2. Hey Tom! great Blog, and great to have Antonio Piñero commenting here too!

    Tom I have a question, Do you believe that baptist church is the same as the primitive christian church as New Testament describes it?

    I think this the "eternal" theory that some baptists claims to or the apostolic succesion of churches....something like that, could you develop these ideas further?

    I want to become baptist but I need to know this before.

    Thanks

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    1. Thanks for the comment. Regarding your question, I do not ascribe to any "trail of blood" succession views regarding the baptist faith. I think that what makes a person baptistic is their ascription to a set of historical baptist doctrines (namely, immersion in water by regenerate believers as a sign of their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ).

      As with any group, there is a spectrum on what people believe within it. I would recommend reading a book like D. Black's Seven Marks of a New Testament Church: A Guide for Christians of All Ages or M. Dever's Nine Marks of a Healthy Church. What matters more than anything else is what you think about the gospel. From there, I want to be involved with a local group of believers that faithfully teach the Word of God and who are actively living for the Great Commission.

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  3. It's a construction by Matthew, IMHO. It is clear that Mt's purpose is to make gentiles acceptable to Jewish Christians. That was a tall order. That's why he takes pains to include FIVE gentiles with three more full of faith than any in Israel. These five were considered the most despicable types of gentiles: Ruth (a Moabite, enemy of Israel), Rahab (Caananite & prostitute), Magis (sorcerers), a Roman Centurian, and a Syrophoenician woman (Baal worshiper). Yet they are the exemplars of faith, two of which show up in Jesus' geneology. IOW, Jesus has gentile blood in his veins! Having cleared out the debris of Jewish prejudice, Matthew can now send his people out into the gentile world.

    Additionally, this "great commission" is taken as a given for every Christian and Christian community, yet only Matthew mentions it. Curious.

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    1. Thanks for the comment, Steven. I agree that Matthew is introducing the global focus of the Messiah's ministry and rule. That explains why he includes the Gentile men and women you mention above. With that said, though, how does that explain that Matt. 28:20 is not original? In other words, why couldn't have Jesus said this at some point during the end of his earthly ministry before going to the right hand of the Father?

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  4. Of course Jesus could have said this, but I find it extremely unlikely. The Gospels each have endings that differ significantly with the others, even to the point of contradiction. The differences can be attributed to what each Evangelist's purpose for writing was. By comparing the Synoptic's statements quoting Jesus, the range of difference is telling. Some attribute this to Jesus having said the same thing in different ways over the years of his ministry (one year [Synoptics] or three [John]?). Yet, it is very likely that none of the Gospel writers were eyewitnesses. In addition, since a literary dependence is now a fact of scholarship, the differences are best explained by authorial intent. It’s not a stretch for a writer who shades statements to serve his purposes to invent statements that, in his mind, are consistent with what he believes Jesus meant. I believe this is what happened in 20:28. As I said in my comment above, Matthew is the only Evangelist to make Jesus say this. So, if he said it, the other Evangelists found it not useful for their purposes, or they didn’t know he said it. IMHO, it did not originate with Jesus.

    All this is inconceivable for those who believe in verbal plenary inspiration. One aspect of this is that the Gospels are taken as history, as they seem to report fact. Given the very different approaches as to whom Jesus was that each takes, we need to understand the Gospels as other than history. They are theologies, and rather than report actual events, they report the experience of each community with the risen Christ and the traditions that they received.

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    1. I always come back to the same thing as well. Verbal plenary inspiration is for me the main argument. It's my view on inspiration that makes all searches for the historical Jesus vain attempts. I still enjoy thinking through all of the issues. Steven, thanks for the comments. You're appreciated.

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  5. See how easy it is to misstate? I meant to write 28:20!

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  6. Rev. Kindle, at this point, would you say that the main objection is a kind of an argumentum ex silentio?

    Differences are not only explained by authorial intent. Besides, II'd say that although gospels endings are different each other it doesn't mean eo ipso that they are just evangelists' devicesfabrication. If we follow this path, we could finish accepting Mk only.

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  7. J. P., maybe not even Mark. If you take the view that I do, that the Gospels are not attempts a writing history, but are theological statements for the sake of each community, it explains the variations in the words put into Jesus' mouth. BTW, this doesn't lesson the impact the Gospels have on my life; it actually expands my appreciation for them.

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