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What Did Jesus Say? (2012) - 7 topics 

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Scholarly Article on Question of "Matthew's" (read Jesus') Anti-Paulinism

Excerpts from:

Matthew’s anti-Paulinism: A neglected feature of Matthean studies by David C Sim

School of Theology, Australian Catholic University Research Associate: Department of New Testament Studies University of Pretoria   HTS 58(2) 2002

found at www.hts.org.za/index.php/HTS/article/download/557/456 [This opens a PDF.]

[768]  ****

I would do so by reviewing briefly the trends in Matthean studies in the last fifty years on the issue of Matthew and Paul. Specifically I wish to focus on one view which was proposed at the beginning of this period but which has been largely neglected since then, the thesis that Matthew was an anti-Pauline text. In focusing on this particular hypothesis, I want to accomplish three things. First, I wish to offer an explanation as to why this proposal was initially found unconvincing and why it lay dormant for so long. Secondly, I want to present a case that this thesis deserves to be resurrected in the light of modern trends in Matthean studies.  [769] Thirdly, I will aim to show that a convincing case can be made for the proposition that the evangelist was motivated, at least to some extent, to write his Gospel in order to discredit Paul and to falsify the Pauline version of the gospel.


The thesis that Matthew was an anti-Pauline text was proposed in 1951 by S G F Brandon,4 who produced three arguments in support of his case. First, Brandon contends that the prominence Matthew gives Peter (cf Mt 16:17-19) is a response to the growing influence of Paul (Brandon 1957:232, [234] 236-237). Secondly, he finds explicit polemic against Paul in Mt 5:17-19, especially in verse 19 where he agrees with J Weiss  [in Das Urchristentum (1917) ]that the least in the kingdom of heaven is a reference to Paul, the least of the apostles (cf 1 Cor 15:9). Thirdly, the “hostile man” in the parable of the Tares (Mt 13:24-30) is a further reference to Paul, even though the later interpretation of this parable in Mt 13:36-43 identifies this figure with Satan. Brandon (1957:233-236) maintains that the interpretation is a later interpolation; in the original text the hostile man who sows the weeds in the field is Paul.

It must be conceded that Brandon’s three arguments are not especially convincing in the manner in which he presented them. His contention that Matthew elevated Peter at the expense of Paul in Mt 16:17-19 fails to carry conviction because Brandon provides no supporting evidence that the evangelist specifically had Paul in mind. Moreover, the view of Weiss that the least in the kingdom in Mt 5:19 directly refers to Paul, while possible, is by no means certain. Finally, Brandon’s interpretation of Paul as the hostile man in Mt 13:24-30, dependent as it is upon Mt 13:36-43 being an interpolation, is particularly difficult to accept. There is no textual evidence whatsoever for his claim, and most scholars now correctly identify Mt 13:36-43 as a creation of the evangelist himself (see Sim 1996a:78-79, and literature cited there). Brandon’s arguments for Matthew’s anti-Paulinism are therefore a mixture of the weak and the unconvincing, and it is quite understandable that his hypothesis found no support in later scholarship.



The virtue of Brandon’s work was that it prompted later scholars to consider the relationship between Matthew and Paul. In the larger studies that emerged in the next two decades, scholars adopted a position that was the complete opposite of that claimed by Brandon. Rather than being anti-Pauline, Matthew actually stood close to the theological tradition of Paul. Perhaps the most important of these works was the classic study of the Sermon on the Mount by W D Davies ([1963] 1966), which devotes a long discussion to the relationship between Matthew and Paul. Davies (1966:325-332) maintains that Matthew, as much as Paul, had a positive view of the Gentiles and the Gentile mission, and he severely criticises Brandon’s three arguments in favour of Matthew’s anti-Paulinism. Davies finds no anti-Pauline polemic in Mt 5:19 and he quickly (and correctly) dismisses Brandon’s interpretation of Mt 13:24-30 (see Davies 1966:334-336). Moreover, he interprets the elevation of Peter by Matthew only as recognition of the disciple’s importance in the early church and not as an attack on the significance of Paul (Davies 1966:336-340). Finally, Davies (1966:341-366) argues that the evangelist and the apostle shared a common understanding of Jesus and his teachings; the law of Christ for both consists partly in the words of Jesus.5

FN 5 Davies has recently restated his position on this issue in his major Matthean commentary written in conjunction with D C Allison (see Davies & Allison 1997:721-722).

