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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The Macrostructure of Matthewâ€™s Gospel 183
respectively, he does not have a permanent place of abode (cf. 8,20)
and moves restlessly from one place to another.
This is a pattern which started right back in 2,1-23: following Jesusâ€™
birth in Bethlehem in Judea, Joseph takes him firstly to Egypt, and then
to Nazareth in Galilee. Once an adult, he travels from Galilee to the
desert of Judea to be baptized by John and he is led into the desert to be
tempted by the devil. The temptations bring with them imaginary
journeys to the holy city of Jerusalem and to a very high mountain.
Following this, there is a sequence (4,12â€“20,34) in which various places
and regions are mentioned. That Matthew uses the same order here as
Mark in situating his story firstly in Galilee (4,12â€“15,20), then in the
surrounding area (15,21â€“18,35), and finally in Judea (19,1â€“20,34) is not
entirely convincing (25). Already in the part situated in Galilee
(4,12â€“15,20), Jesus leaves Galilee and travels to the region of the
Gadarenes (8,28-34); conversely, in 15,21â€“18,35 (that according to Allen
should be situated â€œin the surrounding area of Galileeâ€), it is mentioned
that Jesus and his disciples are in Galilee (17,22), in Capernaum to be
precise (17,24). It is only from Matt 21 onwards that there is an obvious
unity of place. In 21,1â€“28,15, the events related take place in Jerusalem
or in the surrounding area of this city. The book ends, however, in the
region in which Jesus was active for a long period of time: in 28,16-20,
the risen Lord appears to the eleven on a mountain in Galilee.
Thus, at first sight, few connections are to be found in the spatial
setting of the events related. However, the impression given here
evaporates when we note that various topographical data are clustered
together by means of three refrains that are connected to one another.
The first refrain was discovered by F. Breukelman and is to be
found in 1,1â€“16,20 (26). It can be recognized by the verb ajnacwrevw (=
to withdraw), that is used in seven cases to indicate a move to another
2,12-13 And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they (= the
wise men) left (ajnecwvrhsan) for their own country by another road.
Now after they had left (ajnacwrhsavntwn) [...]
2,14 Then Joseph [â€¦] went to (ajnecwvrhsen) Egypt.
2,22-23 But when he heard that [...]. And after being warned in a dream, he went
away (ajnecwvrhsen) to the district of Galilee. There he made his home
in a town called Nazareth, [...]
(25) This pattern is found in: W.C. ALLEN, A Critical and Exegetical
Commentary on the Gospel according to S. Matthew (ICC; Edinburgh 31947)
(26) F. BREUKELMAN, Bijbelse theologie (Kampen 1984) III, 144-166.