Mission, Jews, and Gentiles in the Gospel of Matthew

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2023

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Abstract

The question of Matthew’s missiology in modern scholarship frequently centers the relationship between contradictory commissions in 10:5-6 and 28:19-20. Does Matthew believe that the mission to Israel is the primary focus of the nascent church, or that the gentile mission has replaced it? Or does Matthew believe that the mission that began in Israel has now expanded to include all nations? The goal of this dissertation is to complicate this question by expanding our object of study to other passages in the Gospel that discuss missions. We begin with Matt 10. In Matt 10, missionary work is an ethnically and geographically limited project. Missionaries are sent as envoys of Jesus. They depend on their targets for hospitality. They focus on Jews, though gentiles are present as onlookers. The missionary project forces confrontation with Jewish leadership, particularly Pharisees. Neither Jews nor gentiles are singled out as persecutors. The mission is associated with imminent eschatology, and it is underway when Matthew writes. We compare this missiology with five passages that precede the final commission: the parable of the tenants (21:33-46), the wedding banquet (22:1-14), the woes against scribes and Pharisees (chapter 23), the tribulation (chapter 24), and the parable of the sheep and the goats (25:31-46). What becomes clear is that Matthew’s missiology is unified. He entertains a mission that is no longer restricted, but other tropes from Matt 10 reappear. This continuity reemerges again in the final call to international mission (28:16-20). Matthew’s missiology is not discontinuous, but stable. He introduces a missionary task in 10:5-42, places it in Israel, and expects that this work will continue in the rest of the world. Outreach to Jews and gentiles bleeds into each other from the beginning, given Matthew’s awareness of gentiles in Palestine and of Jews in the Diaspora. The question of whether Matthew intends his message to go to Jews, or gentiles, or both, therefore, is significantly more complicated than it first appears.

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Robinson, Laura (2023). Mission, Jews, and Gentiles in the Gospel of Matthew. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/27728.

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