Article Information

Andries G. van Aarde1

1Department of New Testament Studies, University of Pretoria,
South Africa

This article was initially presented as a paper at the International Meeting of the Context Group that was held on 02−05 August 2010 at the University of Pretoria,
South Africa.

Correspondence to:
Andries van Aarde


Postal address:
Faculty of Theology, University of Pretoria, Lynnwood Road, Hatfield 0183, Pretoria, South Africa

Received: 10 Dec. 2010
Accepted: 10 Dec. 2010
Published: 03 Oct. 2011

How to cite this article:
Van Aarde, A.G., 2011, ‘Regeneration and resurrection in Matthew – Peasants in campo hearing time signals from scribes’, HTS Teologiese Studies/Theological Studies 67(3), Art. #1012, 7 pages. doi:10.4102/hts.v67i3.1012

Copyright Notice:
© 2011. The Authors. Licensee: AOSIS OpenJournals. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution License.

ISSN: 0259-9422 (print)
ISSN: 2072-8050 (online)
Regeneration and resurrection in Matthew – Peasants in campo hearing time signals from scribes
In This Original Research...
Open Access
The Mediterranean conception of time as a social construct
   • Social location
   • The end as a new beginning

The article aimed to describe the distinctive element in the use of the motif of the resurrection in the Gospel of Matthew in comparison with Mark, Luke and the Sayings Gospel Q. It argued that the distinctive element occurs where parallel texts in Luke 22:24–30, Matthew 19:27–29 and Mark 10:28–31 converge. The distinctive element pertains particularly to the meaning of the Greek expression ‘en tē palingenesia’ in Matthew 19:28. By elaborating on time as a social construct, the article showed how Matthew deals with the conception of time differently than both Mark and Luke. It illustrated that the Gospel of Matthew represents a storyline consisting of a circular movement between ‘genesis’ (Mt 1:1) and ‘palingenesia’ (Mt 19:28), where the word ‘palingenesia’ denotes the meaning ‘regeneration’ rather than ‘resurrection’. Matthew does not narrate an abrupt transition from linear time to clock time. Both co-existed in a world where illiterate peasants and literate scribes scheduled their lives in terms of motifs pertaining to a linear and a punctual conception of time.


Matthew’s use of the motif of the resurrection differs from that of Mark and Luke. The distinctive element amongst the three synoptic gospels converges in Luke 22:24–30//Matthew 19:27–29//Mark 10:28–31,1 and particularly with regard to the Greek expressions en tē palingenesia (Mt 19:28), en tē basileia mou (Lk 22:29, 30), and en tō aiōni tō erchomenō zōēn aiōnion (Mk 10:30).

The Revised Standard Version translates the passage in Matthew as follows:

Then Peter said in reply, ‘Lo, we have left everything and followed you. What then shall we have?’ Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, I say to you, in the new world [en tē palingenesia], when the Son of man shall sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel’. (Mt 28:27–28; translation: Revised Standard Version, in Aland & Aland [1981] 1998:54)

Luke’s translational interpretation inserts kingdom, that is, ‘empire language’:

‘For the Son of man goes as it has been determined; but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed!’ …’You are those who have continued with me in my trials and I assigned to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom [en tē basileia mou], and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel’. (Lk 22:22, 28–30; translation: Revised Standard Version, in Aland & Aland [1981] 1998:233–234)

In Mark, an eschatological projection into God’s ‘golden era’2 replaces both the concepts new world (Matthew) and God’s kingdom (Luke):

Peter began to say to him: ‘Lo, we have left everything and followed you.’ Jesus said, ‘Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecution, and in the age to come eternal life [en tō aiōni tō erchomenō zōēn aiōnion]’. (Mk 10:29–30; translation: Revised Standard Version, in Aland & Aland [1981] 1998:123–124)

Behind the versions of Luke and Matthew lies a common source, namely the Sayings Gospel Q. The elements in Matthew and Luke that probably originated with Q are the references to ‘thrones’ and ‘twelve tribes of Israel’ (cf. Dupont 1964:361–362). These concepts lead to Matthew’s reading3:

From that time [tote], Peter answered him, saying: ‘behold, we have left everything and followed you. What then shall be ours?’ However, Jesus said to them: ‘Amen, I tell you, in the renewal [at the regeneration; en tē palingenesia], when the Son of man sits on his throne of glory, you who followed me, you also will sit on twelve thrones, obtaining justice for the twelve tribes of Israel’. (Mt 19:27–29, [author’s own translation])4

This logion is a superb example of a conflation of sayings or elements in sayings in the Jesus tradition, where certain individual features5 originated with Q, others with Mark and yet others with Sondergut in either Luke or Matthew.6

In a historical-critical paradigm, an exegete would interpret Matthew in terms of Matthew’s sources – and in this case they are Q, Mark, and Matthean Sondergut.

