The idea of perfection in Matthew's Gospel against its Jewish background
This work seeks to define the meaning of being "perfect" in Matthew's Gospel in relation to the Jewish holiness tradition. The first part is composed of three sub-chapters. (1) The first chapter discusses the idea of perfection in the Pentateuch, in which Matthew's perfection is mainly rooted. This chapter intends to study the way in which the idea of perfection is displayed in relation to the concept of holiness in the Pentateuch. The idea of perfection, which was derived from the qualification (oon) of the sacrificial animals that were offered to God, was applied to the priests because they were associated with the sacrificial animals in their functions. The idea is extended to the nation of Israel in Deuteronomy on the grounds that the nation of Israel is a holy and priestly nation. (2) The second chapter deals with the idea in the prophetic writings, which is closely associated with three elements: the idea of shalom, the suffering motif, and the New Covenant as a means of the restoration of Israel (a priestly nation). The idea of perfection in the prophetic writings stresses an ethical dimension within a covenantal relationship with Yahweh. (3) The wisdom writings place much emphasis upon wisdom as a means of achieving holiness and perfection. Wisdom literature introduces the divine wisdom as perfect wisdom which the people of God seek after. As a result, the Torah as a source of the divine wisdom is closely linked to the idea of perfection in the wisdom writings. Part two demonstrates how the idea of perfection played an important role in the life of the Jews in the Second Temple period. (1) The idea of perfection is crucial for the understanding of life at Qumran. The idea of perfection in the Qumran community is to be defined in the context of the Jewish expectation that a priestly kingdom would be restored as the fulfilment of the New Covenant. The Qumran covenanters regarded themselves as members of a priestly community which was expected to atone for the sins of the Land. Against this background, the covenanters applied priestly holiness, i.e., perfection, to their life and religious practices. (2) The Pharisaic idea of perfection is closely related to their ideal to establish a priestly nation in the Promised Land. On the basis of this, they applied priestly holiness to the people of Israel in general. Because of the centrality of the Torah and the wisdom influence in the life of the Jews in the post-exilic period, the Pharisaic perfection highly emphasises the importance of the dual Torah (both written Torah and the tradition of elders) as a means of achieving perfection. Part three discusses how Matthew's Gospel makes use of the idea of perfection effectively in his Gospel. Matthew intends to show how the promise of the New Covenant was fulfilled in the work of Jesus. Matthew describes the new people of God as a new Israel: the Church as the new Temple, Jesus as the High Priestly Messiah, and his disciples as priests ministering for the new Temple. Jesus' disciples were likened to the priests who served the Temple in the presence of the Lord. On this ground, Matthew demands that Jesus' disciples should be "perfect". Therefore, for Matthew, the Church, i.e., the new Temple, is the community of perfection. Matthew inherits the Jewish idea of perfection (the centrality of the love command in particular) and applied it to the life of the new people of God.