The Gospel According to Matthew is the opening book of the New Testament of the Bible. Although first in canonical order, it is probably not the earliest Gospel. Besides drawing heavily from the Gospel According to Mark, Matthew shapes material from other sources around Mark's narrative outline. One such source, commonly called Q (from the German quelle, "source"), is thought to have consisted primarily of sayings of Jesus; it was also used by Luke. Material unique to this Gospel relates to the birth of Jesus (1 - 2), the arrangement of the Sermon on the Mount (5 - 7), and Jesus' utterances on the end of the world (24 - 25).
Matthew is generally held to have been written about AD 80, although scholars have argued for dates as early as 65 and as late as 100. Tradition ascribes authorship to the Apostle Matthew, but modern scholars, acknowledging Matthew as a source, contend that a disciple or school of disciples were responsible for its present form.
Matthew is the most topical of the Synoptic Gospels. The teachings and sayings of Jesus are gathered into five thematic discourses and structured around Mark's narrative framework. Each discourse is followed by a summary statement (7:28; 11:1; 13:53; 19:1; 28:1). A prologue and epilogue are added (1 - 2; 28:9 - 20). Because of the emphasis on law, teaching, and righteousness, scholars believe that Matthew was addressed to a predominantly Jewish audience, presumably in Palestine or Syria. Jesus is presented as the messianic fulfiller, especially in the role of king, and the teacher of the way of righteousness.
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W G Kummel, Introduction to the New Testament (1975); J L McKenzie, "Matthew," in Jerome Biblical Commentary (1968).
Matthew, gift of God, a common Jewish name after the Exile. He was the son of Alphaeus, and was a publican or tax-gatherer at Capernaum. On one occasion Jesus, coming up from the side of the lake, passed the custom-house where Matthew was seated, and said to him, "Follow me." Matthew arose and followed him, and became his disciple (Matt. 9:9). Formerly the name by which he was known was Levi (Mark 2:14; Luke 5:27); he now changed it, possibly in grateful memory of his call, to Matthew. The same day on which Jesus called him he made a "great feast" (Luke 5:29), a farewell feast, to which he invited Jesus and his disciples, and probably also many of old associates. He was afterwards selected as one of the twelve (6:15). His name does not occur again in the Gospel history except in the lists of the apostles. The last notice of him is in Acts 1:13. The time and manner of his death are unknown.
(Easton Illustrated Dictionary)
The author of this book was beyond a doubt the Matthew, an apostle of our Lord, whose name it bears. He wrote the Gospel of Christ according to his own plans and aims, and from his own point of view, as did also the other "evangelists." As to the time of its composition, there is little in the Gospel itself to indicate. It was evidently written before the destruction of Jerusalem (Matt. 24), and some time after the events it records. The probability is that it was written between the years A.D. 60 and 65. The cast of thought and the forms of expression employed by the writer show that this Gospel was written for Jewish Christians of Palestine. His great object is to prove that Jesus of Nazareth was the promised Messiah, and that in him the ancient prophecies had their fulfilment.
The Gospel is full of allusions to those passages of the Old Testament in which Christ is predicted and foreshadowed. The one aim prevading the whole book is to show that Jesus is he "of whom Moses in the law and the prophets did write." 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 fulfil." As to the language in which this Gospel was written there is much controversy. Many hold, in accordance with old tradition, that it was originally written in Hebrew (i.e., the Aramaic or Syro-Chaldee dialect, then the vernacular of the inhabitants of Palestine), and afterwards translated into Greek, either by Matthew himself or by some person unknown.
This theory, though earnestly maintained by able critics, we cannot see any ground for adopting. From the first this Gospel in Greek was received as of authority in the Church. There is nothing in it to show that it is a translation. Though Matthew wrote mainly for the Jews, yet they were everywhere familiar with the Greek language. The same reasons which would have suggested the necessity of a translation into Greek would have led the evangelist to write in Greek at first. It is confessed that this Gospel has never been found in any other form than that in which we now possess it. The leading characteristic of this Gospel is that it sets forth the kingly glory of Christ, and shows him to be the true heir to David's throne. It is the Gospel of the kingdom.
