5:57 PM

Matthew 10:28-- Matt Morin

1) Jesus instructs the disciples not to fear those people who can only kill the body, but rather to fear God who can destroy soul and body in hell (10:28). What does this mean for our doctrine of hell? Moreover, a number of commentators make reference to Epictetus in their analysis of this verse. What is to be made of the apparently Stoic tone that this verse suggests-- especially given the physical body's high place Jewish theology? As a question regarding the internal dynamics of the passage, Luz puts it best: "One of the major problems in understanding the entire gospel (is): How are the merciful shepherd and the Lord of judgment... to be understood together?" (Luz, 65).

2) The commentators disagree as to whether or not vs.28-31 form a unified "logion." Luz argues that 28-31 are unified (Luz, 99) whereas Davies & Allison believe that 28 was itself an original saying distinct from 29-31 (Davies & Allison, 202). Thus, the two commentators vary slightly as to the function of v.28 in the whole of Matthew 10. Luz states that the aim of the logion is to encourage the disciples who surely faced persecution (Luz, 101). Almost no explicit comment is made by Luz to explain what is meant by "hell." In fact, Luz states that "Our text does not intend to make statements about... life after death" (Luz, 102).

Like Luz, Davies & Allison suggest that v.28 is written to a people who faced martyrdom. However, unlike Luz, they address the question of hell by suggest that Matthew held "the prevalent view that the wicked would suffer for ever" (Davies & Allison, 207).

Hauerwas does not address hell explicitly but does argue that despite its ability to be communicated in manipulative ways, "the language of reward and punishment is clearly central to what Jesus says" (Hauerwas, 112). Carter does not mince words when it comes to hell: "Decisions have consequences" (Carter, 241).

3) I don't mean to focus too much on the question of hell, if Jesus' words are meant simply to remind the disciples that they belong entirely to the God who created them. On the other hand, the themes of judgment and hell play heavily in the history of Christian theology-- not to mention in the very words of Jesus. So, it seems difficult to abandon some notion of hell and punishment based on this passage.

Finally, it is clear that the words of Jesus are intended to remind all who follow him that the death of the body is not final (as Jesus demonstrated), and neither is bodily safety our highest good.

(As a brief aside, I find it pretty funny that Jesus instructs the disciples to pray for workers in the harvest field in the last verse of Mt 9 and then sends the disciples in Mt 10. He set them up!)

Comment (1)

M,
Your observation at the very end is very important, I think. Readers often do not adequately connect the end of ch. 9 to ch. 10.

What do you think are the consequences/judgment that Jesus warns about? I think chapters 24-25 are crucial for this. Along these same lines, it is worth noting that "hell" is our English translation (in this case) of *Gehenna.* What/where was Gehenna? What was its function in Israel's economy? Did anything happen there as a result of Rome's siege and destruction of Jerusalem? Addressing these questions might help clarify how to read the judgment/consequences of not heeding Jesus, i.e., of not serving the God of Israel the way he does. It might also shed some light on what it means for the *psuche* (soul/life) to be killed. How, for example, did Abraham live on after he died (Mt. 22:23-33)? I think saying, "He had a disembodied soul that lived on in heaven" is a very thin answer to that question. You can see from the passage in Mt. 22 that to talk about the sense in which certain dead people are living is to talk about sexual/procreative relations and how Israel is formed across generations. And that, Jesus says, is to talk about resurrection.

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