The man of St Matthew


Chapter 23: Overview

Chapter 23 is something of a stand-alone chapter. We saw in the overview of the five chapters how Matthew has inserted this address of Jesus between the confrontations of chapters 21 and 22 and the discourse of chapters 24 and 25. In terms of Mark's Gospel, this address to the crowds and disciples replaces Mk 12,38-13,2 and Mark's criticism of the scribes. As a conclusion and a climax to those confrontations in the Temple, we now have this polemic by Jesus against the scribes and Pharisees. Note to whom Jesus is speaking, 23,1.

It is important to realise as we come to this chapter that the scribes and Pharisees described here are stereotypes, cardboard characters. There were many good Pharisees in Matthew's day just as this chapter is also to be read as a warning to Church leaders of all ages.

Looking now at the chapter itself, we see that the change of audience in 23,1 marks a new beginning following the conclusion in 22,46. We have also seen that the final discourse begins in 24,3. With those boundaries we are therefore reading 23,1 through to 24,2. Note how 23,39 echoes 21,9 (Ps 118,26) and also how 24,1-2 concludes 21,12 and 21,23.

Read through the chapter. To whom is it addressed? The first part is clear enough because it leads into the series of woes.
How many woes are there? How are they arranged (look for words which are repeated)?
More difficult to pick up is where the woes end and what follows afterwards. Have a look at this and try to see the flow of this last part of the discourse.

Then take a look at my response for our reading plan.

We can now begin our reading with Jesus' teaching about teachers, 23,1-12.