Monday, March 12, 2007

Problem passages in Saldarini’s Matthew’s Christian-Jewish Community

8:11-12: “I say to you that many from east and west will come and sit to dine with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of the heavens, by the sons of the kingdom shall be cast out into the outer darkness.”
Saldarini’s claim (42) is that, because the very title ”sons of the kingdom” presumes Israel’s privileged relationship to God, that the passage can’t mean Israel is being rejected as a whole. Saldarini notes that the Patriarchs will be at the banquet, and that “no explicit or implicit claim is made that Israel is excluded,” but rather that it is meant only to explain why some Jews have rejected Jesus and some gentiles have “joined Israel in the kingdom.”

I probably just don’t know the literature well enough yet, but I don’t quite see what viewpoint Saldarini opposes with this part of the discussion. Obviously not all of Israel is excluded, as Jesus’ disciples are all Jews. Doesn’t this passage still imply that most of Israel will be cast out and that many gentiles will replace them? And doesn’t that mean that people are no longer a part of the kingdom simply by virtue of being Jews? If faith in Jesus is the criteria for membership to the kingdom, then what difference does it make if you’re still Jewish?

I guess at stake for Saldarini is whether it’s the true Israel or a new Israel that inherits the kingdom. Some commentators would presumably take 8:11-12 as suggesting that “the Jews” are being replaced by “the Christians” as the people of God, whereas Saldarini wants to argue that believers remain Jews, and that gentiles may become Jews, but that this true Israel, living according to the teachings of its Messiah, lives in greater continuity than discontinuity with the Jews who came before.

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