Mark’s context suggests transience, meaning ‘the age to come’. When Matthew transmits this notion, according to Wolfgang Schenk (1987:18), he refers to Israel’s renewal. In other apocalyptic writings (e.g. 4 Ezr 7:30–32; 2 Baruch 32:6, 44:12, 57:2; 1 Enoch 72:1), the word also has a transient connotation referring to recreation – the ‘time of the regeneration’, a connotation that is, according to Francis W. Beare (1981), also present in Matthew’s reinterpretation of the Stoic theory about the ‘commencement of the next cycle of the universe’ (Beare 1981:398). Regeneration ‘was not periodic, nor was it the commencement of a cycle essentially the same as the old’ (Beare 1981:398).

Davies and Allison ([1997] 2004:57) point out that ‘Matthew was not much interested in proffering the details of future cosmological states.’ Accordingto Davies and Allison (2004:58), the future was, above all, two things for Matthew: ‘Christ and Israel’. The palingenesia for Matthew ‘meant the world in which Christ reigns, a world with a redeemed Israel’.

Trying to uncover the significance of the use of the Greek word palingenesia in Matthew 19:28, borrowed from Matthew’s Sondergut, is important to better understand Matthew’s distinctive interpretation of the resurrection of Jesus. The implied meaning of the word palingenesia for both Philo (De vita Mosis 2.65 – see Cohn & Wendland [1902] 1962: 119–268; cf. Sim 1993:4) and Josephus (Antiquitates Judaicae 11.66 – see Niese 1955; cf. Sim 1993:4) was regeneration rather than merely resurrection. Philo used the word as a reference to ‘restoration of human life or the regeneration of the world after the great flood’ and Josephus to ‘the reconstitution of the Jews after the exile’.

It is common knowledge that the conception of the resurrection should be interpreted in terms of an ‘apocalyptic’ (i.e. in an ‘eschatological’) frame of reference – though I am convinced that the foundational myth behind the resurrection belief in biblical writings could be described in terms of the notion [re-]creatio ex nihilo (see Van Aarde 2010a). Schnocks (2009) shares the same opinion and puts it as follows:

Insgesamt ergeben sich also zwei Aspekte: Auferstehung is Neuschöpfung in dem Sinn, dass der Schöpfergott auch über die Macht verfügt, Töte zu einem neuen Leben aufstehen zu lassen. Auferstehung kann aber auch Neuschöpfung in dem Sinn sein, dass das Ergebnis die erneuerten und idealen menschen einer eschatologischen Heilszeit sind. (Schnocks 2009:253)

However, the question remains whether recreation denotes simply resurrection – or is there something else at stake?

It also has long been common knowledge that Mark provides the framework for Matthew’s narrative. Q provides the point of departure from which Matthew develops his five extensive discourses. The influence of Mark and Q goes further that his alternated narrative sections and Jesus’ speeches. Elements from both Mark and Q also occur in the speeches. The Matthean Sondergut appears in both the speeches and the narrative sections.

The aspect of the Sondergut of Matthew which is of significance in this essay is that Matthew describes his book as the ‘genesis (biblos geneseōs – Mt 1:1) of Jesus Christ’. Mark describes his writing as ‘euangelion’ – Mk 1:1 and Luke as a narration (diēgēsis – Lk 1:1). The superscription of Q could be described as ‘the sayings of [the Lord] Jesus’ (logoi [tou kuriou] Iēsou – Polag 1979:28).

Thus, to follow Derrett (1984:51–58), or for that matter, Eusebius (H.E. 5.1.62–63), and also pursued by Jerome and Augustine amongst others (see Davies & Allison 2004:57), seeing ‘regeneration’ as a mere synonym of ‘resurrection’ will not be of much support to describe Matthean peculiarity. A social-scientific approach that supplements historical criticism could be a way out from an impasse – especially from the perspective of time as a social construct.

