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Jesus as Teacher in Matthew

As of today I wrapped up 11 years of teaching at the seminary level, including teaching my Greek Exegesis of Matthew class every year here at Southern. Additionally, I have taught Matthew (in English) countless times in my NT survey course, and have given assorted lectures on Matthew in the States and several other countries and scores of churches. All this was based on the three years of intensive study of Matthew during my time in St. Andrews. This means I have been studying, thinking about, preaching, teaching, and writing on Matthew for nearly 15 years now.

Nonetheless, as Matthew subtly predicted, scribes of the kingdom continue to bring forth treasures old and new from the message of Jesus (13:52). Whether I am a worthy “scribe trained for the kingdom of heaven” is debatable, but I can at least testify that as I continue to study Matthew I learn more and more every time.

4329.jpg   This happened again today. I recently ran across a book I had never seen before (I’m not sure why!) and I have found it to be a careful study and one that pulled together several loose ends in my mind. It is a dissertation done at Yale under Wayne Meeks and then published in the BZNW series: John Yueh-Han Yieh’s One Teacher: Jesus’ Teaching Role in Matthew’s Gospel Report (de Gruyter, 2004).

This well-written piece of scholarship has as its goal to explore and explain how and why Jesus is depicted as the Teacher of God’s will par excellence. Besides John Meier’s The Vision of Matthew (1979), Samuel Byrskog’s Jesus the Only Teacher (1994), Chris Keith’s Jesus’ Literacy (2013) Jesus Against the Scribal Elite (2014), there are few studies on Jesus as Teacher per se. What makes this particular work stand out is a more literary reading of Matthew (including redaction and narrative approaches) plus a historical and conceptual comparison of Jesus as a Teacher with the Teacher of Righteousness from Qumran and the Greek moral philosopher Epictetus. (Those who have been following my occasional tweets about my own work in the Sermon will notice that I am very intrigued by this comparison of Jesus to his dual context of Judaism and the Greco-Roman philosophical world. See my forthcoming book The Sermon on the Mount and Human Flourishing: A Theological Commentary [Baker Academic, 2017].)

Near the end of the book Yueh-Han Yieh offers four functions of Jesus as Teacher (the One Teacher [23:8,10; cf. 28:19-20]):

  • Polemic Function — Combating Jewish Hostility
    • fighting the synagogues
    • disputing the rabbis
  • Apologetic Function — Defining Group Identity
    • God as Heavenly Father, Church as God’s Household
    • Jews as Lost Sheep, Church as New People
    • World as Weedy Field, Church as Kingdom Missionary
    • The End is Delayed, Church as Eschatological Community
  • Didactic Function — Forming New Community
    • Making a Community of Disciples
    • Prescribing New Patterns of Behavior
    • Authorizing New Institutions for the Church
  • Pastoral Function — Maintaining the Church
    • Promising His Presence
    • Fostering Servant Leadership
    • Demanding Mutual Forgiveness

I find these insightful and that they correspond well with many other themes I have observed in Matthew over the years

I’m thankful that I (rather accidentally) started studying this amazing First Gospel fifteen years ago and that I continue to learn so much from this master document and its beautiful Master.

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