Matthew uses the expression "kingdom of heaven" (thirty-two times), while Luke uses the expression "kingdom of God" (thirty-three times). Some Latinized forms occur in this Gospel, as kodrantes (Matt. 5:26), for the Latin quadrans, and phragello (27:26), for the Latin flagello. It must be remembered that Matthew was a tax-gatherer for the Roman government, and hence in contact with those using the Latin language. As to the relation of the Gospels to each other, we must maintain that each writer of the synoptics (the first three) wrote independently of the other two, Matthew being probably first in point of time. "Out of a total of 1071 verses, Matthew has 387 in common with Mark and Luke, 130 with Mark, 184 with Luke; only 387 being peculiar to itself." (See Mark; Luke; Gospels.) The book is fitly divided into these four parts: (1.) Containing the genealogy, the birth, and the infancy of Jesus (1; 2). (2.) The discourses and actions of John the Baptist preparatory to Christ's public ministry (3; 4:11). (3.) The discourses and actions of Christ in Galilee (4:12-20:16). (4.) The sufferings, death and resurrection of our Lord (20:17-28).
(Easton Illustrated Dictionary)
In the meantime, the preaching of the gospel of grace, especially committed to Paul, who was not of the twelve, is accompanied by gifts of another kind (Eph. 4:10-12). Look at verses 11 to 15, where the "worthy" mean those looking for the Messiah promised by the Old Testament prophets. The gospel of grace is not offered to the "worthy," but to "whomsoever" will accept it. Or, take verses 16-23, which speak of the way the apostles' message would be received, and compare the prophecy they contain with the persecution in the Acts of the Apostles; or look at these verses in the light of the second coming of Christ, to which verse 23 refers.
We learned in Daniel and elsewhere, that time is not counted in the history of Israel when she is not in her own land. Hence the testimony here begun by the apostles and continued up to Israel's rejection of the Kingdom, is an unfinished testimony, and will be taken up again when the Church is translated during the tribulation.
From this point to verse 33 we find encouragement. The disciples are identified with their Lord (vv. 24, 25); therefore, they need not fear (vv. 26-28), for He cares for them (vv. 29-33). Then follows a description of the age in which we live, a time of war rather than peace (34-36); of separation on the part of Christ's followers (vv. 37, 38), and yet with the prospect of a bright recompense (vv. 39-42). Modern research throws light on a chapter like this. Take verses 9 and 10. Upon a monument at Kefr-Hanar in Syria, during this same period, one who calls himself "a slave" of the Syrian goddess tells of his begging journeys in her services, and uses the word for his collecting-bag here translated "scrip." He boasts that "each journey brought in seventy bags." The contrast with the followers of Christ is marked, who were neither to earn nor beg as they went forth with speed to herald His coming., Habershon.
Verse twelve is capable of two interpretations, an external and an internal one. In the first, the enemies of Jesus and John are the "violent" who are rejecting the Kingdom by force; in the second, the "violent" are those who in face of the opposition are pressing into the Kingdom. A description of that generation follows as a foolish one (vv. 16-19), but there were some who believed and are referred to in the words "wisdom is justified of her children." As the judge of that generation our Lord now speaks (vv. 20-27). "Woe," is heard for the first time. In the coming day there will be different degrees of punishment (vv. 22, 24), responsibility being gauged by privilege.
From the "wise and prudent" in their own eyes, i.e., the self-righteous Pharisees, these things were hidden, but were revealed unto "babes," the poor in spirit conscious of their need (v. 25). Our Lord now turns toward these in verses 28-30, in which he offers no longer the Kingdom, but rest and service to them that come to Him. Practically He has been rejected by the nation, and is approaching the turning point in His ministry, when the proclamation of the Kingdom shall cease.