The core of the matter is the distinctiveness of the words palingenesia (Matthew), aiōn (Mark), basileia (Luke), and what the Sayings Gospel Q had contributed that Matthew ‘envisaged the twelve disciples entering “into God’s kingly power by themselves becoming rulers” [Marcus 1988:671]’ (Davies & Allison 2004:56). Lucan scholars generally agree that the notion of basileia belongs to the core of the theology of Luke (cf. Wolter 1995:541). However, the understanding of its referential meaning, swings between the ‘realization of the divine plan of eschatological salvation’ (Del Agua 1999:639) and ‘Roman imperial theology’ (Crossan 2007:15ff; see Esler 2005:10–33). Yet, Roman imperialism does not exclude the concept ‘eschatology’.7

With regard to the word aiōn and specifically Mark’s way of putting it as ‘the coming of eternal age’ – one can take the remarks of Philo Judaeus (De mutatione nominum 267 – Cohn & Wendland 1962:156–203) to heart, namely that:

this type of ‘time’ is not measured by the revolutions of son and moon, but something truly mysterious, strange and new, other than the realm of sight and sense, having its place in the realm of the incorporeal and intelligible, and to it belongs the model and archetype of time, eternity and aeon. The word aeon [Greek: aiōn] signifies the life of the world of thought, as time [Greek: chronos] is the life of the perceptible. (cited in Neyrey & Rowe 2008:306, n.10)

Applied to Mark’s description of the life of Jesus, the ‘time of Jesus’ is presented in terms of the numeral seven, specifically seven days that build up to a climax on the day of the resurrection. Borg and Crossan (2006:ix–x) describe this temporal scheduling as follows:

• Sunday: ‘When they were approaching Jerusalem’ (Mk 11:1)
• Monday: ‘On the following day’ (Mk 11:12)
• Tuesday: ‘In the morning’ (Mk 11:20)
• Wednesday: ‘It was two days before Passover’ (Mk 14:1)
• Thursday: ‘On the first day if the Unleavened Bread’ (Mk 14:12)
• Friday: ‘As soon as it was morning’ (Mk 15:1)
• Saturday: ‘The Sabbath’ (Mk 15:42, 16:1)
• Sunday: ‘Very early on the first day of the week’ (Mk 16:2).

Moreover, Mark alone also details ‘morning’ and ‘evening’ events for three of those days: Sunday (11:1, 11), Monday (11:12, 19) and Thursday (14:12, 17). Finally, Mark alone also chronicles Friday’s events in careful three-hour intervals (as with Roman military watch times):

• 06:00 – ‘As soon as it was morning’ (15:1)
• 09:00 – ‘It was nine o’clock in the morning’ (15:25)
• 12:00 – ‘When it was noon’ (15:33)
• 15:00 – ‘At three o’clock’ (15:34)
• 18:00 – ‘When evening had come’ (15:42).

According to Borg and Crossan (2006:x), ‘Mark alone has taken considerable care to tell his story so that hearers or readers can follow events day by day and eventually hour by hour.’ This does not happen in either Matthew or Luke. In other words, the Marcan numerical motif does not feature in Luke’s and Matthew’s versions of the resurrection narrative. The Sondergut of Luke revolves around the account of the two witnesses underway to Emmaus (Lk 24:13–35). In Matthew the narrator relates a ‘memorializing activity’ (Erinnerungsarbeit) (Kirk 2005:191–206). Matthew deals with the conception of time differently than both Mark and Luke. Matthew completes a circular movement when his ‘genesis’ (1:1) at the beginning becomes ‘palingenesia’ (regeneration) towards the end (19:28) where this motif set in motion the narratives of Jesus’ death and resurrection.

It seems that Mark’s more linear understanding of time comes from his idea that the community of Jesus followers transcended Israel as the people of God. Israel is left behind and a new community is formed. Mark was copied by Luke in this regard and even more so with regard to the contradistinction between the ecclesia and the sunagōgē. However, for Matthew the ekklēsia does not replace Israel. For him the ekklēsia is part of the history of Israel (see Van Aarde 2007:416–436). Matthew considers the fall of Jerusalem and the Jerusalem temple, on the one hand, and the seeing of the coming of the Son of man, on the other hand, as being anticipated in the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. He places these two events – death and the resurrection and the Son of man sitting on his throne – within the course of his description of the history of Israel.

