Gospel Of Matthew

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(εὐαγγέλιον κατὰ Μαθθαῖον, euaggélion katá Maththaíon (or Ματθαῖον, Matthaíon)):

The Gospel of Matthew (literally: according to Matthew, Greek: Κατά Μαθθαίον or Κατά Ματθαίον ) is one of the four Gospel accounts of the New Testament. The Gospel accounts are traditionally printed with Matthew first, followed in order by Mark, Luke and John. It is traditionally ascribed to Matthew the Evangelist.


Contents

Overview

For convenience, the book can be divided into its four structurally distinct sections: Two introductory sections; the main section, which can be further broken into five sections, each with a narrative component followed by a long discourse of Jesus, and finally the Passion and Resurrection section.

  1. Containing the genealogy, the birth, and the infancy of Jesus (1; 2).
  2. The discourses and actions of John The Baptist preparatory to Christ's public ministry (3; 4:11).
  3. The discourses and actions of Christ in Galilee (4:12–26:1).
    1. The Sermon on the Mount- Concerning morality (Ch. 5-7)
    2. The Missionary Discourse- Concerning the mission Jesus gave his disciples. (Ch. 10-11:1)
    3. The Parable Discourse- Stories that teach about the Kingdom of Heaven (Ch. 13)
    4. The "Church Order" Discourse- Concerning relationships among Christians. (Ch. 18-19:1)
    5. The Eschatological Discourse, also called the Olivet Discourse - Concerning his Second Coming and the end of the age. (Ch. 24-26:1)
  4. The sufferings, death and Resurrection of Jesus, the Great Commission (28:16-20).

The one aim pervading the book is to show that Jesus of Nazareth was the promised Messiah — he "of whom Moses in the law and the prophets did write" — and that in him the ancient prophecies had their fulfillment. This book is full of allusions to passages of the Old Testament which the book interprets as predicting and foreshadowing Jesus' life and mission. This Gospel contains no fewer than sixty-five references to the Old Testament, forty-three of these being direct verbal citations, thus greatly outnumbering those found in the other Gospels. The main feature of this Gospel may be expressed in the motto "I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil".

This Gospel sets forth a view of Jesus as Christ and portrays him as an heir to King David's throne.

The cast of thought and the forms of expression employed by the writer show that this Gospel was written by Jewish Christians of Judea.


Detailed Contents

The approximate contents of the Gospel, in order, are as follows:

  • Genealogy of Jesus
  • Nativity of Jesus
  • Biblical Magi
  • Flight into Egypt
  • Baptism of Jesus
  • Temptation of Jesus
  • Recruiting four of the Twelve Apostles
  • Sermon on the Mount
  • Recruiting the tax collector (Matthew/Levi) to be one of the Twelve Apostles
  • Parable of the Patch and the Wineskins
  • The saying about The Strong Man Bound
  • The saying about Jesus' True Relatives
  • Parable of the Sower (and explanation)
  • Parable of the Weeds (and explanation)
  • Parable of the Mustard Seed
  • Parable of the Yeast
  • Parable of the Hidden Treasure
  • Parable of the Pearl
  • Parable of Drawing in the Net
  • Feeding the multitude|Feeding the 5000
  • Walking on water
  • Feeding the multitude|Feeding the 4000
  • Peter's confession
  • Transfiguration of Jesus
  • Parable of the Little Children
  • Parable of the Lost Sheep
  • Parable of the Unmerciful Servant
  • Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard
  • Jesus and the Money Changers
  • Parable of The Two Sons
  • Parable of The Wicked Husbandman
  • Parable of Marriage of the King's Son|The Great Supper
  • Parable of The Leafing Fig Tree
  • Parable of Parable of the Faithful Servant|The Faithful Servant
  • Parable of The Ten Virgins
  • Parable of the talents
  • Parable of The Sheep and the Goats
  • The Last Supper
  • Passion
  • Crucifixion
  • Empty tomb
  • Resurrection appearances of Jesus
  • Great Commission

1. Name of Gospel - Unity and Integrity:

The “Gospel according to Matthew,” i.e. the Gospel according to the account of Matthew, stands, according to traditional, but not entirely universal, arrangement, first among the canonical Gospels. The Gospel, as will be seen below, was unanimously ascribed by the testimony of the ancient church to the apostle Matthew, though the title does not of itself necessarily imply immediate authorship. The unity and integrity of the Gospel were never in ancient times called in question. Matthew 1; 2, particularly - the story of the virgin birth and childhood of Jesus - are proved by the consentient testimony of manuscripts, VSS, and patristic references, to have been an integral part of the Gospel from the beginning (see Virgin Birth). The omission of this section from the heretical Gospel of the Ebionites, which appears to have had some relation to our Gospel, is without significance.

