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Raymond-Mark B. Partolan CHR 150- Dr.

Craig McMahan Fall 2011- Interpreting the Text Matthew 25: 31-46 1. What historical, social, or cultural background information is needed to understand this text? a. Historically, it is very important to understand the context in which Matthews Gospel was written. Composed around 80-85 CE, it is spread about 10-15 years after Marks Gospel. In the aftermath of the Jewish Revolt against Rome, Judaism is undergoing a major split. Christianity is finally becoming its own religion, rising from its position as a sect of Judaism. The author of the Gospel attributed to Matthew, who most likely composed it in Antioch, a gentile area with a large Jewish settlement, is anonymous. What we do know about his Gospel is that it caters mostly to Judaism and the author sees Jesus as the Jewish Messiah, a Jew, yet distinctive within the group. The author is primarily critical of the high leadership of the Jewish faith at the time. b. Socially and culturally, it is important to understand the words that were used to label Jesus at this time period, especially words that Matthew emphasizes. Compared to the other Gospel writers, Matthew uses the term Messiah more, indicating his feeling of Jesus as the one who would complete the Davidic covenant. This biblical passage uses a variety of titles for Jesus, including Son of Man, King, Lord, Shepherd, and One who comes. i. The Historical Jesus hesitated to use the term Messiah to refer to himself because of the repercussions that may have surrounded its use. His preferred term was Son of Man, perhaps indicating mankind and his present state of being human. 2. How does this text relate to the biblical material surrounding it in the preceding and following verses and paragraphs? a. This text is part of a series of parables that illustrate Jesus anticipated second return. Beginning at the end of chapter 24 with a parable warning church members to treat each other honorably, then to a parable telling Christians to be prepared for a delay in the Second Coming, to a parable compelling Christians to be productive as they await the coming, and finally to the final parable, our text, compelling Christians (and all humanity) to make charitable acts. The text is immediately followed by the Passion story, the story that will lead to Jesus downfall and resurrection, awaiting his Second Coming for the final judgment. 3. What kind of literary genre is this text? (Story, sermon, parable, letter, etc.) And who is the audience IN the text and the intended readers OF the text? a. Parable: Brief fictional narrative that typically compared Gods kingdom to an object or action familiar to the people at the time of the Gospels composition. b. In the text, the audience is Matthews interpretation of the church, meaning all nations, primarily referring to Gentiles who lived without the Mosaic Law of the Jewish faith. However, this term can also include all humanity. c. The intended readers of the text are also the church, primarily because of Matthews emphasis on the development of the church and the clarification of its members functions and duties. 1

Raymond-Mark B. Partolan CHR 150- Dr. Craig McMahan Fall 2011- Interpreting the Text Matthew 25: 31-46 4. What point is being made in this text? What seems strange, exaggerated, or missing? How is the point being made? a. The point being made in this text is that members of Jesus church, the new Christian church, must make charitable acts. At the parousia, or Second Coming, there will be a final judgment where the worthy sheep and the unworthy goats will be separated and judged. They will be judged on their behavior towards Jesus little ones, a term that Matthew often used to refer to Christian disciples. The text is a call for altruism, for members of the Church to help those who are less fortunate than them. Jesus tells his audience that those who treat the meek and poor well, feed them, clothe them, and take care of them, will enter into eternal life and those who do not will enter into eternal punishment. b. Nothing appears to be strange, exaggerated, or missing from this text. It is simply a call for altruism that should still be prevalent in society today. The text is timeless. c. The point is being made in parable form. Jesus teaching is put into words that the people would understand more easily such as feeding the hungry, providing the thirsty with something to drink, welcoming a stranger, clothing the naked, taking care of the sick, and visiting those in prison. 5. What meaning is the text trying to convey? What troubles, interests, or inspires you about this text? What questions does it raise? a. Like aforementioned, the primary duty of this text and the texts immediately preceding it is to shift the emphasis from expectations about the Second Coming to the function and duties of the Church. The text tells of how members of the Church should treat others and that they should strive to make charitable acts. b. This text inspires me to involve myself more in activities of civic engagement so as to fulfill Jesus wishes while awaiting his Second Coming, should I consider myself a member of His Church. 6. Write a question related to your text that you would like to offer for class discussion. a. Why do you believe that the philosophy regarding the final judgment is All-or-Nothing in Matthews case? The sheep will be led to eternal righteousness and the goats will be led to eternal punishment. Why is there no middle ground?