You are on page 1of 13

Handout 4 – The Gospel of Matthew

Required Reading

C.L. Blomberg, Jesus and the Gospels, chapter 7.

Recommended Reading

Craig Keener, A Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew (1999).

W.D. Davies, The Setting of the Sermon on the Mount (Cambridge 1966), pp.256-315.
R.H. Gundry, Matthew: A Commentary on His Literary and Theological Art (Grand Rapids 1982)
S.McKnight, 'Matthew, Gospel of', in J.B. Green (et al., ed.), Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels
(Downers Grove 1992), pp.526-541.
Graham Stanton, The Gospels and Jesus (Cambridge 1989), pp.59-80.

Encountering the Gospel of Matthew

Whilst modern scholarship has tended to favour Mark as the prior Gospel, the early
church definitely favoured Matthew as the first Gospel.

 Canon lists

 Citations

 Common tradition in the early church that Matthew was written first.

 Geneaology brings testamental continuity.

 Lack of teaching in Mark

Matthew’s Use of Mark

In Matthew, Mark comprises 50% of our Gospel, Q comprises 25%, and M 25%.

Nearly all of Mark is contained in Matthew

When Matthew uses Mark, he tends to follow his order and framework very closely.
Handout 4 – The Gospel of Matthew

But, whilst Matthew follows the narrative framework, he also feels free to splice in all
sorts of new material, both from Q and from M.

Matthew frequently compresses and abbreviates Mark’s narrative, but keeps Mark’s
words to a high degree (70%).

Huge amounts of teaching material in the Gospel (Q [Sayings Source] and M)

Narrative Analysis: The Plot of Matthew

• Follows Markan framework

• Within that Markan outline, however, he inserts a large amount of teaching

material, in significant blocks.

• Five large blocks of topically-grouped teaching.

 Ends of teaching sections are literarily indicated for us by a repeated

statement “And when Jesus finished . . .” (7:28-29; 11:1; 13:53; 19:1;

 Alternating structure between narrative and discourse

Another potential other structural markers is the statement repeated in 4:17 and

“From that time on Jesus began to proclaim…”.

Handout 4 – The Gospel of Matthew

These correspond to the major Galilean phase of Jesus’ ministry, and the pivot
point which sends Jesus on the road to the cross (right after Peter’s confession, as
in Mark. This could lead to a kind of biographical/Christological structure:

1. The Person of Jesus Messiah (1:1–4:16)

2. The Proclamation of Jesus Messiah (4:17–16:20)
3. The Suffering, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Messiah (16:21–28:20)

Combined together, in Scot McKnight’s model, looks like this:

Prologue (1:1–2:23)
Introduction (3:1–4:11)

1. The Messiah Confronts Israel in His Galilean Ministry (4:12–11:1)

1.1. Narrative: Introduction (4:12–22)
1.2. Discourse: The Messiah’s Call to Righteousness (5:1–7:29)
1.3. Narrative: The Messiah’s Ministry (8:1–9:34)
1.4. Discourse: The Messiah Extends His Ministry (9:36–11:1)

2. The Responses to the Messiah: Rejection and Acceptance from Galilee to

Jerusalem (11:2–20:34)
2.1. Narrative: The Messiah Is Rejected by Jewish Leaders but Accepted by the
Disciples (11:2–12:50)
2.2. Discourse: The Messiah Teaches about the Kingdom (13:1–53)
2.3. Narrative: The Messiah Is Rejected by Jewish Leaders but Accepted by the
Disciples: Responses Intensify (13:54–17:27)
2.4. Discourse: The Messiah Instructs on Community Life (18:1–19:1)
2.5. Narrative: The Messiah instructs on the Way to Jerusalem (19:2–20:34)

3. The Messiah Inaugurates the Kingdom of Heaven through Rejection and

Vindications: Jesus the Messiah Confronts Jerusalem (21:1–28:20)
3.1. Narrative: The Messiah Confronts Israel in Jerusalem (21:1–22:46)
3.2. Discourse: the Messiah Predicts the Judgment of Unbelieving Israel (23:1–
3.3. Narrative: The messiah Is Rejected in Jerusalem but Vindicated by God
through Resurrection (26:3–28:20)

Unique Features in Matthew’s Story

Chapters 1 and 2

There is a birth narrative – something new after Mark

Handout 4 – The Gospel of Matthew

Chapters 3 and 4

• Jesus as Israel?

 Cf. Jesus in the desert – the time of 40 (compare

Mark’s compact narration in 1:12-13)

 Jesus uses passages drawn from Deuteronomy 6-8 –

 The whole complex of suffering servant traditions

(Is 42-55) involves taking an originally corporate
motif and applying it to an individual.

