Fortress Press

Divine Wrath and Salvation in Matthew: The Narrative World of the First Gospel

Divine Wrath and Salvation in Matthew

The Narrative World of the First Gospel

Anders Runesson (Author)


Winner of the 2017 F. W. BEARE AWARD

Judgment and the wrath of God are prominent themes in Matthew's Gospel. Because judgment is announced not only on the hypocritical but also on those who reject God's messengers—and because this rejection is implicitly connected with the destruction of Jerusalem—the Gospel has often been read in terms of God's rejection of Israel, with catastrophic results. Anders Runesson sets out to show, through careful study of Matthew's composition and comparison with contemporary Jewish literature, that the theme of divine judgment plays very different and distinct roles regarding diverse groups of Jews (including Jesus' disciples) and non-Jews in this Gospel. Runesson examines various assumptions regarding the criteria of judgment in each case and finds that Matthew does not support some of the most popular slogans in Christian theology. The results and implications for our historical understanding of Christian origins and our theological estimation of Matthew's place in that story will be of vital interest to scholars and students for years to come.

  • Format Hardcover
  • ISBN 9780800699598
  • eBook ISBN 9781451452259
  • Pages 544
  • Dimensions 6 x 9
  • Publication Date October 1, 2016


Introduction: To Distinguish Good from Evil

Part I: Judging and Saving the Jewish People

1. When Will Israel’s God Judge His People?
2. The Criteria of Judgment for the Chosen People
3. The Limits of Salvation: Jewish Groups and the Judgment of God
4. Conclusion to Part I

Part II: Judging and Saving the Nations

5. Preparing the Nations for Judgment
6. When Will Israel’s God Judge the Nations?
7. The Criteria of Judgment for Those Who Do Not Belong
8. Conclusion to Part II
9. Divine Wrath and Salvation in Matthew’s Narrative World


Review in Bible Today

Review in RBL


"Matthew's Gospel has often been read as a story of rejection and replacement—the rejection of the Jews for their rejection of Jesus, and the replacement of Israel by the (largely or exclusively) gentile church. In this brilliant and groundbreaking work, Anders Runesson tackles this 'gentile bias' reading of Matthew head-on. Moreover, he does so by focusing on an element that has often played a central role in such anti-Jewish readings—the heightened emphasis on divine judgment in the First Gospel. With Divine Wrath and Salvation in Matthew, Runesson takes his place at the forefront of a growing group of scholars who want to repatriate Matthew—to read the First Gospel from a position 'within Judaism' rather than within gentile ecclesiasticism. Essential reading for all who are interested in the Synoptic Gospels, the question of anti-Judaism in the New Testament, and related matters."

Terence Donaldson | Wycliffe College

"By demonstrating Matthew's deep immersion in late first-century Jewish thought, this brilliant study offers multiple insights into the Gospel's soteriology, political views, missionary strategy, and narrative coherence. Anders Runesson both breaks new ground in historical-critical analysis and opens new possibilities in contemporary Jewish-Christian dialogue."

Amy-Jill Levine | Vanderbilt University

"Anders Runesson's creative effort to read Matthew in its first-century Jewish context, without anachronistic assumptions and prejudices, is most welcome. Divine Wrath and Salvation in Matthew is a major contribution that is historically well-informed, theologically thoughtful, and hermeneutically perceptive."

Dale C. Allison Jr. | Princeton Theological Seminary

"What happens if we attend to Matthew’s inception history, rather than to its reception history? If we read it not within the New Testament, but alongside of other late first-century Jewish texts (4 Ezra, 2 Baruch)? If we see this 'passionately angry' gospel not as an instance of 'Christian origins,' but as a witness to Jewish origins? In Divine Wrath and Salvation in Matthew, Anders Runesson offers exactly such an accomplishment at historical reimagining. The result is a profound work of ethical reasoning, and a clear summons to theological courage."

Paula Fredriksen | The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

"For students of Matthew's Gospel, Anders Runesson's, Divine Wrath and Salvation in Matthew: The Narrative World of the First Gospel presents a strong and challenging interpretation. Matthew, he insists, originates as a thoroughly Jewish text and, contrary to many later Christian readings, is primarily concerned with the salvation of Israel, particularly those 'lost sheep' so led astray by their leaders who in a particular way have earned God’s judgement. Not all will agree with Runesson's assessment but no one should ignore it."

Donald Senior | Catholic Theological Union

"In this provocative but carefully-researched book, Anders Runesson invites the reader to enter into the narrative world of Matthew's Gospel and to engage with the Evangelist's very Jewish understanding of God's salvation and judgment. A critical aspect of his argument is that Matthew distinguishes between the judgment of the Jews and the judgment of the Gentiles, and that each group is judged according to different criteria. Runesson has produced a study of Matthew's scheme of divine judgment that is original and challenging, and replete with fresh insights. It will take its rightful place in the corpus of important modern studies that deal with the Gospel's distinctive vision of the end-times."

David C. Sim | Australian Catholic University

"I know of no book that approaches the Gospel of Matthew from a strictly historical point of view in the consistent and masterful way that Runesson does. He shows that Matthew can be explained as a document whose origins lie fully within its first-century Jewish context. This is a stimulating and insightful book that the next generation of Matthean specialists will not be able to ignore."

Donald A. Hagner | Fuller Theological Seminary