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Social Conflict Theory and Matthew’s Polemic against the Pharisees


Utilizing sociological theories about conflict and the formation and change of identity, Thomas C. Fraatz turns to biblical polemic in order to show the creation of boundaries within the early Christian community. When examining the interactions of social groups, Borderlands Theorists are prone to point out the ways in which people use rhetoric to characterize the Other. In his examination of the Gospel of Matthew, Fraatz engages heavily with the works of Borderlands scholars Daniel Boyarin and Thomas Sizgorich to describe how the author of Matthew was trying to link, through the deliberate construction of narratives, the persecution and death of Jesus at the hands of Pharisees with the persecution and supposed eventual death of his own community at the hands of a current Pharisaic community. By making this link explicit, Matthew also helps to construct and reinforce the border between these two social groups, and simultaneously changes the perceived definition of both sides.

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