The work of Davies on the issue of Matthew and Paul had two important effects. First, his critique of Brandon was considered so definitive that Brandon’s hypothesis hardly rates a mention in subsequent discussions. Davies had completely discredited the proposal that Matthew was anti-Pauline, so scholars saw little need to raise it.6 Secondly, Davies made respectable the view, at least in the short term, that the evangelist and the apostle were close in a theological sense.

The position of Davies was taken even further by M D Goulder, whose controversial work on Midrash in Matthew presented a detailed analysis of the relationship between Matthew and Paul.7

[FN 7 Goulder (1978:223-240) developed his thesis in a later monograph.]

Goulder (1974:156-168) argues that Matthew was much influenced by the Pauline tradition in terms of Christology, evangelisation, ecclesiology and anti-Pharisaic polemic and he goes so far as to suggest that the evangelist knew the Pauline epistles and used them in the composition of his Gospel (Goulder 1974:154-155, 170). But in making these claims, Goulder takes care not to depict Matthew as a Pauline Christian; the evangelist was far more conservative than the apostle on the issue of “Law-observance” (see Goulder 1974:170).

A decade or so later J P Meier (1983:12-86) arrived at a similar conclusion. Matthew belonged to the tradition of Peter, the middle position in the early church that stood between the extremes represented by Paul and James the brother of Jesus. Matthew was clearly not Pauline, a fact that is obvious from his more conservative stance on the Law, but in practical terms his theology was similar to that of Paul. Both enjoined a universal mission without circumcision, both made demands based upon love, both emphasised church order, both viewed the resurrection of Jesus as the pivotal eschatological event, both accepted the revelation of God in the Jewish scriptures and in the Christ event, and both had a high Christology (Meier 1983:62). Meier (1983:62-63) concludes that Matthew and Paul could have worked together in a mission to the Gentiles.

This view that Matthew and Paul were theologically close did not itself last the distance. It is clear that the initial work of Davies, in trying to refute the position of Brandon, went too far in the opposite direction by overstating the agreements between Matthew and Paul and largely ignoring their differences. While it goes without saying that the Christian Matthew and the Christian Paul agreed on many important issues, especially the significance of the Christ event, their disagreements were much more serious than Davies, Goulder or Meier acknowledge. The issue of Law-observance, for example, was not a minor theological problem, as Goulder and Meier imply, but an issue of the utmost importance that deeply divided the early Christian movement and would have just as deeply divided the two Christians in question. The trend in Matthean scholarship over the last few decades has been to acknowledge the gulf between Matthew and Paul on this and related issues.



I want to begin here with the monograph on the theme of judgement in Matthew’s Gospel by the Swiss scholar D Marguerat (1981:212-235).9 Marguerat discusses the role of the Torah in Matthew and compares it with Paul’s view of the Law, and he concludes that there is a major difference between the two. The evangelist’s more conservative view of the Law can be attributed to his adoption of an optimistic Jewish anthropology that had no radical view of sin. Even though this is a deficiency in Matthew’s theology, his combination of grace and demand has the positive effect of forestalling extreme libertinism; it is therefore an essential corrective to the Pauline gospel. For Marguerat, Matthean theology tends to complement rather than oppose its Pauline counterpart. What is interesting about Marguerat’s work is that there has been a subtle change of direction in his discussion. Having established that there is a large gap between Matthew and Paul on the key issue of the Torah, he does not pursue what would seem to be the obvious question that arises from this conclusion; what would the Law-observant Matthew have thought of the Law-free Paul? Rather, he looks for ways to solve the theological tension between them, and he does this by arguing that the two are not contradictory but complementary. This might be an entirely valid way for modern Christians to view these texts, but in doing so we risk losing sight of Matthew’s own aspirations and intentions. Did Matthew present his own theological scheme to complement Paul’s theology?

The complementarity of Matthew and Paul also found expression in the published doctoral dissertation of R Mohrlang (1984). Mohrlang’s comparison of the ethical perspectives of Matthew and Paul stands as the most comprehensive assessment to date of these two early Christian figures. Though Mohrlang does not refer to the work of Marguerat, his study makes precisely the same points. In an informative discussion of the Torah, Mohrlang draws the correct conclusion that Matthew and Paul had little in common on this issue; the former upheld the Law and so stood closer to traditional Judaism, while the latter viewed the Torah as superseded by Christ and thus represented a more radical break with the Jewish tradition (Mohrlang 1984:7-47). In the final chapter of his monograph, Mohrlang (1984:126-132) draws some theological conclusions. He suggests that both

[773] Matthew and Paul are relevant for Christian ethics today; the emphases of each are complementary, and modern Christians need to hear the Pauline word of grace as well as the Matthean word of demand.

