Saturday, March 13, 2010

"Make disciples of all nations" Inclusive or Exclusive of Israel?

I think it is safe to say that the standard view today among Matthean scholars is that "all nations" in Matthew 28:19 includes both the nations (non-Israel) and Israel. It is often read as a revision of the earlier exclusive mission to only the "lost sheep of the house of Israel" (Mt 10:6). The evidence in favor of either view is even, although the linguistic evidence seems to nudge in the direction of an exclusive reading (see the 1975 CBQ article [37: 359-69] by Hare and Harrington "Make Disciples of all the Gentiles" [MT 28:19]). By the way, the article is very dated in terms of its theological outlook, and their argument is not as strong as they would have you believe, but the evidence is solid. It seems to me that the determining which way to read the "all nations" in Matt 28:19 has everything to do with one's view Israel in God's purposes.

For my own view on this question you can see my discussions in Matthew's Messianic Shepherd-King.


jeff miller said...

The scriptural case could be built that Jesus has redefined Israel in His ministry to the point that all who are yet to gather around Israel's Messiah are, in the most real sense, The Nations.

Michael Barber said...

An AMAZING dissertation that deserves A LOT of attention. Thanks so much for writing it!

Preston Sprinkle said...

This would create a nice envelope with the Israel vs. Nations theme in Matt 1-2: Gentiles in the genealogy; Magi seeking Jesus, while Jews are trying to kill him; the subversive designation of "Israel" as Egypt in 2:15 ("Out of Egypt I called my Son" as he LEFT Israel to go TO Egypt!).

I don't know much about Matthew, Joel, but this makes good sense. I've never thought of reading Matt 28 this way. Thanks bro. See you in April!