The Gospel of Matthew 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, according to author Stephen L. Harris.
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.
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
. 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 Jesus' encounters 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. The Matthean theology is largely embraced by the Unification view of Jesus as Messiah.