The Gospel according to Matthew
Traditional Author: St. Matthew, the Apostle Traditional Date Written: A.D. 65-75 Period Covered: 6/5 B.C.-A.D. 32 The Gospel according to Matthew sits at the head of the New Testament, functioning as a swinging door that links the Old and New Testaments. Written by a Jew for a Jewish audience, Matthew begins with a genealogy: “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham . . .” (Matt. 1:1). The first verse swings back to the Hebrew Scriptures and God’s covenant with Abraham in Genesis 12:2-3, picks up God’s covenant with David in 1 Chronicles 17:10-14, and brings both forward to introduce his story. You will recall that God’s covenant with Abraham introduces the plan of redemption when God tells the great patriarch, “all the families of the earth will find blessing in you,” (Genesis 12:3), and in his covenant with David God says, “I will raise up your offspring after you who will be one of your own sons, and I will establish his kingdom. He it is who shall build me a house, and I will establish his throne forever. I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me.” (1 Chronicles 17:11-14). In a metaphorical sense, the door of salvation swings on the hinges of the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants. Matthew then continues by introducing a three-part genealogy that moves from Abraham through David, David through the Babylonian captivity, and the Babylonian captivity through the birth of Christ. In one deft movement Matthew not only links the entire linear narrative of the Hebrew Scriptures to the birth of Jesus, but he also makes the birth of Jesus the culminating event in Jewish history. The Hebrew Scriptures end chronologically with Malachi, written c. 430 B.C., and Matthew begins chronologically with the birth of Jesus in 6/5 B.C. Between the two a variety of important events occur. 331 B.C. Alexander the Great defeats Darius, king of Persia, ending 200 years of Persian rule. 323 B.C. Alexander dies on his return from Persia and his four generals divide the kingdom: Antipater and Cassander get Macedon and Greece; Lysimachus gets Thrace and Asia Minor; Seleucus gets Syria; and Ptolemy gets Palestine and Egypt.