The theory of successive redactions of Matthew, starting with an Aramaic Gospel, elaborated by Eichhorn and Marsh (1801), and the related theories of successive editions of the Gospel put forth by the Tubingen school (Baur, Hilgenfeld, Kostlin, etc.), and by Ewald (Bleek supposes a primitive Greek Gospel), lack historical foundation, and are refuted by the fact that manuscripts and versions know only the ultimate redaction. Is it credible that the churches should quietly accept redaction after redaction, and not a word be said, or a vestige remain, of any of them?

2. Canonicity and Authorship:

(1) Canonicity.

The apostolic origin and canonical rank of the Gospel of Matthew were accepted without a doubt by the early church. Origen, in the beginning of the 3rd century could speak of it as the first of “the four Gospels, which alone are received without dispute by the church of God under heaven” (in Eusebius, Historia Ecclesiastica, VI, 25). The use of the Gospel can be traced in the apostolic Fathers; most distinctly in Barnabas, who quotes Matthew 22:14 with the formula, “It is written” (5). Though not mentioned by name, it was a chief source from which Justin took his data for the life and words of Jesus (compare Westcott, Canon, 91 ff), and apostolic origin is implied in its forming part of “the Memoirs of the Apostles,” “which are called Gospels,” read weekly in the assemblies of the Christians (Ap. i. 66, etc.). Its identity with our Matthew is confirmed by the undoubted presence of that Gospel in the Diatessaron of Tatian, Justin's disciple. The testimony of Papias is considered below. The unhesitating acceptance of the Gospel is further decisively shown by the testimonies and use made of it in the works of Irenaeus, Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, and by its inclusion in the Muratorian Canon, the Itala, Peshitta, etc.

See Canon Of The New Testament; Gospels.

(2) Authorship.

The questions that cluster around the First Gospel have largely to do with the much-discussed and variously disputed statement concerning it found in Eusebius (Historia Ecclesiastica, III, 39), cited from the much older work of Papias, entitled Interpretation of the Words of the Lord. Papias is the first who mentions Matthew by name as the author of the Gospel. His words are: “Matthew composed the Logia (λόγια, lógia, “words,” “oracles”) in the Hebrew (Aramaic) tongue, and everyone interpreted them as he was able.” Papias cannot here be referring to a book of Matthew in which only the discourses or sayings of Jesus had been preserved, but which had not any, or only meager accounts of His deeds, which imaginary document is in so many critical circles regarded as the basis of the present Gospel, for Papias himself uses the expression τὰ λόγια, tá lógia, as embracing the story, as he himself says, in speaking of Mark, “of the things said or done by Christ” (Eusebius, Historia Ecclesiastica, III, 24; compare particularly T. Zahn, Introduction to New Testament, section 54, and Lightfoot, Supernatural Religion, 170 ff). Eusebius further reports that after Matthew had first labored among his Jewish compatriots, he went to other nations, and as a substitute for his oral preaching, left to the former a Gospel written in their own dialect (III, 24). The testimony of Papias to Matthew as the author of the First Gospel is confirmed by Irenaeus (iii. 3, 1) and by Origen (in Eusebius, Historia Ecclesiastica, V, 10), and may be accepted as representing a uniform 2nd-century tradition. Always, however, it is coupled with the statement that the Gospel was originally written in the Hebrew dialect. Hence, arises the difficult question of the relation of the canonical Greek Gospel, with which alone, apparently, the fathers were acquainted, to this alleged original apostolic work.


The author of this book was beyond a doubt the Matthew, an apostle of our Lord, whose name it bears. He wrote the Gospel of Christ according to his own plans and aims, and from his own point of view, as did also the other “evangelists.”

As to the time of its composition, there is little in the Gospel itself to indicate. It was evidently written before the destruction of Jerusalem (Matthew 24), and some time after the events it records. The probability is that it was written between the years A.D. 60 and 65.

