Sunday, December 20, 2009

Review of France's Matthew, Part Seven

For the final sample of France's commentary I'll briefly consider his discussion of the  Mission Statements (10:5-6; 28:16-20).

In discussing the relationship between the two mission statements in Matthew, France interprets the second (28:19-20) as and extension of the first (10:5-6): he comments: “The Gentile mission extends the Jewish mission – not replaces it; Jesus nowhere revokes the mission to Israel (10:6), but merely adds a new mission revoking a previous prohibition (10:5)” (1115). France’s point is surely correct although I wish he would have developed this idea more. In what way is the mission new? Does the new mission consist of a different task along with its different target—thus, implying two complementary missions? Or does France think that the newness of the mission of 28:19-20 is merely in its scope—now the mission is to all nations, including Israel? From the statement itself, I am inclined to think that he would take the latter view.

France’s comments on the direction of reading Matthew’s Gospel are useful and interesting. It is of course commonplace to consider the end of Matthew as its Schlüssel and there is the tendency to read it from back to front. France admits the theological significance of this scene in Matthew influences the reading of the whole and gives the approach some legitimacy. Still he seems prefer to read Matthew from front to back as a literary work “arriving at this final pericope in which all the strands have come together”. I would go further than France and assert that one can understand the significance of the elements of 28:19-20 from Matthew’s perspective only after reading the unfolding narrative. For example the significance of Jesus’ proclamation: “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth” as well as the place of the Gentile mission. One of course would come away with the impression that Matthew’s Jesus has cosmic authority and that is the basis for a mission to the nations, but the texture of the ideas is lost without the narrative. 

Related to this point is one of the most important pieces of analysis in the whole commentary in my view. Here France rightly places the stress of the passage on the culmination of Jesus kingship. By doing so, he reveals that Matthew’s narrative climaxes with Jesus’ Davidic kingship. Matthew, then, ends where he began with the affirmation that Jesus of Nazareth is the Davidic Messiah who is not simply “the king of Jews” as the Magi heralded, but is king over the heavens and the earth. France states, “It is the universal kingship of the Son of Man which has emerged as a distinctive feature of Matthew’s presentation of Jesus” (1113).

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