Biblical and Theological Studies Faculty Presentations


Matthew’s Mountain Setting: Defining the Community’s Identity in Worship

Document Type

Conference Presentation

Event Date



Society of Biblical Literature Annual Meeting


San Francisco, CA


Many have attempted an explanation of the mountain setting of the Great Commission, but existing proposals fail to account both for the situation of the Matthean community and the trajectory of mountain scenes in the Gospel. This article reads Matthew’s Gospel in light of Jewish opposition to the community’s proclamation and worship of Jesus, an opposition that doubtlessly reasserted the preeminence of Moses’ authority and teaching. Matthew’s inclusion of the mountain setting serves as one way to define the community as worshippers of Jesus, the Son of God. Throughout the Gospel, Matthew redactionally highlights the significance of Moses and the mountain setting as a place where Jesus is confirmed as the Son of God through divine declaration, obedience, and miraculous deeds. This paper surveys three scenes in the Gospel—baptism and temptation, feeding of the 5,000 and walking on water, and the Transfiguration —to show how Matthew’s allusions to Moses function to prove the superiority of Jesus as Son of God. Each of these scenes, involving the mountain setting and Moses allusions, connects a confession of Jesus’ Sonship to instruction about proper worship. The Great Commission draws together numerous themes that run throughout the Gospel, so it is not surprising that Matthew situates the Son of God on the mountain with allusions to Moses; moreover, the disciples’ response to the resurrected Jesus is to worship him. The mountain of the Great Commission serves as the culmination of the convergence of the Son of God and Moses themes throughout the Gospel in which Matthew argues that Jesus, Son of God, is the only one to whom the community owes worship and obedience; he alone can promise his own ongoing presence. Thus Matthew defines his community as one that worships Jesus, Son of God, in contrast to others’ obedience to Moses.