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Kennedy Wright Opening Lecture: "City of God or Home of Traitors and Killers? The Status of Jerusalem according to Matthew"

The role of Jerusalem and the temple in Matthew has intrigued readers of the first Gospel since antiquity. Is the temple cult valid in this Gospel, as Matt 5:23-24 seems to imply, a perspective indirectly supported also by Luke–Acts (Luke 24:53; Acts 2:46)? Why, then is the temple said to be destined for destruction in Matt 24:1-2? Indeed, if Jerusalem is the ‘City of the Great King’ (Matt 5:35) and understood as holy both before and after the crucifixion (Matt 4:5; 27:53), why will the city be destroyed by soldiers (Matt 22:7)? It seems as if Matthew’s Gospel has an ambivalent attitude to Jerusalem, and this impression is further emphasised when we compare the first Gospel with Luke–Acts. In the latter, the disciples are told to stay in Jerusalem after Jesus’ resurrection and they worship every day in the temple. In Matthew, to the contrary, Jesus’ followers are told to leave the city, meet Jesus in the Galilee and from there—not from Jerusalem, as Luke would have it (Luke 24:47)—engage in a worldwide mission. How are we to explain these differences? This paper seeks to understand why Matthew writes the way he does. It will be suggested that once the narrative progression of the Gospel is taken into account, Matthew’s theology of Jerusalem will appear as consistent and logical. It shall also be argued that Luke–Acts, despite some similarities with Matthew, represent a very different understanding of the role and status of the temple in relation to Jesus’ death and resurrection. Through studying both sets of texts, we get a hint of how the earliest followers of Jesus theologised their experiences in relation to the city they all thought of as the centre of the world.

This is a public lecture, and all are welcome to attend.  The lecture is followed by a Reception in Rainy Hall.