Entering the Kingdom of Heaven: A Study on the Structure of Matthew's View of Salvation

By Lamerson, Samuel | Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, September 2000 | Go to article overview
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Entering the Kingdom of Heaven: A Study on the Structure of Matthew's View of Salvation


Lamerson, Samuel, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society


Entering the Kingdom of Heaven: A Study on the Structure of Matthews View of Salvation. By Petri Luomanen. WUNT II/101. TUbingen: Mohr-Siebeck, 1998, 343 pp., n.p.

What is the "kingdom of heaven"? This question has plagued scholars for the past two hundred years and has received a variety of answers from such notables as Schweitzer, Dodd, and Ladd. The present work, however, deals with what may be a more fundamental issue: "How is it that one (according to Matthew) gets into-and stays in-the kingdom of heaven?" That is the question that this revised version of the author's doctoral dissertation seeks to answer. The central point of contention is stated by Luomanen (p. 3): "Is God's grace the starting point which is followed by requirements directed to those who are already believers? Or should the priority be given to the final judgement, when grace would have only a subsidiary role?"

The work begins, after an introduction to the question, with a survey of previous research. This section is well done and would be a good place to start for anyone working on this area in Matthean studies. He divides the previous research into two areas: scholars who see "Good News and Good Works" as the basis for salvation (with sub-categories of grace and works, grace alone, etc.), and scholars who see the covenant as the basis of salvation. While one might quibble here or there with some nuance in the description of a particular scholar, overall this is a very helpful section.

Next, Luomanen sets forth his methodological considerations. He rightly points out that the "danger of getting involved with circular arguments is biggest when it comes to the task of forming an overall view of a religious movement or community" (p. 32). He goes on to assert that the "aspects of soteriology that are valued in our religious environment also tend to be found as the key concepts of Matthew's theology" (p. 33). In an attempt to avoid this problem, Luomanen sets forth his method clearly, arguing that to accurately understand Matthew's view of entering the kingdom, one must examine three different types of texts: texts describing the final judgment, texts describing the relationship between Jesus and his disciples, and texts describing how one stays in the Christian community (primarily from Matthew 18). Luomanen includes a very strong section on distinguishing true redaction from possible or probable redaction. Here he is at his best and his careful work on the text of Matthew shows.

The majority of the work is given over to analyzing texts for the purpose of finding Matthew's view of achieving and/or maintaining salvation. He divides the texts into the three categories set forth in the methodological section.

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