Thus Mohrlang, like Marguerat before him, ignores the obvious question that arises from his study. How would Matthew who stood close to Judaism have viewed Paul who had broken with Judaism? Instead of pursuing this historical question, Mohrlang turns to modern Christian theology and argues that both Matthew and Paul are relevant today because they basically complement one another. Later scholars have tended to follow this lead. R T France (1989:110-111) contends with Davies and Goulder that Matthew may have been influenced by Paul, but he also acknowledges their differences and agrees with Mohrlang that the two should be seen as complementary. A Sand (1991:159-160), whose discussion is much influenced by the work of Marguerat, correctly warns that we should not harmonise the differences between Matthew and Paul, but he makes no attempt to spell out how the evangelist himself considered these differences.

This tendency to ignore this historical question was finally overturned in the relatively recent work of U Luz (1993), and the results are rather illuminating. Luz maintains that Matthew contains no anti-Pauline polemic, even though the two disagreed over the validity of the Torah. Such was their disagreement over this issue that the evangelist stood closer to the “Judaisers” who opposed Paul in Galatia than to the apostle himself, and Luz remarks wryly that the two men, had they known one another, would not have struck up a close friendship (Luz 1993:147-148). In accordance with this difference between them, Matthew and Paul had opposing views about the religion of Judaism. For Paul Judaism stood in sharp contrast to Christian faith; the two traditions are in fact “fundamentally opposing principles” (Luz 1993:148). Matthew, by contrast, saw no opposition between Judaism and Christianity, and no contrast between Law and gospel.

Luz (1993:150-152) contends that it would be wrong to put Matthew and Paul at opposite ends of the theological spectrum, for there are also strong areas of agreement between them. Both emphasised the priority of grace, both accepted a theology of works, both highlighted the interior dimensions of righteousness, both believed that the core of the Law is love, and both shared the view of the universality of faith in Christ. In his conclusions Luz makes the same point as others before him. The tension between Matthew

[774] and Paul is useful for modern Christians, because their different views can be interpreted as complementary (Luz 1993:153).

The value of Luz’s discussion is that he distinguishes carefully between the way in which modern Christians can understand Matthew and Paul and the historical question of Matthew’s attitude towards Paul. He makes an important point when he says that the two would not have been friends because of their very different views on the religion of Judaism and the validity of the Torah, and he is entirely correct to say that Matthew is much more closely aligned with Paul’s Christian Jewish opponents in Galatia than with Paul himself. Luz, however, does not pursue the implications of this statement; he moves on instead to list a number of agreements that Matthew and Paul shared.

But Luz’s point demands to be followed through to its logical conclusion. There is no need to rehearse the well-known evidence that Paul himself and his gospel were openly attacked by Christian Jewish opponents in Galatia, and that Paul responded in kind by defending himself and his gospel, and by severely attacking and cursing his critics. We have here an extremely bitter dispute by opposing Christian factions over the issue of Christian identity; should Gentiles become members of the people of Israel as a necessary part of their Christian existence? If Matthew stood theologically close to these Christian Jews, then it follows that he would have agreed with their negative view of Paul and shared in their polemical attack upon him. For his part, Paul would have viewed Matthew in the same manner as he viewed his critics in Galatia. Although Luz is right to say Matthew and Paul would not have been friends, this statement is far too mild. On the basis of the Galatian evidence, they would have been bitter enemies.


This conclusion stands in agreement with another current trend in Matthean studies. One of the major issues to emerge (or re-emerge) in the last decade is whether the Matthean community still identified itself within Judaism or whether it had broken with its parent religion. The primary evidence in this regard is the validity of the Torah in the Matthean community (cf Mt 5:17-19). Both J A Overman (1990) and A Saldarini (1994) have argued in significant monographs that Matthew’s Law-observant Christian group still

[775] identified itself within Judaism, even though it was in conflict with the wider Jewish society (formative Judaism). In my own book on the Matthean community, I largely followed Overman and Saldarini in defining Matthew’s law-observant Christian community as a small sectarian group within Judaism (see Sim 1998:109-163) and other recent studies have drawn similar conclusions (see, e g, Davies & Allison 1997:692-702; Keener 1999:45-51; Repschinski 2000; Carter 2000:30-36). Of course not all scholars have accepted this particular understanding of the Matthean community (see the recent statements by Hare 2000:264-77 and Riches 2000:202-225, 291-296, 317-319), but the evidence suggests that it is clearly and quickly gaining momentum in the field. This interpretation of the evangelist’s community adds further evidence to the view that Matthew was theologically close to the Christian Jewish opponents of Paul in Galatia.

