The Gospel of Matthew Characteristics, Emphases, Themes
Matthew • Presents Jesus’ attitude toward the tradition of Jewish scribal teaching • Describes Jesus’ controversies with the Jewish officials • Traditionally identified as the most Jewish of the Gospels
General Characteristics • Strong dependence on OT • Applies many OT passages to Jesus’ life and ministry • Presents Jesus as the fulfillment of OT prophecies • “This was done to fulfill what was said . . . “
Discusses Jesus’ attitude toward OT law • 5:17-20 “I came not to destroy but to fulfill the law and the prophets” • Much of the Sermon on the Mount can be viewed in this light. • Genealogy: “son of David” – “son of Abraham” • The genealogy is divided into three sections of 14 generations each. • The number 14 comes from the letters in “David” that add up to 14 – emphasizing Jesus’ Jewish royal descent.
Compared to Moses as a teacher • Presented as the giver of a new “law” • Prefers the phrase “Kingdom of Heaven” (32x) over “Kingdom of God” (4x). • Uses “Kingdom” 100x • Only Gospel to specify Jesus’ disciples are to go only to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (10:5f.; 15:24). • The only mention of the Samaritans is in the prohibition of going to them (10:5).
Specific issues discussed that would be of interest to Jewish readers: • Fasting (6:16ff.) • Sabbath (12:1ff.; 24:20) • Temple offerings (5:23f) • Temple tax (17:24ff.) • Most antipharisaic of the gospels: • Tension primarily on two points: • Their righteousness is external. • Their tradition clashes with the word of God.
Matthew is the only Gospel to have: • Trinitarian formula in connection with baptism • The statement that the Kingdom is taken from the Jews and given to others (21:43) • “except for fornication/unchasity” (5:32; 19:9) • Judas’ repentance (27:3ff.) • The raising of the dead at Jesus’ death (27:52f)
Strong interest in Gentiles • The great commission • 8:11f. – “I tell you, many will come from east and west and sit at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness.” • 12:21 “. . . and in his name Gentiles will hope” • 21:43 “. . .the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation producing the fruits of it.” (after the parable of the vineyard) • 3:9; 22:8-10; 24:14; 26:13
Matthew was the most used of the Gospels by the early Church (most quotations) • Its practical use in showing the connections between Jesus and the Jewish heritage – useful in debates with Jews. • Useful collections of Jesus’ teaching for new converts (5-6 teaching sections) • It’s the most comprehensive of the Gospels.
Authorship of Matthew • No statement regarding its author • External evidence: • Papias (Hierapolis, Phrygia, Asia Minor – d. 130) • “Matthew compiled the sayings (ta logia) in the Aramaic language, and everyone interpreted them as best he could.” • Papias’ statement could also be read:“Matthew composed the oracles (ta logia) in the Hebrew language and everyone translated them as best he could.”
Irenaeus (d. 200) confirms Papias and adds that Mt. was composed while Peter and Paul were founding the church in Rome. • Others claiming Matthew wrote it: • Cyril of Jerusalem, Tertullian, Epiphanius, Jerome • In fact no one mentions anyone other than Matthew as the author, nor says we don’t know who wrote it. • Consistent testimony: • Matthew wrote it • In Hebrew
Martin Hengel argues that it is unlikely that the Gospels would have circulated for up to 60 years with no titles and then uniformly be given titles with no evidence of any other traditions regarding authorship. • So he claims the titles must “go back to the time of the final redaction and first circulation of the Gospels themselves.” (Studies in Mark, p. 82)
Some question whether Matthew wrote it: • If Mark was first, it is unlikely an apostle would need to borrow from a non-apostle. • The Greek is too high quality for a Jewish person to write. • As a tax collector, however, it would not be unlikely for Matthew to have been fluent in more than Aramaic.
Occasion and PurposeDifferent Proposals • A conflict between the Church and the synagogue over the place of the Gentile mission. Mt takes a mediating position. • Helping the Jewish Christian to understand the rejection they have received from their heritage. • Offers a defense against the attacks by non-Christians toward Jewish Christians.
