Mike Mercer—Chaplain Mike—wrote a nice piece a couple of years back on the Internet Monk site putting forward the view that Matthew’s Gospel is “a Torah, a catechism, an instruction manual for the church”. He wonders whether this perspective brings into question my contention that Jesus was a prophet of Israel speaking to Israel about Israel. It might. It depends what Matthew understood by “church” and, in particular, how he perceived its horizons.
It seems to me that if we are to pursue the narrative-historical approach consistently, we need to recognize that the Gospel was written as a catechism for a church in eschatological transition—and as the title of Mike’s post suggests, probably for a Jewish church in eschatological transition. If there is a catechistic shape to it, it is for the purpose of grounding perhaps disoriented Jewish believers in Jesus’ reinterpretation of the story of Israel. This would be no less true if the Gospel was written a decade after the destruction of the temple.