Gospel of Matthew

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New Testament

The Gospel of Matthew (literally, "according to Matthew"; Greek, Κατά Μαθθαίον or Κατά Ματθαίον, Kata Maththaion or Kata Matthaion) is a synoptic gospel in the New Testament, one of four canonical gospels. It narrates an account of the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. It describes his genealogy, his miraculous birth and childhood, his baptism and temptation, his ministry of healing and preaching, and finally his crucifixion and resurrection. The resurrected Jesus commissions his Apostles to "go and make disciples of all nations."

The Christian community traditionally ascribes authorship to Matthew the Evangelist, one of Jesus' twelve disciples. Augustine of Hippo considered it to be the first gospel written (see synoptic problem), and it appears as the first gospel in most Bibles. Secular scholarship generally agrees that it was written later, and authorship was ascribed to Matthew as was common in the ancient world. According to the commonly accepted two source hypothesis, the author used the Gospel of Mark as one source and the hypothetical Q document as another, possibly writing in Antioch, circa 80-85.[1]

Of the four canonical gospels, Matthew is most closely aligned with the Jewish tradition, and the author was apparently Jewish. Most scholars consider the gospel, like every other book in the New Testament, to have been written in Koine Greek, though some experts maintain the traditional view that it was originally composed in Aramaic. The gospel is associated with noncanonical gospels written for Jewish Christians, such as the Gospel of the Hebrews.


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 (Matthew 1; Matthew 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 (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 Twelve Apostles. (10–11:1)
    3. The Parable Discourse, stories that teach about the Kingdom of Heaven (13).
    4. The "Church Order" Discourse, concerning relationships among Christians (18–19:1).
    5. The Eschatological Discourse, which includes the Olivet Discourse and Judgement of the Nations, concerning his Second Coming and the end of the age (24–25).
  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 Jesus' pronouncement that "I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill" the law(5:17). See also Expounding of the Law.

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

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

Some believe this gospel was written to the Jewish community, thus explaining all the allusions to passages of the Old Testament, however, see also Great Commission (which is directed at "all nations") and Sermon on the Mount#Interpretation and Old Testament#Christian view of the Law.

Detailed contents

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

Birth Stories

  • Genealogy of Jesus (1:1–17)
  • Nativity of Jesus (1:18–25)
  • Biblical Magi (2:1–12)
  • Flight into Egypt (2:13-23)
    • Massacre of the Innocents (2:16–18)

Baptism and early ministry

Sermon on the Mount

Healing and miracles

  • Healing many (8:1-17)
  • Son of Man (8:18-20,16:21-26,17:22-23,20:18-19)
  • Let the dead bury the dead (8:21-22)
  • Rebuking wind and waves (8:23–27)
  • Two Gadarene Demoniacs (8:28–34)
  • Healing a paralytic (9:1-8)
  • Recruiting the tax collector (9:9–13)
  • Question about fasting (9:14–17)
  • Synagogue leader's daughter (9:18-26)
  • Healing three men (9:27-34)
  • Good crop but few harvesters (9:35-38)

Instructions to the disciples as missionaries

Responses to Jesus

  • Cursing Chorazin, Bethsaida, Capernaum (11:20-24)
  • Praising the Father (11:25-30)
  • Sabbath observance (12:1–14)
  • Chosen servant (12:15-21)
  • Jesus and Beelzebul (12:22–29,46-50)
  • Those not with me are against me (12:30)
  • Unforgivable sin (12:31-32)
  • Tree and its fruits (12:33-37)
  • Sign of Jonah (12:38–42; 16:1–4)
  • Return of the unclean spirit (12:43-45)

Parables of the Kingdom

  • Parables of the Sower, Weeds, Mustard Seed, Yeast, Hidden Treasure, Pearl, Net (13:1–52)

Conflicts, rejections, and conferences with disciples

  • Hometown rejection (13:53–58)
  • Feeding the 5000 (14:13–21)
  • Walking on water (14:22–33)
  • Fringe of his cloak heals (14:34-36)
  • Clean and Unclean (15:1–20)
  • Feeding the dogs (15:21-28)
  • Feeding the 4000 (15:32–39)
  • Beware of yeast (16:5-12)
  • Peter's confession (16:13–20)
  • Return of the Son of Man (16:27-28)
  • Transfiguration (17:1–13)
  • Disciples' exorcism failure (17:14-20)

