Thursday, May 23, 2013

Gospel of Matthew, first attempt

Whereas for Genesis and Exodus, it was possible to make a division of the text based on the title, this text does not seem to allow for that. The Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ according to St. Matthew. In my Greek edition, it just says Kata Matthaion. About a month or so ago I saw a threefold division, so I'll start with that and then consider further:
  • Christ entering the world
  • Christ in the world
  • Christ leaving the world
That's exhaustive. But what does it mean for him to "enter the world"? In some way he does this by his conception, another way by his birth, and then finally by his preaching. Since the gospel is the good news, perhaps the division should be where he begins to preach the gospel. And then when is he leaving the world? Certainly it is in his passion, where he has ceased to preach. Perhaps before that, when he celebrates the passover with his disciples. Perhaps even when he enters Jerusalem? But he enters and leaves several times. We'll take the passover as the division, since he stops his public preaching here. So it seems we can offer a division according to the title, Gospel, which is very close to the above division.
  • Christ preparing to preach the gospel (1-4, it is part way through 4 that he begins to preach, but the calling of the apostles at 4:18-22 seems to have more to do with preparation and then 4:23-25 is like a synopsis of the following chapters)
  • Christ preaching the gospel (5-25)
  • Christ no longer preaching, yet fulfilling the gospel (26-28)
Since the middle chunk is the largest and least familiar (the first and third chunks are mostly covered by the mysteries of the Rosary), that is the one that requires further division. First, a brief summary.
  • Sermon on the Mount (5-7)
  • Preaching down from the Mount (8-9)
  • Teaching the Twelve (10)
  • Preaching in the Cities (11-12)
  • Preaching in Parables (13)
  • The Leaven of the Pharisees? (14-16)
  • Transfiguration (17) 
  • More preaching... (18-20)
  • Into Jerusalem (21-23)
  • Mount of Olives (24-25)
So that is pretty rough to begin with, and a grouping of those sections isn't standing out. I've always found it difficult to grasp the Gospels as wholes. The beginning and the end of the most of the Gospels is what is often most distinct about them and those parts are easily recognized, but their middle sections cover many of the same events. Some of them are distinct and happen in a certain order (calling the Apostles, the Transfiguration, he begins to talk about his passion, he enters Jerusalem) but there are many events (teaching, healing) which seem as though they could go in any order without difficulty. In order to eventually grasp each of the Gospels in their entirety, I will start by reading some more about the Gospel of Matthew and the synoptics together.

Since what is described in the Book of Exodus is all a sign of what is described here, it is far more important to understand this book than Exodus. I have certainly read it more times than Exodus, yet it remains more difficult. All right, I'll try this again later.

Update: Already I'm finding some interesting things. Here's a quote from a Wikipedia footnote:
Robert L. Thomas Three views on the origins of the Synoptic Gospels 2002 p255, and p322 "Farnell 's third axiom notes, quoting Linnemann, that the reason for four independent Gospels stems from the legal principle of Deuteronomy 19:15b: "[O]n the evidence of two or three witnesses a matter shall be confirmed."" 

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