The key to Matthew’s understanding of time is to be found in the ‘eschatological’ episode in which Jesus’ resurrection (Mt 27:45) is anticipated. In this episode (Mt 27:45–54)8 an earthquake is reported, the curtain of the temple in Jerusalem is torn in two and darkness comes upon all the land of Israel from the sixth hour until the ninth hour (i.e. 12:00–15:00). At that time Jesus died, but ‘many bodies were raised, coming out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection, going into the holy city (i.e. Jerusalem), and coming into the view of many others. I referred to this episode as the turning of the tide (Van Aarde 1998:16–26) – an ‘end that has begun’ (Van Aarde 2010b).

To narrate Jesus’ resurrection (meta tēn egersin autou – Mt 27:53) before it eventually happened (in Mt 28:1ff) should not disturb our logical minds. Matthew was not concerned with what could be reckoned by present-day readers as consequently logical or illogical. He shared imageries that also occur in Ezekiel 37:7, 12, 13–14 and 1 Enoch 51:1–2. Resemblance of the tearing of the veil can be found in the lives of the prophets (Hab 12:11–12 – see Garland 1995:260). The earthquake bears resemblance to Zechariah 14:4 and the ‘escorted and communal resurrection’ (Crossan 1998:392) to the Gospel of Peter 10:1–5.9

According to David Sim (1996:104), these occurrences in Matthew are ‘cosmic signs’ that ‘act as the prelude to the arrival of the Son of man.’ The ‘bodies’ who appear as ‘living dead’ to people in an imaginary Jerusalem are Erinnerungsfiguren (Assmann 1992:52; cf. Kirk 2005:194). The kind of language we find here seems to be Erinnerungsarbeit, which Allan Kirk (2005) describes as ‘memorializing activity’, which:

becomes particularly pronounced … in the face of crisis and calamity, as the community urgently ransacks the archetypal past for images that might explain and give meaning to the tragic, or otherwise deeply troubling, present. (Kirk 2005:194)

What Kirk (2005) illustrates with regard to Q 11:47–51,10 also applies to Matthew 27:45–54:

The oracle maps an analogy between Jesus’ violent death and the death of the prophets .... This conflation of the present, or recent past, with the epic past t form a unified picture, is one of the most characteristic operations of social memory: ‘In the cultural memory of a group, these two planes of the past are pushed together in a seamless manner’ (J. Assmann 1992:49–50). (Kirk 2005:197)

Seeing Matthew’s use of the word palingenesia in 19:28 as another example of ‘memorializing activity’ in which past, future and present are conflated, the question remains: what could Matthew’s distinctive intent be by linking Jesus’ genesis (Mt 1:1) with Israel’s palingenesia (Mt 19:28)?

The Mediterranean conception of time as a social construct

Bruce Malina ([1980] 1996) contributed a great deal to our understanding that the linear (‘procedure’) time of the Mediterranean world is totally different from the punctual time (‘Swiss’ time) of modern Europeans. However, this simple distinction can tempt one to think that Matthew, who departed from the numerical linear time of Mark, then also departed from that of the Mediterranean – and this is not possible. How then does one explain the difference in the conception of time between Mark and Matthew? I address this problem by investigating the history of ‘social time’, asking: when and how did the conception of linear time change to the conception of punctual time?

The audiences of both Mark and Matthew did not read the text, but were hearers of a written text which was read to them. Specifically with regard to the communication of Matthean parables, scholars refer to a ‘hearing-doing’ schema (Gerhardson 1972:16–37). Ivor Harold Jones (1995:306) says that it is ‘abundantly evident that it [Matthew’s redaction] was concerned only with the “quality of the one who hears”’ and, according to Jacques Dupont (1968:408–418; cf. Jones 1995:300), ‘it is a matter of the hearer’s attitude.’ Because they themselves could not read or write, they were reminded by signals when religious rites were to be fulfilled.

The first way of measuring time was by observing the flow of water, which indicated the changing of seasons (see Dohr-Van Rossum ([1992] 1996:21–22). The death of one season and the rebirth of the next had religious implications. This is how the concept of dying and rising gods developed. Day and night also had religious implications.11 Sundials measured the end of the day and the beginning of night, which differed from season to season. The agricultural activities of peasants and their households led to day and night being divided in three-hour periods, from 06:00 to 09:00, 09:00 to 12:00, 12:00 to 15:00 and 15:00 to 18:00 (Dohr-Van Rossum 1996:30). The numerical way in which Mark narrates the death and resurrection of Jesus resembles the duration of time in which days were divided into three-hourly events. The three-hour divisions were later divided into single hours and this led to the development of mechanical clock with its punctual time. The oldest of such clocks were decorated with religious motifs with ritual significance. The very oldest clock shows the magi who, at the birth of Jesus, venerate him by bringing gifts. The peasants in the fields (in campo)12 would hear the bells in the clock tower which indicated to them when to bring their produce to the market and to take part in the religious rituals (Dohr-Van Rossum 1996:246).

