Wim J.C. Weren, «The Macrostructure of Matthew’s Gospel: A New Proposal», Vol. 87 (2006) 171-200
The weakness of the proposals concerning the macrostructure of Matthew’s
Gospel made by Bacon and Kingsbury is that they depart from rigid caesuras,
whilst a typical characteristic of the composition of this Gospel is the relatively
smooth flow of the story. On the basis of the discovery that the various
topographical data are clustered together by means of three refrains we can
distinguish three patterns in the travels undertaken by Jesus. This rather coarse
structure is further refined with the use of Matera’s and Carter’s distinction
between kernels and satellites. Kernels are better labelled as “hinge texts”. The
following pericopes belong to this category: 4,12-17; 11,2-30; 16,13-28; 21,1-17;
26,1-16. Each of them marks a turning point in the plot and has a double function:
a hinge text is not only fleshed out in the subsequent pericopes but also refers to
the preceding block. It is especially these “hinge texts” that underline the
continuity of Matthew’s narrative and should prevent us from focussing too much
on alleged caesuras.
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182 Wim J.C. Weren
decisive choices. In Jerusalem, Jesus debates with various adversaries
for a whole day in the temple (see 21,18: â€œin the morningâ€; 22,23: â€œthe
same dayâ€; 22,46: â€œfrom that dayâ€). Not until the passion narrative is
the passage of time described with great precision (22).
For the rest, the indications of time offer little to hold on to in the
determination of the temporal organisation of the story. The concrete
temporal details merely have a function within the pericope in which
they are to be found (23), or they make a connection with the previous
passage (24). As a rule, tovte, that appears 90 times, has a binding
function. An exception to this are the cases of ajpo; tovte (4,17; 16,21;
26,16); this temporal notion marks a new phase in the work of Jesus.
In 4,17 ajpo; tovte marks the beginning of the period in which Jesus
proclaims the coming of the kingdom of heaven. As has already been
mentioned, this period of time starts as soon as he goes to live in
Capernaum and not just after, and continues right up till his suffering
and death. Whilst Jesus continues to preach the gospel of the kingdom,
he also begins, in 16,13-28, to speak with his disciples about his
pending death and resurrection. This marks the beginning of a
subperiod that covers his stay near Caesarea Philippi up till two days
before Easter (26,16). In 26,17, a new subperiod begins (marked by
apo; tovte in 26,16), when he is indeed handed over to his adversaries.
From this analysis of the temporal information in Matthew, I have
come to the following conclusions. There is an interval of time between
2,23 and 3,1 and also between 4,11 and 4,12. Jesus begins his ministry
in 4,12-17. The summaries in 4,23 and 9,35 indicate that Jesus is acting
as a teacher and healer for a long period of time in Galilee. In 11,2-24,
a review is to be found of the ministry of John and Jesus. A new and
crucial phase starts in 11,25. In 16,13-28, Jesus, at that time in the
region of Caesarea Philippi, begins to speak of his suffering, death, and
resurrection. The events announced come to a head in the passion
narrative. This scenario, predicted time and again, begins with Judas
looking for the most appropriate time to deliver Jesus up.
b) Topographical information
Most of the topographical details in Matthew are connected to
Jesus. Although he lives in Nazareth (2,22) and Capernaum (4,13),
(22) See: 26,188.8.131.52.34.55; 27,1.19.45-184.108.40.206.63.64; 28,1.
(23) See 8,13; 12,1; 14,15.23.25; 15,28.32.
(24) See 13,1; 17,1; 18,1.