To what extent does Matthew portray Jesus as

To what extent does Matthew portray Jesus as a rabbi, and what deductions does this hold for the life and mission of his church?

This essay will reason that, unlike the other Gospels, Matthew has ambivalency about the term rabbi. He uses it on a figure of occasions ; at foremost merely to intend a instructor – groups of rabbinic instructors were a common tradition at this period in Judaic history. However, it is clear that he has given the topic of Jesus as a instructor a great trade of idea. His Gospel is set out in a manner that makes it easy to happen ‘teaching cycles’ within it, and besides in such a manner that enables the reader to larn its lessons good. This, nevertheless, although valuable was non plenty for Matthew’s intent. He wanted to pull attending to affairs that such a position hindered. He wanted to demo that Jesus was more than an translator of words. This factor has importance for the internal workings of the Gospel but besides for the Church and it’s mission. Finally the essay will see exactly what consequence these positions and sentiments have on the church today. We will detect that a better apprehension of this topic will assist to see and build a new attack to the Church and its mission.

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Many scriptural observers argue that Matthew’s Gospel was written for Jews who had become Christians. George Stanton agrees and provinces, ‘Matthew’s gospel reflect [ s ] the self-understanding of groups which have parted company reluctantly with parent groups.’ However, he goes one to explicate that ‘from a sociological position, … [ it ] bear [ s ] many of the trademarks of sectarian Hagiographas. In malice of shared traditions, and to a big extent shared ends, …new communities distance themselves from their several parent groups.’ [ 1 ] If this is true, so it is utile to inquire what was a rabbi in first century Jewish tradition.

An of import text that can assist understand this is the Talmud, which was written around the same period as the New Testament. In this text we can see the importance of the place of the rabbi as the translator of the sacred texts ; an entreaty is made to a rabbi on about every page about some facet of spiritual life. The fact that this exegesis was so recorded in a book once more reveals the importance of the entreaty to a rabbi/teacher in the apprehension and reading of sacred texts by the Jews. However, many Jews had come to believe that God’s revealed word could non be understood without this unwritten instruction tradition that had been captured in the Talmud. The danger with this position is that this translator of the jurisprudence can convey their ain thoughts and bias’ into their reading.

The thought of the necessity of person to construe God’s will to the people goes back further than the first century. Moses is to this twenty-four hours considered by the Jewish community to be their first rabbi. In Numbers 27:19 Moses, who is near to decease, is told by God to committee Joshua to replace him as the individual who was qualified to construe God’s will for the state. However, the word rabbi doesn’t appear in the Bible until the Gospels. We are sing Matthews reading in this essay, nevertheless, Mark and John besides use the term. Mark first uses it when Peter is taken to the acme of a mountain and meets Elijah and Moses, he turns and declares, ‘Rabbi, it is good that we are here. Let us do three collapsible shelters, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.’ [ 2 ] Clearly in this context Peter, who was terrified by what he was witnessing, used the term as the first name of regard that came to mind. Shortly after this happening, Mark records another individual utilizing the term in this mode, as Jesus healed a unsighted adult male. [ 3 ] The author of the Gospel of John besides uses the term as a general term of regard ; in this Gospel, Jesus is frequently turned to for his sentiment on affairs and is referred in these state of affairss as ‘rabbi’ . [ 4 ] The difference lies in Matthew’s Gospel. In this Gospel it is clear that there is ambivalency towards the term.

It is of import to understand that it is indispensable to Matthew to emphasis the position of Jesus as rabbi/teacher ; for Matthew, Jesus is the 1 and concluding instructor. [ 5 ] This importance would come from Matthew’s desire to travel his community on from their Judaic beginnings. This accent on the importance of Jesus as the lone instructor can be seen in the manner he has constructed the layout of his Gospel. The instruction is laid out in a really orderly mode. There are five major discourses: the Sermon on the Mount, the Missionary Instructions tot he Twelve, the Parables of the Kingdom, Greatness and Forgiveness in the Christian Community and the Discourse on Last Things. [ 6 ] It has been suggested that Matthew was a rabbi before he became a Christian and one of the grounds for this suggestion is the ‘teacher friendly’ manner the Gospel is written ; the information and thoughts in much of his stuff is set out in groups of 3’s, 5s and 7s, which helps the stuff be taught and assimilated. [ 7 ]

We discussed earlier Stenton’s suggestion that new groups finally seek to separate themselves from their parent groups. Matthew’s insisting is that the Rabbi Jesus is the last instructor needed ; he fulfils the prognostications form what we now call the Old Testament, so the new Church needs no other instructors than Jesus. Indeed Matthew records Jesus learning the crowds and his adherents that ‘you are non to be called rabbi, for you have one instructor, and you arte all brethren.’ [ 8 ]

However, Matthew doesn’t want people to merely see Jesus as the ‘final’ instructor of God’s word ; he wants to portray Jesus as the ‘human face of God’ . [ 9 ] Burridge argues that this ‘revealer…has rule and authorization as the boy of God’ , hence, for Matthew Jesus is more than the concluding instructor, an translator of the word’s of God ; he’s the human embodiment of He who ‘wrote’ God’s word. [ 10 ] Burridge argues that Matthews Gospel has an ‘awesome’ character to it and that this can clearly be seen in the part of the Gospel covering with Christ’s decease. [ 11 ]

