God's Will and Testament
Inheritance in the Gospel of Matthew and Jewish Tradition
Imprint: Baylor University Press
413 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 in
- Published: September 2021
The Hebrew Bible expresses the Israelite belief that the Israelites were the people of God uniquely chosen from among all peoples of the earth, and that this status as elected people guaranteed them certain privileges not granted to other peoples. One of these privileges was the right to an inheritance granted by God himself—a birthright that provided a sense of God's protection and an awareness of Israel's relationship to God as a special nation.
Details regarding the nature of that inheritance—what it is, who receives it, and how inheritance is obtained—appear in every strata and section of the Hebrew Scriptures, and this trajectory continues across many Second Temple Jewish texts. Yet surprisingly little scholarly attention has been focused on inheritance as a unique and crucial concept for Israelite and Jewish religious life and belief. This paucity of attention to inheritance concepts also extends to Matthew's Gospel, where inheritance terms appear on four occasions. With God's Will and Testament, Daniel Daley argues that these passages play a vital role in Matthew's overall narrative, especially concerning Matthew's depiction of true discipleship and relations between Jew and Gentile. Daley further demonstrates that numerous Jewish traditions antecedent to Matthew's Gospel influenced the writer's theology and linguistic choices, often in ways not previously appreciated by interpreters.
As a relational term, inheritance signifies the beneficiary's relationship with God: because God is a father, he gives an inheritance, and because he is an eternal father, the inheritance takes on eschatological connotations to provide a hope for his children into the future. This concept is a thread that binds Matthew and his community to a wider Jewish discourse about what it means to be the people of God. In Matthew's Gospel, this inheritance, this identity as God's elect, belongs to "the ideal disciple," who commits to Jesus and his vision for "greater righteousness."
1 Introduction: Matthew and Jewish Tradition
2 Inheritance in the Hebrew Bible
3 Inheritance in the Second Temple Period: Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha
4 Inheritance in the Second Temple Period: The Qumran Literature
5 Inheritance in the Gospel of Matthew
6 Conclusion: Matthew and the Promise of Discipleship
The concept of inheritance in Matthew’s Gospel has long been debated. Does the First Evangelist think that his community members are the only genuine heirs of the Old Testament promises of land and offspring, that is, of the Abrahamic blessings? Do they see themselves as real sectarians, at odds with Judaism writ large, or is their grievance simply with the Jewish religious authorities? After a thorough-going and judicious study of the inheritance language in the Old Testament and subsequent Jewish literature and in Matthew, Daniel Daley helps us to see that the First Evangelist is not a supersessionist highjacking the Hebrew heritage, but instead ‘His Gospel does not envision discipleship of Jesus as a break from Judaism, but as a move towards a universal mission that clearly captures a fundamental change in their Jewish context. Rather than portraying a conflict between Jesus’ disciples and Judaism as a whole, Daley's text frames the conflict between Jesus and the Jewish leaders and differentiates between the Jewish leaders and the Jewish crowds.’ This careful and thought-provoking study deserves to be widely read and pondered by students, pastors, and scholars alike.~Ben Witherington III, Amos Professor of NT for Doctoral Studies, Asbury Theological Seminary
Daniel Daley helpfully explores the reworking of Jewish traditions about inheritance in the Gospel of Matthew. He shows how inheritance comes to encompass not only land but also includes various divine promises, promises which Matthew believes are fulfilled in Jesus, who gathers around himself a company of Jews and Gentiles for the kingdom of heaven. An informative study of a neglected theme and a formidable contribution to Matthean scholarship.~Michael F. Bird, Academic Dean and Lecturer in Theology, Ridley College, Melbourne, Australia
Daniel Daley's important study offers the first in-depth analysis of the inheritance motif in the Gospel of Matthew (5:5; 19:29; 21:38; 25:34). By reflecting on the aspect of Gentile inclusion in the inheritance, he addresses one of the major topics of the First Gospel from a new perspective. On the basis of his broad consideration of Old Testament and Early Jewish writings, he also deepens the insight into the embeddedness of the Gospel of Matthew within Early Judaism. Overall, the book is full of good observations and fresh insights.~Matthias Konradt, Professor of New Testament, Ruprecht-Karls University, Heidelberg
Daniel Daley offers an illuminating and persuasive analysis of the role played by ‘inheritance’ in Matthew’s understanding of ideal discipleship and Jewish/Gentile relations. One of the central aims of this highly readable and wide-ranging study is to demonstrate that the Matthean understanding of this concept draws on distinctively Jewish interpretations of inheritance in terms of Israel’s divinely granted birthright and privilege. This is a most welcome addition to recent debates on the Gospel of Matthew and its place in relation to Judaism.~Catrin H. Williams, Professor of New Testament Studies, University of Wales Trinity Saint David