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. The theme of righteousness is central to Matthew’s Gospel. Is it a righteousness which we work up? Is it something in which we cooperate with God the Spirit? Is it something in which we are passive? Dr. Scaer traces the theme through Matthew.
Scaer, David P. Discourses in Matthew: Jesus Teaches the Church. St. Louis: Concordia, 2004. Kindle Electronic Edition.
Chapter 8, “Righteousness in the Gospel of Matthew” Loc. 5006-5411.
The word “righteousness” appears seven times in Matthew’s Gospel, five of which uses are in the Sermon on the Mount (Scaer 2004, Loc. 5006). Scaer asks then, “Does the righteousness that is demanded of the followers of Jesus describe their behavior (living up to a code of right conduct) or is it superimposed on them the outside by God for the sake of Jesus?” (Scaer 2004, Loc. 5015). Scaer is clear that the word need not be interpreted exclusively in all its uses from one perspective or the other. Yet a good understanding of it will assist in knowing how Matthew intends it, whether like or unlike the usage in Paul (Scaer 2004, Loc. 5027).
It is not a common morality or a quid pro quo (Scaer 2004, Loc. 5039). Outside of the Sermon on the Mount, Joseph is described as righteous. Pilate’s wife describes Jesus as righteous (Scaer 2004, Loc. 5045). “Matthew’s use of language is ironic because sinners called by Jesus are those whom God receives as righteous. The self-proclaimed righteous, those who are not called by Jesus, are not righteous at all” (Scaer 2004, Loc. 5070). There were certainly moral demands made on both Paul’s and Matthew’s catechumens (Scaer 2004, Loc. 5105). Scaer suggests that the way the Pharisees fell short in righteousness was in showing mercy (Scaer 2004, Loc. 5128). Scaer also observes Paul and Matthew’s mutual knowledge of Jerusalem against pursuing a different interpretation of the idea of righteousness (Scaer 2004, Loc. 5149). His discussion of the matter shows that Matthew and Paul were seen as compatible in the first century. They must have had some considerable similarity in thought (Scaer 2004, Loc. 5194). If we view Matthew as a catechesis and realize that it reveals concepts gradually, we may see the idea more clearly. “Matthew takes his hearers to the border of the Pauline definition, while Paul assumes and furthers Matthew’s definition (Scaer 2004, Loc. 5216). Scaer suggests a definition such as “what God does in Jesus” which goes beyond morality (Scaer 2004, Loc. 5238). Scaer goes on to apply this understanding in commentary on numerous passages.
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