Gospel of Matthew

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The Gospel According to Matthew (Greek: κατὰ Ματθαῖον εὐαγγέλιον, kata Matthaion euangelion, τὸ εὐαγγέλιον κατὰ Ματθαῖον, to euangelion kata Matthaion) (Gospel of Matthew or simply Matthew) is one of the four canonical gospels, one of the three synoptic gospels, and the first book of the New Testament. It tells of the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.

The Early Christian tradition attributes this Gospel to Matthew, one of Jesus' disciples.



Papyrus P4, fragment of a flyleaf with the title of the Gospel of Matthew, ευαγγελιον κ̣ατ̣α μαθ᾽θαιον (euangelion kata Maththaion). Dated to late 2nd or early 3rd century, it is the earliest manuscript title for Matthew
Papyrus P4, fragment of a flyleaf with the title of the Gospel of Matthew, ευαγγελιον κ̣ατ̣α μαθ᾽θαιον (euangelion kata Maththaion). Dated to late 2nd or early 3rd century, it is the earliest manuscript title for Matthew
A 3rd-century AD papyrus of Matthew 26
A 3rd-century AD papyrus of Matthew 26

The traditional view is that the Gospel of Matthew was composed by Matthew, a disciple of Jesus. However, 18th Century scholars increasingly questioned the traditional view of composition, and today most of modern critical scholarship hesitates to say that Matthew wrote this Gospel which bears his name, preferring instead to describe the author as an anonymous Jewish Christian, writing towards the end of the first century. They also believe that the Gospel was originally composed in Aramaic or Hebrew rather than being a translation from the Greek.

Traditionally, Matthew was seen as the first Gospel written, that Luke then expanded on Matthew, and that Mark is the conflation of both Matthew and Luke. Modern critical scholarship today believes that Matthew used Mark's narrative of Jesus' life and death, and therefore came after Mark, plus the hypothetical Q document's record of Jesus' sayings. The view of an Aramaic original New Testament is traditional in the Syrian Church.

Synoptic Gospels

The Gospels of Mark, Matthew and Luke (known as Synoptic Gospels) include many of the same episodes, often in the same sequence, and sometimes even in the same wording. The relationship of Matthew to the Gospels of Mark and Luke is an open question known as the synoptic problem.

Matthew contains around 612 verses of the 662 verses of Mark, and mostly in exactly the same order. Although the author of Matthew wrote according to his own plans and aims and from his own point of view, the great amount of overlap in sentence structure and word choice causes many modern scholars to assume that Matthew copied from other Gospel writers, or they copied from each other, or they all copied from another common source. This synoptic problem increasingly caused 18th Century scholars to question the traditional view of composition. One solution to their Synoptic problem is the Farrer hypothesis, which theorizes that Matthew borrowed material only from Mark, and that Luke wrote last, using both earlier Synoptics.

The most popular view in modern scholarship is the two-source hypothesis, which speculates that Matthew borrowed from both Mark and a hypothetical sayings collection, called Q (for the German Quelle, meaning "source"). For most scholars, the Q collection accounts for what Matthew and Luke share — sometimes in exactly the same words — but are not found in Mark. Examples of such material are the Devil's three temptations of Jesus, the Beatitudes, the Lord's Prayer and many individual sayings.

A minority of scholars continued to defend the tradition, which asserts Matthean priority, with Mark borrowing from Matthew (see: Augustinian hypothesis and Griesbach hypothesis). Then in 1911, the Pontifical Biblical Commission asserted that Matthew was the first gospel written, that it was written by the evangelist Matthew, and that it was written in Aramaic.

Those who believe the Textus Receptus is the authoritative text usually reject the synoptic problem believing that each Gospel authorship was unique, not borrowing from one another, and only have similarities due to the same subject matter.

Date of gospel

The date of the gospel is not precisely known. The majority of scholars date the gospel between the years 70 and 100. The writings of Ignatius show "a strong case ... for [his] knowledge of four Pauline epistles and the Gospel of Matthew", which gives a terminus ad quem of c. 110. The author of the Didache (c 100) probably knew it as well. Some scholars see the prophecies of the destruction of Jerusalem (e.g. in Matthew 22:7) as suggesting a date of authorship after the siege and destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD; however others argue that the lack of a passage indicating the fulfillment of the prophecy suggest a date before that.