As He is departing, the incident of 22-30 takes place, when He is again charged as the representative of Satan (v. 24, compared with 9:34). The blasphemy against the Holy Ghost consists in attributing His work to Satan (vv. 31, 32). "A word against the Son of Man" might be forgiven, for the Holy Spirit still remained to convict one of that sin by testifying to Christ. But when the testimony of the Holy Spirit to Christ was rejected as in this case, there was no hope left.
The opposition increases by the demand for a sign (vv. 38-42). Had He not given sufficient signs? Jonah is a type of His own death and resurrection and He will give him as a sign. The Queen of Sheba is another sign. But Israel is like a man out of whom a demon had gone of his own accord, and comes back to find the place unoccupied and brings seven other worse spirits to fill the former abode. The nation, in other words, had been cured of idolatry by the Babylonian captivity, but now it was boasting of forms and ceremonies, traditions and self-righteousness. It was empty so far as the fear of Jehovah was concerned, and by and by the evil spirit would return, and the end of Israel, i.e., the period of the tribulation, would be worse than the first.
The Lord is rejected even by His family, as we judge by comparing the closing verses of this chapter with the reason in Mark 3:21. He declines to see them, and intimates the formation of a new family of faith.
Questions 1. What is an essential qualification for an apostle? 2. What is the limitation of the apostles' commission at this time? 3. How does that limitation affect the teaching of chapter 10? 4. How may "violent" be interpreted in chapter 11? 5. On what principle will future retribution be rendered? 6. What is the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost? 7. How would you explain verses 43-45? 8. How would you explain Jesus' reference to His mother and His brethren?
Another comment of interest is the order of the appearances of Jesus on this day.
In dividing the chapter we have
We can only touch upon the most important things, one of which is Christ's reference to His disciples as His "brethren" (v. 10). For the first time does he use that word in such connection, showing that until His death and resurrection on their behalf the relationship had not become possible. (Compare Ps. 22: 22 and Heb. 2:11, 12.) Another important thing is verse 13, "Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole Him away while we slept."
We give excerpts from Gaebelein on this verse:
"The watch recover from their fright, and some hasten to the city. Surely something happened or why should they leave their post to make a report? Then it is strange they went to the priests first and not the Roman governor. This was an irregular proceeding, from which we conclude that what they had to report was of greater importance for the priests than Pilate. Who knows but these priests had instructed the guard that if He should come forth they were to come to them first of all? Their report was a witness of the resurrection and that the tomb was empty."
"The Sanhedrin was hastily summoned to receive the report in an offical way. The straightforward statement, as men of military training are apt to report, made doubt about veracity impossible. To impeach them would have been insane. But what would happen if this truth got out among the people?"
"The resurrection must be denied which could only be by inventing a lie. The only possible lie was that His disciples stole the body. The story is incredible. It is easier to believe He arose from the dead than to believe what the Jews invented about His resurrection. The disciples had forgotten about the resurrection promised and they were a scattered, poor, timid lot of people. But even if they had been anxious to steal the body, how could they have done it? Here was the company of armed men. Then there was the sealed, heavy stone."
"But the ridiculous side of the lie came out with the report the soldiers were to circulate. The disciples came and stole the body, while they were sleeping! It is incredible that all these men had fallen asleep at the same time, and so fast asleep that the commotion of rolling away the stone and the carrying away of the dead did not disturb them. Furthermore, sleeping at a post meant death for the Roman soldier. One might have nodded and risked his life, but that all slept is an impossiblity. But the report is foolish; they were asleep, and while asleep witnessed how the disciples stole the body of Jesus! It was a miserable lie, and is continued to the present day."
We might mention here the testimony of Josephus, who says in his Antiquities: "He appeared to them alive on the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning Him."
A third matter of importance is the "Great Commission" as it is called (vv. 19, 20). Note the word "Name" as indicative of the Trinity. It is not names but "Name." "Father, Son and Holy Spirit is the final name of the one true God. The conjunction in one name of the three affirms equality and oneness of substance."
