'Who do you, Matthew, say the Son of Man is?' Son of Man and conflict in the First Gospel.
Witte, Brendon Robert
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This dissertation analyzes the Matthean “Son of Man” sayings, paying particular attention to their function in the development of conflict and in the anticipation of conflict resolution. The major premise is that the Son of Man is described in Mt as being at the center of the formative conflict that both forced the split between “this generation” of unbelieving Jews and the Matthean community and initiated the community’s Gentile-inclusive mission. According to Matthew, the Son of Man is not engaged in aimless conflict; he confronts and destroys his enemies for the sake of promoting his universal reign and establishing his Church, i.e., the “sons of the kingdom” (13.38), among the nations (cf. OG Dan 7.14; 24.14; 28.18-20). It is his authority over the kingdom of God, given subsequent to and consequent to the judgment of God against “this generation” in 70 CE, that enables the global mission of the disciples, provides the raison d’être for their mission, and assures the Christian community that the Son of Man will return at the eschaton to bring a final end to conflict. A corollary question that will be investigated is what Jesus’ idiomatic self-designation meant to Matthew and his community. The first chapter observes that despite the enormous literary footprint of the “Son of Man” debate, their is a notable lack of adequate studies concerning the Matthean “Son of Man” concept. What literature exists is surveyed, common trends in the debate are analyzed, and a statement of the thesis is provided. Based on the successes and failures of previous studies, it is suggested in the second chapter that the most promising method by which to examine the Matthean “Son of Man” concept is composition-critical and narrative-sensitive. This provides a rational for examining the Matthean “Son of Man” sayings in relation to the gospel’s structure and plot, both of which are shown to have been shaped by the theme of conflict. Finally, interpretive issues such as synoptic relationships, composition date, authorship, provenance, and the status of Matthew’s community are discussed. Chapters Three and Four examine the “Son of Man” sayings in Matthew 8-13 and 16-26 respectively to determine how each saying contributes to the evolving Matthean “Son of Man” concept and the unfolding conflict between Jesus and his “sons” and Satan and his “sons” (cf. 13.37-39). It is shown that the “Son of Man” sayings are not a heterogeneous mixture of “earthly,” “suffering,” and “future” statements that simply concern the life and ministry of Jesus. Matthean redaction has woven the “Son of Man” sayings into a grand tapestry of meaning, sewn into the conflict that precipitated the split of the Matthean community from “this wicked and adulterous generation.” It is shown that the advancement of conflict is matched by the resolution of conflict. This resolution occurs in two stages. According to Matthew, God began to resolve the conflict with “this generation” in 70 CE, whence he destroyed Jerusalem and bestowed upon the Son of Man universal dominion and an everlasting kingdom. The Son of Man’s empowerment enables him to preside over the Eschatological Assize, consequently fulfilling the predictions of end-times reprisal given to “this generation” (cf. 11.20-24; 12.39-42) and bringing a permanent end to conflict. Chapter Five examines the allusion to Old Greek Dan 7.13-14 in 28.18-20 and its connection to the commissioning of the disciples. It is suggested that “all authority in heaven and on earth” is not obtained through a supposed proleptic experience of the Parousia in Jesus’ resurrection or death, or simply by means of his son-ship to the Father. Rather, the Son of Man’s universal sovereignty, by which the Matthean community is empowered to “make disciples of all nations,” was received from the Ancient of Days after the Temple’s ruination in 70 CE. That is, the exaltation of the Son of Man, which is physically signaled by the destruction of Herod’s Temple, initiated and provided justification for the Matthean community’s schism from “this generation” and their mission to the Gentiles. Additionally, the divine empowerment of the Son of Man grounded the community’s eschatological hope for conflict resolution. This chapter ends with a discussion of how this theory impacts one’s understanding of Matthean christology, missiology, and salvation-history. The final chapter summarizes the preceding evidence, details the contributions of this dissertation, and concludes that for Matthew “Son of Man” is more than a mere signal word for speech about Jesus’ death, resurrection, and exaltation. “Son of Man” is a self-designation employed by Jesus that Matthew has interpreted as a title referring to Jesus’ office as the exalted human-like figure of Old Greek Dan 7. Like the enigmatic “man” of Daniel’s night-vision, the Son of Man is the representative of the elect who remains with his community “until the end of the age” (28.20).