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Matthew is a Judaizing Document

Matthew is a Judaizing Document

Introduction

Matthew has Judaizing features that are missing from the other gospels. Matthew makes the highest standard of the law imperative, whereas, in Luke, the law is presented as a description of the ideal. According to the Jesus of Matthew, life is entered by keeping the commandments (Matt 19:17) and perfection is emphasized corresponding to an extreme standard of righteousness. (Matt 5:19) Righteousness is something practiced. (Matt 6:1) Matthew presents a gospel of entering life by keeping the commandments. (Matt 19:17). Jesus is claimed to suggest that believers should keep the minor points of the law (i.e., all the Mosaic Law) (Matt 23:23) while also promoting extreme ideas such as suggesting castration is better than marriage (Matt 19:9-12).  The three-chapter Sermon on the Mount of Matthew 5-7, goes far beyond the Old Testament Torah. The conclusion and climax of the opening of the Sermon on the Mount, often quoted by Judaizers of Matt 5:17-20, shows especially strong evidence of redactional intrusion. The material can be demonstrated to be an addition by the author of Matthew based on linguistic grounds.  (Georg Strecker, The Sermon on the Mount. An Exegetical Commentary, T. & T. Clark (1988) p. 53)

 In Matthew, we see a different gospel message and emphasis than we see in Luke-Acts + Paul as attested by the German New Testament Scholar Gorge Strecker:

The Jesus of the Sermon on the Mount does not distinguish in the Pauline sense between gift and duty, between indicative and imperative. He does not teach an opposition of law and gospel and does not know justification sola gratia, but rather obligates his followers to the demand that is unconditional because it is eschatologically motivated…

 

A pre-Matthean Jewish-Christian position stood implicitly, and in part explicitly, in contrast to the preaching of Paul and also of the Gentile-Christian church, in which Jesus Christ was proclaimed as not only the fulfillment but also the end of the law of Moses. 

 

(Georg Strecker, The Sermon on the Mount. An Exegetical Commentary, T. & T. Clark (1988) p. 34, 56)

In this article, we survey the material Exclusive to Matthew having a legalistic quality. We then compare the difference in the presentation of the Law between Luke and Matthew, whereas Luke is descriptive of the ideal and Matthew prescribes perfection as an imperative. We also survey some examples of dialectical inconsistencies within Matthean itself, brought about by a conflict of incorporated early tradition material against some additional interpolations of Matthew.  Anti-charismatic passages exclusive to Matthew are also listed, indicating an anti-exhibitionist contrast with Luke-Acts. Key findings of New Testament Scholar George Strecker are summarized in his book, The Sermon on the Mount: An Exegetical CommentaryStrecker attests that the special Matthean material does not correspond to the historical Jesus and is inconsistent with Luke-Acts+Paul. Finally, additional editorial changes of Matthew are described, which are of a Judaizing quality. 

Material exclusive of Matthew having a legalistic quality

Below are passages, with wording exclusive to Matthew, which are used by Judaizers such as Hebrew Roots groups. It is very suspect that these statements are only in Matthew if they are central to the gospel message, corresponding to the historical Jesus.

Matthew 5:17-20 (ESV)

17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 5:21-22 (ESV)

21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.

Matthew 5:27-32 (ESV)

27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell. 31 “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

Matthew 5:47-48 (ESV) 

 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Matthew 6:1 (ESV), Righteousness is something practiced

1 “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.

Matthew 7:19-23 (ESV)

19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. 21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

Matthew 10:40-42 (ESV)

40 “Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. 41 The one who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and the one who receives a righteous person because he is a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. 42 And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.”

Matthew 13:36-43 (ESV)

36 Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples came to him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” 37 He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. 38 The field is the world, and the good seed is the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. 40 Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, 42 and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.

Matthew 19:9-12 (ESV) 

  9 And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.” 10 The disciples said to him, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” 11 But he said to them, “Not everyone can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given. 12 For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it.”

