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Boundaries and Polemics in the Gospel of Matthew

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image of Biblical Interpretation

The question about whether the late first-century author of the Gospel of Matthew and his group of followers of Jesus were still within the Jewish community or were a community which had recently parted company with Judaism assumes the existence of a clearly defined Judaism and Christianity in the author's social setting and interprets the polemics as evidence for the separation. When Matthew's mode of speaking about the crowds, Israel and the Gentiles and his vituperative attacks upon Israel's leaders are analyzed sociologically, they suggest that he is a member of Israel who still hopes to influence his fellow Jews to accept Jesus and reject their traditional (mis)leaders. Matthew does not reject Israel or oppose Christianity to Judaism; he hopes to convince his fellow Jews to endorse a Jesus-centered Israel. Thus Matthew's group is better understood as a sect or deviant group still within the broader, varied and often ill-defined, Jewish community of the late first century.


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