Matthew Caters to the Rich
G. D. Kilpatrick has argued that Matthew was compiled for use in a wealthy urban Jewish Church and showed that Matthew tends to modify its source material in the direction of making it more relevant to the rich. (G. D. Kirkpatrick, The Origins of the Gospel According to St. Matthew, pp. 124-5)
Matthew exhibits technical competence in its editing. In some places, it appears that Matthew has softened derogatory references to the rich, including Matt 6:19 vs. Luke 11:33 and Matt 11:7-11 and Luke 7:24-28.
The Beelzebul controversy of Luke 11:17-23, Mark 3:23-30 and Matt 12:25-37 is an example where Matthew's close editing reflects his attitude toward wealth. Luke's reading is more authentic than Matthew's in the material they share. For example, the instance of 'by the finger of God' is generally regarded as prior to 'by the spirit of God'. With respect to the rich, the crucial difference in the examination is that Matthew has a preference for Mark's parable of the Strong man over Luke's (Compare Luke 11:21-22, Mark 3:27, and Matt 12:29). Considering that Matthew has Lukan verses immediately before and after the implementation of the Strong Man from Mark, suggest that the author knew the Lukan parable as well. Wealth is apparently the reason he chooses to follow Mark. The parable in Luke describes Beelzebul as a strong rich man who guards his palace and possessions in peace until a stronger one seizes his armor and distributes the spoil. The parable in Luke would be perceived as equating riches with evil, but the Marcan version of the strong man would avoid this association.
Matt 25:31-46 contains a parable of the Sheep and the Goats. Since it appears to demand charity for the poor, and both threaten hell for refusal, it would also seem that the parable of the Rich man and Lazarus of Luke 16:19-31 would also warrant a place in Matthew since it has the same theme of charity and threat of hell. The likely reason for the omission of the parable in Matthew is that judgment falls harshly on the excessively wealthy man, while sympathy is given to the poor man. The parable of the Sheep and the Goats is much more fitting for Matthew, since the judgment has nothing to do with the distinction between the rich and the poor.
In conclusion, West observed…
“Matthew calls for charity, but he shuns pericopes which equate possessions with evil or which take it for granted that the rich are wicked.” (H.P. West Jr., “A Primitive Version of Luke in the Composition of Matthew,” New Test. Stud. 14, p.87)
The view of Matthew with respect to possessions can be discerned from the editorial actions of the author in consideration of the following passages.
- Matt 5:3,6 vs. Luke 6:20-21
- Matt 5:46-47 vs. Luke 6:32-36
- Matt 6:19-21 vs. Luke 7:33-34
- Matt 10:37-38 vs. Luke 14:26-27
- Matt 11:7-11 vs. Luke 7:24-28
- Matt 12:25-27 vs. Luke 11:17-23 and Mark 3:23-30
- Matthew omits Luke 12:13-15
- Matthew omits Luke 12:16-21
- Matthew omits Luke 14:7-14
- Matthew omits Luke 14:28-33
- Matthew omits Luke 16:14-15
- Matthew omits Luke 16:19-31
- Matthew omits Luke 18:9-14
- Matt 19:16-22 vs. Luke 18:18-23 and Mark 10:17-22
- Matt 19:23-40 vs. Luke 18:24-30 and Mark 10:23-31
- Matt 24:45-51 vs. Luke 12:42-6
- Matt 25:14-30 vs. Luke 19:11-27
- Matt 26:6-13 vs. Mark 14:3-9 and Luke 7:36-50
Some might question if the author of Matthew saw and omitted the peculiar Lukan material. They might attribute the material from a documentary source of a separate tradition from the source common to Matthew and Luke. However, such a source would be hard to imagine, considering what that collection of material that source would necessarily exhibit. It would be an absurd collection unlike anything else known. The collection would contain virtually no independent sayings and comprise mostly striking parables. All of its material would display a particular interest in making moral examples out of persons without Jewish status, or at every opportunity, would attack the rich and their possessions. It is far more reasonable to see Primitive Luke as a source common to Matthew and Luke than to presume distinct sources to account for the materials common to Matthew and for those materials particular to Luke.