Accounting for anxiety : an analysis of an early first-century material ethic from Matt 6:19-34

Tryon, Denzil Bruce (2006-12)

Thesis (MTh (Old and New Testament))--University of Stellenbosch, 2006.


This paper undertakes a detailed study of Matt 6:19-34 for the specific purpose of accounting for the unique context and content of the material/financial ethic being articulated here by Jesus. The passage, made up of four pericopes, is located within the first of the five discourses of Jesus recorded in Matthew’s Gospel in which Jesus evidently articulates the ethical standards required of the children of the emerging Kingdom of God. The need for such a study stems from an understanding that the passage, indeed the Sermon as a whole, has been treated by traditional scholarship in a somewhat distanced and abstract manner i.e. it has been read without adequate cognisance being taken of the particular socio-linguistic and socio-historical context in which it was originally formulated and articulated. Relatively recent social-scientific and socio-historical New Testament scholarship, however, has provided a specific set of interpretive tools that enable a modern reader to make a far more dynamic and context-sensitive interpretation possible. Accordingly, this paper undertakes a socio-rhetorical analysis of Matt 6:19-34, together with a social-scientific and socio-historic/financial/religious analysis of the eastern Mediterranean world of late Second Temple times. Together these interpretive tools shed new light on the text and provide the opportunity for re-reading that text in a way that, hopefully, more closely articulates the ethic as an original audience might have heard it. Specifically, the use of these interpretive tools provide insights into why it was that Jesus explicitly prohibited worry, some six times in the passage, amongst the children of the Kingdom concerning the provision of their food, drink and clothing i.e. the tools provide something of an explanation for both the rhetorical force of the ethic and the underlying realities that gave rise to its formulation in the first place. These insights are then applied in an attempt at formulating a dynamically equivalent ethic that might be appropriated and applied by present day children of the Kingdom reading the passage today.

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