Tuesday, 4 November 2014
Jews and Anti-Judaism in the New Testament: Decision Points and Divergent Interpretations,
Terence L. DOnaldson, SPCK, 2010, page 53-54
Donaldson has been arguing that it is almost impossible to place the social location of either Matthew himself or his intended (first, immediate) audience. This great affects the way in which his material is read and interpreted.
If we decide (1) that Matthew unerstands the church as a Gentile entity, whose existence is predicated on the rejection of the Jews as the people of God; (2) that the gospel was written in and for a Gentile Church now totally separated from the world of Judaism and existing in a hostile relationship with it; and (3) that the intended purposes of its polemic was to vilify the Jews as a whole and to inculcate anti-Jewish attitudes in its readers - the Matthew's Gospel is certainly supercessionistic and anti-Judaic, and might be at least latently anti-Semitic.
If instead we decide (1) that Matthew understands the Church to be the messianic remnant of Israel; (2) that the Gospel was written in and for a Jewish sect or renewal group still existing within the world of Judaism and participating in its structures and institutions, even if standing in critical opposition to the current Jewish leadership; and (3) that the polemic was directed solely against the Jewish leaders with the aim of encouraging the rest of the Jewish people to choose Jesus as their teacher and leader instead - then the Gospel is neither anti-Semitic nor anti-Judaic and may not even be supercessionistic.
These represent the two opposite ends of a spectrum of ideas. Donaldson makes the point that where we position Matthew on that spectrum can make a significant difference to what we think he is saying!