The cast of thought and the forms of expression employed by the writer show that this Gospel was written for Jewish Christians of Palestine. His great object is to prove that Jesus of Nazareth was the promised Messiah, and that in him the ancient prophecies had their fulfillment. The Gospel is full of allusions to those passages of the Old Testament in which Christ is predicted and foreshadowed. The one aim pervading the whole book is to show that Jesus is he “of whom Moses in the law and the prophets did write.” This Gospel contains no fewer than sixty-five references to the Old Testament, forty-three of these being direct verbal citations, thus greatly outnumbering those found in the other Gospels. The main feature of this Gospel may be expressed in the motto, “I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.”

As to the language in which this Gospel was written there is much controversy. Many hold, in accordance with old tradition, that it was originally written in Hebrew (i.e., the Aramaic or Syro-Chaldee dialect, then the vernacular of the inhabitants of Palestine), and afterwards translated into Greek, either by Matthew himself or by some person unknown. This theory, though earnestly maintained by able critics, we cannot see any ground for adopting. From the first this Gospel in Greek was received as of authority in the Church. There is nothing in it to show that it is a translation. Though Matthew wrote mainly for the Jews, yet they were everywhere familiar with the Greek language. The same reasons which would have suggested the necessity of a translation into Greek would have led the evangelist to write in Greek at first. It is confessed that this Gospel has never been found in any other form than that in which we now possess it.

The leading characteristic of this Gospel is that it sets forth the kingly glory of Christ, and shows him to be the true heir to David's throne. It is the Gospel of the kingdom. Matthew uses the expression “kingdom of heaven” (thirty-two times), while Luke uses the expression “kingdom of God” (thirty-three times). Some Latinized forms occur in this Gospel, as kodrantes (Matthew 5:26), for the Latin quadrans, and phragello (Matthew 27:26), for the Latin flagello. It must be remembered that Matthew was a tax-gatherer for the Roman government, and hence in contact with those using the Latin language.

As to the relation of the Gospels to each other, we must maintain that each writer of the synoptics (the first three) wrote independently of the other two, Matthew being probably first in point of time.

“Out of a total of 1071 verses, Matthew has 387 in common with Mark and Luke, 130 with Mark, 184 with Luke; only 387 being peculiar to itself.” (See Gospel Of Mark; Gospel Of Luke; Gospels.)

The book is fitfully divided into these four parts:

(1) Containing the genealogy, the birth, and the infancy of Jesus (Matthew 1; 2).

(2) The discourses and actions of John the Baptist preparatory to Christ's public ministry (Matthew 3; Matthew 4:11).

(3) The discourses and actions of Christ in Galilee (Matthew 4:12-Matthew 20:16).

(4) The sufferings, death and resurrection of our Lord (Matthew 20:17-28).


Although the document is internally anonymous, the authorship of this Gospel is traditionally ascribed to St. Matthew, a tax collector who became an Apostle of Jesus. The early church fathers were unanimous in this view.

The relationship of Matthew to the Gospels of Mark and Luke is an open question known as the synoptic problem. The three together are referred to as the Synoptic Gospels and have a great deal of overlap in sentence structure and word choice. Out of a total of 1071 verses, Matthew has 387 in common with Mark and the Gospel of Luke, 130 with Mark alone, 184 with Luke alone; only 370 being unique to itself. Some scholars suggested that the author of Matthew wrote his Gospel in Greek, independently of Luke, using the Gospel of Mark and an unknown second document as literary sources (this scenario is called the two-source hypothesis).

3. Relation of Greek and Aramaic Gospels:

One thing which seems certain is that whatever this Hebrew (Aramaic) document may have been, it was not an original form from which the present Greek Gospel of Matthew was translated, either by the apostle himself, or by somebody else, as was maintained by Bengel, Thiersch, and other scholars. Indeed, the Greek Matthew throughout bears the impress of being not a translation at all, but as having been originally written in Greek, and as being less Hebraistic in the form of thought than some other New Testament writings, e.g. the Apocalypse. It is generally not difficult to discover when a Greek book of this period is a translation from the Hebrew or Aramaic. That our Matthew was written originally in Greek appears, among other things, from the way in which it makes use of the Old Testament, sometimes following the Septuagint, sometimes going back to the Hebrew. Particularly instructive passages in this regard are Matthew 12:18-21 and Matthew 13:14, Matthew 13:15, in which the rendering of the Alexandrian translation would have served the purposes of the evangelist, but he yet follows more closely the original text, although he adopts the Septuagint wherever this seemed to suit better than the Hebrew (compare Keil's Commentary on Matthew, loc. cit.).