Note the peculiarity of the terms. This is the Kingdom commission, as another expresses it, not the Christian commission. The latter is in Luke, distinctively the Gentile Gospel, but not here, which is distinctively the Jewish Gospel. And this is all the more remarkable because in Luke, the disciples are commanded to go to the Jews (24:47), while here they are commanded to go to "all nations." It points to the close of the age when the commission will be carried out by the faithful remnant of the Jews so often spoken about. It has not yet been carried out. The story of the Acts is not its fulfilment. Its accomplishment has been interrupted, but will be taken up before the Lord comes to deliver Israel at the last.
Questions 1. Repeat the order of the events on the day of resurrection. 2. Do the same with reference to the appearances of Jesus. 3. Divide the chapter into three parts. 4. How would you answer the argument that the disciples stole the body of Jesus? 5. What is the significance of the word "Name" in the "Great Commission"? 6. How do you distinguish the "Commission" in Matthew from that in Luke?
The earliest Christian communities looked upon the books of the Old Testament as Sacred Scripture, and read them at their religious assemblies. That the Gospels, which contained the words of Christ and the narrative of His life, soon enjoyed the same authority as the Old Testament, is made clear by Hegesippus (Eusebius, "Hist. eccl.", IV, xxii, 3), who tells us that in every city the Christians were faithful to the teachings of the law, the prophets, and the Lord. A book was acknowledged as canonical when the Church regarded it as Apostolic, and had it read at her assemblies. Hence, to establish the canonicity of the Gospel according to St. Matthew, we must investigate primitive Christian tradition for the use that was made of this document, and for indications proving that it was regarded as Scripture in the same manner as the Books of the Old Testament. The first traces that we find of it are not indubitable, because post-Apostolic writers quoted the texts with a certain freedom, and principally because it is difficult to say whether the passages thus quoted were taken from oral tradition or from a written Gospel. The first Christian document whose date can be fixed with comparative certainty (95-98), is the Epistle of St. Clement to the Corinthians. It contains sayings of the Lord which closely resemble those recorded in the First Gospel (Clement, 16:17 = Matthew 11:29; Clem., 24:5 = Matthew 13:3), but it is possible that they are derived from Apostolic preaching, as, in chapter xiii, 2, we find a mixture of sentences from Matthew, Luke, and an unknown source. Again, we note a similar commingling of Evangelical texts elsewhere in the same Epistle of Clement, in the Doctrine of the Twelve Apostles, in the Epistle of Polycarp, and in Clement of Alexandria. Whether these these texts were thus combined in oral tradition or emanated from a collection of Christ's utterances, we are unable to say.
The Epistles of St. Ignatius (martyred 110-17) contain no literal quotation from the Holy Books; nevertheless, St. Ignatius borrowed expressions and some sentences from Matthew ("Ad Polyc.", 2:2 = Matthew 10:16; "Ephesians", 14:2 = Matthew 12:33, etc.). In his "Epistle to the Philadelphians" (v, 12), he speaks of the Gospel in which he takes refuge as in the Flesh of Jesus; consequently, he had an evangelical collection which he regarded as Sacred Writ, and we cannot doubt that the Gospel of St. Matthew formed part of it.
In the Epistle of Polycarp (110-17), we find various passages from St. Matthew quoted literally (12:3 = Matthew 5:44; 7:2 = Matthew 26:41, etc.). The Doctrine of the Twelve Apostles (Didache) contains sixty-six passages that recall the Gospel of Matthew; some of them are literal quotations (8:2 = Matthew 6:7-13; 7:1 = Matthew 28:19; 11:7 = Matthew 12:31, etc.). In the so-called Epistle of Barnabas (117-30), we find a passage from St. Matthew (xxii, 14), introduced by the scriptural formula, os gegraptai, which proves that the author considered the Gospel of Matthew equal in point of authority to the writings of the Old Testament.
