Monday, March 12, 2012

Matthew 10:23; Jesus and the Kingdom

I have two items for my write-up today on volume 2 of John Meier's A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus.

1. Matthew 10:23 states (in the KJV): "But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come." As I showed a few days ago, Meier believes that this statement in Matthew 10:23 was from early Christians, not Jesus himself. But isn't the statement embarrassing, since it was an unfulfilled prophecy? And isn't stuff that's embarrassing to the early Christians most likely from Jesus, since the early Christians would not invent an embarrassing tradition? Meier says that we see here "the limits of the criterion of embarrassment" (page 391). Sure, after the second or the third generation, Matthew 10:23 probably became embarrassing. But before then, early Christians could have believed that the Son of Man would come in their lifetimes.

Why did the final redactor of Matthew include Matthew 10:23, however, when he lived at a time when Matthew 10:23 was an embarrassment due to its non-fulfillment? Meier's answer is that the final redactor may have believed that Matthew 10:23 was fulfilled when the risen Jesus appeared to his disciples in the Gospel of Matthew's final scene, in "a sort of 'proleptic parousia'" (page 391).

What's interesting about Meier's note on page 391 is that he talks a little about the history of interpretation of Matthew 10:23. Meier states that v 23b "is not cited before Origen and not often after him". Meier believes this is due to embarrassment, but a scholar named Kunzi, on page 181 of Das Naherwartungslogion Matthaus 10, 23, denies that.

2. Meier talks about how the Kingdom of God was present in Jesus, in part because Jesus was liberating people from the bondage of Satan when he healed them and cast out their demons. For Meier, Jesus expected the fullness of the Kingdom to come in his life time, and Jesus was starting that. Perhaps Meier believes that Jesus was offering a preview of the Kingdom in its fullness, or that he was starting the assault against evil that God would continue by dramatically intervening in the course of human events. I'm still unclear about whether or not Jesus considered himself to be the Messiah, in Meier's eyes. Obviously, Meier believes that Jesus considered himself to be a significant figure in terms of the Kingdom of God, but was he significant as a prophet, or as something more, according to Meier?

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