Original Research - Special Collection: Foundation subjects, Old and New Testament Studies

Is Matthew 28:16–20 the summary of the Gospel?

David C. Sim
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 70, No 1 | a2756 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v70i1.2756 | © 2014 David C. Sim | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 05 June 2014 | Published: 20 November 2014

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David C. Sim, Institute of Religion and Critical Enquiry, Australian Catholic University, Australia; Department of New Testament Studies, Faculty of Theology, University of Pretoria, South Africa


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Abstract

It is generally acknowledged that the Great Commission at the end of Matthew’s Gospel is a dramatic and fitting end to the evangelist’s narrative. In the eyes of many scholars this final pericope does more than simply conclude the Gospel; it serves as a summary of the text’s major themes and even provides the interpretative key by which the earlier story should be read. This view, however, is questionable for two reasons. Firstly, the Great Commission introduces new themes and motifs into the Gospel story, which means that it cannot be viewed as a mere summary of what has come before. Secondly, this passage does not mention all the major themes of the Gospel. While some important motifs are included in the final pericope, there are others that receive no mention at all. This point too casts considerable doubt on the view that Matthew 28:16–20 serves to summarise Matthew’s story of Jesus. Moreover, the Great Commission, despite recalling a number of earlier themes, looks more towards the time of the future Church than back to the time of ‘the historical Jesus’. It is therefore better viewed as a bridging text that concludes one Christian story about the mission of Jesus and introduces another story about the history of the Church.

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