But we can go further than this. Some of the implications that emerge from the thesis that this community identified itself within Judaism have not been fully explored. One of these concerns the Gentiles in the Matthean community. Would these Gentiles have been expected to observe the Torah? Matthean scholars have generally argued that, while the Jews in Matthew’s group would have been obliged to keep the Mosaic Law, the Gentiles would not have been (for a list of scholars holding this view, see Sim 1998:251-252). This is a difficult proposition to accept if the Gentiles were to be considered full members of this Christian group (as opposed to being God-fearers). Since the Matthean Jesus specifies clearly that his followers are to obey the Law in all respects and that even the least commandments are to be observed (Mt 5:17-19), this must apply to Gentiles as much as to Jews; the text makes no discrimination.

The fact that circumcision is not mentioned in the mission charge at the conclusion of the Gospel (Mt 28:16-20) is quite consistent with this thesis. The risen Christ instructs his disciples to make disciples of all peoples by teaching them to observe all that he commanded. What he commanded is found in the teaching of Jesus in the earlier sections of the narrative, and it includes observance of the whole Torah (Mt 5:17-19). This clearly involves circumcision and the other ritual requirements of the Law. [MY COMMENT: Leviticus 12 only required sons of Israel to be circumcised, not sojourners/foreigners in the community of Israel.] There is no need to mention circumcision in the mission charge because it is obviously presumed for those who were Gentiles; they are to observe the Torah as Jesus commanded and thereby join the people of Israel. The risen Lord then makes reference to baptism as the entry rite to the

[776] Christian community (within Judaism). This is stated specifically because it is a new teaching (or ritual) that had not been mentioned earlier in the Gospel and to which both Jewish and Gentile converts needed to submit (see Sim 1998:252-254). My understanding of the mission charge and of the necessity of circumcision in the great commission has recently been criticised by Riches (2000:220-222), but not all scholars have been as sceptical. In a recent article on Jews and Gentiles in Matthew’s Gospel, D Senior (1999:19-22), who is intensely critical of my work in some respects, seems to accept my position that the Gentiles converted by Matthew’s group would have been expected to keep the Mosaic Law. As Senior says in support of this view, “Matthew was not Paul” (Senior 1999:20).

Senior has inadvertently touched on an important point. Matthew indeed was not Paul, and if Senior is correct that the Matthean mission to the Gentiles was a Law-observant mission, then we can see just how far apart were the evangelist and the apostle, and just how close Matthew was to Paul’s opponents in Galatia; the issue in Galatia was precisely over the nature of the Gentile mission. And if these Christian Jewish opponents were anti-Pauline, criticising the apostle himself and his Law-free version of the gospel, then we might expect that Matthew, who stood close to them theologically, would have been similarly anti-Pauline. The time has arrived to resurrect the thesis of Brandon, if not his precise arguments, and look for concrete evidence that Matthew did in fact criticise the great apostle to the Gentiles and his version of the gospel.


Such evidence is not hard to find. Scholars have long noted that the Gospel of Matthew contains material that attacks Christians who are lax towards the Torah. In an early redaction-critical study, G Barth ([1961] 1963:159-164) argued that Mt 5:17ff, 7:15ff and 24:11ff is directed against such Christians, though he contends that the object of this criticism is not Paul himself or his followers but a group of libertine Hellenistic Christians.

Other scholars have understood these texts in a different way. These commentators actually concede that Matthew’s Gospel contains explicitly anti-Pauline texts, but they contend that these were pre-Matthean periscopes that did not reflect the viewpoint of the evangelist. The best example of this position is H D Betz, who argued that the Sermon on the Mount was a unity before it came to Matthew, and reflected a conservative Jewish

[777] Christian perspective that was overtly anti-Pauline (cf Mt 5:17-20; 7:13-27). Betz (1985:20-25; 37-53; 154-157) strongly maintains, however, that this material in no way represented the outlook of the “universalist” Matthew (see Betz 1985:20-21, 37-53, 154-157).10 [FN10 Betz (1995) provides a detailed exegesis of these passages in his later and monumental commentary on the Sermon.]

