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Gospel of Matthew

New Testament
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1 Thessalonians
2 Thessalonians
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3 John

The Gospel of Matthew is one of the four Gospels of the New Testament. The gospels are traditionally printed with Matthew first, followed in order by Mark, Luke and John.



The book is divided into four parts:

  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 (4:12-20:16).
  4. The sufferings, death and resurrection of Jesus (20:17-28).

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 fulfilment. The book is full of allusions to passages of the Old Testament in which Christ is supposedly predicted and foreshadowed. 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 for Jewish Christians of Palestine.

Some critics charge that some of the passages in this book are anti-Semitic, and that these passages have shaped the way that many Christians viewed Jews, especially in the Middle Ages. A majority of the phrases spoken by Jesus in this gospel were worded against the major Jewish parties of the time, primarily citing them for hypocrisy and a misunderstanding of the Jewish religion.


There is little in the Gospel itself to indicate the date of its composition. Some conservative scholars argue that it was written before the destruction of Jerusalem (Matt. 24), probably between the years A.D. 60 and 65, but others would date it in the 70s, even as late as A.D. 85. In 1994, Carsten Peter Thiede claimed evidence redating the Magdalen papyrus to before A.D. 70, and because "Jesus" was replaced by "ΚΣ" (first and last letters of "Kyrios"—Lord), he claimed evidence of belief in Jesus' divinity during the lifetime of the apostles. This claim is not widely accepted, with most dating the Magdalen papyrus to around A.D. 200.

The authorship of this book is traditionally ascribed to St. Matthew, a tax-collector who became an apostle of Jesus Christ. However, most modern scholars are content to let it remain anonymous.

Like the authors of the other Gospels, the author wrote this book according to his own plans and aims and from his own point of view, while at the same time borrowing from other sources. According to the two-source hypothesis (the most commonly accepted solution to the synoptic problem), Matthew borrowed both from Mark and a hypothetical sayings collection, known by scholars as Q (for the German Quelle, meaning "source").

There is much controversy as to the language in which this Gospel was written. Many hold, in accordance with tradition, that it was originally written in Hebrew or the Aramaic vernacular of Palestine, and afterwards translated into Greek, either by Matthew himself or by some person unknown. Despite this theory being earnestly maintained by able critics, there is little ground for adopting it. This Gospel in Greek was received as being of authority in the Church from the first. There is nothing in the book to show that it is a translation. Though Matthew wrote mainly for the Jews, 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 originally write in Greek. Finally, this Gospel has never been found in any other form than that in which we now possess it.

The relation of the Gospels to each other is the subject of some debate. Most modern scholars believe that Matthew borrowed from Mark and Q, but some scholars believe that Matthew was written first and that Mark borrowed from Matthew. Another view was that Matthew was written first in Aramaic, but was translated after Mark into Greek, and the translator used phrases from Mark in it. 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.

Lost Aramaic versions of Matthew

Until the end of the 4th century there were reportedly various versions of the Gospel of Matthew in Aramaic. None of these has survived to the present day. Eusebius (Hist. Eccl. 3.39) quotes the lost treatise of Papias as stating: "Matthew put together the logia ["sayings"] in the Hebrew [sic] language, and each one interpreted them as best he could." Papias appears to be referring to a "sayings" gospel in the genre of the Gospel of Thomas rather than to a narrative akin to Matthew. But Irenaeus (Adv. Haer. 3.1.1) says: "Matthew also issued a written Gospel among the Hebrews in their own dialect while Peter and Paul were preaching at Rome and laying the foundations of the church." Irenaeus had read Papias, and it is most likely that Irenaeus too was guided by the statement he found there. Most critical scholars, based on analysis of the language of Matthew, conclude that the book we have today was written originally in Greek and is not a translation from Aramaic, so that the document referred to by Papias would have a less than direct relationship to the current Gospel.

Conventional titles for such Aramaic versions of Matthew include the Gospel of the Hebrews— not to be confused with the late 1st century Book of Hebrews— which in the fragmentary quotes that survive, does not seem to rely upon canonic Matthew; the Gospel of the Ebionites (see Ebionites), and the Gospel of the Nazoreans are longer than canonic Matthew.

See also

External links

Last updated: 10-24-2004 05:10:45