Some suggest that due to author's rabbinical background, Matthew avoids using the holy word God in the expression "Kingdom of God", and instead prefers the term "Kingdom of Heaven". He also divides his work into great blocks each ending with the phrase: "When Jesus had finished these sayings ..." This narrative framework echoes that of the Hexateuch: "the birth narratives/Genesis; the baptism in the Jordon and Jesus' temptations/Exodus; healing of a leper and an untouchable woman/Leviticus; callings of disciples/Numbers; the Passion and Death of Jesus/Deuteronomy; the Resurrection/Joshua (the entry into promised land)".


Detailed Content of Matthew
1. Birth Stories
Genealogy of Jesus (1:1–17)
Nativity of Jesus (1:18–25)
Biblical Magi (2:1–12)
Flight into Egypt (2:13-23)
Massacre of the Innocents (2:16–18)
2. Baptism and early ministry
John the Baptist (3:1–12, 11:2-19, 14:1–12)
Baptism of Jesus (3:13–17)
Temptation of Jesus (4:1–11)
Capernaum (4:12–17)
Calling Simon, Andrew, James, John (4:18–22)
Galilee preaching tour (4:23-25)
3. Sermon on the Mount (5–7)
4. Healing and miracles
Healing many (8:1-17)
Son of Man (8:18-20,16:21-26,17:22-23,20:18-19)
Let the dead bury the dead (8:21-22)
Rebuking wind and waves (8:23–27)
Two Gadarene Demoniacs (8:28–34)
Healing a paralytic (9:1-8)
Recruiting the tax collector (9:9–13)
Question about fasting (9:14–17)
Synagogue leader's daughter (9:18-26)
Healing three men (9:27-34)
Good crop but few harvesters (9:35-38)
5. Instructions to the disciples as missionaries
Commission of the Twelve (10:1–11:1)
Coming Persecutions (10:16-23)
Not Peace, but a Sword (10:34–39)
6. Responses to Jesus
Cursing Chorazin, Bethsaida, Capernaum (11:20-24)
Praising the Father (11:25-30)
Sabbath observance (12:1–14)
Chosen servant (12:15-21)
Jesus and Beelzebul (12:22–29,46-50)
Those not with me are against me (12:30)
Unforgivable sin (12:31-32)
Tree and its fruits (12:33-37)
Sign of Jonah (12:38–42; 16:1–4)
Return of the unclean spirit (12:43-45)
Parables of the Kingdom
Parables of the Sower
Mustard Seed
Hidden Treasure
Net (13:1–52)
7. Conflicts, rejections, and conferences with disciples
Hometown rejection (13:53–58)
Feeding the 5000 (14:13–21)
Walking on water (14:22–33)
Fringe of his cloak heals (14:34-36)
Clean and Unclean (15:1–20)
Feeding the dogs (15:21-28)
Feeding the 4000 (15:32–39)
Beware of yeast (16:5-12)
Peter's confession (16:13–20)
Return of the Son of Man (16:27-28,26:64)
Transfiguration (17:1–13)
Disciples' exorcism failure (17:14-20)
8. Life in the Christian community
Little children blessed (18:1–7; 19:13–15)
If thy hand offend thee (18:8-9)
Parables of the Lost Sheep, Unmerciful Servant (18:10–35)
9. Journey to Jerusalem
Entering Judea (19:1-2)
Teaching about divorce (19:3–12)
Rich man's salvation (19:16–27)
Twelve thrones of judgment (19:28-30)
Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard (20:1–15)
The last will be first and the first last (20:16)
On the road to Jerusalem (20:17)
James and John's request (20:20–28)
10. Jerusalem, cleansing of the temple, debates
Entering Jerusalem (21:1–11)
Temple incident (21:12–17,23-27)
Cursing the fig tree (21:18–22)
Parables of the Two Sons, Vineyard, Wedding Feast (21:28–22:14)
Render unto Caesar (22:15–22)
Resurrection of the dead (22:23-33)
Great Commandment (22:34–40)
Messiah, the son of David? (22:41-46)
11. Confronting leaders and denouncing Pharisees
Cursing Scribes and Pharisees (23:1-36)
Lament over Jerusalem (23:37-39)
12. Judgment day
The Coming Apocalypse (24)
Parables of the Ten Virgins, Talents (25:1-30)
Judgement of the Nations (25:31-46)
13. Trial, crucifixion, resurrection
Plot to kill Jesus (26:1-5,14-16,27:3-10)
A woman anoints Jesus (26:6–13)
Last Supper (26:17–30)
Peter's denial (26:31-35,69–75)
Arrest (26:36–56)
Before the High Priest (26:57–68)
Before Pilate (27:1–2,11-31)
Blood curse (27:24-25)
Crucifixion (27:32–56)
Joseph of Arimathea (27:57–61)
Empty tomb (27:62–28:15)
Resurrection appearances (28:9–10)
Great Commission (28:16–20)

