Our Thursday posts focus on material from the New Testament. As part of our fourfold priority of history, integrity, truth, and Scripture we consider it important to read and review significant scholarly work with both the Old and New Testaments. Dr. David Scaer wrote a very intriguing book based on an overall narrative analysis of Matthew’s Gospel. We’ll be seeing how he classifies the different discourses in the work.
Scaer, David P. Discourses in Matthew: Jesus Teaches the Church. St. Louis: Concordia, 2004. Kindle Electronic Edition.
“Acknowledgements” Loc. 38.
The hypothesis which led to the rise of this book was that in fact the New Testament documents were intended to teach systematic or dogmatic theology (Scaer 2004, Loc. 43). “Of all the New Testament books, Matthew has the most obvious evidences of a catechetical structure . . . “ (Scaer 2004, Loc. 51).
“Preface” Loc. 67.
“In this volume, the idea will be advanced that Matthew’s Gospel was written as a catechesis or summary of what believers were taught before being admitted by Baptism into the full eucharistic membership of the church” (Scaer 2004, Loc. 67). Scaer asserts that Acts 2:42 references the typical early worship service, and that the written Gospels grew out of this regular recital of “the apostles’ teaching” (Scaer 2004, Loc. 80). Scaer observes that documents created for catechesis tend to make a journey to use as confessions over time, as may well have occurred with Matthew’s Gospel (Scaer 2004, Loc. 89). He lists multiple parts of typical catechesis, especially in the Lutheran tradition, which are predominantly keyed to Matthew. The rise of systematic theologies and especially the rise of form criticism may have distracted attention from the natural shape of Matthew as a catechetical work (Scaer 2004, Loc. 115). The first part of the service, the catechetical part, seems to have taken reading the Gospel, preaching, and any other instruction all as one unit (Scaer 2004, Loc. 137). This catechetical use of the Gospels may serve to explain the different emphases, especially of the Synoptics (Scaer 2004, Loc. 154).
Scaer now turns his attention to catechetical techniques. A catechism is a form of teaching, a didachē (Scaer 2004, Loc. 182). Often there are questions and answers, as well as memory devices. These elements are clear in Matthew. The catechesis introduces theological terms but may not always explain them completely. Again, Matthew does this (Scaer 2004, Loc. 209). The subject of catechesis is both words and deeds so the believer will understand faith and practice (Scaer 2004, Loc. 231). Scaer also observes that the non-chronological arrangement of the Gospel fits the mold of catechesis rather than biography (Scaer 2004, Loc. 259).
Scaer discusses the arrangement of Matthew into five distinct discourses (Scaer 2004, Loc. 281). Though the exact parameters are uncertain, many scholars find the following division. “(1) the Sermon on the Mount, Matt 5:1-7:28a; (2) apostolic authority and martyrdom, Matt 9:35-11:1; (3) the parables, Matt 12:46-13:53; (4) casuistry, or resolving incidental matters of church practice, Matt [17:22] 18:1-19:1; and (5) the end times, Matt 23:1-26:1” (Scaer 2004, Loc. 286). These steps effectively train disciples in a variety of topics necessary to their lives. As the catechumen proceeds through the Gospel there are concepts which build on other, earlier, ideas, illustrated in brief by Scaer. He further ties the five-part division to the ideas found in the Pentateuch, finding parallels (Scaer 2004, Loc. 365).
Scaer moves on to question whether Matthew is historical in nature (Scaer 2004, Loc. 432). The text is clearly not purely history, as it has instructive exhortations. Yet the matters of history remain important to Matthew (Scaer 2004, Loc. 437). Those who have tried to reconstruct an historical chronology from the Gospels find insufficient data and only vague agreement among the Gospels (Scaer 2004, Loc. 442). The emphasis is truly on Jesus’ teaching and his sacrificial self-offering. With the same non-historical plan in mind, Scaer observes that Jesus’ preaching may well have remained the same throughout his ministry, but that the more intense teachings are introduced later in the written catechesis (Scaer 2004, Loc. 473).
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