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Bible Study: Parody and Subversion in Matthew's Gospel
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Bible Study: Parody and Subversion in Matthew's Gospel

Author: Bert Newton

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This podcast takes a journey through the Gospel of Matthew, unpacking its story of Jesus as a peasant leader of a nonviolent movement for a new society that he calls “The Kingdom of Heaven.” Each episode explores literary, cultural and historical context, passage by passage.
93 Episodes
In this episode, I describe how the genealogy in Matthew is actually a parody of a genealogy. In the gospel in which Jesus instructs his followers to "call no one on earth 'father,'" this list of fathers is intentionally ironic.I also talk about other "trickster" texts in the Bible such as the praise of King Solomon and the story of the rise of Joseph to the second most powerful person in Egypt. These stories are not what they appear to be.
The "virgin birth" of Jesus, the title "Son of God," and the concept of the forgiveness of sins all had resonances in the first century Mediterranean world that they no longer have today. Understanding what those terms and concepts signaled, as well as how this story "fulfilled" the prophetic texts will greatly expand our understanding of what this story was all about.
This episode is the only one that will not look at one particular text (all the other episodes will continue progressively through Matthew), but rather at the book as a whole. I make the argument in this episode that the whole Gospel of Matthew parodies a genre in the ancient world to get across a very serious message.
The story of the Magi evokes sentimental, feel good memories of Christmas for many of us, but this story, for its original audience, signaled hopes of liberation from a brutal occupation.
In this episode, Jesus and his family become refugees. Fleeing their home country, which is under the brutal occupation of a foreign empire, they take refuge in Egypt, which, according to their national history, was both the place of their people's slavery and also a refuge for those escaping the Babylonian invasion.With this story, the author of Matthew introduces the themes of Jesus-as-Moses and Jesus-as-Israel by using Exodus imagery. The texts from Jeremiah 31 and Isaiah 53 also play an i...
If this series has not been controversial already, it gets even more controversial in this episode. I make the claim that Jesus joins a liberation movement already in progress to get his start as "Messiah." Also I will assert that temples in the ancient world were government institutions that served as mechanisms through which the ruling classes controlled the people. A significant part of the movement of John the Baptizer was to undercut temple authority.
In this episode, we follow Jesus through his "vision quest," as he retraces his people's journey in the wilderness through a time of testing/temptation. Jesus has to prove what sort of Messiah or "Son of God" he will be.Please leave comments at the Facebook page (click on the Facebook icon at the top)
Jesus takes up John's work of leading a movement for The New Society (Kingdom of Heaven). Matthew's imagery reminds the reader of the setting of this story in the Roman Empire. Jesus liberates his disciples from bondage to the empire, setting them free to join the movement.
In this episode, to address our current situation, I take a break from Matthew and hop over to the Gospel of Luke to look at the Parable of the Dishonest Manager - A strange parable for strange times. I am indebted to Ched Myers for opening up the secrets of this parable for me. You can find his article on it at under the title Discipleship as Defection from the Mammon System: Jesus’ Parable about a "Manager of Injustice”
Jesus' campaign of healing provides an alternative to more conventional military campaigns (parody?) and signals the dawning of a new society.
Jesus begins laying out his new law or teaching for the new Society. This new teaching inverts the male honor code of the first century Mediterranean World.
Jesus attempts to build a strong movement, urging solidarity between peasants and curtailing male sexual abuse of and power over women.
What's the big deal about taking Oaths?Also, women in Nigeria in 2002 used a tactic that Matthew's Jesus prescribes.
Jesus lifts up the mutual aid economy of the peasants and tears down the patronage system of the empire.
Jesus provides a prayer for his movement rooted in peasant realities of hunger, debt, and the threat of legal prosecution as well as the ancient story of the Exodus liberation.
Jesus usurps the power and authority of the priests.
In this episode, I make a mistake in the recording. See if you can catch don't have to be a Bible Scholar, you just need to be paying attention. I only caught it after it was all done; there is no way to fix it, and I don't have the time or energy to go back and correct it, so let's make it a game. If you find it, let me know on the Facebook page.
The third detailed healing: Jesus crosses the gender divide and continues his campaign of healing.
Jesus crosses to "the other side" and encounters the demons of empire.