Matthew 19:17 (ESV) 

 If you would enter life, keep the commandments.

Matthew 19:21 (ESV)

21 Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”

Matthew 23:2-3 (ESV) 

  2 “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, 3 so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice.

Matthew 23:23-28 (ESV) 

  23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. 24 You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel! 25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean. 27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

Matthew 24:12 (ESV)

12 And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold.

Matthew is prescriptive of the ideal while Luke-Acts is descriptive if it 

The material unique to Matthew is added to make it more legalistic and prescriptive. Whereas, Luke and Paul attest to the principle of the unattainable ideal regarding the law, with a descriptive character. 

According to Matthew’s understanding, the beatitudes are ethical demands. And one cannot escape this conclusion by saying that it is not to be interpreted without the person who is speaking here; for the Matthean, Jesus is not understood in the Pauline sense as the one who vicariously fulfills God’s righteousness for humankind or who out of grace reveals the righteousness of faith. His divine majesty is rather the majesty of the Lawgiver. The Sermon on the Mount is the law of the Lord. The Jesus of the Sermon on the Mount does not distinguish in the Pauline sense between gift and duty, between indicative and imperative. He does not teach an opposition of law and gospel and does not know justification sola gratia, but rather obligates his followers to the demand that is unconditional because it is eschatologically motivated. (Georg Strecker, The Sermon on the Mount, An Exegetical Commentary, Nashville : Abingdon Press (1988) p.33)

What does righteousness mean in the Matthean understanding? The first Evangelist employs the concept seven times, of which five are in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 3:15, Matt 5:6, Matt 5:10, Matt 5:20, Matt 6:1, Matt 6:33, Matt 21:32). With the exception of Matt 6:33, where the Matthean mode of expression is determined by the inherited context, all of the occurrences are construed in an anthropological, not theological, fashion; the word designates the righteousness of people, a human attitude that is supposed to be realized through active deeds (esp. Matt 5:20 and Matt 6:1). (Georg Strecker, The Sermon on the Mount, An Exegetical Commentary, Nashville : Abingdon Press (1988) p. 37)

The presentation of the Law as an ideal is not attainable (Luke) versus the expectation and prescription to conform to the strictest interpretation of it (Matthew). The implication of Luke is that all are condemned under the law. Reality fails to meet the ideal as exhibited in Luke 16:16-18

Luke 16:16-18 (ESV)

16 “The Law and the Prophets were until John; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached, and everyone forces his way into it. 17 But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one dot of the Law to become void. 18 “Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery. 

What is being conveyed by Luke is the precepts of God, which correspond to the ideal and optimal order of things, are eternal and immutable. The mention of adultery is in reference to the ideal state of affairs. It is to illustrate that in this broken world, adultery is unavoidable. Divorce wasn’t conflated with adultery in the Mosaic Law, but regarding the ideal state of affairs, it falls short. 

What Matthew does is take the reference of Luke where Jesus is describing the ideal, and going on beyond that by making it an imperative. That is, prescribing that people must abstain from divorce and even lust in conformance to the ideal. Matthew augments the teaching that the Law cannot be made void, with the directive that believers must strive to be perfect. This is evidenced by a contrast of Luke 16:16-18 with Matthew 5:17-18. Matthew speaks about fulfillment and accomplishing the testimony of Scripture (Law and the Prophets), but then adds to this an imperative of not relaxing commandments and having a righteousness that exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees. Matthew then continues with three chapters of the commandments of Jesus, which are even more extreme than the Law of Moses. The Sermon on the Mount according to Matthew is the amplification of the Mosaic Torah in the pursuit of the perfect ideal.  Accordingly, Matthew and Luke are saying very different things with very different emphases.

