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The title echoes Matthew 11:28-30: "Come to me all you who labor and are overburdened, ..." and the general orientation of the book, which attempts to read Matthew through the lens of Hosea 6:6: "What I [God] want is mercy not sacrifice," which Matthew quotes twice (9: 13; 12:7). In contrast to the "burden-imposing" interpretation of the Torah by the scribes and Pharisees (23:3), Matthew presents Jesus as interpreting the Torah in a way that is "burden-lifting" and gives primacy to the "weightier matters of the Torah: justice, mercy, and peace" (23:23).
Judgment is a focal point for many interpreters of Matthew. To some people, God is seen as a server and helper to those in need, but to others He is seen as judging and accessible only to the elite. The burden of impending judgment can be a heavy load to carry, but does it need to be?
Selecting passages from Matthew, Brendan Byrne demonstrates an awareness of Jesus as one who lightens humanity's burdens rather than adding to them. "Lifting the Burden" contains methods of interpretation that are sensitive to the concerns of Christianity and Judaism as it focuses on the elements of the Gospel that balance the importance of judgment and view judgment within a larger context.
"Brendan Byrne, SJ, DPhil, is a professor of New Testament at Jesuit Theological College, within the United Faculty of Theology, Parkville, Melbourne, Australia. He is the author of "Romans" from the "Sacra Pagina" series, and "Pal and the Christian Woman" and is a contributor to the "New Jerome Bible Handbook," published by Liturgical Press."
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