Gospel according to Matthew

The Gospel According to Matthew (Greek: κατὰ Ματθαῖον εὐαγγέλιον, kata Matthaion euangelion, τὸ εὐαγγέλιον κατὰ Ματθαῖον, to euangelion kata Matthaion) (Gospel of Matthew or simply Matthew) is one of the four canonical gospels, one of the three synoptic gospels, and the first book of the New Testament. The narrative tells how the Messiah, Jesus, having been rejected by Israel, finally sends the disciples to preach his Gospel to the whole world, baptizing in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.[1]

The Gospel of Matthew was composed between 70 and 110, with most scholars preferring the period 80-90.[2] The anonymous author was probably a highly educated Jew, intimately familiar with the technical aspects of Jewish law, and the disciple Matthew was probably honored within his circle as the source of much of the tradition.[3] He drew on three main sources to compose his gospel: the Gospel of Mark; the hypothetical collection of sayings known as the Q source; and material unique to his own community,[4] all of which probably derived ultimately from earlier oral gospel traditions.[5]

Composition and setting


The Gospel of Matthew is anonymous: the author is not named within the text, nowhere does he claim to have been an eyewitness to events, and the superscription "according to Matthew" was not part of the first editions.[6] The tradition that this was the disciple Matthew begins with the early Christian bishop Papias of Hierapolis (b. 63), who wrote: "Matthew wrote down the sayings of Jesus (logia) in Hebrew dialect (en Hebraïdi dialektōi—may refer to Hebrew or Aramaic), and everyone translated (hērmēneusen—or "interpreted") them to the best of their ability.[7] On the surface this implies that Matthew's Gospel was written in Hebrew or Aramaic and translated into Greek, but the passage is ambiguous and Matthew's Greek "reveals none of the telltale marks of a translation." [8] Scholars have put forward several theories to explain Papias: perhaps Matthew wrote two gospels, one, now lost, in Hebrew, the other our Greek version; or perhaps the logia was a collection of sayings rather than the gospel; or by dialektōi Papias may have meant that Matthew wrote in the Jewish style rather than in the Hebrew language.[7]

Source criticism says that the author drew on three primary sources, each representing a distinct community: a hypothetical collection, or several collections, of sayings (called "Q", and shared with Luke); the Gospel of Mark; and material unique to Matthew (called "M", some of which may have originated with Matthew himself).[9] He wrote for a Jewish audience: like "Q" and "M", he stresses the continuing relevance of the Jewish law; unlike Mark he never bothers to explain Jewish customs; and unlike Luke, who traces Jesus's ancestry back to Adam, father of the human race, he traces it only to Abraham, father of the Jews.[10] The content of "M" suggests that this community was stricter than the others in its attitude to keeping the Jewish law, holding that they must exceed the scribes and the Pharisees in "righteousness" (adherence to Jewish law); and of the three only "M" refers to a "church" (ecclesia), an organised group with rules for keeping order.[11]

