Daniel Harrington, SJ, in an article I’ve been reading in Bible Today on the Gospel of Matthew has an interesting comment on Matthew’s narrative of the passion of Jesus. He sees the narrative framed to absolve the Romans of their role in the death of Jesus and shift the blame to the Jews. The Jewish Christian community around 90 AD, about the time the gospel was written, lived in a Roman world and wanted to be seen by the Romans, not as revolutionaries ready to topple their rulers, but as people interested only in the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew is the only gospel reporting the dream of Pilate’s wife, who pronounces Jesus innocent. Like the dreams of Joseph, also recorded by Matthew, her dream is important. Her judgment is followed by the Jewish crowd, prompted by their leaders, shouting out before Pilate: “His blood be on us and on our children.” Matthew 27,15-25
Matthew’s community would see the punishment for their complicity in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. They wanted to minimise Roman responsibility. Unfortunately, Christians throughout history reading Matthew continued to place the guilt for the death of Jesus on the Jewish people, resulting in dire consequences.
Today in the Office of Readings I’m reminded of the true key to understanding the scriptures, however:
“The stream of holy Scripture flows not from human research but from revelation by God. It springs from the Father of lights, from whom all fatherhood in heaven and on earth takes its name. From him, through his Son Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit flows into us; and through the Holy Spirit, giving, at will, different gifts to different people, comes the gift of faith, and through faith Jesus Christ has his dwelling in our hearts. This is the knowledge of Jesus Christ which is the ultimate basis of the solidity and wisdom of the whole of holy Scripture.
“From all this it follows that it is impossible for anyone to start to recognise Scripture for what it is if he does not already have faith in Christ infused into him. Christ is the lamp that illuminates the whole of Scripture: he is its gateway and its foundation. For this faith is behind all the supernatural enlightenments that we receive while we are still separated from the Lord and on our pilgrimage. It makes our foundation firm, it directs the light of the lamp, it leads us in through the gateway. It is the standard against which the wisdom that God has given us should be measured, so that no-one should exaggerate his real importance, but everyone must judge himself soberly by the standard of the faith God has given him.”
St Bonaventure, Breviloquium