Reading 2,13 - 28 Chapters - 1,071 verses -23,684 words
Although the first Gospel is anonymous, the early church fathers were unanimous in holding that Matthew, one of the 12 apostles, was its author. However, the results of modern critical studies - in particular those that stress Matthew's alleged dependence on Mark for a substantial part of his Gospel - have caused some Biblical scholars to abandon Matthean authorship. Why, they ask, would Matthew, an eyewitness to the events of our Lord's life, depend so heavily on Mark's account? The best answer seems to be that he agreed with it and wanted to show that the apostolic testimony to Christ was not divided. Matthew, whose name means "gift of the Lord," was a tax collector who left his work to follow Jesus (9:9-13). In Mark and Luke he is called by his other name, Levi.
Date and Place of Writing
Some have argued on the basis of its Jewish characteristics that Matthew's Gospel was written in the early church period, possibly the early part of A.D. 50, when the church was largely Jewish and the gospel was preached to Jews only (Ac 11:19). However, those who have concluded that both Matthew and Luke drew extensively from Mark's Gospel date it later - after the Gospel of Mark had been in circulation for a period of time. Accordingly, some feel that Matthew would have been written in the late 50s or in the 60s. Others, who assume that Mark was written between 65 and 70, place Matthew in the 70s or even later. However, there is insufficient evidence to be dogmatic about either view. The Jewish nature of Matthew's Gospel may suggest that it was written in the Holy Land, though many think it may have originated in Syrian Antioch.
Since his Gospel was written in Greek, Matthew's readers were obviously Greek-speaking. They also seem to have been Jews. Many elements point to Jewish readership: Matthew's concern with fulfillment of the OT (he has more quotations from and allusions to the OT than any other NT author); his tracing of Jesus' descent from Abraham (1:1-17); his lack of explanation of Jewish customs (especially in contrast to Mark); his use of Jewish terminology (e.g., "kingdom of heaven" and "Father in heaven," reveals the Jewish reverential reluctance to use the name of God); his emphasis on Jesus' role as "Son of David" (1:1; 9:27; 12:23; 15:22; 20:30-31; 21:9, 15; 22:41-45). This does not mean, however, that Matthew thew restricts his GOspel to Jews. He records the coming of the Magi (non-Jews) to worship the infant Jesus (21:12), as well as Jesus' statement that the "field is the world" (13:38). He also gives a full statement of the Great Commission (28:18-20). These passages show that, although Matthew's Gospel is Jewish, it has a universal outlook.
Matthew's main purpose is to prove to his Jewish readers that Jesus is their Messiah. He does this primarily by showing how Jesus in his life and ministry fulfilled the OT Scriptures. Although all the Gospel writers quote the OT, Matthew includes nine proof texts unique to his Gospel (1:22-23; 2:15; 2:17-18; 2:23; 4:14-16; 8:17; 12:17-21; 13:35; 27:9-10) to drive home his basic theme: Jesus is the fulfillment of the OT predictions of the Messiah. Matthew even finds the history of God's people in the OT recapitulated in some aspects of Jesus' life (see, e.g.,his quotation of Hos 11:1 in 2:15). To accomplish his purpose Matthew also emphasizes Jesus' Davidic lineage.
The way the material is arranged reveals an artistic touch. The whole Gospel is woven around five great discourses: 1) chs. 5-7; 2) ch. 10; 3) ch. 13; 4) ch. 18; 5) chs. 24-25. That this is deliberate is clear from the refrain that concludes each discourse: "When Jesus had finished saying these things," or similar words (7:28; 11:1; 13:53; 19:1; 26:1). The narrative sections, in each case, appropriately lead up to the discourses. The Gospel has a fitting prologue (chs. 1-2) and a challenging epilogue (28:16-20). The fivefold division may suggest that Matthew has his book on the structure of the Pentateuch (the five books of the OT). He may also be presenting the gospel as a new Torah and Jesus as a new and greater Moses.
How to read Matthew
The gospel of Matthew focuses on Jesus as the Messiah King who comes to establish his kingdom. The story begins by recounting Jesus’ family line and the circumstances around his birth. You might be surprised to discover that the opening genealogy contains within it a significant prophetic insight! Jesus’ genealogy has been edited by Matthew in such a way as to announce the beginning of God’s Jubilee (see Lev 25:8-55; 27:16-25). Matthew does this by highlighting the three major eras of Jewish history and ordering Jesus’ earthly ancestors into three groups of fourteen each: “So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; from David to the exile to Babylon fourteen generations; and from the carrying away to Babylon to the Christ, fourteen generations.” (Mat 1:17). To the Jewish mind 3 times 14 (or 6 times 7) was an analogy for what had to happen before the seventh seven could begin—the time of God’s Jubilee redemption! The Jewish readers of Matthew’s day—who loved mathematical symbology and genealogies—would have seen the spiritual metaphor right away and understood the “good news” that Jesus was ushering in the anticipated Messianic Jubilee!
Starting with the third chapter, this gospel consists of five main sections. Each recounts Jesus’ acts and then records one of his major teachings. The SourceView format helps you easily see this interchange between the deeds and the words of Jesus as you thumb through multicolored pages and then observe long sections of solid red text. Each section closes the same way (Mat 7:28; 11:1; 13:53; 19:1; 26:1). These five sections echo the five books of Moses, for Jesus comes to establish a new covenant that fulfills and exceeds the old.
Watch for evidence of Matthew’s background as a Jewish mathematician. He was a former tax collector—a man who lived with numbers and employed systematic, orderly thinking. Notice his frequent use of the Old Testament references to address his Jewish audience. He shows how Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies of a Messiah who would come to establish a new kingdom—one far different from what anyone had anticipated. The last three chapters tell the moving story of how this kingdom is established through Jesus’ death and resurrection. The book culminates with Christ’s stirring final command to his followers—both then and now!—to establish Jesus’ new kingdom among all the nations (Mat 28:19).
Matthew Interpretive Challenges
As note above, Matthew groups his narrative material around 5 great discourses. He makes no attempt to follow a strict chronology, and a comparison of the Gospels reveals that Matthew freely places things out of order. He is dealing with themes and broad concepts, not laying out timeline.
The prophetic passages present a particular interpretive challenge. Jesus’ Olivet Discourse, for example, contains some details that evoke images of the violent destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Jesus’s words in 24:34 have led some to conclude that all these things were fulfilled- albeit not literally- in the Roman conquest of that era. This is the view known as “preterism.” But this is a serious interpretive blunder, forcing the interpreter to read into these passages spiritualized, allegorical meanings unwarranted by normal exetical methods.
The grammatical-historical hermeneutical approach to these passages is the approach to follow, and it yields a consistently futuristic interpretation of the Synoptic Problem.
God's character in Matthew
God is accessible - 6:6; 27:51
God is good - 5:45; 19:17
God is holy - 13:41
God is long-suffering - 23:37; 24:48-51
God is perfect - 5:48
God is powerful - 6:13; 10:28; 19:26; 22:29
God is provident - 6:26, 33, 34; 10:9, 29, 30
God is unequaled - 19:17
God is unified - 4:10; 19:17
God is wise - 6:8, 18; 10:29, 30; 24:36
God is wrathful - 10:28; 25:41
Christ in Matthew
Matthew writes primarily to the jews defending Jesus as the King and Messiah of Israel. He supports the fulfillment of CHrist as the Messiah by quoting OT prophetic passages more than sixty times in his gospel. Matthew demonstrates the royalty of Jesus by constantly referring to him as "the Son of David" (1:1; 9:27; 12:23; 15:22; 20:30; 21:9, 15; 22:42, 45).