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archbishop gregory bolsters historical reliability of gospels

By Diogenes (articles ) | Apr 01, 2008

April Fool.

In the ill-named "What I Have Seen and Heard" column in his diocesan newspaper, the Archbishop of Atlanta discourses on the Gospel "stories":

One of my favorite Gospel stories is from St. Matthew's 18th chapter where the question arose of how the community ought to treat an erring member. Matthew lays down several preliminary steps to be taken and finally acknowledges in conclusion that if all of those steps fails to win back the wayward member, then they should be treated like a Gentile or tax collector -- the text is offered somewhat tongue-in-cheek since the Gospel author himself was a rehabilitated tax collector who had been treated quite well by none other than Christ Himself.

The historicity of the New Testament may not be especially important to the Archbishop, but observing the proprieties of gender-inclusive language clearly is ("if all of those steps fails to win back the wayward member, then they should be treated ..."). A churchman with different enthusiasms and pastoral concerns might have written the paragraph by sticking closer to the text of the evangelist:

St. Matthew records for us the teaching of our Lord in response to the question of how to respond "if your brother should sin against you." Jesus instructs his disciples that three preliminary appeals are to be made -- the first personal, the second including others, the third made to the church. If all these steps fail to win back the brother, he is to be treated, Jesus says, as a Gentile or a tax-collector. Given that St. Matthew himself had been a tax-collector before becoming a disciple -- whence Jesus' words may be assumed to have had a special sting for him -- the verbal authenticity of the passage acquires indirect, if ironic, support.

The problem with the second version is that there's no cute story remaining.

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