Jesus in Luke 16:16 can be understood as implying that, people are enabled to force their way into the kingdom of God, not by the old way of the Law, but by a new way that provides a sort of loophole. Although all fall short of the ideal (violate God’s standard of perfection), those who respond to the Gospel of the Kingdom in faith can get into the Kingdom, in another way! That is the new way of the Spirit, which comes through faith (as evidenced by the testimony of Luke-Acts + Paul). A key conformation of this perspective is Acts 15:8-11, where Peter pleads to the Jerusalem council not to weigh down believers with unnecessary burdens:

Acts 15:8-11 (ESV) 

And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, 9 and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith. 10 Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? 11 But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.” 

Regarding Gentile disciples, he declares that God had “cleansed their hearts by faith” and that “we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.” The decision of the Jerusalem council was not to lay a greater burden than a few basic requirements:

Acts 15:28-29 (ESV)

28 For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements: 29 that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.” 

Luke 12:31 (ESV), “Seek his kingdom”

31 Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.

Matthew 6:33 (ESV) Matthew addes “and his righteousness”

33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Luke 16:16 (ESV), Statement emphasizing the Gospel of the Kingdom 

16 “The Law and the Prophets were until John; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached, and everyone forces his way into it.

Matthew 11:11-15 (ESV), The Lukan Statement was repurposed to emphasize the ministry of John the Baptist. 

11 Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. 12 From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. 13 For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John, 14 and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come. 15 He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

Luke 16:17 (ESV), Description of Immutability of the Law

17 But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one dot of the Law to become void.

Matthew 5:17-20 (ESV), Appropriating the Lukan Statement to apply to Jesus’ fulfillment of the Law plus an Imperative to adhere to the strictest interpretation of the Law

17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Luke 16:18 (ESV), Description of the Ideal

18 “Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.

Matthew 5:27-32 (ESV), Imperative to conform to the Ideal

27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.
31 “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

Luke 18:18-23 (ESV), Base text (consistent with Mark 10:17-22)

18 And a ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 19 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. 20 You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.’” 21 And he said, “All these I have kept from my youth.” 22 When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 23 But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich.

Matthew 19:16-22 (ESV), Changes supporting legalism

16 And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” 17 And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.18 He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, 19 Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 20 The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

Internal Dialectics within Matthew

Dialectics within Matthews present themselves where there are inconsistencies with Material that is common to Luke and that material that is unique to Matthew. Dialectic used here is the contradiction between ideas that are incompatible with each other.  Because Matthew incorporates some Lukan material and adds unique Legalistic material, internal dialectic can be evidenced. That is, Matthew has inconsistencies not only with Luke but also within itself. 

 

Matthew 5:17-20 (ESV), Statement pertaining to the mission of Christ to fulfill the Law (all of Scripture being accomplished)

17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.  

(See also Luke 18:17)

Matthew 19-20 (ESV) Immediate change in emphasis: Imperative to conform to the Ideal

19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

(No parallel)

Matthew 5:14-16 (ESV), Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works

14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

(See also Luke 11:33)

Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18, Do good in secret

1 “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. 2 “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
5 “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 6 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
16 “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 

(no parallel)

Matthew 19:16-21 (ESV) Keep the Commandments

16 And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” 17 And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” 

(see also Luke 18:16-35, No parallel to “If you would enter life, keep the commandments”

Matthew 19:18-21 (ESV), Which ones? Specific commandments.

18 He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, 19 Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.20 The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”

(see also Luke 18:16-35, No parallel to “If you would be perfect”

Anti-Charismatic Passages Exclusive to Matthew

Here are anti-charismatic passages that are exclusive to Matthew. The ones about doing things in secret are in contradiction to Mark 4:21-22, Luke 11:33, and especially Matthew 5:14-16. Accordingly, the material unique to Matthew is questionable, as he emphasizes legalism over exhibitionism.

Matthew 6:1 (ESV)

1 “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.

Matthew 6:5-8 (ESV)

5 “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 6 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 7 “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

Matthew 6:16-18 (ESV) 

  16 “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Matthew 7:21-23 (ESV)

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

Matthew 12:38-39 (ESV)

38 Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” 39 But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.

