STUDIES IN MATTHEWWritten by Ulrich Luz (trans. Rosemary Selle) Reviewed By Francois P. Viljoen
This book is a collection of eighteen studies of Matthew’s Gospel by one of the foremost scholars on the first Gospel. Luz is probably best known for his multi-volume German commentary on Matthew, now being translated in the Hermeneia series.
Most of the studies collected in this publication were previously published in German from 1971 to 2003.
There are eight sections.
- In the section on ‘Matthew’s story’ Luz examines Matthew’s narrative in two essays, Matthew the Evangelist: A Jewish Christian at the Crossroads’ and ‘The Gospel of Matthew: A New Story of Jesus, or a Rewritten One?’. A prominent theme is that Matthew’s Gospel should be read at two levels: first as a narrative about Jesus and secondly as a narrative about the Matthean community.
- ‘Matthew and his tradition’ explores Matthew’s use of tradition in two essays, ‘Matthew and Q’ and ‘Fictionality and Loyalty to Tradition in Matthew’s Gospel in the Light of Greek Literature’. Luz favours a written version of Q used by Matthew (‘Q-Matt’) as close forerunner of the Gospel. He examines the functionality of Matthew’s sources and his intentions in changing what he had received from these sources.
- A collection of two essays forms the section on ‘Christology’: ‘Matthean Christology Outlined in Theses’ and ‘The Son of Man in Matthew: Heavenly Judge and Human Christ’. Luz examines the Christological titles denoting the key aspects of Matthean Christology and insider language of the community.
- Three essays constitute the section on ‘Ecclesiology’: The disciples in the Gospel according to Matthew’, Discipleship: A Matthean Manifesto for Dynamic Ecclesiology’ and ‘The Primary Saying of Matthew 16:17–19 from the Perspective of Its Effective History’. He compares Matthew’s Gospel with traditions of Reformation theology.
- The treatment of the Law in the Matthean Gospel remains a hotly debated issue. In a section on ‘Ethics’ Luz investigates ‘The Fulfillment of the Law in Matthew (Matt. 5:17–20)’. He argues that Matthew has taken up strongly contrasting traditions on Jesus’ understanding of the Law and saw it as his task to mediate between various traditions.
- In the essay ‘The Miracle stones of Matthew 8–9’ Luz argues that Matthew must have changed and re-created Jesus stories deliberately. This is strange because the overall picture of Matthew is that of a conservative evangelist with a loyal approach to the tradition. Luz investigates what lies behind these apparent liberties Matthew took.
- In a section on ‘Matthew and Israel’ Luz investigates Anti-Judaism in the Gospel of Matthew as a Historical and Theological Problem: An Outline’. As two-levelled story, Matthew tells the story of Jesus and Israel as a story of increasing hostility and eventual reckoning of Israel. This story also reflects the separation between Matthew’s own community and the synagogue. Luz s of the opinion that essential elements of Jesus’ preaching are blurred in Matthew’s Gospel, in particular the message of God’s infinite love.
- A cluster of five articles deals with ‘Hermeneutics with Matthew in mind’. In ‘Reflections on the Appropriate Interpretation of New Testament Texts’ Luz highlights the problem of theologians’ preoccupation with the original meaning of the text resulting in difficulty to answer present-day issues. In ‘The Significance of the Church Fathers for Biblical Interpretation in Western Protestant Perspective’ he discusses the problem that the Church Fathers are widely neglected in Western exegesis ‘Can the Bible Still Be the Foundation for Church Today? The Task of Exegesis in a Society of Religious Pluralism’ offers reflections on where exegesis stood in 1997. Luz reflects on the canonical approach to exegesis in ‘Canonical Exegesis and Hermeneutics of “Effective History” ’. Exegetes should not only point to the claim to authority of the Biblical text but also reflect on the way they treat it in their methods and theology. In ‘Hermeneutics of “Effective History” and the Church’ he discusses the history of Biblical interpretation and how people have personally, theologically, ecclesiastically and culturally been shaped by it. In ‘The Significance of Matthew’s Jesus Story for Today’ he challenges exegetes not to withdraw into the textual worlds without treating the current significance of the texts.
These papers highlight many of the insights that Luz has developed in his studies of Matthew over many years. This publication makes his substantial and often challenging contributions on Matthean studies and hermeneutics easily accessible to English-speaking scholars. Although not all scholars will agree with some arguments, the book should be welcomed.
Francois P. Viljoen
North-west University, South Africa