• First detailed “miracle stories” (not summaries) do not come until

chapter 8 – in Mark they are in chapter 1!

5:1 – 7:29

• Sermon on the Mount

• The premier example of Jesus’ teachings.

• New shape of obedience in God’s kingdom

 Jesus becomes the yardstick of holiness, not the


• Fulfilment of the law = Continuity = realising the intention

of the law (not the continuation of its letter)

• A righteousness that is greater because it aspires to the

character of God not the boundaries of the command.

Handout 4 – The Gospel of Matthew

• Deliberate Matthean focus on the two ways of doing obedience.

o leads to the development of hostility from 9:34 onwards (see 11:7-

19; 12:1-14).

• Jesus keeps making the point that the Pharisaic way of doing obedience
ends up with the wrong kind of person (Matt 9:13; 12:7): “‘I desire mercy
and not sacrifice”).


• Teaching in parables

o Focus on mixed reception to the kingdom

• A move towards private teaching (13:36), implying a

growing polarisation between insiders and outsiders.


• Note the themes of Jewish rejection (15:1-20) versus Gentile acceptance



• Confrontation with Jewish leadership, which really solidifies Matthew’s

critique of the Pharisees.

o Three parables (grouped together) – parable of the two sons, the

wicked tenants, and the wedding banquet.

 Each of the parables speaks of one group of people losing their

privileged position and being replaced by those whom they
would have despised. The theme which runs through them is,
therefore, the question of who are the true people of God, and
Handout 4 – The Gospel of Matthew

they all suggest that a fundamental change is taking place

(R.T. France)

o They have been found to be without fruit, and totally unresponsive to

what God is doing in Jesus.

o This climaxes in Jesus’ denunciation (seven woes – Matt 23). The

ongoing tendency towards Pharisaic righteousness:

 loving the seats of honour (23:6)

 loving the titles of religion (23:8-12)
 the danger of evangelism that makes people twice as much a
son of hell (23:15)
 straining out gnats and swallowing camels (23:16-24)
 whitewashed tombs – beautiful outside, inside your dead


o Final rejection of Jesus in Jerusalem

 Jesus death marks the end of the old and the beginning of the

• Temple curtain torn in two

• Resurrection of the holy people of the past (firstfruits of
the coming age) (both incidents: 27:51-53)

o Resurrection and the commissioning of worldwide mission

Key themes in Matthew

Handout 4 – The Gospel of Matthew

To exalt Jesus as son of David, son of God

To exalt Jesus as the son of God

• 2:15; 14:33; 26:63

• Messianic or divine 1:23; Matt 11:27; 28:20

To exalt Jesus as the ultimate and final interpreter of Torah

• A new Moses?

• He has authority, from God, that others do not (Matt 7:29; 9:6-8; 17:5;
21:23ff). His words will not pass away, even though those of the Torah will
(Matt 24:35)

• The programmatic placement of the Sermon on the Mount

Summary of Christological References

Jesus is the Messiah (Mt 1:1, 16-20; 2:1-12; 11:2-6; 16:16-17; 21:5),
Jesus is the Son of God (Mt 1:21-23 [Is 7:14]; 1:18-25, esp. 16; 3:17; 8:28-29; 11:25-
27; 16:16-17; 17:5; 27:54; 26:63);
Jesus is the Son of David (9:27; 12:23; 15:22; 20:30-31; 21:15),
Jesus is the Son of Abraham (3:9; 8:10-12),
Jesus is the the Son of Man (30 times),
Jesus is the Prophet (21:11, 46; 13:54-58),
Mathew also calls him Teacher (Mt 4:23-25), Healer (4:23; 9:35), Isaianic Servant
(8:17; 12:17-21), Wisdom (11:19), and a Moses figure (2:3, 12, 16-18; 5:1; 8:1).

Other Themes

Handout 4 – The Gospel of Matthew

Matthew ends with the command “to make disciples” (Matt 28:19)

The need to manifest the “fruits of the kingdom”

Matt 3:8-10; 7:16-20; 12:33; 13:23; 21:19, 43.

A disciple without fruit is not possible.

• distinguishing mark (or fruit) includes commitment to works of mercy

(Matt 25:31-46).

• The essence of the law is love – for God and for others – not separateness.

• I desire mercy, not sacrifice

o Not allowing rigid adherence to get in the way of acts of mercy,

compassion, etc

The prominence of community concerns

Matthew is the only gospel which speaks of the church (Matt 16:18; 18:17). Pretty
much everything in chapter 18 is thematically grouped together to focus on churchly

• The church is to be a place where the weak, powerless and the ungifted are
nurtured. The prominence of the term “little ones” (Matt 10:42; 18:6, 10, 14)

• You can see this in the parable of the lost sheep. Matthew 18:10-14 is much
more about rescuing people who have strayed from the community.

