Re: Re. Separating Sheep from Goats!

Carl W. Conrad (
Thu, 23 Jan 1997 12:49:18 -0600

At 11:10 AM -0600 1/23/97, Philip L. Graber wrote:

>On Thu, 23 Jan 1997, Carl W. Conrad wrote:


>> The criterion of judgment is NOT "faith in Christ" at all, but

>> compassionate behavior toward hENI TOUTWN TWN ADELFWN MOU TWN

>> Now, IF one supposes (as I find very difficult) that it is ONLY

>> who are being separated from one another on this basis, then I guess

>> have to say that the referent of TOUTWN TWN ADELFWN is members of

>> believing community. In other words: those outside the "church" will

>> judged on how they treat members of the "church." Does anyone
believe that

>> is what this passage means? I don't, I must confess.


>An increasing number of scholars take this position as the social
world of

>Matthew continues to be explored. About 10 years ago or so, a

>dissertation was written by Sherman Gray (I think) on this parable,

>concluded exactly this. Read the parable together with Mt 10. It

>seem that the "least of these my brothers" are indeed the community,

>everyone else is going to be judged on the basis of how they treat

>disciples who are sent by Jesus. I think it is quite probable that,

>the polemic of the text against Jesus'/the Matthean community's

>(of course this is only given if you are willing to grant it), this

>parable is just another part of that polemic and fits in rather

>with the general tone of Mt 21ff.

Phil, this doesn't exactly surprise me, but it raises two questions in
particular to my mind:

(1) To whom are you pointing among "an increasing number of scholars"
who "take this position"? I know that you have found Saldarini's
account of Matthew impressive, but what others would you point to as
taking this line of interpretation? While I can see its plausibility to
some extent, I'm still very troubled by the thought that this
discourse, which is not a public discourse but one addressed only to
the disciples atop the Mt. of Olives, and which underscores the
recurrent special theme of Matthew that compassion is at the center of
Righteousness, is not meant to bear on conduct of members WITHIN the

(2) In my earlier post I raised the matter of the three distinct
<italic>Sitze</italic> in terms of which the parable ought to be
interpreted. Of course it is true that this parable is preserved ONLY
in Matthew, but I would assume that it is not a creation of the
Matthaean community EVEN IF it has been redacted to give expressions to
that community's concerns. So I would ask again about these other
<italic>Sitze</italic>: if it is understood as derived ultimately from
Jesus himself, what did HE mean by it? And how may it have been
understood in the communities preserving the tradition before its use
within Matthew's Eschatological Discourse.

(3) It also occurs to me to raise again more seriously my not very
serious question of my earlier post: IS this a parable, or IS it in
fact straightforward apocalyptic eschatological exposition?

It seems to me that interpretation of this whole pericope of Sheep &
Goats is very troublesome and loaded with lots and lots of

Carl W. Conrad

Department of Classics, Washington University

One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO, USA 63130

(314) 935-4018 OR