The "Shepherd of Hermas" has several passages which bear close resemblance to passages of Matthew, but not a single literal quotation from it. In his "Dialogue" (xcix, 8), St. Justin quotes, almost literally, the prayer of Christ in the Garden of Olives, in Matthew, xxvi, 39,40. A great number of passages in the writings of St. Justin recall the Gospel of Matthew, and prove that he ranked it among the Memoirs of the Apostles which, he said, were called Gospels (I Apol., lxvi), were read in the services of the Church (ibid., i), and were consequently regarded as Scripture.
In his "Legatio pro christianis", xii, 11, Athenagoras (117) quotes almost literally sentences taken from the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:44). Theophilus of Antioch (Ad Autol., III, xiii-xiv) quotes a passage from Matthew (v, 28, 32), and, according to St. Jerome (In Matt. Prol.), wrote a commentary on the Gospel of St. Matthew.
We find in the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs--drawn up, according to some critics, about the middle of the second century--numerous passages that closely resemble the Gospel of Matthew (Test. Gad, 5:3; 6:6; 5:7 = Matthew 18:15, 35; Test. Joshua 1:5, 6 = Matthew 25:35-36, etc.), but Dr. Charles maintains that the Testaments were written in Hebrew in the first century before Jesus Christ, and translated into Greek towards the middle of the same century. In this event, the Gospel of Matthew would depend upon the Testaments and not the Testaments upon the Gospel. The question is not yet settled, but it seems to us that there is a greater probability that the Testaments, at least in their Greek version, are of later date than the Gospel of Matthew, they certainly received numerous Christian additions.
The Greek text of the Clementine Homilies contains some quotations from Matthew (Hom. 3:52 = Matthew 15:13); in Hom. xviii, 15, the quotation from Matthew 13:35, is literal.
Passages which suggest the Gospel of Matthew might be quoted from heretical writings of the second century and from apocryphal gospels--the Gospel of Peter, the Protoevangelium of James, etc., in which the narratives, to a considerable extent, are derived from the Gospel of Matthew.
Tatian incorporated the Gospel of Matthew in his "Diatesseron"; we shall quote below the testimonies of Papias and St. Irenæus. For the latter, the Gospel of Matthew, from which he quotes numerous passages, was one of the four that constituted the quadriform Gospel dominated by a single spirit. Tertullian (Adv. Marc., IV, ii) asserts, that the "Instrumentum evangelicum" was composed by the Apostles, and mentions Matthew as the author of a Gospel (De carne Christi, xii).
Clement of Alexandria (Strom., III, xiii) speaks of the four Gospels that have been transmitted, and quotes over three hundred passages from the Gospel of Matthew, which he introduces by the formula, en de to kata Maththaion euaggelio or by phesin ho kurios.
It is unnecessary to pursue our inquiry further. About the middle of the third century, the Gospel of Matthew was received by the whole Christian Church as a Divinely inspired document, and consequently as canonical. The testimony of Origen ("In Matt.", quoted by Eusebius, "Hist. eccl.", III, xxv, 4), of Eusebius (op. cit., III, xxiv, 5; xxv, 1), and of St. Jerome ("De Viris Ill.", iii, "Prolog. in Matt.,") are explicit in this repsect. It might be added that this Gospel is found in the most ancient versions: Old Latin, Syriac, and Egyptian. Finally, it stands at the head of the Books of the New Testament in the Canon of the Council of Laodicea (363) and in that of St. Athanasius (326-73), and very probably it was in the last part of the Muratorian Canon. Furthermore, the canonicity of the Gospel of St. Matthew is accepted by the entire Christian world.
II. AUTHENTICITY OF THE FIRST GOSPEL
The question of authenticity assumes an altogether special aspect in regard to the First Gospel. The early Christian writers assert that St. Matthew wrote a Gospel in Hebrew; this Hebrew Gospel has, however, entirely disappeared, and the Gospel which we have, and from which ecclesiastical writers borrow quotations as coming from the Gospel of Matthew, is in Greek. What connection is there between this Hebrew Gospel and this Greek Gospel, both of which tradition ascribes to St. Matthew? Such is the problem that presents itself for solution. Let us first examine the facts.