Helping Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians to accept each other in this new community and to deal with the tension between the two races. • To help Gentile Christians have a greater appreciation for their Jewish brethren by showing Jesus’ connection with the OT traditions.
To portray the Church as the “true Israel.” • To encourage followers of Jesus to follow Jesus’ interpretation of God’s will over against the developing Pharisaic Judaism.
Location and Date • Many favor Antioch of Syria as the area for whom Matthew was writing. • Antioch is the first Church that had both a Jewish and Gentile membership. • We know they struggled with Jew-Gentile relationships, but apparently eventually worked it out. (Peter – Paul Acts 15, Gal 2) • This church was the first to launch a mission to the Gentiles.
Dating Matthew is difficult • Depends on one’s view of the synoptic problem • If he used Mark, then after Mark • This would put Mt. after the mid 60’s. • Matthew deals with problems that existed as early as the 30’s (Jew – Gentile relationships) • However, it is more likely he was writing much later; these same problems persisted. • The struggles with Judaism increased later. • General date: 60’s – 80.
Structure of Matthew • Two primary proposals • Five-fold division into discourses preceded by five narrative sections, each followed by a formula statement: “When Jesus had finished these things . . .) Silva, p 239. • Three major sections set off by the statement: “From that time, Jesus began to . . .” (4:17; 16:21).
The Person of Jesus 1:1-4:16 The Proclamation of Jesus 4:17-16:20 The Suffering, Death and Resurrection of Jesus 16:21-28:20 “From that time Jesus began to . . .” 4:17 . . . preach, saying, ‘Repent for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand!’ 16:21 . . .show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.
The Disciples in Matthew • Matthew presents the disciples as having less struggles in understanding Jesus’ teaching and ministry than they do in Mark. • After Jesus walked on the water: Mark said the disciples did not understand about the loaves; Matthew indicated they worshipped Jesus as the son of God (Mk 6:51f; Mt. 14:33) • Other examples: Mt. 16:12 & Mk. 8:21; Mt. 17:23 & Mk.9:32; Mt. 17:22f & Mk. 9:33ff.
Jesus and the People of God • Matthew reinforces the continuity between the Christians and the Jewish heritage by presenting Jesus as the fulfillment of God’s plan of salvation • Matthew shows how they fit into this plan so that all the opposition they receive from their Jewish (or Gentile) opponents will not discourage them.
Emphasis on fulfillment of prophecy • Jesus’ continuity with leaders of the past • Abraham; Moses; David; etc. • Jesus as the new teacher of Israel (as Moses had been) • Giving the new law/halakha (Sermon on the Mount)
The Sermon on the Mount in Matthew • The first teaching section – most prominent • At the end, the people are amazed at his teaching • It sets the stage for Jesus’ ideas on some of the issues of the day: righteousness, the law, marriage, practicing religion (giving to the poor, fasting, praying, etc.) • As readers see this, they know where Jesus stands on various issues.
It also shows what type of people Jesus expects his followers to be. • Righteous as God is righteous • “Perfect” as the father is perfect (in love) • Consistent, whole, etc. • Reminiscent of Lev. 19:2 - You be holy for I the Lord your God am holy.
Matthew’s Audience(Donald Hagner, Matthew) • Matthew's original readers were in this unenviable position, in a kind of "no man's land" between their Jewish brothers and sisters, on the one hand, and gentile Christians, on the other. • , Matthew's readers needed an account of the story of Jesus that would enable them to relate both to unbelieving Jews and to Gentile Christians.
The evangelist's community thus shared in two worlds, the Jewish and the Christian. • They were struggling to define and defend a Jewish Christianity to the Jews, on the one hand, and to realize their identity with gentile Christians, on the other. • This twofold challenge explains the basic tensions encountered in the Gospel. • From: Donald A. Hagner, Word Biblical Commentary, Matthew 1-13, Vol. 33A, Dallas, TX: Word Books, 1993, pp. xx-xxi.