Monday, December 14, 2009

Review of France's Matthew, Part Six

I continue with my review of France's commentary with a reflection on his commentary on the Parable of the Vineyard (21:33-44).

France’s discussion of the Parable of the Vineyard provides a window into his understanding of Matthew’s perspective on Israel. Despite his comments in the introduction about the nature of early Christianity making the question of extra muros or intra muros complex, he seems to quite clearly in the extra muros camp.

While acknowledging that the context demands that the “tenants” of the parable be understood as the “current Jerusalem leadership”, France takes Jesus statement “the kingdom of God will be taken from you and will be given to a nation which produces its fruit” as a suggesting Matthew conceives of a redefinition of Israel as a new people of God comprised of ethnic Israel and Gentiles. France states:

The vineyard, which is Israel, is not itself destroyed, but rather given a new lease on life, embodied now in a new “nation.” This “nation” is neither Israel nor the Gentiles, but a new entity, drawn from both, which is characterized not by ethnic origin but by faith in Jesus (817).

One, however, may wish to question when background “hints” (800) and subtle implications (810) become “fore grounded” arguments. It seems to me that such a reading inappropriately sidelines what is for Matthew’s narrative primary. Even if the Gentiles of Matthew 8:11-12 are included in this “nation” (note the singular) this does not imply redefinition, but fulfillment in line with the Isaianic prophecies of 56:3-7 and 66:18-21. This prophetic fulfillment in 21:13, Matthew has already echoed with his statement of rational for the Temple action: “My house will be called a house of prayer” (Isa 56:7).

Isa. 56:3-7
3 Let no foreigners who have bound themselves to the LORD say, “The LORD will surely exclude me from his people.” And let no eunuch complain, “I am only a dry tree.” 4 For this is what the LORD says: “To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose what pleases me and hold fast to my covenant— 5 to them I will give within my temple and its walls a memorial and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that will endure forever. 6 And foreigners who bind themselves to the LORD to minister to him, to love the name of the LORD, and to be his servants, all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it and who hold fast to my covenant— 7 these I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.”

Isa. 66:18-21
18 “And I, because of what they have planned and done, am about to comea and gather the people of all nations and languages, and they will come and see my glory. 19 “I will set a sign among them, and I will send some of those who survive to the nations—to Tarshish, to the Libyansb and Lydians (famous as archers), to Tubal and Greece, and to the distant islands that have not heard of my fame or seen my glory. They will proclaim my glory among the nations. 20 And they will bring all your people, from all the nations, to my holy mountain in Jerusalem as an offering to the LORD—on horses, in chariots and wagons, and on mules and camels,” says the LORD. “They will bring them, as the Israelites bring their grain offerings, to the temple of the LORD in ceremonially clean vessels. 21 And I will select some of them also to be priests and Levites,” says the LORD.

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