A. TESTIMONY OF TRADITION
According to Eusebius (Hist. eccl., 111, xxxix, 16), Papias said that Matthew collected (synetaxato; or, according to two manuscripts, synegraphato, composed) ta logia (the oracles or maxims of Jesus) in the Hebrew (Aramaic) language, and that each one translated them as best he could.
Three questions arise in regard to this testimony of Papias on Matthew: (1) What does the word logia signify? Does it mean only detached sentences or sentences incorporated in a narrative, that is to say, a Gospel such as that of St. Matthew? Among classical writers, logion, the diminutive of logos, signifies the "answer of oracles", a "prophecy"; in the Septuagint and in Philo, "oracles of God" (ta deka logia, the Ten Commandments). It sometimes has a broader meaning and seems to include both facts and sayings. In the New Testament the signification of the word logion is doubtful, and if, strictly speaking, it may be claimed to indicate teachings and narratives, the meaning "oracles" is the more natural. However, writers contemporary with Papias--e.g. St. Clement of Rome (Ad Cor., liii), St. Irenæus (Adv. Hær., I, viii, 2), Clement of Alexandria (Strom., I, cccxcii), and Origen (De Princip., IV, xi)--have used it to designate facts and savings. The work of Papias was entitled "Exposition of the Oracles" [logion] of the Lord", and it also contained narratives (Eusebius, "Hist. eccl.", III, xxxix, 9). On the other hand, speaking of the Gospel of Mark, Papias says that this Evangelist wrote all that Christ had said and done, but adds that he established no connection between the Lord's sayings (suntaxin ton kuriakon logion). We may believe that here logion comprises all that Christ said and did. Nevertheless, it would seem that, if the two passages on Mark and Matthew followed each other in Papias as in Eusebius, the author intended to emphasize a difference between them, by implying that Mark recorded the Lord's words and deeds and Matthew chronicled His discourses. The question is still unsolved; it is, however, possible that, in Papias, the term logia means deeds and teachings.
(2) Second, does Papias refer to oral or written translations of Matthew, when he says that each one translated the sayings "as best he could"? As there is nowhere any allusion to numerous Greek translations of the Logia of Matthew, it is probable that Papias speaks here of the oral translations made at Christian meetings, similar to the extemporaneous translations of the Old Testament made in the synagogues. This would explain why Papias mentions that each one (each reader) translated "as best he could".
(3) Finally, were the Logia of Matthew and the Gospel to which ecclesiastical writers refer written in Hebrew or Aramaic? Both hypotheses are held. Papias says that Matthew wrote the Logia in the Hebrew (Hebraidi) language; St. Irenæus and Eusebius maintain that he wrote his gospel for the Hebrews in their national language, and the same assertion is found in several writers. Matthew would, therefore, seem to have written in modernized Hebrew, the language then used by the scribes for teaching. But, in the time of Christ, the national language of the Jews was Aramaic, and when, in the New Testament, there is mention of the Hebrew language (Hebrais dialektos), it is Aramaic that is implied. Hence, the aforesaid writers may allude to the Aramaic and not to the Hebrew. Besides, as they assert, the Apostle Matthew wrote his Gospel to help popular teaching. To be understood by his readers who spoke Aramaic, he would have had to reproduce the original catechesis in this language, and it cannot be imagined why, or for whom, he should have taken the trouble to write it in Hebrew, when it would have had to be translated thence into Aramaic for use in religious services.
Moreover, Eusebius (Hist. eccl., III, xxiv, 6) tells us that the Gospel of Matthew was a reproduction of his preaching, and this we know, was in Aramaic. An investigation of the Semitic idioms observed in the Gospel does not permit us to conclude as to whether the original was in Hebrew or Aramaic, as the two languages are so closely related. Besides, it must be home in mind that the greater part of these Semitisms simply reproduce colloquial Greek and are not of Hebrew or Aramaic origin. However, we believe the second hypothesis to be the more probable, viz., that Matthew wrote his Gospel in Aramaic.
