Saturday, February 12, 2011

Through the efforts of the pastoral associate, my parish just began a 10-wk Little Rock Scripture Study on Matthew's Gospel using the new Collegeville commentary and a video lecture. During the brief Advent study from the same publisher, I learned that there's a great deal of reading and preparation necessary for the small group discussions. So I wasted no time and completed this week's work in a couple of days. I'll probably tweak my answers over the coming days as there are a couple of issues that I want to research in greater depth.

The first matter for further investigation is the commentary writer's observation that Matthew must have omitted a name from Jesus' genealogy. Either that or ol' Matt couldn't count because there are only thirteen names in the third group, since the Exile. My opinion before I begin any additional reading is that someone is to be counted twice.1 Since he skipped generations at some points, he certainly had enough names to work with. Interesting that Rahab is said to be the mother of Boaz, even though she lived at the time of the conquest and Boaz lived at the time of the judges.

The major insight that I got from the Collegeville commentary was Reid's comment on 2:17-18:
"Whereas Matthew uses this text [Jer. 31:15] to express the bitter lamentation of Israel over its slaughtered children, in Jeremiah it is part of an oracle that promises an end to the suffering and the return of the exiled Israelites (Jer 31:16)."
In following down that cross-reference, I never read past verse 15 in Jeremiah 31. Maybe Matthew intended us to and then we would see the hope of Jesus bringing us back from exile, too.

Doing some homework yesterday, I read chapters 3-5 and was surprised to hear portions of Matthew 5 again at mass this weekend. Reid's commentary on verses 38-42, under a heading "On nonretailiation," is outstanding:
The first example (v. 39b) involves a backhanded slap, meant to insult and humiliate. Turning the other cheek is a creative response that robs the aggressor of the power to humiliate and shames the one who intended to inflict shame. [emphasis mine] It interrupts the cycle of violence [and i]t could begin to move the aggressor toward repentance, leading to reconciliation.


In a smiliar way, a debtor who stands naked in court, after handing over both under and outer garments to a creditor (v. 40), performs a shocking act that places shame on the creditor. See Genesis 9:20-27, which asserts that it is the one who views another's nakedness who is shamed. Isaiah (20:1-6) made use of this strategy. This tactic exposes the injustice of the economic system to which the creditor subscribes and opens the possibility that he may repent, perceiving the common humanity that unites him with those he had exploited. [emphasis mine]
Wow. Definitely wisdom literature.

1 In fact, Hendriksen believes Jechoniah ought to be counted twice because, between the account in 2 Kgs 24:8-12 and 1 Chr. 3:17-18, the king goes through such an amazing conversion that it's as if he's a new man. While I'm ok with counting someone twice, this explanation is not sensitive to the theological differences between Kings and Chronicles, the latter always portraying the monarchy in a relatively better light. Someone in our small group suggested that Jesus and Christ are to be counted as two distinct people but that idea reminds me of an ancient heresy.


Kathleen@so much to say said...

That is really interesting! Sounds like a terrific resource. Right now our diocese is doing a faith sharing thing, and it is so devoid of the intellectual stimulation I crave in Scripture study that I had to bow out. I'll be interested to see more of your thoughts as the process goes on!

Moonshadow said...

Thanks for your interest, Kathleen.

The learning materials are better than I expected. With the old Collegeville commentaries, you know, I might wince here and there with some assertions or positions. I'm a pretty hard sell.

But this updated one on Matthew hasn't made me roll my eyes yet once! There's hope again for Catholic biblical scholarship! ;-)