Betz’s position is especially difficult to accept. Why would Matthew simply take over the Sermon without modification if he sharply disagreed with aspects of it? We know from the evangelist’s redaction of Mark and Q that he had no hesitation omitting or altering traditions he disliked. Therefore, if he preserved these anti-Pauline passages from his sources, then it is much more likely that he agreed with them (see Sim 1998:8-9). This conclusion sits well with the current trend to identify the evangelist as a Law-observant Christian Jew. It is difficult to define the precise point in time when scholars began once more to look at these anti-Pauline passages in Matthew as representative of the evangelist’s viewpoint, but it is clearly in evidence in the 1990’s. In 1991 A F Segal published a long and interesting essay on the Jewishness of Matthew, and commented, almost in passing, that the evangelist’s polemic against lawlessness in Mt 7:15-23 and Mt 24:10-12 was directed against either Paulinism or extreme Paulinism (Segal 1991:21-22). The next study to raise this subject was one of my own. In my book on Matthew’s apocalyptic eschatology, I argued that certain Gospel passages were clearly intended to counter the Law-free version of the Christian tradition (i e Mt 5:17-19, 7:13-27; 13:36-43; see Sim 1996a:210-217). Like Segal, I too left open the identity of these Christians. I did not commit to the view that Matthew was specifically attacking Paul and his version of the Law-free gospel.

I soon changed my mind on this issue as the weight of evidence – Matthew’s Christian Jewish perspective, his support for a Law-observant Gentile mission and the presence of anti-Pauline texts in his Gospel – pointed inevitably to the conclusion that Matthew was engaged in a bitter and sustained polemic against Paul himself. In an article also published in 1996 but written after the book, I strongly made the point that scholars needed to take more seriously the rare hypothesis that Matthew was in fact anti-Pauline (see Sim 1996b). Two years later I published my book on the history and social setting of the Matthean community, and I set out in detail the case for Matthew’s anti-Paulinism. To my knowledge this was the first substantial attempt to demonstrate an anti-Pauline perspective in Matthew since the failed attempt of Brandon. I do not propose to repeat here the detailed

[778] arguments in the book, but I do want to show how those arguments expand and modify the earlier work of Brandon.

Brandon had contended that Mt 16:17-19 promotes Peter at the expense of Paul, but he provided no supporting evidence for his claim. Such evidence does exist, however. But before I look specifically at this passage, a more general consideration needs to be mentioned. I have argued in detail elsewhere that after Paul left Antioch in 49CE to begin missions in Greece and Asia Minor, he was continually in conflict with the Jerusalem church. This church, which was led initially by the disciples of Jesus, especially Peter, and then later by the family of Jesus, notably James, was behind the trouble in Galatia and it caused disturbances in other Pauline churches.11 [FN11 For a detailed discussion of the history of the early Christian movement and the conflict between Paul and the Jerusalem church, see Sim (1998:63-107, 165-169).]

We would expect, if Matthew were anti-Pauline, that he would promote the cause of the disciples and the family of Jesus, the major opponents of Paul. This is precisely the case. Matthew’s major source, Mark, presents these two groups in very negative terms, which I would explain as the result of Mark’s Pauline perspective. When redacting these sections of Mark, Matthew carefully rehabilitates both the disciples and the family of Jesus (Sim 1998:188-199). This is indirect but nonetheless important evidence of Matthew’s anti-Paulinism that Brandon completely overlooked. Let us now consider Matthew’s elevation of Peter in Mt 16:17-19. Many scholars have noted that the evangelist stood in the Petrine tradition, perhaps because of Peter’s connection with the church in Antioch, and it is just as evident that in focusing on the importance of Peter in this passage he was indeed countering the claims of Paul. What Brandon failed to notice was that the words of Jesus in Mt 16:17 bear a striking similarity to Paul’s words of his own revelation and commission by the risen Christ in Gl 1:12 and 16-17. Matthew is making the point that it was Peter and not Paul who experienced divine revelations and who was commissioned by Jesus to lead the church (Sim 1998:200-203). [That is: Sim, The Gospel of Matthew and Christian Judaism: The history and social setting of the Matthean community (Edinburgh: T& T Clark, 1998) at 200-203.]

