Lectionary Year A
September 5, 1999
IV: Broader Context
(JFC) A. PRIMITIVE CHRISTIANITY
Here Jesus chooses to instruct the disciples, regarding how to deal with
offenses by fellow church members. These first century believers were
naive, lacked self-confidence, were defensive, uncertain, inexperienced and
afraid, as well as probably being persecuted. Remember they were the first
community in history to experience the first approaches to anything like a
structured group of believers that would eventually be called "the church".
Their Lord apparently discerned that they needed help preparing to deal
with offenses, conflicts and/or sinfulness on the parts of other fellow
believers. He suggests a method that might give them some hope in dealing
appropriately with challenges they would surely face as the church grew
from infancy toward maturity.
(JFC) B. OLD TESTAMENT AND JUDAISM
* In Leviticus 19:17, we read in the Ritual of Moral Holiness, that believers
are not to hate any of their kinfolk and that they shall reprove their
neighbors or incur guilt on themselves. Thereby, they show brotherly love.
So, early Old Testament folk had awareness of and responsibility for a
neighbor who might offend them.
* Deuteronomy 19:15 states that one witness
is sometimes insufficient in dealing with offenses and that frequently 2 or 3
witnesses are required to sustain a charge of wrongdoing and/or of a crime.
* These Old Testament passages show us that, in today's text, Jesus uses
terms that would certainly be familiar to His (Jewish) disciples and Matthew
to his readers.
(JFC) C. HELLENISTIC WORLD
Here, as previously, we might hope the Hellenists' appreciation of
logic in arguments could motivate them to consider how some of Jesus'
guidance might give them insight into Jesus' life as lived and responded to
right reasonably. Surely the Hellenistic world of the first century could
identify with problems offensive people and/or statements might cause
others. Here, Jesus is quoting some ancient stipulations for dealing
appropriately with such tensions human institutions such as the church
evidently already exhibits. These teachings Jesus suggests to the
disciples have some ethical allusions which could speak the Hellenists'
language. Their philosophical interests could resonate with these ideas,
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