The external evidences to which appeal is made in favor of the use of an original Hebrew or Aramaic. Matthew in the primitive church are more than elusive. Eusebius (Historia Ecclesiastica, V, 10) mentions as a report (λέγεται, légetai) that Pantaenus, about the year 170 AD, found among the Jewish Christians, probably of South Arabia, a Gospel of Matthew in Hebrew, left there by Bartholomew; and Jerome, while in the Syrian Berea, had occasion to examine such a work, which he found in use among the Nazarenes, and which at first he regarded as a composition of the apostle Matthew, but afterward declared not to be such, and then identified with the Gospel according to the Hebrews (Evangelium secundum or juxta Hebraeos) also called the Gospel of the Twelve Apostles, or of the Nazarenes, current among the Nazarenes and Ebionites (De Vir. Illustr., iii; Contra Pelag., iii. 2; Commentary on Matthew 12:13, etc.; see Gospel According To The Hebrews). For this reason the references by Irenaeus, Origen, Eusebius to the Hebrew Gospel of Matthew are by many scholars regarded as referring to this Hebrew Gospel which the Jewish Christians employed, and which they thought to be the work of the evangelist (compare for fuller details See Hauck-Herzog, Realencyklopadie fur protestantische Theologie und Kirche, XII, article “Matthaeus der Apostel”). Just what the original Hebrew. Mathew was to which Papias refers (assuming it to have had a real existence) must, with our present available means, remain an unsolved riddle, as also the possible connection between the Greek and Hebrew texts. Attempts like those of Zahn, in his Kommentar on Matthew, to explain readings of the Greek text through an inaccurate understanding of the imaginary Hebrew original are arbitrary and unreliable. There remains, of course, the possibility that the apostle himself, or someone under his care (thus Godet), produced a Greek recension of an earlier Aramaic work.

The prevailing theory at present is that the Hebrew Matthean document of Papias was a collection mainly of the discourses of Jesus (called by recent critics Q), which, in variant Greek translations, was used both by the author of the Greek Matthew and by the evangelist Luke, thus explaining the common features in these two gospels (W.C. Allen, however, in his Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Matthew, disputes Luke's use of this supposed common source, Intro, xlvi ff). The use of this supposed Matthean source is thought to explain how the Greek Gospel came to be named after the apostle. It has already been remarked, however, that there is no good reason for supposing that the “Logia” of Papias was confined to discourses. See further on “sources” below.

There are numerous testimonies, starting from Papias and Irenaeus, that Matthew originally wrote in Hebrew letters, which is thought to refer to Aramaic. The sixteenth-century Erasmus was the first to express doubts on the subject of an original Aramaic or Hebrew version of the Gospel of Matthew: "It does not seem probable to me that Matthew wrote in Hebrew, since no one testifies that he has seen any trace of such a volume." Here Erasmus distinguishes between a Gospel of Matthew in Hebrew letters and the partly lost Gospel of the Hebrews and Gospel of the Nazoraeans, from which patristic writers do quote, and which appear to have some relationship to Matthew, but are not identical to it. The Gospel of the Ebionites also has a close relationship to the Gospel of the Hebrews and Gospel of the Nazoraeans, and hence some connection to Matthew. The similarly named Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew has almost nothing to do with Matthew, however, and instead is a combination of two earlier infancy Gospels.

Some scholars believe the Gospel of Matthew was originally written in Aramaic, arguing for Aramaic Primacy. These scholars normally consider the Peshitta to be the original autograph.

4. Contents, Character and Purpose:

(1) Contents and Character.

As respects contents, the Gospel of Mt can be divided into 3 chief parts:

  • (1) preliminary, including the birth and early youth of the Lord (Matthew 1; 2);
  • (2) the activity of Jesus in Galilee (Matthew 3 through 18);
  • (3) the activity of Jesus in Judea and Jerusalem, followed by His passion, death, and resurrection (Matthew 19 through 28).