Structure and content


Detailed Content of Matthew
1. Birth Stories
Genealogy (1:1–17)
Nativity (1:18–25)
Biblical Magi (2:1–12)
Flight into Egypt (2:13–20)
Return to Nazareth (2:21-23)
2. Baptism and early ministry
John the Baptist (3:1–12)
Baptism of Jesus (3:13–17)
Temptation of Jesus (4:1–11)
Capernaum (4:12–17)
First disciples of Jesus (4:18–22)
Galilee preaching tour (4:23–25)
3. Sermon on the Mount (5–7)
4. Healing and miracles
Healing many (8:1–17)
Foxes have holes (8:18–20)
Let the dead bury the dead (8:21–22)
Calming the storm (8:23–27)
Gadarene demoniacs (8:28–34)
Healing a paralytic (9:1–8)
Calling of Matthew (9:9–13)
On fasting (9:14–15)
New Wine into Old Wineskins (9:16-17)
Daughter of Jairus (9:18–26)
Two blind men (9:27–31)
Exorcising a mute (9:32-34)
Good crop but few harvesters (9:35–38)
5. Little Commission (10:1–11:1)
6. Responses to Jesus
Messengers from John the Baptist (11:2-19)
Cursing Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum (11:20–24)
Praising the Father (11:25–30)
Lord of the Sabbath (12:1-8)
Man with withered hand (12:9-14)
Chosen servant (12:15–21)
Blind-mute man (12:22–28)
Strong man (12:29)
Those not with me are against me (12:30)
Unforgivable sin (12:31–32)
The Tree and its Fruits (12:33–37)
Request for a sign (12:38–42)
Return of the unclean spirit (12:43–45)
Jesus' true relatives (12:46-50)
Parabolic Discourse (13:1–52)
7. Conflicts, rejections, and conferences with disciples
Hometown rejection (13:53–58)
Death of John the Baptist (14:1-12)
Feeding the 5000 (14:13–21)
Walking on water (14:22–33)
Fringe of his cloak heals (14:34–36)
Discourse on Defilement (15:1–20)
Canaanite woman's daughter (15:21–28)
Healing on a mountain (15:29-31)
Feeding the 4000 (15:32–39)
Sign of Jonah (16:1-4)
Beware of yeast (16:5–12)
Peter's confession (16:13–20)
Jesus predicts his death (16:21-28,17:22-23,20:17-19)
Transfiguration (17:1–13)
Possessed boy (17:14–21)
Coin in the fish's mouth (17:24-27)
8. Life in the Christian community
The Little Children (18:1–7)
If thy hand offend thee (18:8–9)
The Lost Sheep (18:10–14)
Binding and loosing (18:15–22)
Unmerciful Servant (18:23–35)
9. Journey to Jerusalem
Entering Judea (19:1–2)
Divorce (19:3–9)
Celibacy (19:10-12)
Little Children Blessed (19:13-15)
Jesus and the rich young man (19:16–30)
Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard (20:1–16)
Son of man came to serve (20:20–28)
Blind near Jericho (20:29-34)
10. Jerusalem, cleansing of the temple, debates
Triumphal entry into Jerusalem (21:1–11)
Temple incident (21:12–17)
Cursing the fig tree (21:18–22)
Authority questioned (21:23-27)
The Two Sons, The Wicked Husbandman, Parable of the Wedding Feast (21:28–22:14)
Render unto Caesar... (22:15–22)
Resurrection of the Dead (22:23–33)
Great Commandment (22:34–40)
Is the Messiah the son of David? (22:41–46)
11. Woes of the Pharisees (23:1–39)
12. Judgment day
Little Apocalypse (24)
Parables of the Ten Virgins, Talents (25:1–30)
Judgment of the Nations (25:31–46)
13. Trial, crucifixion, resurrection
Plot to kill Jesus (26:1–5)
Anointing of Jesus (26:6–13)
Bargain of Judas (26:14-16)
Last Supper (26:17–30)
Denial of Peter (26:31–35,69–75)
Agony in the Garden (26:36-46)
Kiss of Judas (26:47-49)
Arrest (26:50–56)
Before the High Priest (26:57–68)
Pilate's court (27:1–2,11–26)
Death of Judas (27:3-10)
Soldiers mock Jesus (27:27-31)
Simon of Cyrene (27:32)
Crucifixion (27:33–56)
Entombment (27:57–61)
Guarding the tomb (27:62–66,28:11-15)
Empty tomb (28:1–6)
Appearance to the women (28:7-10)
Great Commission (28:16–20)

Structure

Most commentators seem to agree that Matthew, alone among the gospels, alternates five blocks of narrative with five of discourse, marking each off with the phrase "When Jesus had finished..."[12] (see Five Discourses of Matthew). Some scholars see in this five-part layout a deliberate plan to create a parallel to the first five books of the Old Testament; others see a three-part structure based around the idea of Jesus as Messiah; or a set of weekly readings spread out over the year; or no plan at all.[13] Davies and Allison draw attention to the use of "triads" (the gospel groups things in threes),[14] and R. T. France notes the geographic movement from Galilee to Jerusalem and back (the post-resurrection appearances in Galilee are the culmination of the whole story).[15]

Prologue: genealogy, nativity and infancy

Main article: Genealogy of Jesus
Main article: Nativity of Jesus

The Gospel of Matthew begins with the words "The Book of Genealogy [in Greek, "Genesis"] of Jesus Christ", deliberately echoing the words of Genesis 2:4 in the Old Testament in Greek.[16] The genealogy tells of Jesus' descent from Abraham and King David and the miraculous events surrounding his virgin birth,[17] and the infancy narrative tells of the massacre of the innocents, the flight into Egypt, and eventual journey to Nazareth.