Further evidence of Matthew’s anti-Paulinism is found, as Brandon realised, in the Sermon on the Mount. His identification of Mt 5:17-19 was also correct, even if he misread the significance of these texts. The most important logion here is not Mt 5:19 but Mt 5:17, in which the Matthean Jesus corrects the view that certain people believed that he had come to abolish the Law. The most obvious candidates are Paul and his followers; Paul had

[779] claimed that Christ is the end of the Law (Rm 10:4a) and his stance that Gentiles need not observe the Torah was the distinguishing factor of his mission. The Matthean Jesus therefore corrects the theology of Paul. The second and third texts have precisely the same function by specifying that every part of the Torah remains valid until the parousia (not until the resurrection as Paul would have it) and that followers of Jesus, by contrast with Paul, should observe and teach the Torah (Sim 1998:207-209).

The three passages in Mt 7:13-27 are likewise anti-Pauline. Brandon missed this important evidence completely, though their significance was recognised by both Betz and Segal. The first text in Mt 7:13-14 refers to the two ways and the two gates that lead to them, and the following pericopes pick up this theme. In Mt 7:21-3 the evangelist presents a scene of the final judgement. Jesus oversees this judgement and rejects certain Christians who confess him as Lord and who perform mighty works in his name on the grounds that they are workers of lawlessness (anomia). The term (anomia) should not be interpreted, as it often is, in the general sense of sin or wickedness, but as the failure to observe the Torah, which Jesus had earlier demanded in Mt 5:17-19. Once again the obvious candidates for this condemnation at the judgement are Paul and those who followed his Law-free gospel. The final passage in Mt 7:24-7 continues this theme. In this parable the Matthean Jesus pronounces that those who hear and obey the words of Jesus (in the Sermon) will be like the wise man who built his house upon the rock; this person will survive the storm (the judgement). Conversely, those who hear and do not obey will be like the foolish man who built his house upon the sand. If we identify the rock with Peter (cf Mt 16:17), an obvious identification but one which scholars rarely make, then the meaning of this text is clear. There are two ways of following Jesus, the Law-observant way built upon the Petrine tradition and the Pauline or Law-free way which knows the words of Jesus concerning the Law but which refuses to heed them (Sim 1998:209-211).

Brandon’s other evidence for Matthew’s anti-Paulinism, the identification of the hostile man in Mt 13:24-30 as Paul, depended upon the very precarious view that the interpretation of this material in Mt 13:36-43 was an interpolation. But in dismissing the latter material as a later insertion, Brandon inadvertently omitted from discussion another anti-Pauline text. This pericope refers to the whole Christian movement as a mixture of the good and the wicked. When the Son of Man comes at the final judgement, he will instruct

[780] his angels to gather out of his kingdom all doers of lawlessness (anomia). Again those in the Christian movement who are described this way and who will face an eschatological punishment are those who do not observe the Torah (Sim 1998:203-206). This of course includes Paul and those who follow his Law-free gospel.

It is still too early to tell how scholars will evaluate this cumulative argument for Matthew’s anti-Paulinism, but there has been one notable early supporter. In a study of the Gospel resurrection narratives and the Gospel communities, D Catchpole (2000) raises the question of Matthew’s attitude towards Paul. He begins with the demand of the risen Christ to make disciples of all the nations, and contends that Matthew must have taken some stance regarding Paul’s mission to the Gentiles, especially if the Gospel was written in Antioch where Paul had been active some decades earlier (Catchpole 2000:43-52). From here Catchpole moves to the religious tradition of Matthew. He discusses the view of G N Stanton, who argues that the evangelist’s group had broken with Judaism and thus belonged to Christianity, and my contrary view that the religion of Matthew and his church was Christian Judaism (Catchpole 2000:52-54). He then analyses the passages in Mt 5:17-19 and 7:15-23 (Catchpole 2000:55-59) and concludes, “we are pressed towards the conclusion that Matthean Christianity is fundamentally at variance with Pauline Christianity” (Catchpole 2000:59). A discussion of the Torah in the Gospel leads Catchpole (2000:59-62) to the view that the Mosaic Law, including circumcision, was fully observed in the Matthean community, from which he draws the conclusion that “the religion of Matthew was … Christian Judaism” (Catchpole 2000:62). [Catchpole, D 2000. Resurrection People: Studies in the Resurrection Narratives of the Gospels (London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 2000).]

