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An Introduction to Matthew

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A. The term “synoptic” comes from the Greek adjective, “συνοπτικός“ which is made up of two terms, “συν” and “οψείω” meaning “to see” “with” or “together”. In this discussion the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke are looked at beside one another

B. The Problem concerns the relationship of the three Gospels since there are agreements and disagreements (similarities and differences) between them

1. There are many similarities between the gospel accounts:

a. Similarity of arrangement: baptism, temptation, public ministry in Galilee, Peter’s confession as turning point, last journey to Jerusalem, trial, crucifixion, resurrection

b. Similarity of style and wording exists between many parallel accounts (e.g., the healing of the leper (Mt. 8:1ff; Mk. 1:40ff; Lk. 5:12ff)

c. Similarities in two gospels only:

1) Some accounts in all three Gospels are more similar in two gospel accounts than with a third account

2) Matthew and Luke contain a considerable amount of material common to both but omitted from Mark (especially in the teaching of Jesus) [e.g., Matt. 3:7-10; Lk. 3:7-9]

2. There are many differences between the gospel accounts:

a. Many points of detail have differences of arrangement and vocabulary between the gospel accounts

1) Little verbal similarity

2) Different historical settings

b. Each of the three gospel accounts has certain sections peculiar to it--especially in Matthew and Luke (e.g., the birth narratives)

C. Possible Solutions to the Synoptic Problem:

1. One solution is the two source theory: the similarities lie in the theory that Mark was the first Gospel which Luke and Matthew used as a source, and that there was also a common source called “Q” which accounts for non-Marcan similarities between Matthew and Luke (documentary hypothesis/Mark-Q)

a. Central to this solution is Marcan priority, and its use by Matthew and Luke. If Mark was not first, then another solution must be sought

b. “Q” is an abbreviation for the German term for “source” (Quelle)

c. “Q” is most often understood to be the non-Marcan material which is common in Matthew and Luke

d. Others understand “Q” to be a stream of tradition including both written and oral accounts to which Matthew and Luke had access (Bock)

e. There is considerable disagreement concerning the actual contents of “Q” (see article by Stewart Petrie, “‘Q’ Is Only What You Make It”1

2. Another solution is the “four source hypothesis” by Streeter. This supplies two more sources to the two source theory: “M” and “L”

a. Again Marcan priority is central to this solution, because Mark is use by Matthew and Luke. If Mark was not first, then another solution must be sought

b. is the material used by Matthew and Luke, but not by Mark

c. In addition to Mark-Q, “M” is Matthew’s special sayings material, and “L” is Luke’s special sayings material

d. This means that Matthew used Mark, Q, and M as his main sources

e. This means that Luke used Mark, Q, and L as his main sources

f. Each source is also considered to originate from a specific locality (to guarantee their authority)

1) Mark was the Roman Gospel

2) Q was probably based on Antioch

3) M represented Jerusalem sayings-document

4) L represented Caesarean tradition

3. Another solution allows for sources, but also emphasizes Peter’s preaching, the Gospel’s audience and the writer’s theology as significant factors in the relationship of the synoptics

a. The similarities in all of the Gospels may be due to Peter’s preaching in the first century which became definitive for the order of events (Westcott, Guthrie). There also was a common tradition of materials/sources (oral and written) to which synoptic writers had access. This solution does not require Marcan priority

b. Dissimilarities may be due to sources, but this is not a fully sufficient explanation. Many dissimilarities may better be explained in view of the author’s audience and thus by the author’s theological emphasis2

Although the discussion is complex and compound, Matthew remains as the best candidate for the author of the gospel by his name

A. External evidence:

1. Matthew was either cited or named as authentic during the first four centuries by the following:3

a. Pseudo-Barnabas (c. 70-130)

b. Clement of Rome (c. 95-97)

c. Polycarp (c. 110-150)

d. Hermas (c. 115-140)

e. Didache (c. 120-150)

f. Irenaeus (c. 130-202)

g. Justin Martyr (c. 185-255)

h. Clement of Alexandria (c. 150-215)

i. Tertullian (c. 150-220)

j. Origen (c. 185-254)

k. Cyril of Jerusalem (c. 315-386)

l. Eusebius (c. 325-340)

m. Jerome (c. 340-420)

n. Augustine (c. 400)

2. The Title: In the book’s earliest description it was ascribed to Matthew (c. A.D. 125)4

a. Papias’ testimony in Eusebius, HE (The Ecclesiastical History), iii.39.16 (first half of the second century). He speaks of a logia (words, oracles) which Matthew collected in the Hebrew language

1) Because early Greek fathers (Ignatius, the Didache, and the Shepherd of Hermas -- see above) refer to a Greek Matthew, it is unlikely that the Hebrew logia were later translated into Greek

2) Many consider it unlikely that the Greek Matthew was translated from a Hebrew text (Guthrie, p. 46)

3) It is possible (but not probable) that “dialektos” is a literary description of form rather than the Hebrew language (J. Küzinger)