First narrative and discourse

Main article: Baptism of Jesus
Main article: Sermon on the Mount

The first narrative section begins. John baptizes Jesus, and the Holy Spirit descends upon him. Jesus prays and meditates in the wilderness for forty days, and is tempted by Satan. His early ministry by word and deed in Galilee meets with much success, and leads to the Sermon on the Mount, the first of the discourses. The sermon presents the ethics of the kingdom of God, and includes the Beatitudes ("Blessed are...")[18] as its introduction. It concludes with a reminder that the response to the kingdom will have eternal consequences, and the crowd's amazed response leads into the next narrative block.[19]

Second narrative and discourse

From the authoritative words of Jesus the gospel turns to three sets of three miracles interwoven with two sets of two discipleship stories (the second narrative), followed by a discourse on mission and suffering.[20] Jesus commissions the Twelve Disciples and sends them to preach to the Jews, perform miracles, and prophesy the imminent coming of the Kingdom,[21] commanding them to travel lightly, without staff or sandals, and to be prepared for persecution. Scholars are divided over whether these rules originated with Jesus or with apostolic practice.[18]

Third narrative and discourse

Opposition to Jesus comes to a head with accusations that his deeds are done through the power of Satan; Jesus in turn accuses his opponents of blaspheming the Holy Spirit. The discourse is a set of parables emphasising the sovereignty of God, and concluding with a challenge to the disciples to understand the teachings as scribes of the kingdom of heaven.[22] (Matthew avoids using the holy word God in the expression "Kingdom of God"; instead he prefers the term "Kingdom of Heaven", reflecting the Jewish tradition of not speaking the name of God).[23]

Fourth narrative and discourse

Main article: Confession of Peter

The fourth narrative section reveals that the increasing opposition to Jesus will result in his crucifixion in Jerusalem, and that his disciples must therefore prepare for his absence.[24] The instructions for the post-crucifixion church emphasize responsibility and humility.[25] (This section contains Matthew 16:13–19, in which Simon, newly renamed Peter, (πέτρος, petros, meaning "stone"), calls Jesus "the Christ, the son of the living God", and Jesus states that on this "bedrock" (πέτρα, petra) he will build his church—the passage forms the foundation for the papacy's claim of authority).

Fifth narrative and discourse

Main article: Second Coming

Jesus travels toward Jerusalem, and the opposition intensifies: he is tested by Pharisees as soon as he begins to move towards the city, and when he arrives he is soon in conflict with the Temple and other religious leaders. The disciples ask about the future, and in his final discourse (the Olivet discourse) Jesus speaks of the coming end.[26] There will be false Messiahs, earthquakes, and persecutions, the sun, moon, and stars will fail, but "this generation" will not pass away before all the prophecies are fulfilled.[21] The disciples must steel themselves for ministry to all the nations. At the end of the discourse Matthew notes that Jesus has finished all his words, and attention turns to the crucifixion.[26]

Conclusion: Passion, Resurrection and Great Commission

The events of Jesus' last week occupy a third of the content of all four gospels.[27] Jesus enters Jerusalem in triumph and drives the money changers from the temple, holds a last supper, prays to be spared the coming agony (but concludes "if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done"), and is betrayed. He is tried by the Jewish leaders (the Sanhedrin) and before Pontius Pilate, and Pilate washes his hands to indicate that he does not assume responsibility. Jesus is crucified as king of the Jews, mocked by all. On his death there is an earthquake, and saints rise from their tombs. Mary Magdalene and another Mary discover the empty tomb, guarded by an angel, and Jesus himself tells them to tell the disciples to meet him in Galilee.

After the resurrection the remaining disciples return to Galilee, "to the mountain that Jesus had appointed," where he comes to them and tells them that he has been given "all authority in heaven and on Earth." He gives the Great Commission: "Therefore go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you;" Jesus will be with them "to the very end of the age."[28] The Ascension is not mentioned.