During the Middle Ages, this custom of bell ringing to signal the time for religious activities was taken over by Benedictine monks to regulate their worship schedule (Dohr-Van Rossum 1996:36). They modelled it after Psalm 119:164 (‘seven times a day I praise thee’) and Psalm 119:62 (‘at midnight I rise to give thee thanks’) (Dohr-Van Rossum 1996:35). In his book, History of the hour: Clocks and modern temporal orders, Gehard Dohr-Van Rossum (1996) describes the time prior to the invention of mechanical clocks as follows:

In the Middle Ages, ‘clock’/’horologium’ was a generic term for al devices and aids of time-reckoning and time-indication, and occasionally also for time-ordered conduct. Regardless of how it was conducted, a water clock could be called ‘horologium’, ‘horologium aquatile’. The ancient word ‘clepsydra’ was seldom used in the Middle Ages to describe clocks. A sundial, too, was a ‘horologium.’ On rare occasions the expression is more specific (for example, ‘horologium solarium’) … Astronomical instruments such as astrolabes and quadranes, but also simple looking tubes, were called ‘horologium’, since they could function also as time-measuring devices. ‘Horologium’ was also the word for tables used to determine the time of day according to the duration of daylight or the length of shadows. ‘Horologium’ described, moreover, the instruction for determining time by means of the length of shadows or the position of the stars in relationship to certain parts of a building. In the Eastern Churches, the daily prayer sequences that were fixed in writing were likewise called ‘horologium’. From the high Middle Ages on, bells or bell works, if they were used in some way as a time signal, were also called ‘horologia’ ... While the transition to the mechanical clock was not reflected in the language, the appearance and diffusion of clocks that struck the hours was regarded as an exciting novelty. As a result there was soon a host of differentiating descriptions for this type of clock … (Dohr-Van Rossum 1996:53)

In other words, there was no abrupt transition from linear time to clock time. Both co-existed in a world where illiterate peasants and literate monks scheduled their lives in terms of motifs from the linear and from the punctual conception of time.

In Matthew’s conception of time, ‘linear’ and ‘punctual’ are not alternative concepts. It does not reflect the numerical linear time of Mark when describing the death and resurrection of Jesus. In order to understand this, a text contemporary to Matthew, the Syriac version of 2 Baruch (there was probably a Greek original) may be useful (see Gürtner 2009:10). Both 2 Baruch and Matthew use apocalyptic motifs to portray God’s messianic kingdom. Both are the product of scribes who help villagers to cope with the consequences of the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. As long as the temple is there, regulated rituals take place. The destruction of the temple disrupts this. With these writings, the scribes empower them by explaining that God is still present even though the temple is no more. The disruption was interpreted positively, namely that it had triggered the coming of the messiah.

Herman Waetjen (1976:46–53) indicates that the turning of the tide in Israel’s history is already narrated at the beginning of the Gospel of Matthew in the composition of Jesus’ genealogical record as the Messiah of Israel. The Messiah-Apocalypse of 2 Baruch 53–74 also divides the history of Israel into three epochs of fourteen seasons each (see Gürtner 2009:93–119) and this concurs with the genealogical record of the Messiah in Matthew.13 In Matthew 1:17, both the periods of David and the Babylonian exile mark both the end of a previous epoch and the commencement of the next one in the history of Israel.

Both of these transitions are related to the presence or absence of the temple in Jerusalem. In terms of these two epochs in the history of Israel, one can expect that the period of the Messiah, like that of David and the Babylonian exile, is also related both to the end of a period, which concludes with the destruction of the Jerusalem temple, and to the commencement of a new Temple period. However, the third epoch, which marks the commencement of the second Temple period, ends with the unlucky number thirteen, exactly at that point in history which Matthew refers to the birth of ho Iēsous ho legomenos Christos. In other words, the unnamed fourteenth generation forms a gap (Leerstelle) in the plot of the narrative which the hearer of Matthew must fill with information gained from internal material from the narrative itself or from external material from intertexts related to Matthew. Matthew’s apocalyptic model of the history of Israel, which culminates in the messianic period, concurs with the Messiah-Apocalypse of 2 Baruch 53–54 (see Gürtner 2009:93–119). In this Apocalypse, we also find three epochs of fourteen periods each, which are portrayed in terms of the ‘procedure time’ of the rainy seasons. Here too, the presence or absence of the temple in Jerusalem is an indication of good and bad periods in the history of Israel. The messianic empire forms the grand finale.

