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The Gospel of Matthew

Ancestry and Birth – Video

Harold W. Attridge in discussion with Michal Beth Dinkler.

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  1. John Seraphine

    To participants in the Northern Illinois Online Bible Study:
    A couple random notes on this lecture.
    First, you will note that instead of prefacing dates as either BC (before Christ) or AD (Anno Domini) or, year of our Lord, scholars today prefer BCE (before the common era) and CE (common era). This is to be more religiously neutral, and not to offend non-Christians.

    Related to this desire for neutrality is the designation of what Christians typically call the “Old Testament,” as the Hebrew Bible. Though, as we go forward we will note that Jews today do not accept certain books as part of their canon those Catholics call “deutero-canonical,” and Protestants call Old Testament apocrypha. Another term Jews use for their Hebrew Bible is Tanakh, which is an acronym for the parts of their collection of sacred Scripture (Torah for the 1st five books, Nevi’im, for other historical books and the prophetic books, and Ketuvim or “writings,” psalms and wisdom literature.

    Another note: Professor Attridge makes reference to the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) and one of their methods of interpretation of accepted Scripture. Often the DSS interpreters would say that an old text held real meaning not for its own time, but was really pointing to something much later, in the time of the DSS community. These interpretation we called peshirim (the plural of “pesher.” The point professor Attridge is making is that Matthew’s Gospel follows this same tradition of seeing an ancient text as valuable because it has its full meaning only in the interpreter’s own day. This is one more indication that Matthew is written from within a community with a Jewish background, and to an audience with a similar background.

    Another term used repeatedly in this lecture is “apologetic.” Please be aware that this does not the same as what we commonly mean as “apology.” It means “defense,” or thoughtful explanation. Also, keep in mind that, following the horrible trauma of the Jewish rebellion, the fall of Jerusalem, and the mass slaughter of many Jews, there must have been a very harsh division climate of division between Jews and Jewish Christians who accepted Jesus as Messiah. Matthew is writing a strong defense–or even laying out a strong offensive position that it was the latter who were true to the Torah, and fulfilling the righteousness of the covenant. To use the words of Luke Timothy Johnson, another New Testament scholar, Matthew was aiming his critique at “the synagogue down the street.” But keep in mind that both sides of this controversy were working in the dark shadow of the very public crucifixion and slaugher of tens of thousands of Jews by the Romans.

    Finally, note the similar ways Matthew writes his nativity and his passion stories. Jesus is opposed by secular and religious leaders who want to kill him. But he is vindicated by God, with the attestation not only of sacred Scripture, but of cosmic signs.