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anti-semitism

Barabbas and the Messiah as Heard by Matthew’s Church (Matthew 27:11-23)

Modern biblical scholars are in general agreement that Matthew’s gospel was written for an audience of early Jesus followers who were primarily of Jewish origin.  Thomas G. Long proposes that Matthew’s audience was struggling with questions of identity as newly formed Jesus people. Wondering whether they should abandon their Jewish faith and heritage, Matthew’s Gospel presented them with a Jesus who is the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets (Long 2).  With his audience in mind, Matthew constructed his gospel from original Markan and Q source materials and added his own unique content including about 40 quotations and allusions to the Hebrew Scriptures (Davies and Allison I.29).  Many of his innovations, while meaningful to his original audience, were lost on later Gentile Christians and, sadly, often remain hidden to the majority of Christians even today.  Among these passages is the scene in which Jesus is tried before Pilate, Barabbas is released and the people demand the crucifixion of Jesus with the notorious cry, "His blood be on us and on our children!" This haunting scene has been used for centuries to justify anti-Semitic violence perpetrated by Christians.  But how might Matthew’s Jewish church have heard this passage?  [Instructor’s comment: well phrased]

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