Publication Date


Degree Granted


Institution Granting Degree

Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary


Judgment of the Sheep and Goats, Hermeneutics, New Testament, Matthew 25:31-46, Judgment, Sheep and Goats, Prophecy, Gospel of Matthew


This dissertation analyses and evaluates the interpretive issues which have influenced the interpretation of Matthew's Judgment of the Sheep and Goats (Matt 25:31-46).

The first chapter summarizes 18 interpretations of Matt 25:31-46 drawn from the reading perspectives of scholars who represent distinct approaches to interpretation from ancient to post-modern times. This chapter demonstrates how these commentators' opinions about the locus of meaning affected their interpretations of Matt 25:31-46.

Chapters 2, 3, and 4 list and discuss the many other interpretive issues that have influenced the interpretation of Matt 25:31-46. Chapter 2 explains the relevance of theories which have been adopted concerning the author's identity and life setting. Chapter 3 discusses the interpretive issues that are related to the wording of the text and its relation to other texts both inside and outside of Matthew's Gospel. Chapter 4 discusses the interpretive issues that are related to the proper identification of the genre of Matt 25:31-46 as well as those issues related to the rhetorical structure of the passage and its relation to the broader lines of argument in the balance of the Gospel.

Chapter 5 evaluates all of the interpretive issues listed in chapters 2, 3, and 4 from a reading perspective that recognizes the locus of meaning in the author's intention. This chapter opens with a "working" description of the author and his life setting. The balance of the chapter evaluates each interpretive issue in the light of this working description of the author. The chapter concludes that this author would have intended the passage primarily to console the missionary disciples who were facing neglect and persecution in their obedience to the Great Commission (Matt 28:19-20). The "least" in 25:40 and 45 were therefore primarily intended to refer to the disciples, especially in their missionary capacity. A secondary intention may well have been a warning to other Christians to practice brotherly love.

The dissertation ends with a brief "Epilogue" which discusses the strengths and limitations of this method of interpretation.