In character, the Gospel, like those of the other evangelists, is only a chrestomathy, a selection from the great mass of oral tradition concerning the doings and sayings of Christ current in apostolic and early Christian circles, chosen for the special purpose which the evangelist had in view. Accordingly, there is a great deal of material in Matthew in common with Mark and Luke, although not a little of this material, too, is individualistic in character, and of a nature to vex and perplex the harmonist, as e.g. Matthew's accounts of the temptation, of the demoniacs at Gadara, of the blind man at Jericho (Matthew 4:1-11; Matthew 8:28-34; Matthew 20:20-34); yet there is much also in this Gospel that is peculiar to it. Such are the following pericopes: Matthew 1; 2; Matthew 9:27-36; Matthew 10:15, Matthew 10:37-40; Matthew 11:28-30; Matthew 12:11, Matthew 12:12, Matthew 12:15-21, Matthew 12:33-38; Matthew 13:24-30, 36-52; Matthew 14:28-31; Matthew 16:17-19; Matthew 17:24-27; 18:15-35; Matthew 19:10-12; Matthew 20:1-16; Matthew 21:10 f, 14-16, 28-32; Matthew 22:1-14; Matthew 23:8-22; Matthew 24:42 through Matthew 25:46; Matthew 27:3-10, Matthew 27:62-66; Matthew 28:11 ff. The principle of arrangement of the material is not chronological, but rather that of similarity of material. The addresses and parables of Jesus are reported consecutively, although they may have been spoken at different times, and material scattered in the other evangelists - especially in Luke - is found combined in Matthew. Instances are seen in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5 through 7), the “mission address” (Matthew 10), the seven parables of the Kingdom of God (Matthew 13), the discourses and parables (Matthew 18), the woes against the Pharisees (Matthew 23), and the grand eschatological discourses (Matthew 24; 25) (compare with parallel in the other gospels, on the relation to which, see below).

(2) Purpose.

The special purpose which the writer had in view in his Gospel is nowhere expressly stated, as is done, e.g., by the writer of the Fourth Gospel in John 20:30, John 20:31, concerning his book, but it can readily be gleaned from the general contents of the book, as also from specific passages. The traditional view that Matthew wrote primarily to prove that in Jesus of Nazareth is to be found the fulfillment and realization of the Messianic predictions of the Old Testament prophets and seers is beyond a doubt correct. The mere fact that there are about 40 proof passages in Matthew from the Old Testament, in connection even with the minor details of Christ's career, such as His return from Egypt (Matthew 2:15), is ample evidence of this fact, although the proof manner and proof value of some of these passages are exegetical cruces, as indeed is the whole way in which the Old Testament is cited in the New Testament. See New Testament Quotations.

The question as to whether the Gospel was written for Jewish Christians, or for Jews not yet converted, is less important, as this book, as was the case probably with the Epistle of James, was written at that transition period when the Jewish and the Christian communions were not yet fully separated, and still worshipped together.