In 2 Baruch 53–74 the story of the disruption and the advent of the messianic kingdom is described by means of the image of flowing water in numerical periods. There is the flow of dark water and the flow of clear water; dark water symbolises disruption and death, whilst clear water symbolises birth and rebirth. According to Baruch, dark water moves in 12 periods. The thirteenth period is the worst, but also the turning point. From the fourteenth period the water is clear, indicating that the disruption was replaced by renewal – the idea that the messianic kingdom is here.

The Matthew story of the genesis of Jesus is also divided into periods of 12, 13 and then 14 which is the renewal. The first cycle is from creation to the destruction of creation. The renewal, the fourteenth, refers to the kingdom of the Davidic dynasty. In the second cycle the transition from period 12 to 13 refers to the destruction of the dynasty and Babylonian exile. The renewal, the fourteenth, is the returning from exile and the receiving of the land again. In the third cycle the transition from period 12 to 13 refers to the destruction; shame is intensified, from which the fourteenth period emerges with the birth of Jesus, who was called the Messiah.

By inference, one can say that Matthew describes the last period of Jesus’ life as betrayal and rejection, that is, the twelfth period. Jesus’ crucifixion pertains to the thirteenth period. With hindsight, the crucifixion of Jesus mirrors the destruction of the Jerusalem temple. However, this intensified destruction resulted in the restoration of God’s empire (expressed in the Q Saying and referring to the 12 disciples wearing crowns and ruling the world) and the ekklēsia experiences the palingēnesia, because the destruction of the temple represents the dark side. The clear side is the resurrection, and through this linear and punctual time merge.

The transition from the thirteenth period to the not-mentioned fourteenth in this history refers to the ‘turning of the tide’. The thirteenth period is concerned with the high point of the corruption of the Temple authorities which passes into of the final destruction of the Temple cult of Jerusalem in the midst of cosmic catastrophes. The fourteenth is concerned with the construction of a Temple which is not built by human hands. Matthew projects the death of the righteous Jesus, which he experiences as the result of extraordinary corruption of the Temple authorities in Jerusalem, into the imaginary time of the vision of the coming of the Son of man. Looking back to the destruction of the Jerusalem temple in 70 CE, Matthew describes both the death of the Messiah and the vision of the coming of the Son of man. This view of the history of Israel leads Matthew to a specific adaptation of the traditions concerning the crucifixion and the resurrection of Jesus.14

Social location
During the ‘social time’ of the ‘horologium’, peasants in campo heard time signals from Matthew as village scribe, by means of which they were ensured that Israel’s regeneration had become a reality on account of Jesus’ death and resurrection. How could one picture this message?

In my opinion, Matthew did not originate in Antioch, but somewhere in northern Galilee and southern Syria after 70 CE (Galilaia tōn ethnôn – Mt 4:15). The Gospel of Matthew was written by scribes and heard by peasants. There was conflict in this region between the ‘scribe’ (grammateus) ‘Matthew’ and the other village scribes, who were in the process of establishing the first phase of a Pharisaic rabbinate. The Gospel of Matthew could, therefore, be seen as similar to the social location of Q, as a product of scribal activity within the context of the revitalisation of villages, after the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem (contra to, inter alia, Nolland 2005:16). The communities struggled to come to terms with the loss of Jerusalem and the temple. Since the city of God no longer existed, they had to find God’s presence in a ‘conflictual’ environment of village communities.

After the temple was destroyed, the Pharisaic scribes and sages reorganised themselves in places such as Jamnia (in Judea), Galilee and Syria. There they tried to duplicate the old value systems, especially those regulations concerning hierarchy in society and the purity ideology of the Jerusalem temple, in the households of the villages. A similar attempt at revitalising the village communities was found amongst the Jesus groups. The value system that they implemented was based on Jesus’ alternative understanding of the Torah. The difference in value systems and interests led to conflict between the Pharisaic scribes and the scribes amongst the followers of Jesus. Amid Roman exploitation, the scribes could be seen to be engaged in village restoration. There was conflict in the villages between the two groups of scribes: the followers of Jesus, who acknowledged him as Messiah, and those Israelites who upheld a Messianic view. The conflict centred on the interpretation of the Torah: Jesus could either be seen as the new Moses who fulfilled the Torah, or in terms of the traditional Mosaic view, as it was regulated by the Temple cult. Conceding the differences amongst scholars as to the ‘Jewish setting’ of 1st-century Galilee, and subtle variations regarding even the most minute details, especially with respect to the Galileans’ affiliation to the Jerusalem temple, I concur with John Kloppenborg’s (2000) ‘reading of Q in the Galilee’ (Kloppenborg 2000:87; cf. Arnal 2001:151–152).