Life in the Christian community

  • Little children blessed (18:1–7; 19:13–15)
  • If thy hand offend thee (18:8-9)
  • Parables of the Lost Sheep, Unmerciful Servant (18:10–35)

Jerusalem, cleansing of the temple, debates

  • Entering Judea (19:1-2)
  • Teaching about divorce (19:3–12)
  • Rich man's salvation (19:16–27)
  • Twelve thrones of judgment (19:28-30)
  • Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard (20:1–15)
  • The last will be first and the first last (20:16)
  • On the road to Jerusalem (20:17)
  • James and John's request (20:20–28)
  • Entering Jerusalem (21:1–11)
  • Temple incident (21:12–17,23-27)
  • Cursing the fig tree (21:18–22)
  • Parables of the Two Sons, Vineyard, Wedding Feast (21:28–22:14)
  • Render unto Caesar (22:15–22)
  • Resurrection of the dead (22:23-33)
  • Great Commandment (22:34–40)
  • Messiah, the son of David? (22:41-46)

Confronting leaders and denouncing Pharisees

  • Cursing Scribes and Pharisees (23:1-36)
  • Lament over Jerusalem (23:37-39)

Judgment day

  • The Coming Apocalypse (24)
  • Parables of the Ten Virgins, Talents (25:1-30)
  • Judgement of the Nations (25:31-46)

Trial, crucifixion, resurrection

  • Plot to kill Jesus (26:1-5,14-16,27:3-10)
  • A woman anoints Jesus (26:6–13)
  • Last Supper (26:17–30)
  • Peter's denial (26:31-35,69–75)
  • Arrest (26:36–56)
  • Before the High Priest (26:57–68)
  • Before Pilate (27:1–2,11-31)
  • Crucifixion (27:32–56)
  • Joseph of Arimathea (27:57–61)
  • Empty tomb (27:62–28:15)
  • Resurrection appearances (28:9–10)
  • Great Commission (28:16–20)


Saint Matthew, from the ninth-century Ebbo Gospels.

Although the document is internally anonymous, the authorship of this Gospel has been traditionally ascribed to Matthew the Evangelist, a tax collector who became an Apostle of Jesus. The surviving testimony of the church fathers is unanimous in this view, and the tradition had been accepted by Christians at least as early as the second century up to modern times. In addition, the title "According to Matthew" is found in the earliest codexes[2], which date to the fourth century. Beginning in the eighteenth century, however, scholars have increasingly questioned that traditional view, and today the majority agree Matthew did not write the Gospel which bears his name. Matthew primarily writes for the Greek-speaking Jewish Christians and Gentiles who were, at least partly, Torah observant. [3]

In 1911, the Pontifical Biblical Commission[4] affirmed that Matthew was the first gospel written, that it was written by the evangelist Matthew, and that it was written in Aramaic[5].


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 1,071 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.

Although the author of Matthew wrote according to his own plans and aims and from his own point of view, most scholars agree he borrowed extensively from Mark, and possibly another source or sources as well. The most popular view in modern scholarship is the two-source hypothesis, which speculates that Matthew borrowed from both Mark and a hypothetical sayings collection, called Q (for the German Quelle, meaning "source"). A similar but less common view is the Farrer hypothesis, which theorizes that Matthew borrowed material only from Mark, and that Luke wrote last, using both earlier Synoptics. A minority of scholars subscribe to Early Christian tradition, which asserts Matthean priority, with Mark borrowing from Matthew (see: Augustinian hypothesis and Griesbach hypothesis). The two-source hypothesis is based on the fact that all three gospels have many passages, with virtually exact wording, in common. It is generally believed that it is more likely that Matthew and Luke expanded on the shorter gospel of Mark, rather than Mark editing out large sections of Matthew.

