Matthew 18.15-20 in the light of the Dead Sea Scrolls (pdf), by Peter Wallace Dunn
A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Christian Studies at Regent College, April, 1991, under the supervision of Dr. (now Prof.) Markus N. A. Bockmuehl.
The Dead Sea Scrolls provide some remarkable parallel texts to Matthew 18.15-20. In a recent article, F. Garcia Martinez shows that previous studies of these parallels are inadequate because they assume that a dependent relationship exists between Matthew 18.15-17 (as a tradition unit) and 1QS 5.24-6.1. He suggests that further investigation of these parallels would be helpful in understanding Matthew 18.15-17, as a tradition unit and in its literary context. This study seeks to do the latter–to compare and contrast Matthew 18.15-20 (the full unit) in its literary context with parallels from the DSS, in order to come to a better understanding of the correction process in the Matthean community.
Significant differences exist between the Matthean community and the Qumran community. The latter is rigidly hierarchical. It upholds a priestly level of purity within the community. In contrast, the Matthean community’s basic member is a “little one” and must not seek rank or title. Matthew’s Gospel stresses internal, not external purity. Although the communities of Qumran and Matthew have significant differences, they also have equally significant similarities. Both communities view themselves as living out the life of the Age to Come in the present wicked age. Thus, they both need a process of initiation and of correction, in order to distinguish who does and does not belong to the community.
There are three points of contact in the correction processes of the DSS and of Matthew. The first point of contact is the practice of rebuke. Both communities practice rebuke in accordance with Leviticus 19.18. The second point of contact is the use of the law of witnesses (Deut 19.15). Both Matthew and the DSS use witnesses in the correction process, though for different purposes. The third is their understanding of the consequences of correction–in some cases both the DSS and Matthew call for the expulsion of a member of the community. In both Matthew and the DSS, expulsion has eternal implications.