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Matthew

Matthew Bible Study Notes

The Gospel of Matthew was written by Matthew to prove to the Jews that, in fulfillment of prophecy, Jesus Christ was the Messiah.   Matthew is the longest of the Gospels and chronologically the most accurate.  The Gospel of Matthew is the only Gospel to have been written by one of the apostles.

Overview of Matthew

Matthew, the author of the Gospel bearing his name, was first known as Levi, the son of Alphaeus. Prior to his call by Christ to the apostleship he was a publican (tax collector), a position greatly hated by the Jews, in part because those holding the post were appointed by the Romans. Jewish criticism of Christ for associating with sinners and publications no doubt stemmed in part from his association with Matthew. It is possible that Levi changed his name to Matthew because of his new relationship with the Lord.

Papias and Irenaues state that Matthew first wrote a Gospel in Aramaic; however, no traces of it have been found. It is usually thought the Gospel of Matthew that we have today was written in Greek instead of being a translation from an Aramaic text. However, since Matthew was a former publican as well as a Galilean there is every reason to believe he was fluent in Greek and was capable of translating an Aramaic text into Greek. Matthew is the longest (and most chronologically correct) of the gospels, which might result from Matthew first writing his gospel in his native language.

In contrast to long held historical beliefs, many modern scholars think all the Gospels were written between A.D. 60 and 64, with Mark being the first Gospel written. (The “Markan priority” theory was first proposed by G. Ch. Storr in 1786 and popularized by the critical scholarship that began in the mid-19th century.) .Irenaeus, who lived in the second century, wrote that Matthew was written “when Peter and Paul were preaching in Rome” which was after A.D. 61. The early church fathers (in contrast to modern scholars) believed Matthew was the first Gospel written. (The Augustinian hypothesis.) The traditional date for the writing of Matthew is A.D. 37. (Eusebius, an early Christian historian, writing about A.D. 300 states it was written when Matthew left Palestine to preach to other lands.) There is really no evidence to counter this tradition. For reasons explained below, Matthew was written to help the Jews understand that Jesus Christ was the promised Messiah. The apostles labored first in Judea before departing for other parts of the world. Thus there is an internal consistency in accepting the traditional date of A.D. 37 for the date when the Gospel of Matthew as written.

Matthew, unlike Mark and possibly Luke, was a companion of Christ during his mortal ministry. (Some believe Luke was one of the Seventy. If so by nature of their callings Matthew would still probably have had more contact with the mortal Jesus than Luke.) The Gospel of Matthew is the longest of the Gospels and is usually considered the most chronologically correct of the Gospels.

Matthew’s goal was to prove to the Jews that Jesus Christ was the promised Messiah. He gives the linage (back through David to Abraham) through which Christ could claim to be the rightful king of the Jews and a descent of Abraham. Matthew portrays Christ as the greatest of the Jewish prophets and law givers. (Greater even than Moses.) He goes further by showing Christ is the promised Messiah of the Old Testament and that Jesus Christ fulfilled both the Law of Moses and the Abrahamic Covenant. The Gospel of Matthew contains nearly one hundred quotations or allusions to the scriptures proving Jesus is the Messiah.

Matthew uses the phrase “Kingdom of Heaven” where other Gospels contain the wording “Kingdom of God.” The Jews, of course, usually tried to avoid taking the name of God in vain often by using substitute words for the names that refer to Deity. Hence this practice is very consistent with Jewish customs.

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