I have been interested in studying the Gospel According to Matthew for at least two decades. That interest has been sparked further by the congregation I serve and the Seminary teaching I am doing. In the current congregation during Sunday morning Bible Study we have been looking at Matthew since September 2011. And I have been teaching Matthew in the Seminary this Spring Quarter (2014).
In the congregation we have focused on Matthew 18:15-35—for two months. What could occupy us that long on one text? In the next series of blog posts I will address some of what we learned and discussed. Is it worth the time? Absolutely. And we could have spent more time on the text! As I explore this, you can see how the text itself and the application could easily lead to this. And you will understand how much is missing in this series of posts.
Structure and Organization
Commentaries offer different approaches to looking at the structure of Matthew’s Gospel. Jack Kingsbury examines the structure, Christology, and kingdom theology. He sees the structure revolving around three parts: the person of Jesus Messiah, the proclamation of Jesus Messiah, and the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus Messiah. While not necessarily agreeing with his structural analysis, I have found his approach helpful in filling in some gaps with other approaches.
Daniel Patte focuses on two points for commentary: 1. The structure is based on Matthew’ faith (level 3 for those familiar with Voelz’s hermeneutical approach). While this gives good insights, it is tenuous because we have little to verify level 3 kinds of issues. 2. Opposition passages. This approach can help the student because the growing tension between Jesus and the Jewish leaders (in particular) is obvious as one reads the Gospel.
David Scaer also follows a level 3 understanding of the Gospel. His focus is on the Matthew as the first catechism. So he views the structure (within the five fold discourse below) from the perspective of Matthew writing a catechetical document.
These and many other resources are excellent aids for the student of Matthew’s Gospel. See at the end of this post selected resources. For instance, Franzmann’s commentary is easy to overlook due to its age, and non verse-by-verse approach; but it is a profitable read for the student—more than one time.
Perhaps the most common structural view of Matthew is the Five Discourse approach. This basic five division structure comes from noting these specific passages:
7:28 And when Jesus finished these sayings,
11:1 When Jesus had finished “ordering”
13:53 And when Jesus had finished these parables
19:1 Now when Jesus had finished these sayings
26:1 When Jesus had finished all these sayings
This leads to the following structure, which is derived from study notes in Dr. Robert Hoerber’s class in 1982-3.
Five Discourses in Matthew’s Gospel
Introduction: Jesus the Messiah (Matthew 1:1–4:16)
I. First Group: Annunciation of the Kingdom and the Call to Repentance (4:17–7:29)
A. Deeds: (4:17–25)
B. Words: Sermon on the Mount (of Matthew) (5:1–7:29)
II. Second Group: Compassionate Messiah seeks the lost sheep of the house of Israel (8:1–11:1)
A. Deeds: 10 Messianic deeds of power (8:1–9:35)
B. Words: Mission discourse (9:36–11:1)
III. Third Group: Contradicted Messiah conceals the Kingdom from those who rejected it, and further reveals it to those who have accepted it (11:2–13:53, NB 13:11)
A. Deeds: (11:2–12:50)
B. Words: Seven Kingdom Parables (13:1–13:53)
IV. Fourth Group: The Ekklesia (church), i.e. the New Messianic people of God (13:54–19:1)
A.. Deeds: (13:54–17:27)
1. Separation from Judaism (withdrawals)
2. Communion with His followers
B. Words: Principles for the New Ekklesia (18:1–19:1)
NB: Matthew is the only Gospel using Ekklesia (16:18; 18:17 [2x])
V. Fifth Group: Messiah gives His disciples a sure and sober hope (19:2–26:1)
A. Deeds: Judean Ministry (19:2–22:46)
B. Words: Discourse on Eschatology (end times) (23:1–26:1)
Conclusion: Suffering, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Matthew (26:2–28:20)
The next post will concentrate on the place of Matthew 18:15-35 within this structure.
Selected Reading List
France, R. T. The Gospel of Matthew. Vol. The New International Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans Pub., 2007.
Franzmann, Martin H. Follow Me: Discipleship According to Matthew. Concordia Publishing House, 1961.
Kingsbury, Jack Dean. Matthew: Structure, Christology, Kingdom. First Thus ed. Augsburg Books, 1991.
Patte, Daniel. The Gospel According to Matthew: A Structural Commentary on Matthew’s Faith. Fortress Pr, 1986.
Scaer, David P. Discourses in Matthew: Jesus Teaches the Church. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2004.