The end as a new beginning
Matthew’s story ends with a dim view of the disciples. Their defect is that they could not fully internalise the significance of the resurrection and could not fulfil their commission to make followers for Jesus. They prostrate themselves before the resurrected Jesus, the Son of man, but they doubt (Mt 28:17).

However, in a similar scene in Revelation 4:10 the twelve remove their crowns and prostrate themselves before the Son of man who sits at the right hand of God in heaven. In Matthew (similar to the Sayings Gospel Q) we find ‘a synergistic connection that exists between commemorative and instructional activities.’ (Kirk 2005:2001). Kirk (2005) puts it as follows:

A community’s ritualized activities commemorating martyrs, accordingly become opportunities not just for narrative recitations of the martyr’s life and death, but also for instructional artifacts and activities aimed at inculcating and securing commitment to those emblematic norms. (Kirk 2005:201)

Revelation seems to be the writing in the New Testament that is most closely related to the way in which Matthew uses this motif. In Revelation, the church is instructed by the words: ‘let she/he who has an ear hear what the Spirit says to the churches’ (Rv 2:7, 11, 17, 29, 3:6, 3:13, 3:22, [author’s own translation]). Similarly, in Matthew’s narrative world, the intended readers are like peasants in the field (in campo), hearing time signals about the realisation of the kingdom of heaven on earth. It is as if the author as scribe constructs words and sentences which become bells, signalling that Israel’s regeneration has begun. Therefore, according to this scribe who has become a disciple in God’s kingdom of heaven (Mt 13:52), ‘he/she who has ears should hear’ [ho echōn hōta akouetō!] (Mt 13:9)!


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1.See parallels and scholarly opinions with regard to the terms ‘independence’, ‘interdependence’ and ‘intradependence’, in Kloppenborg (1988:202).

2.Referring to the meaning of the Greek word aiōn as the ‘golden era’, see my discussion of Johann Kreuzer (2005:110–114), as well as its use in Philo Judaeus (De mutatione nominum, 267, in Neyrey & Rowe 2008:306, n.10) (Van Aarde 2010b).

3.According to Horsley (1991:196), ‘those who have followed or persevered with Jesus are to be “establishing justice” for the twelve tribes of Israel in a function very similar to that assigned to the anointed one in Pss. Sol. 17:26–32 or to the twelve men and three priests constituting “the Council of the Community” at Qumran in 1 QS 8:1–4.’

4.This reading differs remarkably from the Revised Standard Version quoted above.

5.Concerning the ‘search for Jesus’ (Rückfrage nach Jesus), the German New Testament scholar Ferdinand Hahn prefers to focus on ‘individual features’ (Einzelheiten) rather than on complete logia. Hahn puts it as follows: ‘It is a matter of establishing a concise description of the interrelatedness between post-Easter and pre-Easter elements in the individual pieces of Jesus traditions’ [author’s own translation from the German: ‘Es ist die Relation zwischen nachösterlichen und vorösterlichen Elemente in den einzelnen Überlieferungsstücken zu prüfen und Exakt zu bestimmen’ (Hahn 1974:28–29)].

6.See, for example, Kloppenborg’s (1987:72) remark about Matthew’s conflation of Q with Mark: ‘That Matthew both conflates Q with Mark and displaces Marcan stories is a matter of empirical fact. When we encounter a Q pericope that is conflated with a Marcan story [e.g. the sending (Q) of the Twelve, designated as apostles (Mark) and, therefore, referred to as twelve apostles (Matthew)] we may assume that the setting is secondary. Similarly, when a cluster of Q sayings [e.g. those relating to the ‘mission discourse’] is placed in such a way as to fulfil a specific function in respect to the Marcan framework or Marcan materials (i.e. a function it could not originally have had in Q [e.g. Mark’s presentation of the mission discourse in terms of his ‘sandwich-style’]), then its position is certainly secondary’ (emphasis by Kloppenborg, but author’s own additions).