Themes in Matthew


The title Son of David identifies Jesus as the healing and miracle-working Messiah of Israel (it is used exclusively in relation to miracles, and the Jewish messiah is sent to Israel alone);[29] as Son of Man he will return to judge the world (a fact his disciples recognise but of which his enemies are unaware);[30] and as Son of God he has a unique relationship with God, God revealing himself through his son, and Jesus proving his sonship through his obedience and example.[31] The gospel has been interpreted as reflecting the struggles and conflicts between the evangelist's community and the other Jews, particularly with its sharp criticism of the scribes and Pharisees.[32] Prior to the Crucifixion the Jews are called Israelites, the honorific title of God's chosen people; after it, they are called "Ioudaioi", Jews, a sign that through their rejection of the Christ the "kingdom of Heaven" has been taken away from them and given instead to the church.[33]

The roots of the gospel in the Matthew-community of the late 1st century give rise to another important title bestowed on Jesus by Matthew, Emmanuel, "God is With Us"—meaning that through Jesus, God is with the ecclesia (literally "assembly", but translated as "church"). Theologically, Matthew's prime concern was that the Jewish tradition should not be lost in a church increasingly becoming gentile.[34] This concern lies behind the frequent citations of Jewish scripture, the evocation of Jesus as the new Moses along with other events from Jewish history, and the concern to present Jesus as fulfilling, not destroying, the Law.[35]

The Jewish theme in the Gospel of Matthew is apparent in other ways as well. First, nearly every important person in the Gospel of Matthew is Jewish. For example, Jesus, the twelve apostles, and the crowds are Jewish. They never deny their Jewish faith in the gospel. Next, Israel is a common theme in the Gospel of Matthew. For instance, in Matthew 15:31, after a story of the healings of Jesus, the text reads that the crowds ‘praised the God of Israel.’[36]

Matthew may have been influenced by Jewish Christianity, a movement in the first few centuries CE which saw Jesus as the Messiah, but continued to practice Jewish customs and traditions.[37] The Gospel of the Nazarenes, a Jewish Christian text, possesses similar themes to the Gospel of Matthew. These themes include many Jewish related elements.[36]

Comparison with other writings

Matthew, like Luke, incorporates nearly the whole of Mark, keeping the outline intact and adding genealogy-birth-infancy stories to the beginning and post-resurrection appearances to the end.[38] Many scholars have argued that Matthew is simply an expanded version of Mark, but it is also a creative reinterpretation of the source,[39] stressing Jesus' teachings as much as his acts,[40] and making subtle changes in order to stress Jesus' divine nature – Mark's "young man" who appears at Jesus' tomb, for example, becomes a radiant angel in Matthew.[41] The miracle stories in Mark do not demonstrate the divinity of Jesus, as this is an idea not found in that gospel, but rather confirm his status as an emissary of God (which was Mark's understanding of the Messiah).[42]

There is a broad disagreement over chronology between Matthew, Mark and Luke on one hand and John on the other: all four agree that Jesus' public ministry began with an encounter with John the Baptist, but Matthew, Mark and Luke follow this with an account of teaching and healing in Galilee, then a trip to Jerusalem where there is an incident in the Temple, climaxing with the crucifixion on the day of the Passover holiday. John, by contrast, puts the Temple incident very early in Jesus' ministry, has several trips to Jerusalem, and puts the crucifixion immediately before the Passover holiday, on the day when the lambs for the Passover meal were being sacrificed in Temple.[43] Matthew, unlike Paul and like Luke, believed that the Law was still in force, which meant that Jews within the church had to keep it.[44]

In art

In Insular Gospel Books (copies of the Gospels produced in Ireland and Britain under Celtic Christianity), the first verse of Matthew's genealogy of Christ was often treated in a decorative manner, as it began not only a new book of the Bible, but was the first verse in the Gospels.

See also

References

Bibliography

Commentaries

General works

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External links

  • A list of online translations of the Gospel of Matthew: Matthew 1–28
  • Biblegateway.com (opens at Matt.1:1, NIV)
  • A textual commentary on the Gospel of Matthew Detailed text-critical discussion of the 300 most important variants of the Greek text (PDF, 438 pages).
  • Early Christian Writings Gospel of Matthew: introductions and e-texts.
  • "Gospel of St. Matthew" article in 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia
  • Matthew – King James Version
  • For a discussion of the 'Double Donkey' in Matthew 21:7 and Zechariah 9:9
Gospel of Matthew
Preceded by
Old Testament
Malachi
Minor prophets
New Testament
Books of the Bible
Succeeded by
Gospel of
Mark

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