In The Four Gospels: A Study of Origins (1924), Burnett Hillman Streeter argued that a third source, referred to as M and also hypothetical, lies behind the material in Matthew that has no parallel in Mark or Luke.[6] Throughout the remainder of the twentieth century, there were various challenges and refinements of Streeter's hypothesis. For example, in his 1953 book The Gospel Before Mark, Pierson Parker posited an early version of Matthew (proto-Matthew) as the primary source of both Matthew and Mark, and the Q source used by Matthew.[7]

Critical biblical scholars, like Herman N. Ridderbos in his book Matthew, do not consider the apostle Matthew to be the author of this Gospel. He cites a number of reasons such as the text being in Greek, not Aramaic, the Gospel's heavy reliance on Mark, and the lack of characteristics usually attributed to an eyewitness account.[8] Francis Write Beare goes on to say "there are clear indications that it is a product of the second or third Christian generation. The traditional name of Matthew is retained in modern discussion only for convenience." [9]

Date of gospel

There is little in the gospel itself to indicate with clarity the date of its composition. The majority of scholars date the gospel between the years 70 C.E. and 100 C.E. The writings of Ignatius possibly reference, but do not quote, the Gospel of Matthew, suggesting the gospel was completed at the latest circa 110. Scholars cite multiple reasons to support this range, 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. Some significant conservative scholars argue for a pre-70 date, generally considering the gospel to be written by the apostle Matthew.[10] In December 1994, Carsten Peter Thiede redated the Magdalen papyrus, which bears a fragment in Greek of the Gospel of Matthew, to the late first century on palaeographical grounds. Most scholars date this fragment to the third century, so Thiede's article provoked much debate.

A minority of Christian scholars argue for an even earlier date, as seen in the 1911 Catholic Encyclopedia: "Catholic critics, in general, favor the years 40–45…" [11] 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.

Possible Aramaic gospel of Matthew

There are numerous testimonies, starting from Papias and Irenaeus, that Matthew originally wrote in Hebrew letters, which is thought to refer to Aramaic. In 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.

Most contemporary scholars, based on analysis of the Greek in the Gospel of Matthew and use of sources such as the Greek Gospel of Mark, conclude that the New Testament Book of Matthew was written originally in Greek and is not a translation from Hebrew or Aramaic (Greek primacy).[3] If they are correct, then the Church Fathers such as Clement of Alexandria, Origen, and Jerome possibly referred to a document or documents distinct from the present Gospel of Matthew. A smaller number of scholars, including the Roman Catholic Pontifical Biblical Commission, believe the ancient writings that Matthew was originally in Aramaic, arguing for Aramaic primacy. These scholars normally consider the Peshitta and Old Syriac versions of the New Testament closest to the original autographs.

Biblical scholar Stephen L. Harris of the Jesus Seminar mentions that the claims for Matthew Levi authorship could actually be references to "an early Christian, perhaps named Matthew, who assembled a list of messianic prophecies in the Hebrew Bible, a collection that the creator of our present gospel may have used."[12] The Jesus narrative would then have been assembled around these Tanakh (Old Testament) verses.

Theology of canonical Matthew

The Gospel of Matthew is clearly written for a Jewish audience, moreso than the other gospels. It is a kind of apology intended to explain that Jesus of Nazareth was the long-awaited Jewish Messiah, while at the same time redefining that concept to explain why Jesus was not received by those to whom he was sent. This entails a certain amount of redefinition of that role.

Jewish scholars acknowledge the usage of Jewish symbols and ideas in the composition of the Gospel text. The Jewish Encyclopedia article on the New Testament: Matthew states: "The gospel of Matthew stands nearest to Jewish life and the Jewish mode of thinking. It was written for Judæo-Christians and made ample use of an Aramaic original. This is evidenced by the terms: "kingdom of heaven," (ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν) found exclusively in Matthew, a translation of the Hebrew "malkut shamayim" (= "kingdom of God"); "your heavenly Father," or, "your Father in the heavens" (v. 16, vi. 14, et al.); "son of David" for "the Messiah" (ix. 27, et al.; comp. the rabbinical "ben David"); "the holy city" (iv. 5, xxvii. 53) and "the city of the great King" (v. 35) for "Jerusalem"; "God of Israel" (xv. 31); the oft-repeated phrase "that it might be fulfilled, which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet"; the retention of Judæo-Christian conceptions (v. 17, x. 6, xv. 24); the genealogy of Jesus, based upon specific haggadic views concerning Tamar, Ruth, and Bath-sheba, so drawn as to make the assumption of his Messianic character plausible (i. 1-16); and the assignment of the twelve seats of judgment on the Judgment Day to the Twelve Apostles in representation of the twelve tribes of Israel (xix. 28; Luke xxii. 30). It has embodied Jewish apocalyptic material, in ch. xxiv.-xxv., more extensively than have the other gospels; and in the Sermon on the Mount (v.-vii.) it shows a certain familiarity with rabbinical phraseology." [The phrase "Kingdom of Heaven" is used often in the gospel of Matthew, as opposed to the phrase "Kingdom of God" used in other synoptic gospels such as the Gospel of Luke. One possible reason is that many Jewish people of the time felt the name of God was too holy to be written.]