7.The idea of the kingdom of God can be viewed as an apocalyptic alternative to the Pax Romana. The apocalyptic thinking of the Roman Empire had a profound influence on the kerygma of Jesus and his followers. Therefore, the kingdom of God came to replace the Pax Romana and this replacement took form in the kerygma of Jesus Christ. It is the view expressed in this study that the Christian view of the kingdom as a present-day reality derived from the apocalyptic idea of the Roman Empire as an existing utopia (see Boshoff & Van Aarde 2005:1132–1148; cf. Koester 1992:3–5). Crossan (in Stewart 2006:25) puts it as follows: ‘Now this apocalyptic eschatology is the absolute – I was going to say background, foreground, matrix, everything to understand resurrection; without it, we’re not even talking about the same thing.’

8.‘And the tombs were opened and many bodies [polla sōmata] of holy people, who have had been asleep [kekoimēmenōn], were resurrected and after his [Jesus’] resurrection, they came out of the tombs [and] went into the holy city [Jerusalem] and were made visible to many [enefanisthēsan]’ (Mt 27:52–53, [author’s own translation]).

9.‘Now when these soldiers saw this, they roused the centurion from his sleep, along with the elders. While they were explaining what they had seen, again they saw three men leaving the tomb, two supporting the third, and a cross was following the. The heads of the two reached up the sky, while they head of the third, whom they led by the hand, reached beyond the skies. And they heard a voice from the skies that said, “Have you preached to those who sleep?” And an answer was heard from the cross: “Yes!”’ (Gospel of Peter 10:1–5; translation in Funk and The Jesus Seminar 1998:462).

10.‘Woe to you, for you build the tombs of the prophets, but your forefathers killed them. Thus you witness against yourselves that are the sons of your forefathers. Therefore also Wisdom said, I will send them prophets and sages, and some of them they will kill and persecute so that a settling of accounts for the blood of all the prophets poured out from the founding of the world may be required of this generation, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, murdered between the sacrificial altar and the House. Yes, I tell you, an accounting will be required from this generation’ (Q 11:47–51; translation in Kirk 2005:195–196).

11.For example, with regard to ancient Egypt, Peter Ackroyd (2004) puts it so well in his book Kingdom of the dead: voyages through time: ‘Darkness shared existence with light, and the unknown became known … For the Egyptians, whether priest or peasant, king or shepherd, all these stories were true. The stories explained the world as the Egyptians knew it. Their lives were dominated by the heat and light of the Sun. They relied upon the waters of the Nile to give them life. But the Sun gave way to darkness every evening and … and the waters of the Nile only rose in flood once every year. Light and darkness were part of the same cycle. The rising and setting of the Sun made it clear that creation must happen again every day. The Egyptians believed that Nut, the goddess of the sky, swallowed the Sun every morning. The Sun passed into the underworld until Nut gave birth to it again each morning. That is why the dead were believed to come alive in the underworld. Rebirth followed death, just as the Nile receded and then returned’ (Ackroyd 2004:4–5).

12.Dohr-Van Rossum (1996:40) puts it as follows: ‘Bells are called “campanae” by the peasants because they live in the fields (“in campo”) and can know the hours only from these bells.’

13.Waetjen (1976:63, n.9) mentions that this insight may be found, probably for the first time in 1841–1844, in Hoffmann, and that it was afterwards taken over by Theodor Zahn and Krister Stendahl.

14.For the temporal phrases that mark the time that concludes with Jesus’ resurrection and his appearance and commission to the disciples, see Van Aarde (2010b). These phrases are: en ekeinō tō kairō (cf. Mt 11:25, 12:1, 14:1), en tē hōra ekeinē (cf. Mt 8:13, 10:19, 18:1, 26:55), apo tēs horas ekeinēs (cf. Mt 9:22, 15:28, 17:18), en tē hēmera ekeinē (cf. Mt 3:1, 7:22, 13:1, 22:23), ap’ ekeinēs tēs hemēras (Mt 22:46) and tote (cf. Mt 2:16, 3:13, 4:1). The participles using ‘time’ to depict circumstances in Matthew 2:1, 13, 19 and 4:12 can be added to the above temporal phrases. The following phrases again mark the end of the post-paschal disciples’ commission, that is, the parousia: telos (cf. Mt 10:22, 24:6, 13f), hē sunteleia tou aiōnos (Mt 13:39f, 49, 24:3, 28:20) and also en ekeinais tais hēmerais (Mt 24:19, 22, 29) and tote (Mt 7:23).

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