Matthew as Story

Matthew as Story

Matthew as Story

Matthew as Story


This work uses literary (narrative) criticism to explore the world of the evangelist Matthew. The focus is on the plot of the gospel story, with discussions of the storylines, Jesus' speeches and journey, the disciples' experiences, and the contemporary community.

The book is a completely revised and enlarged version of the first edition. Two chapters have been added: one discussing the speeches of Jesus and one tracing the storline of the religious leaders. Also, chapter 5 on Jesus' use of "the Son of man" has been substantially rewritten to explain more fully and more clearly the meaning and function of this self-designation. Throughout the book, new topics and insights have been added and developed, and the citations and bibliography have been updated.


This book is a completely revised and enlarged edition of its predecessor. It, too, is a study in literary, or narrative, criticism. As a subdiscipline of Gospel research, narrative criticism has surged to the fore in the 1980s in a way reminiscent of redaction criticism in the 1950s and 1960s. The appearance of an ever-increasing number of articles, monographs, and doctoral dissertations devoted to narrative-critical study is but one measure of the potential scholars find in this method for gaining fresh insight into the meaning of the Gospels. The advent of narrative criticism has already brought about considerable change in the way courses on the Gospels are being taught in colleges, universities, and seminaries.

The purpose of the book remains the same: To explore the world of Matthew’s thought by focusing on the plot (or flow) of the gospel story being told. Nevertheless, this second edition constitutes, in both major and minor ways, a significant revision of the first one. Thus, two new Chapters have been added: one that deals with the great speeches of Jesus (Chapter 6); and one that traces the story-line of the religious leaders (Chapter 7).

The need to devote a separate Chapter to the religious leaders had become increasingly apparent to me. Careful study of Matthew shows that it contains not just two story-lines (those of Jesus and of the disciples) but three, since the story of the leaders, too, is told. This story, however, is, like Matthew’s characterization of the leaders as well, exceedingly harsh. The world Matthew creates in his Gospel is one of cosmic conflict between good and evil. In it, Jesus Son of God, as the bearer of the Kingdom of Heaven, vies with Satan and his kingdom of evil. Since the religious leaders stand forth in the human realm as the principal antagonists of Jesus, Matthew aligns them with Satan and paints them in the darkest of colors. Matthew’s portrait of the religious leaders, therefore, is unabashedly polemical, and of this the reader needs to be forewarned.

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