• Forgiveness is at the centre of God’s people (6:12-15; 18:21-35)

• Inclusion of process for community discipline (Matt 18:15-20)

• “The church is a demonstration plot in which God’s will can be exhibited”

(Richard Hays)
Handout 4 – The Gospel of Matthew

Particularism and Universalism

• Note the Abrahamic inclusion in the genealogy

• The Mission will work (24:14)

• Sent only to Israel?

o Matt 10:5-6
o Matt 10:23
o Matt 15:24 (Syro-Phoenician woman)

• Gentile participation

o Matt 2:1-12 (Magi)

o Matt 12:15-21
o Matt 21:18 - 22:14 (see 21:43)
o Matt 25:31-46 (“all the nations”)
o Matt 28:16-20

To the Jew first, and then the Gentile…

The Disciples Emerging Faith (Glass Half-Full)

• compare Matt 16:12 with Mark 8:21.

• Reliable and intelligent mediators of tradition.

The Continuity of Jesus and the Christian community with the Old
Testament Story (Matt 13:16-17)

• His birth fulfils OT texts and paradigms. This continues throughout.

• His miracles fulfil Isaiah’s announcement of the end of exile (Matt 11:2-6; cf.
Isa 29:18-19; 35:5-6; 61:1)

• Jesus as Israel – What Israel as a collective entity did not do, Jesus as a
righteous individual representative of the larger body now does (D.A. deSilva)

Historical Analysis – Who? What? Where? When?

Handout 4 – The Gospel of Matthew

 The association of this gospel with Matthew is strong in external tradition.

 The title, Gospel According to Matthew, whilst not original, is likely very

We have frequent references to Matthew’s writing of a Gospel in church tradition:

Matthew collected the sayings in the Hebrew language and each interpreted them as best he
Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 3.96.16
(citing Papias)

Matthew also among the Hebrews published a written Gospel in their own dialect, when Peter
and Paul were preaching in Rome and founding the church there.
Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 5.8.2 (citing

Among the four Gospels, which are the only indisputable ones in the Church of God under
heaven, I have learned by tradition that the first was written by Matthew, who was once a
publican, but afterwards an apostle of Jesus Christ, and it was prepared for the converts from
Judaism, and published in the Hebrew language.
Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 6.25

The problem with this testimony:

The tradition is 1. Matthew authored it

2. It was the first Gospel
3. It was written in Hebrew, at least originally.

We are happy with the first, but the second appears wrong, as does the third.

Did he write another version? Did someone else write the Gospel, but Matthew’s
influence is such that his name remains? Tough to tell, but it appears reasonable to
associate it with Matthew, given that he is not a high-status person in the ancient


Two main purposes for Matthew have been suggested. Matthew desires to set out a
full understanding of Jesus’ story and its significance, particularly with a view to the
fulfilment of the OT.

Additionally, he intends to set out the significance of Jesus, and his way of obedience,
over against the alternative “way” of Pharisaic Judaism.

This is clearly seen in Matthew by the emphasis he places upon profound conflict
between Jesus and Pharisaic Judaism.
Handout 4 – The Gospel of Matthew

• The debate is over whether the way of the Pharisees produces fruit. See, in
particular, 21:23-23:39, but it is also implicit in 5:17-20, and in the claim to
have an easier yoke in 11:28-30.

A yoke was intended to ease the discomfort in carrying a heavy load.

But it also symbolized obedience and the acceptance of responsibility.
The rabbis often spoke of taking on ‘the yoke of the Law’, and under
their direction that burden could become heavy. Jesus’ yoke, by
contrast, is easy, not because his call to discipleship is less demanding
(as we have seen in ch. 5) but because it makes us pupils of one who is
gentle and humble in heart. The key lies in the personal invitation,
Come to me (R.T. France)

• In the view of Mathew, the scribes and Pharisees are associated with the
synagogues (Mt 10:17; 23:6, 34). They are a ‘brood of vipers’ (Mt 3:7; 12:34;
23:33) and ‘hypocrites’ (Mt 6:2, 5, 16; 7:5; 15:7; 16:3, 22:18; 23:13, 15, 25,
26, 27, 29; 24:51).

• Matthew refers to the Sadducees in seven passages, always negatively,

whereas they appear in all of the rest of Gospels only twice.


As with much of the Gospel dating debates, the issue hinges upon the text
seeming to know about later events. Does Matthew’s account of Jesus prophecy of
the temple’s destruction indicate that Matthew knew this had already happened?

