Matthew's portrait of Jesus the judge, with special reference to Matthew 21-25
This thesis sets out to examine a section of the canonical text of the gospel of Matthew (Matthew 21-25) with a view to its contribution to the search for knowledge of Jesus as an historical figure. Methodologically, then, this thesis respects the literary coherence of the final form of the gospel of Matthew, but raises the question of its significance for an understanding of the historical Jesus. In an attempt to offer a fresh analysis of the material, the thesis takes up the use of the models of 'prophet' and 'sage' in contemporary scholarship, and investigates the theme of judgement in selected portions of the canonical and non-canonical Jewish literature associated with the prophets and the sages at the time of Jesus. It emerges that Jesus' proclamation of judgement reflects previous canonical themes found in both prophetic and Wisdom literature. Such deep dependence upon Jewish prophetic and Wisdom literature does not inevitably result in either Schweitzer's prophet of the imminent end or the 'non-eschatological sage' of Borg and others. Matthew portrays Jesus as prophet by means of his accounts of Jesus' prophetic acts, his declaration of impending national catastrophe and his warning of eschatological judgement. Matthew portrays Jesus as sage by means of his emphasis on the provocative aphoristic and narrative meshalim which Jesus employs to expose the errors of the Jewish religious leaders and to declare judgement upon them. He also highlights Jesus' emphasis, typical of Wisdom literature, on the judgement of God upon injustice, while not hesitating to indicate the eschatological element in Jesus' Wisdom sayings. Of particular significance in the ongoing discussion over Jesus' eschatological expectations, which are clearly of great significance for his teaching and actions relating to judgement, is the nature of 'apocalyptic' language. This thesis therefore discusses the biblical language at the centre of this debate in the light of its location in Matthew's text and considering the most likely background to his thinking. We conclude that many scholars have driven too great a wedge between what is 'apocalyptic' and what is 'prophetic', and propose that 'apocalyptic' texts in Matthew are best interpreted with the canonical prophetic literature as the most significant backdrop. We submit that when this material is read in its canonical background, its significance becomes clear so that it is no longer necessary to regard it as predictive of the parousia but rather symbolic of a great vindication of Jesus. In particular, when these sayings are interpreted in their context in Matthew's gospel, according to the approach to 'apocalyptic' language argued for in the thesis, they may be understood as natural and appropriate sayings of Jesus. That is, by means of recognising their coherence with the narrative in which they are set when interpreted in a manner in keeping with their most likely literary background, these sayings may be said to have a substantial claim to being authentic portions of the teaching of the historical Jesus. The thesis concludes that Matthew presents Jesus as one who embodies the prophet and the teacher of Wisdom, and who goes beyond these figures in important ways as he takes to himself the role of judgement in a way that is highly distinctive among the religious figures of his day.