'Woe to you, hypocrites!' : law and leaders in The Gospel of Matthew
This thesis seeks to move beyond the impasse in Matthean scholarship that posits the reason for conflict in Matthew 23 with the authorial community. A framework is developed that allows the possibility that the gospel was received and understood by a widespread, general audience that itself was not necessarily embroiled in conflict. Multiple complementary methods are used to analyze how an ancient audience might expect conflict and work through its development in the narrative. Analysis of comparative biographical literature and of Old Testament references and allusions shows that readers could expect in literature the type and intensity of conflict exhibited in Matthew 23. The gospel's internal narrative development provides unity to the conflict episodes in Matthew 9-23. It also offers rationale for the escalation of conflict for which Matthew 23 is the summary. Chapter One: The Shape of the Discussion surveys representative works including redaction, social scientific, socio-historical, narrative and genre critics, to understand the options for studying conflict in Matthew. Reader-response oriented genre criticism provides language for framing reader expectations. Chapter Two: Expecting Conflict examines expectations that can be associated with Matthew's use of the Old Testament and by comparison with ancient biographies. Chapter Three: The Conflict Builds works systematically through each of the points of contact between Jesus and the leaders of Israel in chapters 9-22 organized by three topics: legal interpretation, the identity and authority of Jesus, and the character of the leaders. Chapter Four: Woe to You takes up the task of examining Matthew 23. The analysis of Matthew 23 identifies three components in the summary of conflict: Jesus presented as the model for his audience, Jesus' final denunciation of the leaders, and the presentation of Jesus as God’s representative. The multi-methodological approach used in this study of Matthew 23 suggests a narrative that invites the reader to rethink how one knows and understands God. The study thereby provides an alternative to the assumption that conflict reflects the immediate experience of a narrowly conceived authorial community.