4) It is possible that Matthew not only authored a Greek gospel, but a Hebrew gospel. The Hebrew was uninspired and lost.5 The Greek account is the Gospel According to Matthew

b. Iranaeus Adv. Haer. (Against Heresies) iii.I.I cited by Eusebius, HE, v. 8.2 (A.D. 155)

c. Pantaenus cited by Eusebius, HE, v. 10

d. Origen, Apud Eusebius, HE, vi. 25

B. Internal Evidence:

1. The writer of Matthew was probably a Palestinian Jew like the apostle Matthew (Toussaint, p. 331):

a. He is well acquainted with the geography of Palestine (Matthew 2:1,23; 3:1,5,13; 4:12,13,23-25; 8:5,23,28; 14:34; 15:32,39; 16:13; 17:1; 19:1; 20:29; 21:1,17; 26:6)

b. He is familiar with Jewish history, customs, ideas, and classes of people (Matthew 1:18-19; 2:1,4,22; 14:1; 26:3,57,59; 27:2,11,13)

c. He is familiar with the Old Testament Scriptures (Matthew 1:2-16,22-23; 2:6,15,17-18,23; 4:14-16; 8:17; 12:17-21; 13:35; 21:4-5; 27:9)

d. He terminology is Jewish (Matthew 2:20,21; 4:5; 5:35,47; 6:7,32; 10:6; 15:24; 17:24-27; 18:17; 27:53)

e. His use of the term tote (“then”) reflects Aramaic thinking

2. The Apostle called Matthew in the gospels was a publican (a Jew hired by Rome to impose Roman taxes upon his own people) Matthew 10:3

3. The terminology in Matthew’s gospel reflects that of a publican with respect to money:

a. He speaks of money a great deal

b. He uses three terms for money which occur nowhere else (the two-drachma tax [17:24] a four-drachma coin [17:27], and “talents” [18:24])

c. He alone refers to Silver, Gold, and Brass

d. His version of the Gospel attributes an enormous amount of money in the parable of the Talent (Matt. 25:15)

e. He also refers to “debt” (opheile) account-taking or reckoning (sunario, with logos), and money-changers (trapezites) in unique ways

4. The call of Matthew in both Mark and Luke is under the name of Levi (Mk. 2:14; Lk.5:27ff), but in Matthew it is by the name “Matthew” (Matt. 9:9). This could be a conscious, personal touch by Matthew to emphasize his identity change due to following Jesus from his call6

5. The writer refers to Capernaum (Matthew’s home town) with a special emphasis:

a. It is mentioned in a matter of fact manner in 8:5; 17:24

b. It is given an extended description and identified with the fulfillment of prophecy in Matthew 4:13ff

c. It is called the “Lord’s own city” in Matthew 9:1

d. It is spoken against in the Lord’s denunciation of the cities which where he had ministered with no positive response 11:23

6. It is possible that Matthew did not attach his name to the Gospel because he was a humble man

a. He continually calls himself a tax collector unlike Mark and Luke (Matthew 9:9; 10:3; cf. Mk. 3:18; Lk. 6:15; Acts 1:13)

b. He associates the publicans with sinners and tax collectors 9:11; 18:17; 21:31-32

c. He does not record the stories which might exalt himself as Luke does (that of the Pharisee and the publican [Luke 18:9-14], or that of Zacchaeus [Luke 19:1-10])

In view of the historical identification of Matthew, a possible plurality of sources used by all of the synoptic writers, and the Jewish need for Matthew, it is possible that Matthew preceded the gospel of Mark

A. Mark was considered to be an abstract of Matthew from Augustine until the early part of the nineteenth century7

B. Even though the parallels of “Mark” in Matthew and Luke are striking, it is entirely possible that they are using a similar source which Mark used (Ur-Mark/pre-Marcan)

C. Matthew was an Apostle, so one wonders why in his composition of a gospel account he would depend so heavily upon another’s eyewitness account (e.g., the banquet held in his own house (Matthew 9:9-13; Mark 2:13-17)8

D. Since the first church was Jewish and Matthew’s gospel is characteristically Jewish, it is reasonable to consider Matthew as the first gospel designed to address the early concerns of the Jews

Although the problem is complex, it is plausible that Matthew was written sometime between A.D. 50-70.

A. The usual discussion of date revolves around the synoptic problem, and especially Marcan priority (see above)

B. Another central question in the dating of the Gospel is whether or not Jesus had predictive power

C. When it is assumed that Jesus did not have predictive power, and that Matthew depends upon Mark, then it is argued that Mark could only have predicted the fall of Jerusalem (Mk. 13:14) a few years before A.D. 70, therefore, Matthew must follow later (around A.D. 80-100) [see Guthrie, pp. 45-46]

D. However, Marcan priority is not without problems, and it is not at all unreasonable to assume that Jesus had predictive ability

E. As Matthew presents the state of Jerusalem in his gospel, the city of Jerusalem is still standing:

1. He calls it the “holy city” as though it was still in existence (4:5; 27:53)

2. He does not mention the destruction of Jerusalem as having been accomplished (24:15ff; 27:8; 28:15). This would have been especially significant to support Matthews thesis that the Lord had rejected Israel

F. If Matthew wrote his Jewish gospel to address early concerns of the Jews, it might well have been written early (c. A.D. 50)


A. He desires to show that the major events in the life of Jesus took place in fulfillment of prophecy--He is Messiah

B. He desire to show the comprehensiveness of the message of salvation to include the Gentiles

C. He desires to provide an apologetic for the many questions which would have been raised against Jesus--illegitimacy of birth, residence of Jesus in Nazareth rather then Bethlehem, stealing of the body of Jesus

D. He desires to teach the commandments of Jesus by recording five major discourses throughout the book

E. He desired to demonstrate the reason the message moved from the Jews to the Gentiles (their apathy and rejection of the King

F. He desired to prove to the Jews that the kingdom program of God had not failed, and was still in effect

1 Novum Testamentum III, pp. 28-33.

2 Guthrie, NTI, p. 128.

3 Geisler, A General Introduction, p. 193.

4 Guthrie, NTI, p. 33.

5 Guthrie, NTI, p. 38; Toussaint, Behold the King, pp. 32-33.

6 Guthrie, NTI, p. 44.

7 Guthrie, NTI, p. 133.

8 See Toussaint, Behold the King, p. 330.

Related Topics: Introductions, Arguments, Outlines