Key Findings Regarding Matthew and the Sermon on the Mount

Gerorge Strecker, professor of New Testament, in his book, The Sermon on the Mount: An Exegetical Commentary notes on page 11, that based on two hundred years of historical-critical research, the Sermon on the Mount is “not a speech made by Jesus but is the literary work of the Evangelist.” The result of the detailed analysis is the assessment that only three beatitudes, three of the antitheses, the Lord’s Prayer, and some assorted bits and pieces, can be traced back to the historical Jesus. The author further suggests that “the way back to Jesus cannot be traveled without taking into account the various layers of tradition that are united in one text.” (p. 13) He further observes that the historical core of Matthew is, “not as encompassing as presupposed in conservative-fundamentalist interpretation.” (p. 174) 

Strecker regards the emphasis of the Law of Matt 5:17-20 in the Sermon on the Mount as Matthean compositions:

At the conclusion and climax of the opening of the Sermon on the Mount, verses 17-20 (Matt 5:17-20) show especially strong evidence of redactional intrusion. Both verse 17 and verse 20 were composed by Matthew, as can be argued on linguistic grounds, but one must also deal with the Matthean influence in verses 18-19. (Georg Strecker, The Sermon on the Mount. An Exegetical Commentary, T. & T. Clark (1988) p. 53)

Strecker states “one cannot escape this conclusion” regarding the beatitudes as being ethical demands rather than indicative of the ideal:

The Matthean Jesus is not understood in the Pauline sense as the one who vicariously fulfills God’s righteousness for humankind or who out of grace reveals the righteousness of faith… The Jesus of the Sermon on the Mount does not distinguish in the Pauline sense between gift and duty, between indicative and imperative. He does not teach an opposition of law and gospel and does not know justification sola gratia, but rather obligates his followers to the demand that is unconditional because it is eschatologically motivated. (Georg Strecker, The Sermon on the Mount. An Exegetical Commentary, T. & T. Clark (1988) p. 34)

Strecker further makes the assessment regarding the theology of Matthew as follows:

The Matthean Jesus stands in a basically positive relationship to the Torah; he affirms the Old Testament law and “fulfills” it in his exemplary appearance. In this passage [Matt 5:17-20], nevertheless, the very fulfillment is not primarily related to Jesus’ action, but to his teaching… His proclamation means that he, as God’s ambassador, “brings to full measure”—that is, confirms in their real meaning—the law and the prophets. (Georg Strecker, The Sermon on the Mount. An Exegetical Commentary, T. & T. Clark (1988) p. 54)

In describing the pre-Matthean Jewish-Christian position compared to the doctrine of the Apostle Paul, Strecker further states:

A pre-Matthean Jewish-Christian position stood implicitly, and in part explicitly, in contrast to the preaching of Paul and also of the Gentile-Christian church, in which Jesus Christ was proclaimed as not only the fulfillment but also the end of the law of Moses. (Georg Strecker, The Sermon on the Mount. An Exegetical Commentary, T. & T. Clark (1988) p. 56)

 

Additional Matthean edits of a Judaizing quality

The incident about paying the temple tax in Matt 17:24-27 suggests that Matthew’s community did not want to scandalize the Pharisees by failing to pay the tax. And in Matt 23:2-3, the Matthean Jesus exhorts his disciples to respect the authority of the scribes and Pharisees even if their example is not to be followed. Warnings about persecutions in the synagogues (Matt 10:17; Matt 23:34) imply that members of Matthew’s community still belonged to them. (Senior, Donald. The Gospel of Matthew (Interpreting Biblical Texts) (pp. 75-76). Abingdon Press. Kindle Edition.)

