Our Church, in its Constitution on Divine Revelation teaches us that, “Truth is differently presented and expressed in the various types of historical writing. In prophetic and poetical texts.”
Today’s first reading that describes the duel between the prophet Elijah and the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal is clearly a myth. It was told as a hyperbole to let simple people grasp the greatness of God’s power. We would be going against God’s intention if we tried presenting it as an historical account.
Today’s Gospel expresses the central truth in Matthew’s Gospel. Let me summarize the events that led up to Matthew writing his Gospel.
In the year 70 A.D. Rome, was so exasperated with the raids from Jewish guerilla fighters that it decided that the only way to protect its government was to destroy the city of Jerusalem where the Jewish zealots were holed up. So they surrounded the city, and they set up catapults that rained destructive fire on the city, its temple, and tens of thousands of its people.
While the destruction was going on Jerusalem’s Pharisees got representatives out to the Roman General Titus, and they convinced him that they had the zealots were harder on them than they were on Rome. Titus believed them, and he let all the Pharisees and their families leave Jerusalem.
The Pharisees and their families settled on the Mediterranean at a place called Jamnia where they began asking themselves how they might survive as a substantial religion without their temple. What they decided on was making the observance of Kosher the distinctive mark of true Jews.
That decision had them turning against the thousands of Jews who had become followers of Jesus. They began telling Christians that they could no longer consider themselves Jewish, because their leader, Jesus, had shared food with unclean Gentiles. They said Jesus had been out to destroy the Law and the Prophets.
That had Matthew writing a gospel that demonstrated how, far from destroying the Law and the Prophets, Jesus had fulfilled what they promised.