HTS Theological Studies
On-line version ISSN 2072-8050
Print version ISSN 0259-9422
WEAVER, Dorothy Jean. 'What is that to us? See to it yourself' (Mt 27:4): Making atonement and the Matthean portrait of the Jewish chief priests. Herv. teol. stud. [online]. 2014, vol.70, n.1, pp.1-8. ISSN 2072-8050. http://dx.doi.org/10.4102/hts.v70i1.2703.
To read the Gospel of Matthew within its 1st century religious context is to read an intensely Jewish narrative. Central to the world of this Gospel are the Jerusalem temple, its administrators, the chief priests, and the sacrificial system which they are charged by Jewish law to officiate. This article assesses the Matthean portrait of the Jewish chief priests of Jesus' day against the scriptural backdrop which lays out their prominent role within Jewish religious life, namely 'making atonement' before God for the 'sins' of the people. In section one I sketch out the Matthean portrait of the scripturally assigned role of the priests, connecting this portrait to its biblical antecedents. In section two I assess the overall performance of the Matthean chief priests against the backdrop of their assigned role. In section three I address the question of atonement. Crucial here is 27:3-10, the account of Judas Iscariot, who returns his 30 silver coins to the chief priests and says (27:4a; emphasis mine), 'I have sinned, because I have handed over innocent blood'. Here I highlight Matthew's ironic modus operandi as he portrays the chief priests' non-priestly response to Judas. Additionally, I contrast Matthew's portrait of the Jewish chief priests with a brief portrait of Jesus' own ministry within the Jewish community, a ministry which fulfils the priestly role abandoned by the chief priests. I conclude my article in section four with brief reflections on the rhetorical impact of Matthew's portrait of the Jewish chief priests within his overall narrative.