Intergroup Conflict and Matthew 23: Towards Responsible Historical Interpretation of a Challenging Text

Esler, Philip F ORCID: 0000-0002-4889-4889 (2015) Intergroup Conflict and Matthew 23: Towards Responsible Historical Interpretation of a Challenging Text. Biblical Theology Bulletin: Journal of Bible and Culture, 45 (1). 38 -59. doi:10.1177/0146107914564824

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Matthew 23 is challenging because of the nature of the attack Jesus mounts on the scribes and the Pharisees and the way texts such as this have subsequently figured in persecution of the Jews. Responsible historical interpretation of Matthew 23 requires that we pay the closest attention to the precise nature of the intergroup conflict evident in the text in its particular setting, especially by use of social-scientific theory (here drawn from social identity theory). After denying “race” any role in designating ancient or modern groups, I focus on the conflict portrayed between the leaders and certain members of the ethnic Judean group and a Christ-movement with a different kind of identity, one that had transcended ethnic boundaries. Matthew begins with a fairly mild criticism of the scribes and Pharisees (vv 1–7). He then highlights Christ-movement identity (vv 8–12). Next he critiques the Judean outgroup in close engagement with its ethnic character, initially focusing on its leadership (vv 13–36) but then embracing a wider group (vv. 37–39). Using as an example the Vatican II statement on the Jews, I conclude that we should never eschew responsible historical interpretation of a text like Matthew 23 for political reasons.

Item Type: Article
Article Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Bible Studies, Matthew
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BS The Bible
Divisions: Schools and Research Institutes > School of Creative Arts
Research Priority Areas: Culture, Continuity, and Transformation
Depositing User: Susan Turner
Date Deposited: 28 Aug 2015 11:20
Last Modified: 31 Aug 2023 08:55

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