The nature of Matthew’s community has been investigated by a number of scholars in the past and present. Currently, the debate centers on whether the Matthean community was a society with egalitarian structure consisting of equals. This study has also focused on the social structure of the Matthean community. The basic question is whether (or not) the Matthean community was an egalitarian group in an ancient advanced agrarian society in the first century Mediterranean world. If so (or if not so) does the Matthean community lack a hierarchical structure? This study suggests that the Matthean community was not an egalitarian structured society. The term “egalitarian” would not be applicable to the Matthean community, because the term “egalitarian” is a modern Western political and philosophical concept, which has its origin in the French revolutionary movement. The Matthean community was rather a socially stratified group in an ancient advanced agrarian society in the first century in the Mediterranean world. Consequently, the Matthean community was not a society with an egalitarian structure; rather, it was an inclusively structured society. This study has utilized two methodologies. Firstly, the investigation uses narrative criticism to analyse Matthew’s intention of his inclusive structured community depicted through Jesus’ inclusive ministry. This methodology considers the narrator’s point of view concerning Jesus’ ministry as he journeyed from Galilee to Jerusalem. Secondly, this research uses social scientific criticism to explore the Matthean text in order to consider Jesus’ ministry. This approach on Jesus ministry was reflected in the context of Matthew’s inclusive structure community. The Matthean community was socially mixed, consisting of Israelites and Gentiles. It was written in the years between 80 to 90 CE. The city of Antioch was the most likely setting for Matthew’s inclusive community, however hierarchically structured. A narrative point of view reading of Matthew’s story shows that Jesus was the protagonist involved in an inclusive ministry in accordance to God’s plan for the salvation of all people. The Israelite leaders are antagonistic to Jesus’ ministry, and they exclude social and religious outcasts. The disciples of Jesus help Jesus with his inclusive ministry, while the crowds help the Israelite leaders. However, there are times when the disciples do not understand Jesus’ inclusive ministry. The audience of Jesus’ inclusive ministry was the crowd. This inclusive ministry shifts from Galilee to Jerusalem and his ministry comes into conflict with the ideology of the Israelite leaders. Jesus’ focus was inclusive but the Israelite leaders were exclusive. Matthew’s depiction of Jesus’ inclusive mission completed with his death on the cross. A social scientific approach reveals that Matthew’s interpretation of Jesus’ inclusive ministry is directed to social and religious outcasts. His ministry includes sick people, sinners and tax collectors who are from the lower classes within a hierarchically structured society. Jesus’ ministry was reflected in the context of Matthew’s inclusive community. This study shows that the Matthean community was not a society with an egalitarian structure; rather, it was an inclusively structured society within a hierarchical context.
Thesis (PhD (New Testament))--University of Pretoria, 2006.