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Select Exegesis
September, 3 2014

23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time (A)

Loyola Press and the USCCB

EZ 33:7-9 PS. 95 ROM 13:8-10 MT 18:15-20


Exegetical Notes:


http://www.usccb.org/bible/matthew/18   From the USCCB: 

Matthew 18:15-20: Passing from the duty of Christian disciples toward those who have strayed from their number, the discourse now turns to how they are to deal with one who sins and yet remains within the community. First there is to be private correction . If this is unsuccessful, further correction before two or three witnesses; if this fails, the matter is to be brought before the assembled community (the church), and if the sinner refuses to attend to the correction of the church, he is to be expelled. The church’s judgment will be ratified in heaven, i.e., by God . This three-step process of correction corresponds, though not exactly, to the procedure of the Qumran community.  The section ends with a saying about the favorable response of God to prayer, even to that of a very small number, for Jesus is in the midst of any gathering of his disciples, however small. Whether this prayer has anything to do with the preceding judgment is uncertain.

Matthew 18:15 Your brother: a fellow disciple. The bracketed words, against you, are widely attested but they are not in the important codices Sinaiticus and Vaticanus or in some other textual witnesses. Their omission broadens the type of sin in question. Won over: literally, “gained.”

Matthew 18:17: Referencing "The church" : the second of the only two instances of this word in the gospels; see note on Matthew 16: 18.  Here it refers not to the entire church of Jesus, as in Mt. 16:18, but to the local congregation. Treat him…as a Gentile or a tax collector: just as the observant Jew avoided the company of Gentiles and tax collectors, so must the congregation of Christian disciples separate itself from the arrogantly sinful member who refuses to repent even when convicted of his sin by the whole church. Such a one is to be set outside the fellowship of the community. The harsh language about Gentile and tax collector probably reflects a stage of the Matthean church when it was principally composed of Jewish Christians. That time had long since passed, but the principle of exclusion for such a sinner remained. Paul makes a similar demand for excommunication in 1 Cor. 5:1-13. 

Matthew 18:18. Except for the plural of the verbs bind and loose, this verse is practically identical with Mt. 16: 19 and many scholars understand it as granting to all the disciples what was previously given to Peter alone. For a different view, based on the different contexts of the two verses, see note on Mt. 16: 19.  Some take these verses as applying to prayer on the occasion of the church’s gathering to deal with the sinner of Mt. 18: 17. Unless an a fortiori argument is supposed, this seems unlikely. God’s answer to the prayer of two or three envisages a different situation from one that involves the entire congregation. In addition, the object of this prayer is expressed in most general terms as anything for which they are to pray.

Matthew 18:20: For where two or three…midst of them: the presence of Jesus guarantees the efficacy of the prayer. This saying is similar to one attributed to a rabbi executed in A.D. 135 at the time of the second Jewish revolt: “…When two sit and there are between them the words of the Torah, the divine presence (Shekinah) rests upon them”.

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