Re: Re. Separating Sheep from Goats!

Philip L. Graber (
Thu, 23 Jan 1997 20:49:54 -0500 (EST)

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

> (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
> community.

I certainly had Saldarini in mind, and Daniel Harrington's commentary also
comes to mind. In general, much of the work that understands the Matthean
community in terms similar to Saldarini and Harrington supports this
conclusion, though I can't think of other specific examples off the top of
my head. As to the private nature of the discourse, so is chapter 10,
wherein Jesus says (NRSV): "Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever
welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes a prophet in
the name of a prophet will receive a prophet's reward, and whoever
welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive
the reward of the righteous; and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to
one of these little ones in the name of a disciple---truly I tell you,
none of these will lose their reward." I see this "parable," if it is
that, as a part of the comfort that apocalyptic language was apparently so
often used to give to people suffering duress. I think Jesus (even
Matthew's Jesus) is certainly concerned with how his disciples treat other
people, but I don't think that this passage is about that.

> (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.

That's a good question. I don't know. I think I do know how Matthew
understood it, and I'm not willing to say that Matthew's picture of Jesus
is unfair to Jesus. But then, you already know that I'm cautious, even
agnostic, about many historical conclusions.

> (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?

That, of course, raises the huge issue of what is a parable. I'm inclined
however, to treat it as part of the apoclyptic eschatological exposition.

Philip Graber Graduate Division of Religion
Ph.D. Candidate in New Testament 214 Callaway Center
Emory University Atlanta, GA 30322 USA