The Disciplined and the Damned: Problematic Insiders and Responses to them in the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Mishnah, and the Gospel of Matthew

“By studying the Gospel of Matthew’s disciplinary system in comparison with those found in other ancient Jewish texts, I shed light on its theology and priorities. ”

Team Members/Contributors

Jonathan Sanchez University of Notre Dame Contact Me

About this dissertation fellowship

The Gospel of Matthew, particularly Matthew 18, is well-known for its concern for group discipline. My dissertation analyzes Matthew’s approach to discipline by comparing this gospel with the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Mishnah, an early rabbinic work. More specifically, I examine both what behaviors are considered problematic and what responses to such behaviors are intended to accomplish. I intervene in previous studies by contending that these texts’ approaches to discipline are better understood when examined as a whole, rather than when specific features, like rebuke or expulsion, are treated in isolation. This broader perspective allows my dissertation to identify the theology and values that undergird these disciplinary systems.

These works are oriented around three different objectives. The Scrolls prioritize the creation of a group of eschatologically vindicated persons, the Mishnah reinforces the holiness of Israelites at the collective and individual levels, and Matthew seeks the repentance of individual offenders. These different goals explain variations in the disciplinary responses these texts employ. For instance, expulsion plays a minor role in the Mishnah but serves as a way to facilitate repentance in Matthew. But the various objectives also explain why Matthew and the Scrolls configure the same elements differently. In the Scrolls, rebuke initiates the judicial process, which expels the worst offenders—those seen as eschatologically damned. In Matthew, rebuke ends as soon as the offender repents, and expulsion is not permanent. I contend that Matthew’s difference corresponds to two theological claims: an individual’s eschatological fate both is not discernable by humans and remains in flux until the eschaton.