Catchpole’s discussion of this issue is important for a number of reasons. First of all, he correctly sees that Matthew must have formed some opinion about Paul. It is to be hoped that this is a sign of things to come. No longer should Matthean scholars (and other Gospel scholars for that matter) ignore the question of the evangelist’s view of Paul. Secondly, and more importantly, Catchpole has recognised that two important aspects of Matthew, his Christian Jewish and Law-observant perspective together with the presence of anti-Pauline texts in the Gospel, point inevitably towards the conclusion that the evangelist himself was anti-Pauline. Clearly one swallow does not make a summer and one supporting scholar does not indicate a changing of the guard in terms of Matthew’s attitude towards Paul, but Catchpole’s (unexpected!) support for this hypothesis gives it some legitimacy in

[781] its early stages. It remains to be seen of course whether this modern attempt to establish Matthew’s anti-Paulinism has any more success than the failed attempt of Brandon.


In concluding this study, I would make the point that the scholarly inquiry into the relationship between Matthew and Paul needs to turn the full circle. The initial work of Brandon to prove that Matthew was anti-Pauline was clearly unconvincing in the form in which he presented his case. This was a great pity, because the easy manner in which his arguments were discredited meant that his hypothesis was not to be taken seriously for another half century. But Matthean scholarship has slowly and inadvertently been moving back towards Brandon’s thesis. The view that replaced Brandon’s hypothesis, that Matthew and Paul were theologically close rather than in opposition to one another, was always an optimistic one and has correctly met with scepticism in the field. The latest trend is to acknowledge the major differences between the two, but to see them as complementing each other. But when we ask whether Matthew intended to complement Paul’s theology, the answer must be a resounding no. The Matthew of much current scholarship is a Law-observant Christian Jew who probably advocated a Law-observant Gentile mission, and in this respect he stood within the same tradition as Paul’s Christian Jewish opponents in Galatia. Such a Matthew would doubtless have been anti-Pauline, and this is confirmed by the inclusion of a number of anti-Pauline traditions in his Gospel. The insights of Brandon, if not his specific arguments, deserve to be resurrected and no longer ignored in the light of these modern trends in Matthean scholarship.


Works consulted

Barth, G [1961] 1963. Matthew’s understanding of the law, in Bornkamm, G, Barth, G & Held, H-J, Tradition and interpretation in Matthew, 58-164. English translation from the 2nd German edition. London: SCM.

Betz, H D 1985. Essays on the Sermon on the Mount. Philadelphia: Fortress.

Betz, H D 1995. The Sermon on the Mount. Minneapolis: Fortress. (Hermeneia.)

Brandon, S G F [1951] 1957. The fall of Jerusalem and the Christian church. 2nd edition. London: SPCK.

Carter, W 2000. Matthew and the margins: A sociopolitical and religious reading. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books. (The Bible and Liberation.)

Catchpole, D 2000. Resurrection People: Studies in the Resurrection Narratives of the Gospels (London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 2000).

Davies, W D [1963] 1966. The setting of the Sermon on the Mount. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Davies, W D & Allison, D C 1988/1991/1997. A critical and exegetical commentary on the Gospel according to Saint Matthew. 3 vols. Edinburgh: T & T Clark. (ICC.)

France, R T 1989. Matthew: Evangelist and teacher. Exeter: Paternoster Press.

Goulder, M D 1974. Midrash and lection in Matthew. London: SPCK.

Goulder, M D 1978. The evangelists’ Calendar. London: SPCK.

Hare, D R A 2000. How Jewish is the Gospel of Matthew? CBQ 62, 264-277.

Keener, C S 1999. A commentary on the Gospel of Matthew. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.

Luedemann, G 1989. Opposition to Paul in Jewish Christianity. Minneapolis: Fortress.

Luz, U 1993. The theology of the Gospel of Matthew. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Marcus, J 2000. Mark – Interpreter of Paul. NTS 46, 473-487.

Marguerat, D 1981. Le Jugement dans l’évangile de Matthieu. Geneva: Labor et Fides. (Le Monde de la Bible 6.)

Meier, J P 1983. Antioch, in Brown, R E & Meier, J P, Antioch and Rome, 12-86. New York: Paulist.

Mohrlang, R 1984. Matthew and Paul: A comparison of ethical perspectives. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. (SNTMS 48.)

Overman, J A 1990. Matthew’s Gospel and formative Judaism: The social world of the Matthean community. Minneapolis: Fortress Press.

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