The Gospel of Matthew and Anti Semitism Essay

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Anti-Semitism has practically been embedded into Christian doctrine. As Harrington (2009) points out, “certain Gospel texts have fostered anti-Judaism,” and “one can say that the Gospels may have an anti-Jewish potential,” (p. 1). This is true in spite of the fact that many of the authors of the gospels might have self-identified as Jews, or who were at least writing from a Jewish consciousness and Jewish point of view, for a largely Jewish audience. To extricate anti-Semitism from the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) seems challenging. Harrington (2009) is willing to accept the challenge by first showing that the wisdom contained in the synoptic gospels reveals “common ground” between peoples of the book (p. 2). Second, Harrington (2009) offers new frameworks for reading the synoptic gospels, so as not to impose anti-Semitism or to misinterpret the author’s original meaning. Finally, the author offers important social, cultural, and historical contexts that can at least help clarify the presence of anti-Semitism and help contemporary Christian preachers to address anti-Semitism more honestly in their sermons. Ultimately Harrington writes the book to “caution Christian teachers and preachers” about material that perpetuates anti-Semitism, essentially teaching a new type of Biblical literacy.

Matthew’s Gospel has the most anti-Jewish potential of all the synoptic gospels because its content is often expressly, overtly anti-Semitic.

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Matthew is more anti-establishment than he is anti-Jewish per se, and yet he directs his criticisms directly at Jewish leaders and those who deny Christ. Moreover, Matthew was devoutly committed to the new covenant model, also known as supersessionism. Supersessionism refers to the Christian belief that Christ rendered Jewish law, custom, and tradition as irrelevant and even sacrilegious. Christ’s Church superseded the Jewish religion. Therefore, denying Christ is effectively denying God, from Matthew’s point of view. In this sense, Matthew is more evangelical and radical than he is specifically anti-Semitic. Yet Matthew does direct his wrath towards the Jewish religion and the social and political structures that defined it in his time. Matthew’s audience would have responded in different ways, depending on their backgrounds. For those who followed Christ, they would have found political solace in the anti-establishment views.

The parable of the vineyard is clearly political, even more than it is religious. It tells the story of tenant farmers, and essentially advocates the redistribution of wealth. The parable maintains the core themes of Jesus’s ministry to….....

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Bergant, D. (n.d.). Preaching the New Lectionary. Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press.

Harrington, D.J. (2009). The Synoptic Gospels Set Free.

Pilch, J.J. (1995). The Cultural World of Jesus. Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press.


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