The Gospel of Matthew is a treasure house stored with a wealth of sermon material. Yet for many preachers the door to this treasury has been locked by Higher Critical scholars. But such was not the intent of those scholars. Their purpose was to clarify the teachings of the various books of the Bible, and Higher Criticism is indeed invaluable as an aid in the sphere of Biblical introduction, where it has a legitimate and important function. But as a result of the use of what sometimes proves to be only a critic’s imagination, the tendency has been to confuse rather than to clarify the text for the preacher.
What is in the mind of the present-day preacher as he takes a text from Matthew’s Gospel? One steeped in the lore of Higher Criticism immediately faces a number of questions. Is the text a translation from a document originally written in Aramaic? Does it come from Mark or from the hypothetical document Q? Or is its source some other unknown document? Or does it come from oral tradition? Does it show church or Hellenistic influence? Is it the work of the first or the second century? Is it the work of the original author, a redactor, or an editor? Is it legend, tradition, or history?
Caught in the maze of such questions; the preacher does not go to his pulpit and declare of the text, “Thus saith the Lord.” Indeed, to avoid insincerity he may turn away from the Bible as the source of sermon material and tum instead to current events, modem literature, social problems, or church programs.
But today something is happening in the realm of scholarship. Now one may dare to question long-venerated hypotheses without being accused of obscurantism. A prominent New Testament scholar, Dr. Vincent Taylor, in writing ...1
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