Numerous elements of the composition also attest to its Jewish origins. These include:

  • Matthew makes abundant use of Old Testament references and places many Old Testament phrases into the mouth of Jesus.
  • Unlike Luke, the Matthean birth narrative emphasized kingship, recounting the story of King Herod and the three kings of the Orient
  • There are many references to Moses. The birth narrative ends with Jesus and family going into Egypt to escape Herod's slaughter of the infants—both elements of the story are taken from the Moses' life. The Sermon on the Mount recalls the giving of the Law on Mount Sinai. (In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus goes to a low place to deliver the "Sermon on the Plain."
  • Jesus asserts in Matthew that he has not come to repeal the law but to fulfill it.

From a Christian perspective, the Gospel of Matthew reinterprets the meaning of the Old Testament and the concept of the Messiah.

  • "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.[13]

Due to the failure of the Jewish people to receive Jesus, Matthew also must explain what prevented him from being recognized as the coming Jewish Messiah. The Matthean interpretation was at odds with the then current Jewish expectation–that the Messiah would overthrow Roman rulership and establish a new reign as the new King of the Jews. Matthew appears to place the blame for the failure of Israel to receive Jesus on the Jewish leaders, especially the Pharisees, who are presented as combative, argumentative and hide-bound. Two stories of his encounter with the Pharisees, "plucking the grain" and healing on the Sabbath, demonstrate their excessive concern with rules and the extent to which they misunderstand the spirit of the Law. This conflict between Jesus and the Jewish leaders ultimately results in his death. Some scholars have speculated that the conflict in the text mirrors the conflict in the late first century between the Jewish and early Christian communities as the Christian sect moved away from Synagogue worship, and have used that rationale to argue for a late first century date for Matthew's origin.


  1. Stephen L Harris. Understanding the Bible. (Palo Alto: Mayfield. 1985)
  2. "ΚΑΤΑ ΜΑΘΘΑΙΟΝ" is found in Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus. Nestle-Aland. Novum Testamentum Graece, 27th ed. (Druck: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1996), 1.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Raymond E. Brown. Introduction to the New Testament. (Anchor Bible, 1997. ISBN 0385247672), 210-211
  4. Commissio Pontificia de re biblicâ, established 1902
  5. Francis E. Gigot Synoptics entry in The Catholic Encyclopedia. Retrieved October 29, 2007.
  6. Burnett H. Streeter, The Four Gospels. A Study of Origins Treating the Manuscript Tradition, Sources, Authorship, & Dates. (London: MacMillian and Co., Ltd., 1924).
  7. Pierson Parker. The Gospel Before Mark. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1953)
  8. Herman N. Ridderbos. Matthew: Bible student's commentary. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1987), 7; from earlychristianwritings.com Retrieved October 29, 2007.
  9. Francis Wright Beare. The Gospel according to Matthew. 7; from earlychristianwritings.com Retrieved October 29, 2007.
  10. Brown 1997, 216-7
  11. Gospel of St. Matthew. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume X. Copyright © 1911 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition
  12. Stephen L. Harris. Understanding the Bible, sixth ed. (Boston/Toronto: McGraw Hill, 2003), 424
  13. R. T. France. New Bible Commentary. (Inter Varsity Press).

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • Brown, Raymond E. Introduction to the New Testament. Anchor Bible, 1997. ISBN 0385247672.
  • Deardorff, James W. The Problems of New Testament Gospel Origins: A Glasnost Approach. Mellen University Press, 1992. ISBN 0773498079
  • Harris, Stephen L. Understanding the Bible. Palo Alto: Mayfield, 1985.
  • Kingsbury, Jack D. Matthew as Story. Fortress Press, 1986. ISBN 0800618912
  • Pierson Parker. The Gospel Before Mark. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1953.

External links

All links retrieved May 24, 2024.

Online translations of the Gospel of Matthew


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