The emphatic teaching about the enduring validity of the law in Matt 5:17-19, even down to “one letter” or “stroke” (Matt 5:18), suggests that Matthew’s Jewish Christian community retained its adherence to the Jewish law. This is reinforced by a number of subtle changes introduced by Matthew into his Marcan source. The references to Hosea 6:6 in the conflict stories of Matthew 9:9-13 and Matt 12:1-8 appear to bolster Jesus’ interpretation of the law by an appeal to this prophetic text. In the conflict over washing of hands, when Jesus declares it is not what goes into a person that defiles, Mark adds a comment “thus he declared all foods clean” (Mark 7:19); Matthew’s version of that same incident eliminates this blanket declaration (cf. Matt 15:17)! In his parallel to Mark’s apocalyptic discourse where Jesus tells his disciples to pray that the end may not come “in winter” (Mark 13:18), Matthew poignantly adds “or on a sabbath” (Matt 24:20). Even in a passage where Matthew’s Jesus excoriates the scribes and Pharisees for their hypocrisy, he still respects their teaching authority and advises the crowds and his disciples to “do whatever they teach you and follow it” (Matt 23:3). And in several passages unique to Matthew, Jesus warns his disciples about those who are “lawless” (from the Greek word anomia; see Matt 7:23; Matt 13:41; Matt 24:12). (Senior, Donald. The Gospel of Matthew (Interpreting Biblical Texts) (p. 40). Abingdon Press. Kindle Edition.)

Some of the earliest redaction work originates from Günther Bornkamm in a 1948 essay on Matt 8:23–27 titled “The Stilling of the Storm in Matthew.” Bornkamm’s work with this pericope offers an example of how the author presents material to shape the audience’s understanding and lifestyle… Mark presents a miracle story emphasizing Jesus’ power over nature. Matthew makes changes to “give it a new meaning” as a story about “the danger and glory” of discipleship in “the little ship of the church.” Matthew does not merely pass on the tradition but interprets it, directing the audience’s insight. (Carter, Warren. Matthew (p. 45). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.)

In Matthew chapters 8–9, Matthew rearranges Mark’s order in Mark 1:23-5 to give prominence to the story of the leper’s healing as the opening story in Matt 8:1-4 (Mark 1:40-45). To achieve this, he omits Mark 1:23-28 and Mark 1:35-39, placing Mark 1:40-45 ahead of the healing stories in Mark 1:29-31 and 32-34. The redaction critic D. J. Harrington sees several reasons for setting the story of the healing of the leper first. Jesus commands the healed leper to show himself to the priest (Matt 8:4) in accord with Leviticus 14. This command demonstrates Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5:17–48) that he came to fulfill, not abolish, the law and the prophets. So his followers must do the same. Carter, Warren. Matthew (pp. 62-63). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Matthew also presents Jesus as the one who brings the definitive interpretation of God’s will. In a section unique to Matthew (5:21-48), Jesus quotes Jewish traditions six times in order to present their definitive interpretation. The interpretations support the claim made in 5:17 that Jesus has come not “to abolish the law and the prophets . . . but to fulfill [them].” Jesus interprets the scriptural traditions (found in the Septuagint) to indicate their “true” meaning (Matt 9:13; Matt 11:10; Matt 12:1-8; Matt 12: 9-14; Matt 13:14-17; Matt 15:1-20; Matt 19:3-12; Matt 22:34-40; Matt 22:41-46). The words of Moses, David, Isaiah, and Jeremiah, properly understood in the light of Jesus’ interpretation, are presented as endorsements of his divine authority. (Carter, Warren. Matthew (p. 80). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.)

Matt 8 and 9 do not collect miracle stories for the sake of displays of power. Rather, they express christological and ecclesiological (discipleship) concerns, reflecting the insights of the evangelist and his understanding of the needs and circumstances of his community. One important issue is the community’s relationship to Jewish traditions and heritage (Matt 8:4; Matt 9:13, Matt 9:14-17). The stories emphasize for the audience that this tradition continues, but as defined by Jesus. (Carter, Warren. Matthew (p. 64). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.)