In this subdivision, Matthew uses the term rabbi for a concluding clip in his description of the events of Jesus’ apprehension. As he betrays Jesus, Judas refers to him as ‘rabbi’ . It could be argued that the fact that Judas continues to utilize the term after Jesus has forbidden it ( in chapter 23 ) reveals the disciple’s deficiency of apprehension of Jesus’ true significance. He refers to him still as a instructor, connoting that he still is merely one adult male among a big group – a instructor, non the instructor or God incarnate. In Mtt 26: 49, Judas calls out, ‘Hail Rabbi’ ( translated in some versions as Master ) , utilizing a term he had been told non to utilize ; in the undermentioned poetry Jesus refers to Judas non as adherent but as ‘friend’ . [ 12 ] It could besides be argued that in this poetry Jesus removes Judas from his function as a adherent in readying for his black decease.

However, more significantly, the word focuses the reader’s head to the prognostications that had been taught down the ages by rabbis. Throughout his Gospel, Matthew reminds his readers that Jesus came to carry through ‘the scriptures’ . [ 13 ] He begins this construct in chapter 5 at the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus is foremost called ‘rabbi’ and brings it to a decision by his description of the events taking to Jesus’ decease, where he uses the term for the concluding clip. [ 14 ] Matthew uses this term as a really effectual literary device to convey an of import belief.

So of import is the necessity of learning to Matthew that an extortion to set about the activity of the rabbi, if non utilize the rubric, is amongst the last words he records Jesus cheering his adherents with as he prepares to go up into Eden. In the concluding poetries of his Gospel, Matthew records Jesus stating, ‘All authorization in Eden and on Earth has been given to me. Travel hence, and do adherents of all states, … , learning them to detect all that I have commanded you.’ [ 15 ]

Puting this declaration amongst the concluding words Jesus’ speaks, emphasises its importance, nevertheless, how does this assist the Christian today understand Christ and his mission? By the clip of Jesus’ ministry on Earth the rabbi had become of import as the translator of God’s Torahs and words to most Jews ; nevertheless, in Matthew’s Gospel we see the author doing a conjunct effort to warn the new Christian community against a trust on leting other people to stand between the single Christian and their God. For Matthew the lone instructor whose words should be sought on all subjects was Jesus ; he entirely has the concluding reading of God’s word and will.

Clearly, he didn’t mean there should be no instructors in the new community but that the instructor was non to ‘interpret’ God’s word, merely leave its truths and lessons to the trusters. It is besides clear that the Gospel author besides saw an of import function for the instructor in edifying Hebrews that their Bibles had been fulfilled in the individual of Christ, and the heathens about the one God they should be idolizing.

I think there are a figure of other lessons that can be learned from Matthew’s understanding and perceptual experience of the function of the instructors and how it relates to the Christian. Clearly, the writer considered learning to be of great value ; earlier in the essay we considered how the construction of the text itself is done in such a manner to ease instruction and acquisition. Therefore, the author clearly believes that the survey of Christ’s words is of import. This is certainly inexplicit in the recording of Christ’s words in a physical signifier by the Gospel authors ; nevertheless, in Matthew this importance is explicitly stated and displayed.

I would propose that Matthew goes even further than this by actively promoting the adherents to constantly inquiry and dispute their beliefs in the visible radiation of Christ’s words. This can be seen in the words used in some of the major discourses Matthew records. During these learning state of affairss Jesus invariably challenges people’s beliefs and premises. He does this by repeatedly utilizing rhetorical inquiries, such as ‘you are the salt of the Earth ; but if the salt has lost its gustatory sensation, how shall its saltness be restored? [ 16 ] Or by his usage of the term ‘but I say to you’ , as in, ‘you have heard that it was said, “You shall non perpetrate adultery” , but I say to you that every one who looks at a adult female lustfully has already committed criminal conversation in his heart.’ [ 17 ] Here Matthew records Jesus cheering his hearers non to be satisfied with their first apprehension of a topic but to seek farther elucidation ; Matthews reassures the reader that they will happen this apprehension in the words of Jesus.

In this essay we have looked at how the author of Matthew’s Gospel has ambivalency to the term ‘rabbi’ . In his Gospel he reveals that Jesus is the last and concluding instructor, every bit defined as one who adds and interprets God’s written jurisprudence. However, it is clear that the activity of instruction is one that must invariably be carried out by the new Christian church ; we have seen this both by the words of Jesus recorded by Matthew and the fact that he makes his Gospels so ‘user-friendly’ for instructors.


Burridge, R.A. , Four Gospels, One Jesus? : A Symbolic Reading, SPCK: Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1994

Lindsall, H. , ‘Introduction to Matthew’s gospel’ , inEyre and Spottiswoode Study Bible, Eyre and Spottiswoode: London, 2nd edition, 1971

Polano, H. , The Talmud, Warne: London, 1877

Stanton, G.N. , A Gospel for a New Peoples: Surveies in Matthew, T & A ; T Clark: Edinburgh, 1992

Yueh-Han Yieh, John,One Teacher: Jesus ‘ Teaching Role in Matthew ‘s Gospel, Walter de Gruyter GmbH and Co KG: Berlin, 2004


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