In previous posts I’ve talked about Matthew radicalizing the law – so that his followers were to adhere to it even more closely than the scribes and Pharisees. Most Christians today think the Jewish law is irrelevant (except maybe for the Ten Commandments) (well, nine of them anyway: most Christians don’t keep the Sabbath.) (For years, as a boy, raised in the Christian church, I thought “Sabbath” meant “Sunday.” I assume that’s typical. But even so, we had no qualms about doing just about anything we pleased even on Sunday….). But when Jesus speaks about the laws that his followers are to keep, they are always the ethical laws such as not murdering and not committing adultery,which presumably would have applied not just to Jews but also to gentiles.
What about the laws of Scripture, though, that were widely recognized as making Jews a separate people from the non-Jews, for example, the laws that required Jews to circumcise their baby boys, and to keep the Sabbath day holy, and to observe certain dietary restrictions? We know from other evidence that by the time Matthew wrote his Gospel, these laws were not being followed by many Gentile Christians. Indeed, it is clear from the letters of Paul (which, I should stress , were written before Matthew and the other Gospels), there were many Christians, including Paul himself, who insisted that gentile believers should *not* keep these laws. What then about Matthew? Does he think that Jesus radicalized these laws as well as the others? Does Matthew’s Jesus expect his followers to keep them?
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