Matthew and Paul Agreements # 2 – The Jewish Way of Life in Christ

Matthew and Paul Agreements # 2 – The Jewish Way of Life in Christ September 24, 2020

The dichotomy between an ostensibly “Jewish” Matthew and Matthean community and a seemingly “Gentile” Paul with Gentile communities is patently false. First, Paul’s self-identification, symbolic universe, religious habits, sacred texts, and antagonism towards Hellenism remain indelibly Jewish. Paul affirms Israel’s God, Israel’s Torah, Israel’s Messiah, and Israel’s hopes. Even Paul’s argument that Gentiles do not have to convert to Judaism via the rite of circumcision in order to be Christ-followers was not entirely unique since other Jews argued over the necessity of Gentile circumcision to worship the God of the Jews (see Josephus, Ant. 20.17-95; Philo, Queast. Gen. 2.2). Second, while it is strenuously debated, Matthew’s own social location is arguably extra muros and reflects a rupture within Jewish synagogue communities in Palestine post- AD 70. Although Matthew is very much trying to hold together the “old” and the “new” (see Matt 9:17; 13:52), the new revelation in Jesus grates against the norms and boundaries of Jewish communities. As a direct result, messianic faith creates a split within Jewish communities over Jesus’s identity and Christian eschatology to the point of fermenting intra-Jewish persecution against Christ-followers. Such experience is perhaps reflected in warnings about what certain synagogues will do to followers of Jesus (Matt 10:17; 23:34-35).

Thus, Paul is pro-Gentile in a Jewish way, while Matthew is Jewish in a way that appears anti-Jewish to some of his contemporaries. More pointedly, Matthew and Paul both reflect a type of “Jewish Christianity” or “apostolic Judaism” that all adherents are committed to: (1) Love for Israel’s God (Deut 6:4; Matt 22:37; Rom 8:28; 2 Thess 3:5); (2) confessing Jesus (Matt 10:32-33; 16:16, 24; Rom 10:9-11); (3) obeying Jesus (Matt 7:24-26; 13:20-23; 28:20; Rom 1:5; 16:26; 2 Thess 1:8); (4) Love for neighbour (Lev 19:18; Matt 5:43; 19:19; 23:39; Rom 13:9-10; Gal 5:14); (5) judgment according to deeds (Matt 16:24-27; Rom 2:6-11); and (6) A cosmic restoration of all things (Matt 19:28; 1 Cor 15:24-28; Rom 8:23). Matthew and Paul are articulating a pattern of life and modes of discipleship that are thoroughly Jewish and uncompromisingly Christ-centered.

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