Let us now recall the testimony of the other ecclesiastical writers on the Gospel of St. Matthew. St. Irenæus (Adv. Haer., III, i, 2) affirms that Matthew published among the Hebrews a Gospel which he wrote in their own language. Eusebius (Hist. eccl., V, x, 3) says that, in India, Pantænus found the Gospel according to St. Matthew written in the Hebrew language, the Apostle Bartholomew having left it there. Again, in his "Hist. eccl." (VI xxv, 3, 4), Eusebius tells us that Origen, in his first book on the Gospel of St. Matthew, states that he has learned from tradition that the First Gospel was written by Matthew, who, having composed it in Hebrew, published it for the converts from Judaism. According to Eusebius (Hist. eccl., III, xxiv, 6), Matthew preached first to the Hebrews and, when obliged to go to other countries, gave them his Gospel written in his native tongue. St. Jerome has repeatedly declared that Matthew wrote his Gospel in Hebrew ("Ad Damasum", xx; "Ad Hedib.", iv), but says that it is not known with certainty who translated it into Greek. St. Cyril of Jerusalem, St. Gregory of Nazianzus, St. Epiphanius, St. John Chrysostom, St. Augustine, etc., and all the commentators of the Middle Ages repeat that Matthew wrote his Gospel in Hebrew. Erasmus was the first to express doubts on this subject: "It does not seem probable to me that Matthew wrote in Hebrew, since no one testifies that he has seen any trace of such a volume." This is not accurate, as St. Jerome uses Matthew's Hebrew text several times to solve difficulties of interpretation, which proves that he had it at hand. Pantænus also had it, as, according to St. Jerome ("De Viris Ill.", xxxvi), he brought it back to Alexandria. However, the testimony of Pantænus is only second-hand, and that of Jerome remains rather ambiguous, since in neither case is it positively known that the writer did not mistake the Gospel according to the Hebrews (written of course in Hebrew) for the Hebrew Gospel of St. Matthew. However all ecclesiastical writers assert that Matthew wrote his Gospel in Hebrew, and, by quoting the Greek Gospel and ascribing it to Matthew, thereby affirm it to be a translation of the Hebrew Gospel.
B. EXAMINATION OF THE GREEK GOSPEL OF ST. MATTHEW
Our chief object is to ascertain whether the characteristics of the Greek Gospel indicate that it is a translation from the Aramaic, or that it is an original document; but, that we may not have to revert to the peculiarities of the Gospel of Matthew, we shall here treat them in full.
(1) The Language of the Gospel
St. Matthew used about 1475 words, 137 of which are apax legomena (words used by him alone of all the New Testament writers). Of these latter 76 are classical; 21 are found in the Septuagint; 15 (battologein biastes, eunouchizein etc.) were introduced for the first time by Matthew, or at least he was the first writer in whom they were discovered; 8 words (aphedon, gamizein, etc.) were employed for the first time by Matthew and Mark, and 15 others (ekchunesthai, epiousios, etc.) by Matthew and another New Testament writer. It is probable that, at the time of the Evangelist, all these words were in current use. Matthew's Gospel contains many peculiar expressions which help to give decided colour to his style. Thus, he employs thirty-four times the expression basileia ton ouranon; this is never found in Mark and Luke, who, in parallel passages, replace it by basileia tou theou, which also occurs four times in Matthew. We must likewise note the expressions: ho pater ho epouranions, ho en tois ouranois, sunteleia tou alonos, sunairein logon, eipein ti kata tinos, mechri tes semeron, poiesai os, osper, en ekeino to kairo, egeiresthai apo, etc.
