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Examine the teaching about discipleship in Matthew 5. Discuss whether or not Matthew's gospel offers a new interpretation of Torah requirements.

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Introduction

Examine the teaching about discipleship in Matthew 5. Discuss whether or not Matthew's gospel offers a new interpretation of Torah requirements. Introduction In Chapter One of his book about the Sermon on the Mount (SM), J. Duncan M. Derrett begins; "The (SM) has two uncongenial characteristics, it avoids humour and prefers dogmatism to argument."1 This dour introduction may underline his view that the SM is an aesthetic teaching for discipleship, such as that which would be envisaged for a Greek athlete or a Roman soldier of the day.2 He also places Jesus' teaching in the SM in the category of Hasidic, those who put the Torah into effect in its spirit and not merely in its letter3. This Hasidic viewpoint serves as introduction both to the teaching on discipleship and Torah requirements. Teaching about discipleship in Matthew 5 From Matt 5:1 we learn that the teaching of the SM is directed towards the disciples. A disciple is the pupil of a teacher4 and as pupils adopted the outlook of their masters, the word signified an adherent of a particular philosophy or religion, which in this context would have been the emerging Christianity of Matthew's church. Discipleship would have described the behaviour and attitude of a member of this community that sought to follow Jesus' teaching. The Beatitudes in Matt 5:3-11 outline the marks of a disciple of Jesus. ...read more.

Middle

The teaching about discipleship in Matthew 5 is challenging and highly demanding, but it needs to be viewed in the knowledge of Matthew as being an extremist gospel and as within a tradition of Jewish apocalyptic literature14. It was written for a people suffering persecution and a community seeking to define, separate and establish itself15. This can make it difficult to relate its teaching to the disciples of the 21st century in the Western Church and this is one of the challenges of preaching on Matthew's gospel. However it should also be remembered that many Christian communities around the world do still face persecution and problems of boundaries with their surrounding culture. Also that the insidious cultural demands such as materialism and falling church numbers in our country, give further value to the teaching about discipleship in Matthew 5. Discuss whether or not Matthew's gospel offers a new interpretation of Torah requirements. The word Torah comes from the Hebrew root yrh meaning to guide or to teach16 and therefore its meaning is more to do with teaching rather than law. It is the Torah to which Matt 5:17-20 is referring when it mentions law. Although it is often used to refer to the Pentateuch, it can also relate to the entire Hebrew Scriptures. The term also refers to the written and oral teaching given to Moses on Mount Sinai. ...read more.

Conclusion

5:20) and this is outlined with examples in Matt. 5:21-47. Here Jesus quotes Torah and claims knowledge of its original intent36. He demands an interior purity of heart that matches outward action, (Matt 5:8, Matt 5:21-24), absolute adherence rather than a mere token observance, (Matt 5: 31-37, and also a response that goes even further than the statutes (Matt 5:38-47)37. The argument has been put forward that Jesus made a distinction between ceremonial ritual law of Temple sacrifice, which he opposed and the moral law that reflects God's will38. However it is difficult to make a case that Jesus' attitude to the Temple could be dissociated from his overall attitude towards Torah as the Temple rites were based on Torah and there is no precedence for this distinction in first century Judaism. Furthermore Jesus is shown to attend the prescribed Temple festivals. Another argument is that only some of the so called Antitheses of Matt 5:21-47 are authentic39, but this selective approach whilst unable to be completely disproved remains an unsatisfactory one on which to build and maintain any argument for or against a new interpretation of the Law. In the rest of his gospel, Matthew presents Jesus as the authoritative interpreter of Torah. He challenges his opponents' understanding of Torah and puts human need above the strict letter of the law (Matt 12:1-8). Jesus directly quotes Hosea 6:6 underlining the importance of the message that God's true desire is for mercy (Matt 12:7). ...read more.

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