As one who has long been in close contact with a great many of the
country's leading scholars devoted to the Gospels, and for the last 15-16
years meeting regularly with the New Testament faculties of the leading
universities and divinity schools of the Greater Boston area, I can testify
that Philip Graber's presentation on this parable is exactly dead center of
the majority opinion in these circles. Tony Saldarini and Dan Harrington
participate regularly in these discussions, of course, but many more
reflect the same viewpoint.
May I add that I am a Mark-specialist, not Matthew, so I mostly listen to
what the real specialists are saying and writing. Personally, I believed
for most of my career that the parable is of the widest possible
application, and on that basis have been able to forgive Matthew's (to me)
hyper-legalism and "Super-Jew" stance. In recent years, I have been
pressed away from that view, and while I still preach the parable as
referring to everyone's treatment of everyone, I fear Philip's statement
about it represents the current scholarly mainstream.
Before the flames start, let me hasten to say that for me Matthew is still
part of the canon, and that I take it as Scripture! And I personally cannot
believe that Jesus uttered any such viewpoint; but getting back to HIS
version of the parable, and HIS meaning, is fraught with so many
difficulties that I must respect Philip's hesitation in this as the wiser
Carl Conrad is of course right, that we have several layers of meaning to
discern here. Matthew's own spin on it is what Philip was presenting.