Particular indications as to this purpose of the Gospel are met with at the beginning and throughout the whole work; e.g. it is obvious in Matthew 1:1, where the proof is furnished that Jesus was the son of Abraham, in whom all families of the earth were to be blessed (Genesis 12:3), and of David, who was to establish the kingdom of God forever (2 Samuel 7). The genealogy of Luke, on the other hand (Luke 3:23 ff), with its cosmopolitan character and purpose, aiming to show that Jesus was the Redeemer of the whole world, leads back this line to Adam, the common ancestor of all mankind. Further, as the genealogy of Matthew is evidently that of Joseph the foster and legal father of Jesus, and not that of Mary, as is the case in Luke, the purpose to meet the demands of the Jewish reader is transparent. The full account in Matthew of the Sermon on the Mount, which does not, as is sometimes said, contain a “new program of the kingdom of God” - indeed does not contain the fundamental principles of the Gospel at all - but is the deeper and truly Biblical interpretation of the Law over against the superficial interpretation of the current Pharisaism, which led the advocates of the latter in all honesty to declare, “What lack I yet?” given with the design of driving the auditors to the gospel of grace and faith proclaimed by Christ (compare Galatians 3:24) - all this is only intelligible when we remember that the book was written for Jewish readers. Again the γέγραπται, gégraptai - i.e. the fulfillment of Old Testament Scripture, a matter which for the Jew was everything, but for the Gentile was of little concern - appears in Matthew on all hands. We have it e.g. in connection with the birth of Jesus from a virgin, His protection from Herod, His coming to Nazareth (Matthew 1:22 f; Matthew 2:5, Matthew 2:6, Matthew 2:15, Matthew 2:17 f, 23), the activity of John the Baptist (Matthew 3:3; compare Matthew 11:10), the selection of Galilee as the scene of Jesus' operations (Matthew 4:14 ff), the work of Jesus as the fulfillment of the Law and Prophets (Matthew 5:17), His quiet, undemonstrative methods (Matthew 12:17 ff), His teaching by parables (Matthew 13:35), His entrance into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:4 f, 16), His being arrested (Matthew 26:54), the betrayal of Judas (Matthew 27:9), the distribution of His garments (Matthew 27:35). Throughout, as Professor Kubel says, the Gospel of Mt shows a “diametrical contrast between Christ and Pharisaism.” Over against the false Messianic ideas and ideals of contemporary teachings among the Jews, Mt selects those facts from the teachings and deeds of Christ which show the true Messiah and the correct principles of the kingdom of God. In this respect the Gospel can be regarded as both apologetic and polemical in its aim, in harmony with which also is its vivid portraiture to the growing hostility of the Jews to Christ and to His teachings which, in the latter part of Matthew, appears as intense as it does in John. Nowhere else do we find such pronounced denunciations of the Pharisees and their system from the lips of Jesus (compare Matthew 9:11 ff; Matthew 12:1 ff; Matthew 15:1 ff; Matthew 16:1 ff; and on particular points Matthew 5:20 ff; Matthew 9:13; Matthew 23:23; see also Matthew 8:12; Matthew 9:34; Matthew 12:24; Matthew 21:43). It is from this point of view, as representing the antithesis to the narrow Pharisaic views, that we are to understand the writer's emphasis on the universality of the kingdom of Jesus Christ (compare Matthew 3:1-12; Matthew 8:10-12; Matthew 21:33-44; Matthew 28:18-20) - passages in which some have thought they discerned a contradiction to the prevailing Jewish strain of the Gospel.

5. Problems of Literary Relation:

The special importance of the Gospel of Matthew for the synoptic problem can be fully discussed only in the article on this subject (see The Synoptic Gospels), and in connection with Mark and Luke. The synoptic problem deals primarily with the literary relations existing between the first 3 Gospels. The contents of these are in many cases so similar, even in verbal details, that they must have some sources in common, or some dependence or interdependence must exist between them; on the other hand, each of the 3 Gospels shows so many differences and dissimilarities from the other two, that in their composition some independent source or sources - oral or written - must have been employed. In general it may be said that the problem itself is of little more than literary importance, having by no means the historical significance for the development of the religion of the New Testament which the Pentateuchal problem has for that of the Old Testament. Nor has the synoptic problem any historical background that promises a solution as the Pentateuchal problem has in the history of Israel. Nothing save an analysis of the contents of these Gospels, and a comparison of the contents of the three, offers the scholar any material for the study of the problem, and as subjective taste and impressions are prime factors in dealing with materials of this sort, it is more than improbable, in the absence of any objective evidence, that the synoptic problem in general, or the question of the sources of Matthew in particular, will ever be solved to the satisfaction of the majority of scholars. The hypothesis which at present has widest acceptance is the “two-source” theory, according to which Mark, in its existing or some earlier form, and the problematical original Matthew (Q), constitute the basis of our canonical Gospel.

In proof of this, it is pointed out that nearly the whole of the narrative-matter of Mark is taken up into Matthew, as also into Luke, while the large sections, chiefly discourses, common to Matthew and Luke are held, as already said, to point to a source of that character which both used. The difficulties arise when the comparison is pursued into details, and explanation is sought of the variations in phraseology, order, sometimes in conception, in the respective gospels.

Despite the prestige which this theory has attained, the true solution is probably a simpler one. Matthew no doubt secured the bulk of his data from his own experience and from oral tradition, and as the former existed in fixed forms, due to catechetical instruction, in the early church, it is possible to explain the similarities of Matthew with the other two synoptics on this ground alone, without resorting to any literary dependence, either of Matthew on the other two, or of these, or either of them, on Matthew. The whole problem is purely speculative and subjective and under present conditions justifies a cui bono? as far as the vast literature which it has called into existence is concerned.


