Saturday, November 04, 2006

An Intriguing Idea on Matthew 27:25

Apologies for another protracted silence. I had only dial-up access for a week and then I've been playing catch-up with the usual administrative work.

Yesterday, someone pointed out to me an article by scripture scholar Boris Repschinski in which he makes the truly astounding suggestion that Mt 27:25 is a double entendre. To be fair, he was supporting an argument already made by two other scholars. Anyway, the verse reads:

"And all the people answered, 'His blood be on us and on our children!'" [RSV]

The standard commentary on this verse is to see in it the rejection of Jesus by His people the Jews. In its more problematic interpretations, this verse has been used to characterize Jews as having rejected God and therefore brought upon themselves a curse. On the level of the immediate narrative, this is what is happening: crowds of Jews are taking responsibility for Jesus' condemnation.

What Repschinski suggests is that at the deeper level of St. Matthew's theology, the desire to have Jesus' blood 'on us' is an ironic way of demonstrating that Jesus is saving His people. To be saved, each of us needs to be 'washed in the blood of the Lamb', and it is for this that the people are asking, albeit unwittingly. We see God's faithfulness. We also see that St. Matthew as concerned for the salvation of God's people Israel being seen through to the end. I find the reading pretty convincing and consistent with what the Church has been trying to articulate regarding her relationship with our 'older brothers in faith', the Jewish people.

My question in this is, "Do theologians in the Catholic-Jewish dialogue know about this? My sense is that there still is very little communication betwen the lively exegetical work being done by Bible scholars and the systematic and historical theology done by laborers in ecumenism and related fields. How can this gap be narrowed? This is a question often asked by Pope Benedict (who is well versed in a wide range of theological disciplines, including Scripture).

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If I, who seem to be your right hand and am called Presbyter and seem to
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may the whole Church, in unanimous resolve, cut me, its right hand, off, and
throw me away.

Origen of Alexandria
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