Thursday, October 27, 2011

My paper at this year's Society of Biblical Literature meeting in San Francisco

Just a reminder to anyone attending SBL this year who might be interested. . . I'll be presenting on Jesus' teaching on the Law in Matthew. Here's my abstract. I've also put the scheduling information below with information from the program about the other papers being presented. I'm honored to be a part of this section--it looks great.
Jesus’ Teaching on the Law, Deuteronomic Concessions and Eschatological Righteousness: A Re-examination of the Teaching on Divorce and Remarriage in Matthew 5:31–32
In the Sermon on the Mount we find Matthew’s most explicit account of Jesus’ teaching about his relationship to the Law. However, as is well known, Matthew’s report of Jesus’ teaching is particularly difficult to follow. In 5:17, Jesus insists that he has not come to “abolish” the Torah. Yet the teachings that immediately follow this, the so-called “antitheses” (5:21–48), appear to do just that, i.e., they appear to nullify the Law. While some of the antitheses may be understood in terms of an intensification of the demands of the Torah (e.g., lust as adultery in 5:27–30), others are harder to explain along those lines. One particularly notable example is Jesus’ equation of divorce and remarriage with adultery (5:31–32). The Law in fact allows for divorce and remarriage (cf. Deut 24:1–4). It is difficult then to see Jesus’ teaching on this matter as merely an intensification of the Law’s requirements; Jesus is here explicitly prohibiting something the Torah clearly permits! Is there any way to explain this apparent problem? This paper proposes a solution. As many Old Testament scholars now recognize (e.g., Goldingay), Deuteronomy appears to have been understood as a kind of “lower law”, making concessions that are absent in the previous covenant legislation (e.g., profane slaughter, cf. Deut 12:15–25 with Lev 17:1–4). In fact, recently some have demonstrated that it is likely Ezekiel had precisely these types of concessions in view when he declared that God gave Israel “laws that were not good” (Ezek 20:25; Hahn, Bergsma). Is Matthew’s Jesus aware that certain laws were seen as concessions to sinfulness? Did he therefore expect to reinstitute the stricter standards of holiness they abrogated? Here we may find an important key that helps to better explicate Jesus’ view of Torah-righteousness in Matthew 5.
This paper builds upon work I did in a section of my dissertation that analyzed Jesus' view of the cult in the Sermon on the Mount.

Here's how this section appears in the program. It is scheduled for Sunday evening:


4:00 PM to 6:30 PM
Room: Lombard - Renaissance Parc 55Theme: Matthew and Torah
Daniel Gurtner, Bethel University (Minnesota), Presiding
Thomas R. Blanton, IV, Luther College
Saved by Obedience: Matthew 1:21 and Jesus’ Teaching on the Torah (25 min)
Discussion (5 min)
Michael Patrick Barber, John Paul the Great Catholic University
Jesus’ Teaching on the Law in Matthew 5 and the Concept of Deuteronomic Concessions: An Examination of the Teaching on Divorce and Remarriage in Matthew 5:31–32 (25 min)
Discussion (5 min)
Jaehyung Cho, Sallims Christian Church
The Social Function of Sabbath Law in the Gospel of Matthew (Matt 11:28-12:10 and 24:20) (25 min)
Discussion (5 min)
Brian C. Dennert, Loyola University of Chicago
Matthew and the Torah: What About the Priesthood? (25 min)
Discussion (5 min)
Eugene Eung-Chun Park, San Francisco Theological Seminary
Meaning of dikaiosyne in the Torah Hermeneutics in the Gospel of Matthew (25 min)
Discussion (5 min)


Nick said...

I'd like to comment on something you said:

"In 5:17, Jesus insists that he has not come to “abolish” the Torah. Yet the teachings that immediately follow this, the so-called “antitheses” (5:21–48), appear to do just that, i.e., they appear to nullify the Law."

Jesus elaborates: I didn't come to abolish but to fulfill it. And he says in verse 18 that the Law will come to a complete end once it's all be fulfilled. I've noticed a lot of Protestants only quote the first half to suggest the Mosaic Law is 'eternal', and thus still needs to be kept but that's a serious theological error. The Mosaic Law as a legal code is abolished.

Jesus "fulfilled" the Mosaic Law by pointing to it's fulfilled understanding.

This sets up a second important point: the Mosaic Law was clearly not perfect, as you point out with the divorce teaching. This is where I like to point out Mark 10:2-12 (the parallel of the Matthew texts).

Michael Barber said...

Well said. You'll have to read my paper when it's done.