Tuesday, September 2, 2014
No One Excluded
For most of my meditations on Scripture for the past several years I have been using The New Interpreter's Study Bible, published by Abingdon. It uses the New Revised Standard Version translation popular with many Scripture scholars. The introductions and footnotes for each book are done by different scholars, Protestant, Catholic, or Jew.
Warren Carter writes the introduction for Matthew's Gospel and I presume the footnotes as well. In a footnote for 18:17 he interprets the verse in a way different from any I've seen and in a way that I find appealing: "Treating someone 'as a Gentile and a tax collector' is often interpreted as exclusion and shunning. But in the Gospel they are objects of mission. Disciples are to include them in the assembly." To treat them "as a Gentile or a tax collector" would then mean, I suppose, to start over with them as if they were new converts.
I think his opinion is also supported when we read the passage in context. It is preceded by the parable of the Lost Sheep in which the shepherd rejoices more over the one sheep that he finds than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. It is followed by Jesus' telling Peter to forgive seventy-seven times anyone who sins against him.
Perhaps Jesus wants us never to give up on anyone.