Awhile ago I introduced the brand new second edition of the Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels (IVP Bible Dictionary)in a couple of posts. In the first I introduced the volume generally, and in the second I compared the article on the “Quest for the Historical Jesus” in the first and second editions, an important entry in the dictionary. In this final post on the DJG, I want to briefly compare the articles on the Gospel of Matthew in the first and second editions, written by Scot McKnight and Jeannine Brown respectively – both friends of mine so I’m going to use their first names. There are some interesting observations to make when they are compared.
What is most evident when comparing these two articles is that one was written by at Redaction Critic (at the time!) and the other by a Narrative Critic. These distinct approaches clearly affect the way each talks about Matthew and where specific emphasis is placed in the introduction. This alone observation reveals the need for this new edition of the DJG: Gospel scholarship has moved on quite far from the methods of the late 1980’s and early 1990’s when Scot wrote his article. This is not to say that the information in Scot’s essay is not useful or is outdated. It, in fact, is a foundation for Jeannine’s article. There is clearly a progressive relationship between the two.
Scot’s Article (1st Ed)
Scot’s essay is strong on the tradition criticism and highly influenced by it. This is seen in his careful and lengthy discussions of origin of the Matthew as well as his interest in source and redaction criticism. It is not to say that Jeannine doesn’t discuss historical questions, but the manner of her discussion of these is quite different. Scot’s piece is a clear reflection of its time. Knowing Scot as well as I do, we’ve talked about his early work on Matthew. His SBL paper on Matt 10:23 is an example par excellence of source and redaction criticism – it is an amazing example of just how far evangelical gospel scholarship had come by the late 1980’s since Ladd’s attempt to “sit at the table”. Scot possessed outstanding ability to apply the methods of gospel criticism with evangelical conviction. His gospel scholarship is some of the best there was. He is of that generation of North American gospel scholars like Hagner, Blomberg, Green and Bock. Although unlike them, Scot became bored with Gospel scholarship and began pursing Historical Jesus research in the 1990s (along with a lot of others!) when historical concerns gave way to literary ones among gospel critics. Each in my list has written important commentaries on the Gospels, but not Scot. Scot tells me he was contracted to write a “big” Matthew commentary and started it even, but gave the contract back eventually. When reading both Scot’s dissertation (unpublished) on the Mission Discourse (written by the way under Jimmy Dunn) and that SBL paper you feel just how dated the methodology now is. I’m told there is something of a resurgence of interest in source criticism (Watson’s new book Gospel Writing: A Canonical Perspective which I’ve yet to read) but I still personally find such research boring work and not very fruitful. I know I shouldn’t say stuff like that but its true. It’s not that I’m disinterested in history at all. Quite the contrary! I’m just much more interested in the final form of the Gospels and as literary pieces and their historical contexts, which I tend to think is quite early (re: Robinson Redating the NT). For example I really like the little book by Eddie Adams Parallel Lives of Jesus: A Guide to the Four Gospels and use it in my gospel courses. I do look forward to reading Watson’s new book however. More on that later I’m sure.
Jeannine’s Article (2nd Ed)
Jeannine’s article on the other hand as a much greater literary sensitivity. She has a strong emphasis on the narrative-critical side with lengthy discussion of the plot. She begins her article with an overview of Matthew’s literary features and his plot. Even when McKnight discusses the plot is it described to in less literary ways. This is seen even when handling the historical questions. For example on the question of authorship, Scot works carefully through the Papias quotation offering the three primary approaches and evaluating them. Jeannine deals with the Papias quotation too, but with less detail and analysis. And both deal with the typical issues of the supposed use of Mark by Matthew on the apostolic authorship. Scot is more definitive in his conclusion, though cautiously so. Jeannine leans toward a traditional authorship given her placement of Hagner’s opinion. However, for her it matters little. What she is concerned about more is the “implied author” drawn from the artifact of the text itself and not the “empirical author” of speculation behind the text. This opinion was likely not at hand for McKnight in the late 80’s. “Implied”, “ideal” or “model” authors and readers were not a consideration of gospel’s scholarship at that time. These are the gifts of narrative criticism which only began to gain currency in the mid-1990’s.
On Matthew’s Structure, Scot is more comprehensive in his description of the proposals. Jeannine provides primarily a description of the two most widely used models today based on preference for either one of two formulas: “And it happened that when Jesus had finished [these teachings]” which expresses an alternating narrative/discourse structure or the formula “From that time on Jesus began . . .” which gives a three-part structure. Jeannine attempts to synthesize the two while favoring the three-part structure, while Scot favors an organizational structure around the five alternating narrative-discourse units. Both set aside a structure that focuses on the geographical settings of Matthew, moving as it does clearly from Galilee to Judea and Jerusalem. I however think this may be the most straightforward and potentially effective way to follow Matthew’s biographical plot.
On Matthew’s theology both emphasize the topics of Jesus, Kingdom and Discipleship. But they discuss each in a unique manner. For example in the discussion of Jesus, Scot deals with the topics of (1) Jesus as Messiah, as (2) teacher and preacher and as (3) inaugurator of the Kingdom. Jeannine, in contrast, discusses Jesus more specifically as (1) “the Davidic Messiah” (which blesses my soul!!), as (2) Torah fulfilled and Wisdom embodied, as (3) representative of Israel and as (4) the embodiment of Yahweh.
Additionally, Jeannine draws insights from socio-rhetorical and empire criticism that provide an important context for Matthew within the Greco-Roman world of the late first century. Methods that had yet to be employed when Scot wrote his article. So the emphasis on the affect of Hellenism, Roman imperial power and the honor-shame currency of the first century Mediterranean world is helpful information for an introduction to Matthew.
Scot, in contrast to Jeannine, offers a lengthy discussion of the concept of salvation history in Matthew, a subject important at the time in Matthean scholarship. After sketching various proposals, Scot offers his own six-phase schema. I think that these kinds of discussions often work at such a high level of abstraction that they are more ciphers for the interpreter’s own theological presuppositions. Matthew obviously has a perspective on time; and one can query, “what time is it” for Matthew? This continues to be a concern for scholars as evidenced by the recent SBL session co-sponsored by the Matthew section and the Pauline Soteriology seminar where Matthew and Paul’s view of time were compared.
Conclusion. The comparison then reveals that while the second edition is an improvement on the first, both are indispensable as introductions to the First Gospel. But Jeannine’s is an advance on Scot’s. And if you only had one introductory article, better off you’d be with hers over his.