Furthermore, to what degree does the emphasis on a hostile Pharisaic Judaism

reflect a later period in early Christian history in which Judaism and Christianity
parted ways.

• The late 60's (AD 65-67). Matthew's reference to the persecution of Christians
by both Jews and Gentile authorities (Mt 10.16-23; 23:34), it is argued, locates
the Gospel after Nero's persecution of Christians in 64 AD. Further, Matthew's
references to Jewish persecution, his hostility towards the Pharisees, and the
(seeming) break with Judaism (on which, see our notes below) are explained
as arising from early Christian conflicts with the Jews prior to 70 AD (Phil
3:2-6; Acts 8:3; 9:1-2, 13-14, 21; 22:3-5, 19; 26:9-11; 1 Cor 15:9; Gal 1:13; 1
Thess 2:13-16; 1 Tim 1:13). Finally, Matthew's reference to the destruction of
Jerusalem in Mt 22:7 — inserted by Matthew into his Q materia (Luke 14:15-
24) — is argued to be a case of the author employing Old Testament
prophecies (Is 5:24-25). Thus the Gospel is not necessarily written after the
events of 70 AD.
Handout 4 – The Gospel of Matthew

• The mid 80's (AD 80-85). In this scenario, Matthew’s reference to the
destruction of Jerusalem in Mt 22:7 is seen as being written after the
destruction of the temple in 70 AD. Matthew’s references to Jewish
persecution, his hostility towards the Pharisees, and the break with Judaism
are explained as arising from the Jewish-Christian conflicts after the Council
of Jamnia post-70 AD. Matthew seems intimately familiar with the rabbinic
discussions that took place in the last quarter of the I. cent.

Post 70 AD, Judaism reinterprets itself in light of the Temple being destroyed. Temple
authority was now concentrated in the hands of the rabbinic sages and the synagogue. With
the destruction of the Sadducean priesthood and the Temple, the church witnessed gradual
emergence of Pharisaism as the only dominant party in Judaism in the late 70’s and into the

During this time, we are told in b. Ber. 28b-29a, Samuel the Small composed a Birkath ha
Minim (a petition against the heretics): The petition was inserted into the first-century prayer
‘The Eighteen Benedictions’ in the last quarter of the first century (AD 80-85). This new
petition replaced the Twelfth Benediction. The petition was directed against the heretics
(minim) and Christians:

For persecutors let there be no hope, and the dominion of arrogance do Thou speedily root
out in our days; and let Christians and minim perish in a moment, let them be blotted out of
the book of the living and let them not be written with the righteous.

Note, for example:

• The contrast between ‘their’ (Mt 4:23; 9:35; 10:17; 12:9; 13:54) and ‘your
synagogues’ (Mt 23:34) well illustrates the conflict between the late first-
century church and rabbinic Judasim.

In sum, Matthew argues that Israel is rejected in favour of the new Christian
community (Mt 21:33-45 [esp. v. 43]; 23:36-39; 27:15-26 [esp. v.25]). The
superiority of the new Christian community totally outstrips the Pharisaic ideal —
whether it be in righteousness (Mt 5:20), or in alms, prayer and fasting (6:1-8), or
in prophets, wise men and scribes (Mt 23:34; 10:41; 13:52), or in mission (Mt
23:15; 28:18-20; cf. 10:5, 23; 13:38; 22:9). Christians, Matthew asserts, stand in
the privileged position of knowing the riches of the old and new covenants (Mt

Who is the audience of Matthew?

Since the earliest clear reference to Matthew comes from Ignatius, bishop of
Antioch in the Roman province of Syria, the Gospel is usually located there.
Handout 4 – The Gospel of Matthew

• At the very least, the audience is intimately familiar with Jewish affairs, in
contrast to the audience of Mark and Luke.
• Matthew employs LXX quotations (i.e. from the Septuagint, the Greek Old
Testament) more frequently than Mark.
• Matthew also assumes a total familiarity with Jewish
customs/expressions/oral tradition and rabbinical interpretation Examples
are, ‘tradition of the elders’ (Mt 15:2), hand-washing scruples, phylacteries
(23:5), raca (5:22), korbanas (27:6), ‘Kingdom of heaven’ and ‘Your
Father in heaven’.

The Gospel thus adopts a Jewish Christian viewpoint; it comes from an author
who has considerable rabbinic knowledge at his disposal for his Jewish-Christian
readers. The Christians who are addressed are experiencing persecution (Mt 5:11-
12; 10:17-25; 23:34). There are also prophets within their community (Mt 7:15;
24:5, 11), who must be lovingly disciplined or excommunicated (18:12-35; cf.
13:36-43, 47-50).