Gospel of Matthew
Authorship and writing of the Gospel
Although the document is internally anonymous, the authorship of this Gospel has been traditionally ascribed to St. Matthew. The surviving testimony of the Church Fathers is unanimous in this view, and the tradition had been accepted by Christians at least as early as the 2nd century up to modern times. In addition, the title "According to Matthew" is found in the earliest codexes, which date to the fourth century.1
According to Tradition, after Pentecost St. Matthew preached the Good News of the Lord's Resurrection throughtout Palestine. Then, "at the request of the Jewish converts at Jerusalem, the holy Apostle Matthew wrote his Gospel describing the earthly life of the Savior before leaving to preach the Gospel in faraway lands." 2 He then left to preach his Gospel in Syria, Media, Persia, Parthia, before being martyred in Ethiopia.
Because it was first recorded in Palestine, there is some speculation and evidence that Matthew's Gospel was originally written in Aramaic, though the earliest surviving version now in existence is in Greek. According to OCA, "many of the linguistic and cultural-historical peculiarities of the Greek translation give indications of it [the Gospel's original Aramaic form]." It was probably written somewhere from AD 60-65, though more liberal scholars put the date at 80-100.
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.
- Containing the genealogy, the birth, and the infancy of Jesus (Matthew 1; Matthew 2).
- The discourses and actions of John the Baptist preparatory to Christ's public ministry (Matthew 3; Matthew 4:11).
- The discourses and actions of Christ in Galilee (4:12–26:1).
- The Sermon on the Mount, concerning morality (Ch. 5–7)
- The Missionary Discourse, concerning the mission Jesus gave his Twelve Apostles. (10–11:1)
- The Parable Discourse, stories that teach about the Kingdom of Heaven (13).
- The "Church Order" Discourse, concerning relationships among Christians (18–19:1).
- 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).
- The sufferings, death and Resurrection of Jesus, the Great Commission (28:16–20).
The one aim pervading the book is to show that Jesus of Nazareth was the promised Messiah — he "of whom Moses in the law and the prophets did write" — and that in him the ancient prophecies had their fulfillment. This book is full of allusions to passages of the Old Testament which the book interprets as predicting and foreshadowing Jesus' life and mission. This Gospel contains no fewer than sixty-five references to the Old Testament, forty-three of these being direct verbal citations, thus greatly outnumbering those found in the other Gospels. The main feature of this Gospel may be expressed in the motto "I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill" (5:17). The Apostle Matthew preached among people who were awaiting the Messiah. His Gospel manifests itself as a vivid proof that Jesus Christ is the Messiah foretold by the prophets, and that there would not be another (Mt. 11:3).
The preaching and deeds of the Savior are presented by the evangelist in three divisions, constituting three aspects of the service of the Messiah: as Prophet and Law-Giver (Ch. 5-7), Lord over the world both visible and invisible (Ch. 8-25), and finally as High Priest offered as Sacrifice for the sins of all mankind (Ch. 26-27).
The theological content of the Gospel, besides the Christological themes, includes also the teaching about the Kingdom of God and about the Church, which the Lord sets forth in parables about the inner preparation for entering into the Kingdom (Ch. 5-7), about the worthiness of servers of the Church in the world (Ch. 10-11), about the signs of the Kingdom and its growth in the souls of mankind (Ch. 13), about the humility and simplicity of the inheritors of the Kingdom (Mt. 18:1-35; 19 13-30; 20:1-16; 25-27; 23:1-28), and about the eschatological revelations of the Kingdom in the Second Coming of Christ within the daily spiritual life of the Church (Ch. 24-25).
The Kingdom of Heaven and the Church are closely interconnected in the spiritual experience of Christianity: the Church is the historical embodiment of the Kingdom of Heaven in the world, and the Kingdom of Heaven is the Church of Christ in its eschatological perfection (Mt. 16:18-19; 28:18-20).
In general, the text of the gospel of St Matthew is used most consistently in liturgical worship of the Orthodox Church. This may be because it was the most common gospel in the very early Churches. It contains the version of the beatitudes and the Lord's Prayer that is used in services.
Only this gospel contains the post resurrection order of the Lord to his apostles, "to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (28:19). And it contains the longest and most detailed record of Christ's teachings in the Sermon on the Mount (5-7)