6. Date of Gospel:

According to early and practically universal tradition Matthew wrote his Gospel before the other three, and the place assigned to it in New Testament literature favors the acceptance of this tradition. Irenaeus reports that it was written when Peter and Paul were preaching in Rome (ill.1), and Eusebius states that this was done when Matthew left Palestine and went to preach to others (Historia Ecclesiastica, III, 24). Clement of Alexandria is responsible for the statement that the presbyters who succeeded each other from the beginning declared that “the gospels containing the genealogies (Matthew and Luke) were written first” (Eusebius, Historia Ecclesiastica, VI, 14). This is, of course, fatal to the current theory of dependence on Mark, and is in consequence rejected. At any rate, there is the best reason for holding that the book must have been written before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD (compare 2415). The most likely date for the Greek Gospel is in the 7th Christian decade. Zahn claims that Matthew wrote his Aramaic Gospel in Palestine in 62 AD, while the Greek Matthew dates from 85 AD, but this latter date is not probable.

There is little in the Gospel itself to indicate with clarity the date of its composition. Some conservative scholars argue that it was written before the destruction of Jerusalem, probably between the years 60 and 65, in part because the Second Temple's destruction is believed to be prophesized by Jesus while there is no reference to this event actually being fulfilled. (Matthew 24:31). Liberal scholars usually date the gospel between the years 80 and 100, in part because they believe the reference to the temple's impending destruction shows it actually was written after the fact. Most scholars agree that the writings of Ignatius of Antioch reference, but do not quote, the Gospel of Matthew, suggesting the gospel was completed at the very latest by the turn of the 2nd century.

Some conservative Christian scholars argue for an even earlier date. In recent times, John Wenham, one of the biggest supporters of the Augustinian hypothesis, is considered to be among the more notable defenders of an early date for the Gospel of Matthew. He cites almost unanimous agreement by the Church Fathers in placing Matthew before Mark, in addition to internal evidence within the gospels. Furthermore, Carsten Peter Thiede in Eyewitness to Jesus argues for redating the Magdalen papyrus and the Gospel of Matthew to before the year 70. Another reason for an early view is the Jewish emphasis of Matthew which could point toward a time period before Gentile belief in Jesus became prominent. This would place it in the pre-destruction time period, possibly the 50's. NIV Study Bible, Zondervan, 1985. Scholars who defend a later date for the gospel cite multiple reasons for their view, such as the time required for the theological views to develop between Mark and Matthew (assuming Markan priority), references to historic figures and events circa 70, and a later social context.

7. Theology of canonical Matthew

According to R.T. France:

"Matthew's gospel, more clearly than the others, presents the view of Jesus as himself the true Israel, and of those who have responded to his mission as the true remnant of the people of God . . to be the true people of God is thus no longer a matter of nationality but of relationship to Jesus."

Of note is the phrase "Kingdom of Heaven" (βασιλεια ουρανος) used so often in the gospel of Matthew, as opposed to the phrase "Kingdom of God" used in other synoptic gospels such as Luke. The phrase "Kingdom of Heaven" is used 32 times in 31 verses in the Gospel of Matthew. It is speculated that this indicates that this particular Gospel was written to a primarily Jewish audience, as many Jewish people of the time felt the name of God was too holy to be written. Matthew's abundance of Old Testament references also supports this theory.

The theme "Kingdom of Heaven" as discussed in Matthew seems to be at odds with what was a circulating Jewish expectation -- that the Messiah would overthrow Roman rulership and establish a new reign as the new King of the Jews. Christian scholars have long discussed the ways in which certain 1st century Jews (including Zealots) misunderstood the sayings of Jesus -- that while Jesus had been discussing a spiritual kingdom, certain Jews expected a physical kingdom.

The relationship between Jesus Christ and the "Kingdom" is also mentioned in the other gospels. Jesus had said, "My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but My kingdom is not of this realm." (John 18:36 NASB)

Literature.

Introduction to the Commentary on Matthew (Meyer, Alford, Allen (ICC), Broadus (Philadelphia, 1887), Morison, Plummer, Schaeffer in Lutheran Commentary (New York, 1895), etc.); works on Introduction to the New Testament (Salmon, Weiss, Zahn, etc.); articles in Bible Dictionaries and Encyclopedia may be consulted. See also F.C. Burkitt, The Gospel History and Its Transmission; Wellhausen, Das Evangelium Matthaei and Einleitung in die drei ersten Evangelien; Sir J.C. Hawkins, Horae Synopticae; Westcott, Introduction to the Study of the Gospels; Lightfoot, Essays on Supernatural Religion, V, “Papias of Hierapolis” (this last specially on the sense of Logia). See also the works cited in Gospel Of Mark.

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