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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186 Wim J.C. Weren
point of which (Galilee), the range (all nations) and the duration (till
the end of the age) are indicated, whilst concrete details on the stages
of the journey are not mentioned at all.
These observations lead me to the conclusion that, on the basis of
the topographical information that differs greatly in itself, we can
distinguish three patterns:
Pattern 1: Jesus flees from his enemies and thus expands his radius of action.
Pattern 2: He voluntarily travels to Jerusalem, where he is to suffer and die and be
raised up by God.
Pattern 3: From Galilee, Jesus sends his disciples out to teach all nations until the
end of the age.
These three patterns are connected to one another. Pattern 2 is
partly a reversal of pattern 1, whilst pattern 3 is an extension of pattern
2. The three patterns are not separated from each other by rigid
caesuras. Pattern 1 ends in the same textual unity (16,13-28) with
which pattern 2 begins. In turn, pattern 2 reaches its peak in a textual
unity (27,55â€“28,20), the last scene of which (28,16-20) touches on
c) Kernels with satellites or pericopes with a hinge function?
Having reached this point, I want to draw attention to a number of
new insights in the structure of Matthew that are a result of a narrative
analysis of this book. According to F. Matera, a long and complex
story such as that of Matthew is more than just a sum of individual
incidents (27). An important question is why the story that is being
related passes in the way it does. This question concerns the plot or the
intrigue of the book, that is to say, to the phenomenon that the
individual incidents are arranged in a certain way in relation to one
another by their mutual temporal and causal relations. Each individual
episode does not weigh equally in the determination of the bookâ€™s plot.
Certain events initiate a turning point that influences the continuation
of the story. Following S. Chatman, Matera calls such events â€œmajor
eventsâ€ or â€œkernelsâ€. They contribute to the fact that it becomes more
and more likely that the story will end in a certain way and, in that
sense, they are essential for the development of the plot of the book.
According to Matera, a turning point occurs as a rule in a relatively
short passage that is followed by a series of sub-texts in which events
are presented that are a consequence of the new step that has been
(27) F. MATERA, â€œThe Plot of Matthewâ€™s Gospelâ€, CBQ 49 (1987) 233-253.