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    Matthew's Gospel

Matthew's Gospel

1. Characteristics.

  1. Conciseness.
    Matthew provides shorter, more concise accounts of, for example, John's death (14:3-12; cf Mk 6:17-29) and the healing of the epileptic child (17:14-21; cf Mk 9:1429). This brevity may have contributed to Matthew's being so widely used for liturgical purposes in the early church.
  2. Messianic interest.
    Matthew demonstrates an absorbing interest in OT predictions that were fulfilled by Christ. The majority of Matthew's references to the OT are cited from the LXX and are introduced by various formulae. He also uses a group of citations from the Hebrew introduced with variations of the formula - "that it might be fulfilled". In common with his Christian contemporaries, Matthew differed from the traditional rabbinical practice in that he was not bound by a traditional method of interpretation. As a consequence, many passages are treated as messianic which were not so treated by Jewish interpreters.
  3. Universalism and Particularism.
    Matthew's Jewish interests are seen very clearly. His gospel often reflects a more restricted outlook of Christianity. Not a jot or tittle of the law is invalidated (5:18f); the scribes and Pharisees occupy the seat of Moses and their instructions are to be observed (23:2f); Jesus enjoins the fulfillment of the commandments (14:17 ff; 23:23); the Jewish temple tax is paid (27:24ff); the disciples are expected to fast, keep the Sabbath, and bring offerings as in the Jewish tradition (6:16ff; 24:20, 5:23f); Jesus himself declares that he is sent only to "the lost sheep of Israel" (15:24); the genealogy of Jesus is traced from Abraham and is arranged in rabbinic style (1:1ff); and the Jewish custioms and phrases are included without translation or elucidation (15:2's "tradition of the elders"; 23:5's "phylacteries"; 23:27's "whitewashed tombs"). Despite this Judeao-centrism, matthew also exhibits a universalism. At the birth of Jesus, homage is paid to Jesus by Gentiles (2:1ff); when Jesus' child life is endangered it is a gentile land, Egypt, which offers asylum and protection (2:13ff); the Great Commission extends to all nations (28:18ff); the severe attack on the Pharisees by Jesus is due to a wrong emphasis on the Jewish doctrine (23:13f); in the parable of the vineyard Jesus suggests another nation will supplant the original husbandmen, who clearly represent the Jewish people (21:33ff).
  4. Ecclesiastical Elements.
    Matthew alone records any specific teaching about the church. Here only does the word ekklesia occur attributed to Jesus. In 16:18, the basis of the church is to be Peter and his confession, and to Peter are given the keys to the kingdom, with the authority to loose and to bind. In 18:17, similar authority seems to be vested in the church as a whole, and sets forth the church's disciplinary capacity. 18:20 describes the simplest form of the local church, the gathering of two or three in the name of Christ with the promise of his presence. In the great commission (28:19) are two elements relevant to the modern church, the teaching of all nations and the baptizing of disciples in the triune Name.
  5. Eschatological Interest. Matthew does not confine his eschatological elements to the great discourse in chapters 24-25, but are also found in some of the parables he record. The parable of the weeds (13:36f), the conclusions to both the parable of the ten virgins (25:13) and the parable of the talents (25:30) all bring the end of the age into sharp fcous.

2. Destination and Place of Origin

The Jewish flavoring of the gospel would seem to favor a Palestinian Jewish environment, although there is no evidence that Matthew's intended audience had not yet broken from Judaism. It is likely that his readers were a mixed group, mostly Jewish but with an increasing number of Gentiles.

3. Structure

  1. The Five Great Discourse Sections.
    The most obvious of matthew's structure is the alternation of large blocks of teaching material with narrative material. These teaching sections are all concluded with a similar formula: "when Jesus had finished these sayings". These occur at 7:28; 11:1; 13:53; 19:1; and 26:1. The five discourses may be classified as the Sermon on the Mount (5-7); Missionary Discourse (10); Parable Discourse (13); Church Discourse (18); and Eschatological Discourse (24-25).
  2. Numerical Groups.
    The author also groups together similar sayings or events in numerical patterns. Matthew's favorite number is three, although fives and sevens also occur. Samples of such "three" groupings are the threefold division of the genealogy (1:17), the three temptations (4:1-11), the three illustrations of righteousness, three prohibitions, three commands (6:1 - 7:20), three groupings of three types of miracles -- healings, power and restoration (8:1 - 9:34), and many instances of three parables, questions, prayers or denials. It may be that Matthew generally cited three or more instances of a type of saying or event because he was influenced by the Mosaic principle that evidence is established by two or three witnesses. For him, the multiplication of examples would be regarded as an authentication of the material used.
  3. Grouping of Material Generally.
    Within both narrative and discourse, Matthew aims to illustrate various aspects of the ministry of Jesus. Thus while 5-7 illustrates his teaching, 8 - 9:34 illustrates his work. Similar combinations are found throughout Matthew's gospel. In 12:1-45 are various illustrations of his controversies with the Pharisees, followed in 13 by illustrations of his parabolic teaching. This provides a discernible framework wherein the gospel itself gives the impression of being a united whole. Matthew's never conceived of his work as belonging t the category of biography in the modern sense of the word, but rather is designed to give as comprehensively as possible the main facets of the life and charactyer of Jesus.

4. Authorship

  1. The Title.
    The earliest description we have of the gospel attributes it to Matthew. This is also testified to by strong tradition. It may reasonably be claimed that the title was affixed at least as early as 125 AD. The author's name does not occur in the body of the text.
  2. Ancient tradition.
    The support of ancient tradition comes through the following witnesses:
    1. Papias.
      Papias wrote that "Matthew composed the Logia in the Hebrew tongue and everyone interpreted them as he was able" (Eusebius 3.39.16). That Papias here refers to matthew's gospel finds support in that Papias uses Logia elsewhere in reference to Jesus' gospel. He wrote a series of books entitled "Interpretations of the Lord's Logia".
    2. Irenaeus.
      Ireneaus wrote "Now Matthew published also a book of the Gospel among the hebrews in their own dialect, while Peter and Paul were preaching the gospel in Rome and founding the Church" (Adv Heresies 3.1.1; cited in Eusebius 5.8.2).
    3. Pantaenus.
      Pantaenus, according to Eusebius (5.10) found that the Gospel according to Matthew had preceded him to India and was preserved there in Hebrew letters, having been left there by Bartholomew.
    4. Origen.
      Origen similarly bears witness to the fact the Matthew composed a gospel in Hebrew letters (Apud; cited in Eusebius 5.25)
  3. Objections to the Tradition. Most modern scholrs dispense with the traditional view for the following reasons:
    1. The most important obstacle is the assumption that if Matthew used Mark, it is unlikely that Matthew would have been an apostle, since it is supposed that no apostle would have used the work of a non-apostle (Mark). It cannot, however, be said that it is impossible for an apostle to use mark. In fact Matthew liberally changes both the wording and arrangement of mark in those instances he uses Mark. Thus this argument is not conclusive.
    2. Some contend that the Gospel of Matthew could not have been written by an eyewitness since the book is much less vivid than mark's.

5. Date

The data available in determining a date of writing is very slim. Much of the debate regarding dating, however, revolves around the investigators' views regarding Jesus' ability to predict the future (e.g., his prediction about the fall of Jerusalem). If it is assumed that our Lord did not foresee and could not have predicted the emergence of a church, there would be force to the arguments for later dates of writing for all the gospels. But the character of Jesus does lead many to expect not only that he foresaw the future church but even prepared for it.

6. Outline of Matthew

In progress.

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