For convenience, the book can be divided into its four structurally distinct sections: Two introductory sections; the main section, which can be further broken into five sections, each with a narrative component followed by a long discourse of Jesus; and finally, the Passion and Resurrection section.

  1. Containing the genealogy of Joseph, the birth and the infancy of Jesus (Matthew 1; Matthew 2).
  2. The discourses and actions of John the Baptist preparatory to Christ's public ministry (Matthew 3; Matthew 4:11).
  3. The discourses and actions of Christ in Galilee (4:12–26:1).
    1. The Sermon on the Mount, concerning morality (Ch. 5–7)
    2. The Missionary Discourse, concerning the mission Jesus gave his Twelve Apostles. (10–11:1)
    3. The Parable Discourse, stories that teach about the Kingdom of Heaven (13).
    4. The "Church Order" Discourse, concerning relationships among disciples (18–19:1).
    5. The Eschatological Discourse, which includes the Olivet Discourse and Judgement of the Nations, concerning his Second Coming and the end of the age (24–25).
  4. The sufferings, death and Resurrection of Jesus, the Great Commission (26-28).


See Also Genealogy of Jesus'

After giving a genealogy from Abraham to Joseph, Matthew gives the number of generations from Abraham to David, from David to the deportation to Babylon, and from the deportation to Jesus as fourteen each. (In fact, the total number of men in the list, including both Abraham and Jesus, is only 41.) Matthew traces the genealogy of Joseph, not Mary.

After David, the lists coincide again at Shealtiel and Zerubbabel (founder of the second temple) but then again part company until they reach Joseph through his father.

Infancy narrative

See Also Nativity of Jesus'

See Also Immanuel'

Mary becomes pregnant "by the Holy Spirit", and so Joseph decides to break his relationship with her privately. He however has a dream with the promise of the birth of Jesus. The gospel proceeds with visit of the Magi who acknowledge the infant Jesus as king. This is followed by Herod's massacre of the innocents and the flight into Egypt, and an eventual journey to Nazareth.

The chief aim of the infancy narrative is to convince readers of the divine nature of Jesus through his conception through the Holy Spirit and his virgin birth; the visit of Magi and flight into Egypt intended to show that Jesus' kingship is not restricted to Jews but is rather universal.

Baptism and Temptation

See Also Baptism of Jesus' John baptizes Jesus, and the Holy Spirit descends upon him. The evangelist addresses the puzzling scene of Jesus, reputedly born sinless, being baptized. He omits reference to baptism being for forgiveness of sins and depicts John emphasizing his inferiority to Jesus. The descent of the Holy Spirit tells the reader that Jesus has become God's anointed (Messiah or Christ).

Jesus prays and meditates in the wilderness for forty days, and then is tempted by the Devil. Jesus refutes the Devil with quotations from Jewish Law.

Sermon on the Mount

See Also Sermon on the Mount

Matthew's principal addition to Mark's narrative is five collections of teaching material, and the first is the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus, presented as a greater Moses, completes and transcends Mosaic law. The Beatitudes bless the poor in spirit and the meek. In six expositions or antitheses (depending on how the sermon is interpreted, see Expounding of the Law), Jesus reinterprets the Law. He offers the Lord's prayer as a simple alternative to ostentatious prayer.

