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NEW TESTAMENT SURVEY NewTestament Survey


STUDY 5 - THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW

The studies now turn from the background of the NT books, to the books themselves. [1]


For this study see: M.C.Tenney, pp.149-159; R.H.Gundry, pp.159-204. Further study: D.A.Carson, et al., An Introduction to the New Testament, pp.61-87. [2]


1. AUTHORSHIP, DATE AND PLACE OF THE GOSPEL

Authorship Traditionally the Gospel is ascribed to Matthew Levi, a tax collector who was called by Jesus and became one of the Twelve (Mt.9:9-13; 10:3). All his known details are in the NT, ending with Acts 1:13.  The writings of Papias, Eusebius and Irenaeus support his authorship. An original Gospel may have been written in Aramaic.

Date of writing M.C.Tenney dates the Gospel before A.D. 70 - and suggests a date A.D. 50 - 70.  Some liberal scholars suggest a later date, as they do not accept that Jesus could predict the destruction of the temple and the fall of Jerusalem (see Mt.24:lff.).

Place of writing Modern scholarship often suggests Antioch as the possible place of writing.  The Synoptic Gospels are often associated with centres as places of preservation.


2. THE CONTENTS OF THE GOSPEL

The Gospel is well organised, which suggests that it was written to meet the need of Christian teachers.  It may reflect Matthew's profession and ability too.

Two main divisions Matthew has two main divisions.  A first major section deals with the public ministry of Jesus marked by popularity; a second begins with the events at Caesarea Philippi followed by a decline in his popularity leading to the cross.  The formula 'from that time' marks the beginning of each division (see 4:17; 16:21).

Five blocks of text Tenney isolates fives blocks of material, each of which represents a dominant theme, and ends with the phrase "when Jesus had finished" (see 7:28; 11:1; 13:53; 19:1; 26:1). [3] With the introductory narrative and the passion narrative we have seven sections, which are summarised in an epilogue that confront the reader with the consequences of Jesus' messianic claims.

An outline of the Gospel The structure of the Gospel suggests the following basic outline:

Matthew: The Gospel of the Messiah

  • The Prophecies of the Messiah (1:1-4:11) 

  • The Principles of the Messiah announced (4:12-7:29)

  • The Power of the Messiah revealed (8:1-11:1)

  • The Program of the Messiah explained (11:2-13:53)

  • The Purpose of the Messiah declared (13:54-19:2)

  • The Problems of the Messiah presented (19:3-26:2)

  • The Passion of the Messiah accomplished (26:3-28:10)
  • The Epilogue (28:11-20).

 Each section contains a challenge to discipleship - a major theme of the Gospel.


3. THE EMPHASIS OF THE GOSPEL

M.C.Tenney says: "The Gospel of Matthew was written to show how Jesus of Nazareth enlarged and explained the revelation that had been begun in the messianic prophecies of the Old Testament". [4] It is strongly Jewish in character, but the universality of the Gospel is indicated by the Great Commission of Mt.28:19,20.


Matthew is a Gospel
Matthew does not set out to write a life of Christ.  In keeping with the other Gospels the book is written for preachers and teachers who are called to preach the word of God and make disciples of Christ.  The apostle John states the purpose of a Gospel very plainly:

"Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name" (Jn.20:30,31).


Material special to Matthew
Note: Joseph's vision (1:20-24), the visit of the Magi (2:1-12), the flight into Egypt (2:13-15), the massacre of the infants (2:16), the dream of Pilate's wife (27:19), the death of Judas (27:3-10), the resurrection at the crucifixion (27:52), the bribery of the guard (28:12-15), and Great Commission, which includes the command to baptise and make disciples (28:19-20).  Note the parables and miracles which are peculiar to Matthew (e.g., 17:24-27).


The didactical nature of Matthew
The Gospel contains five major discourses, which are seen to correspond to the five books in the law of Moses: the Sermon on the Mount (5-7), the charge to the Twelve (10), the parables of the kingdom (13), the sayings on greatness and forgiveness (18), and the discourse on the last things (24-25).


The use of the Old Testament
There are at least 60 references to the OT falling between 1:23 and 27:48.  This Gospel forms a natural bridge between the OT and the NT.  Matthew has an interest in fulfilled prophecy. Note the 12 verses introduced by the formula, "All this took place to fulfil what the Lord had said" (1:23; 2:6,15,18,23; 4:15,16; 8:17; 12:18-21; 13:35; 21:5; 27:9,10). The life and teaching of Jesus are presented as the fulfilment of the promises made by God to Israel.


4. THE CHARACTERS IN THE GOSPEL

Matthew lays less stress on the individual actors in his narrative than the other Synoptists, and he does not introduce many people whose names do not appear elsewhere.  Joseph (1:19-25), Herod the Great (2:1-16), and the mother of James and John (20:20-21) are given more space than in Mark and Luke; but both Mark and Luke use character sketches more than does Matthew.

M.C.Tenney observes: "In general, the characters of Matthew's Gospel are identical with those of Mark, Luke and John. John the Baptist, Mary (Jesus' mother), the twelve disciples, Caiaphas, the high priests, Pilate, Simon of Cyrene, Joseph of Arimathea, and many minor figures - all play their part in the narrative.  They are. however, incidental to the teaching". [5]


5. SPECIAL FEATURES OF THE GOSPEL

Matthew is a Gospel of discourse
In seven of the Gospel's eight sections there is an important discourse: the preaching of John (3:1-12); the Sermon on the Mount (5:1-7:29); the commission (10:1-42); the parables (13:1-52); the meaning of forgiveness (18:21-35); denunciation and prediction (23:1-25:46); the Great Commission (28:18-20).


Matthew is the Gospel of the Church
The word 'church' (Gk. ekklēsia, assembly, gathering, congregation, church) only occurs in this Gospel (see: 16:18; 18:17).  In both cases Jesus says something about the authority of the church: first, as to its leadership, and then in regard to its community.  The case of the wayward member and the erring member are dealt with (18:10-14; 15-20).  The promise and principle of binding and loosing (of the Law) is applied in Acts 15:13-29.


Matthew is the Gospel of the King
Matthew's genealogy is a King's (1:1-17).  Jesus is seen as The Anointed or Messiah (Christ). The question, "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?" (2:2) sets the tone of the book.  Note the royal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem (21:5-7), the way he is addressed as the 'son of David' (e.g.. 9:27), the accusation on the cross (27:37), the reference to Jerusalem as 'the holy city' and 'the city of the great king' (5:35). The term 'kingdom of heaven' occurs some 32 times (3:2ff.), 'kingdom of God' five (the terms are synonymous). Note: The emphasis on the Lord's messiahship is correct, but notice the Christology of the Gospel also includes these names and titles: Emmanuel (1:23), Son and Son of God (3:17; 4:3), Lord (3:3), Saviour (1:21), and prophet (13:57).


Matthew is a universal Gospel
The Jewish interests of the evangelist are very strong: Jesus is sent to 'the lost sheep of the house of Israel' (10:6).  But it is against this background that the universalism of the gospel is highlighted (see 28:19-20).



ENDNOTES

1. Some areas of interest, e.g., the Synoptic Problem, the Life of Christ and the life and witness of the church are not included in these studies. But see Tenney, pp.139-145; 203-227; 231-264.

2. D.A.Carson, J.Douglas & L.Morris, An Introduction to the New Testament, Leicester, Apollos, 1992. Further reading will be suggested from this textbook, which has largely replaced the New Testament Introduction by D.Guthrie.

3. Conversely, some see the phrase as an introductory formula.

4. M.C.Tenney, p.156. 5. M.C.Tenney, pp.157-158.


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