Jesus the True Leader : The Biographical Portrait of Jesus as Leader in the Gospel of Matthew

Sammanfattning: The purpose of the present study is to understand and clarify how Jesus is presented as a leader in the Gospel of Matthew. The usage of common leadership terms in reference to Jesus early in the story, the biographical genre of Matthew, and the consistently negative portrayal of other leaders in the story give good reasons for the inquiry. Three main questions are at the forefront: How does the theme of leadership develop throughout the story? What are the main moral character traits of Jesus? What are the main features of the relationship between Jesus and the people? The focus of the study is thus in agreement with the common understanding of “leadership” as a social process where one individual influences others, and recent trends in leadership studies to emphasize the ethical aspects in the understanding of good leadership. In order to answer the main questions of the study a biographical-narrative method is used. This approach involves an examination of the characterization of the protagonist in the text as a whole and a utilization of insights from narrative criticism. The conventions of characterization in ancient biographies take precedence. A main implication is that moral qualities or virtues are central. The genre of ancient biography is partly related to the portrayal of good leaders, and some biographies give portraits of ideal leaders. In this study, four biographies—Isocrates’ Evagoras, Xenophon’s Agesilaus, Philo’s Moses, and Plutarch’s Numa—are examined in order to recognize common leadership ideals in biographies and to better understand the portrait of Jesus. The study concludes that the theme of leadership is seen througout the story and is important to its plot. The presentation of Jesus conforms in many ways to common leadership ideals: Jesus is portrayed as a leader with piety, justice, self-control, compassion, wisdom, integrity, and courage. He operates in different leadership roles, has willing followers, a close relationship to the people, leads by example as a role model, and benefits the people in several ways. At the same time, some idiosyncratic features are also recognized: The Gospel of Matthew underlines the humility of Jesus and shows that a significant aspect of Jesus’ leadership is serving the people. The study ends with a discussion on whether Jesus is presented as a model for leaders. It is argued that the biographical genre and the narrative content make it appropriate to conclude that one of the purposes of the gospel is to give an example to the reader. Jesus, the true leader, is a model for other leaders, and most aspects of his leadership could be imitated.

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