Journal Article

IDEOLOGY, DEVIANCE, AND AUTHORITY IN THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW: THE POLITICAL FUNCTIONING OF PERFORMATIVE WRITING

Richard T. Martin

in Literature and Theology

Volume 10, issue 1, pages 20-32
Published in print March 1996 | ISSN: 0269-1205
e-ISSN: 1477-4623 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/litthe/10.1.20
IDEOLOGY, DEVIANCE, AND AUTHORITY IN THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW: THE POLITICAL FUNCTIONING OF PERFORMATIVE WRITING

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While Matthew's gospel has been called polemical and even anti-Semitic, commentators have not yet focused on the role writing plays in forming the debate of Matthean Christianity against formative Judaism and its on-going part in perpetuating Christian anti-Jewish practices. Writing of Matthew's kind functions politically to fashion an identity for its originating community, while it also, as Roland Barthes says, blazons forth an ideology in its closing of the gap between describing and judging Thus, in the attempt to legitimate his community as the true covenant people—and not a deviant sect—Matthew constructs what looks like a debate in his narratives of Jewish hostility toward Christians. However, no historical evidence exists to suggest that formative Judaism actively persecuted Christians Instead, the debate seems to be all on Matthew's side—and specifically in his writing: by characterizing “Jews” as flat, “linguistic constructs”; by converting potentially transformative impulses into separatist ones; by positing Jesus'morality in bipolar, exclusive terms; and, above all, by engaging in a closed practice of Scriptural hermeneutics on a “fulfilment” model. An ethical reading of the gospel today must listen to the gaps in the writing in order to “hear” the silences outside Matthew's invective and to stem complicity in an anti-Jewish Christianity.

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Subjects: Literature ; Religion and Art, Literature, and Music

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