Wages of Righteousness: The Economy of Heaven in the Gospel According to Matthew
In comparison to Mark and Luke, Matthew's Gospel contains a striking preponderance of economic imagery, especially in passages dealing with sin, righteousness, and divine recompense. This cluster of economic terms is found in every strand of tradition in Matthew's Gospel, and frequently appears to be the result of Matthean redaction. A good chunk of this language occurs in five uniquely Matthean parables dealing either with the pricelessness of the kingdom or judgment and reward (the hidden treasure in 13:44; the pearl in 13:45-46; the parable of the unforgiving servant in 18:23-35; the parable of the workers in the vineyard 20:1-16; the sheep and the goats in 25:31-46). Matthean additions to the triple tradition also tend to contain economic language.
In this dissertation I begin by analyzing Matthew's economic language against the backdrop of similar language in other early Jewish and Christian literature. I then go on to examine the import of this language for the narrative as a whole, arguing that some of the Gospel's central claims about Jesus emerge from this conceptual matrix. To be more specific, the narrative provides a coherent description of how Jesus saves his people from their sins and comes to be enthroned as Son of Man. Matthew draws on images of exile and debt-bondage to depict the people Jesus came to save as captives because of the debt of their sins. Jesus is introduced as the one born to save his people from their sins (1:21), and throughout the Gospel he does this by teaching them how to find debt forgiveness and store up treasure in the heavens in order to acquire eternal life. From the time Jesus begins predicting his death and resurrection he also teaches his disciples to follow him in giving their lives and being repaid with resurrection (16:24-28; 19:29), participation in the rule of the Son of Man (19:27-28), and the price of release for others who are in captivity. The passion narrative portrays the very repayment Jesus told the disciples that both he and they would receive: Jesus is raised from the dead, given all authority as Son of Man, and earns the ransom-price for the many. The end of the age remains in the future, and so suffering and doubt persist. Nevertheless, God's repayment of Jesus' self-giving is a foretaste of the coming settling of accounts.
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