The Lord's prayer contains parallels to First Chronicles 29:10-18.

Instructions to the Twelve Disciples

Matthew names the Twelve Disciples. Jesus sends them to preach to the Jews, perform miracles, and prophesy the imminent coming of the Kingdom. Jesus commands them to travel lightly, without even a staff or sandals. He tells them they will face persecution.

Parables on the Kingdom

Jesus tells the parable of the sower, paralleling Mark. Like Mark and Luke, Matthew portrays Jesus as using parables in order to prevent the unworthy from receiving his message. The parables of the wheat and the tares and of the net, unique to Matthew, portray God's sure judgment as indefinitely delayed. The parables of the mustard seed and of the pearl "of great price" emphasize the exclusive nature and incomprehensible worth of the Kingdom.

Instructions to the Church

Matthew is the only Gospel to discuss the ecclesia (Greek: assembly), or church. The instructions for the church emphasize ecclesiastical responsibility and humility. He calls on his disciples to practice forgiveness, but he also gives them the authority to excommunicate the unrepentant.

Fifth discourse

Jesus heaps the "seven woes" on the scribes and Pharisees.

Signs of the Times

See Also Second Coming

Matthew expands Marks' account of the Parousia, or Second Coming. Matthew mentions such things as false Messiahs, earthquakes, and persecution of his disciples. After the tribulation, the sun, moon, and stars will fail. The declaration that his generation would not pass away before all the prophecies are fulfilled indicates that the events occurring will happen in one generation.

Parables and vision of the Second Coming

The parables of the foolish virgins and of the talents emphasize constant readiness and Jesus' unexpected return. In a prophetic vision, Jesus judges the world. The godly ("sheep") are those who helped those in need, while the wicked ("goats") are those who did not.

Final Days and Resurrection

Jesus triumphantly enters Jerusalem and drives the money changers from the temple. He identifies Judas as his traitor. Jesus prays to be spared the coming agony, and a mob takes him by force to the Sanhedrin. To the trial, Matthew adds the detail that Pilate's wife, tormented by a dream, tells him to have nothing to do with "that righteous man", and Pilate washes his hands of him. To Mark's account of Jesus' death, Matthew adds the occurrence of an earthquake, and saints arising from their tombs and appearing to many people in Jerusalem (Matthew 27:51-53). He also provides two stories of the Jewish leaders conspiring to undermine belief in the resurrection (Matthew 28:11-15), and he describes Mark's "young man" at Jesus' tomb as being a radiant angel (Matthew 28:3). Matthew does not relate any of Jesus' post-resurrection appearances to the disciples in Judea, nor his Ascension. He appears to the Eleven in Galilee and commissions them to preach to the world: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name (singular) of the Father of the Son and of the Holy Spirit"... and that name is Jesus (Matthew 28:19).

Themes in Matthew

Kingdom of Heaven

Of note is the phrase "Kingdom of Heaven" (ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν) used often in the gospel of Matthew, as opposed to the phrase "Kingdom of God" used in other synoptic gospels such as Luke. The phrase "Kingdom of Heaven" is used 32 times in 31 verses in the Gospel of Matthew.

The theme "Kingdom of Heaven" as discussed in Matthew seems to be at odds with what was a circulating Jewish expectation—that the Messiah would overthrow Roman rulership and establish a new reign as the new King of the Jews. Certain 1st-century Jews (including Zealots) misunderstood the sayings of Jesus—that while Jesus had been discussing a spiritual kingdom, certain Jews expected a physical kingdom. See also Jewish Messiah.

In art

The Chi Rho monogram from the Book of Kells is the most lavish such monogram
The Chi Rho monogram from the Book of Kells is the most lavish such monogram

In Insular Gospel Books (copies of the Gospels produced in Ireland and Britain under Celtic Christianity), the first verse of Matthew's genealogy of Christ[] was often treated in a decorative manner, as it began not only a new book of the Bible, but was the first verse in the Gospels.

See also



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