The same terms often recur: tote (90 times), apo tote, kai idou etc. He adopts the Greek form Ierisiluma for Jerusalem, and not Ierousaleu, which he uses but once. He has a predilection for the preposition apo, using it even when Mark and Luke use ek, and for the expression uios David. Moreover, Matthew is fond of repeating a phrase or a special construction several times within quite a short interval (cf. ii, 1, 13, and 19; iv, 12, 18, and v, 2; viii, 2-3 and 28; ix, 26 and 31; xiii, 44, 4.5, and 47, etc.). Quotations from the Old Testament are variously introduced, as: outos, kathos gegraptai, ina, or opos, plerothe to rethen uto Kuriou dia tou prophetou, etc.
These peculiarities of language, especially the repetition of the same words and expressions, would indicate that the Greek Gospel was an original rather than a translation, and this is confirmed by the paronomasiæ (battologein, polulogia; kophontai kai ophontai, etc.), which ought not to have been found in the Aramaic, by the employment of the genitive absolute, and, above all, by the linking of clauses through the use of men . . . oe, a construction that is peculiarly Greek. However, let us observe that these various characteristics prove merely that the writer was thoroughly conversant with his language, and that he translated his text rather freely.
Besides, these same characteristics are noticeable in Christ's sayings, as well as in the narratives, and, as these utterances were made in Aramaic, they were consequently translated; thus, the construction men . . . de (except in one instance) and all the examples of paronomasia occur in discourses of Christ. The fact that the genitive absolute is used mainly in the narrative portions, only denotes that the latter were more freely translated; besides, Hebrew possesses an analogous grammatical construction. On the other hand, a fair number of Hebraisms are noticed in Matthew's Gospel (ouk eginosken auten, omologesei en emoi, el exestin, ti emin kai soi, etc.), which favour the belief that the original was Aramaic. Still, it remains to be proved that these Hebraisms are not colloquial Greek expressions.
(2) General Character of the Gospel
Distinct unity of plan, an artificial arrangement of subject-matter, and a simple, easy style--much purer than that of Mark--suggest an original rather than a translation. When the First Gospel is compared with books translated from the Hebrew, such as those of the Septuagint, a marked difference is at once apparent. The original Hebrew shines through every line of the latter, whereas, in the First Gospel Hebraisms are comparatively rare, and are merely such as might be looked for in a book written by a Jew and reproducing Jewish teaching. However, these observations are not conclusive in favour of a Greek original. In the first place, the unity of style that prevails throughout the book, would rather prove that we have a translation. It is certain that a good portion of the matter existed first in Aramaic--at all events, the sayings of Christ, and thus almost three-quarters of the Gospel. Consequently, these at least the Greek writer has translated.
And, since no difference in language and style can be detected between the sayings of Christ and the narratives that are claimed to have been composed in Greek, it would seem that these latter are also translated from the Aramaic. This conclusion is based on the fact that they are of the same origin as the discourses. The unity of plan and the artificial arrangement of subject-matter could as well have been made in Matthew's Aramaic as in the Greek document; the fine Greek construction, the lapidary style, the elegance and good order claimed as characteristic of the Gospel, are largely a matter of opinion, the proof being that critics do not agree on this question. Although the phraseology is not more Hebraic than in the other Gospels, still it not much less so. To sum up, from the literary examination of the Greek Gospel no certain conclusion can be drawn against the existence of a Hebrew Gospel of which our First Gospel would be a translation; and inversely, this examination does not prove the Greek Gospel to be a translation of an Aramaic original.
(3) Quotations from the Old Testament
It is claimed that most of the quotations from the Old Testament are borrowed from the Septuagint, and that this fact proves that the Gospel of Matthew was composed in Greek. The first proposition is not accurate, and, even if it were, it would not necessitate this conclusion. Let us examine the facts. As established by Stanton ("The Gospels as Historical Documents", II, Cambridge, 1909, p. 342), the quotations from the Old Testament in the First Gospel are divided into two classes. In the first are ranged all those quotations the object of which is to show that the prophecies have been realized in the events of the life of Jesus. They are introduced by the words: "Now all this was done that it might be fulfilled which the Lord spoke by the prophet," or other similar expressions. The quotations of this class do not in general correspond exactly with any particular text.
Three among them (ii, 15; viii, 17; xxvii, 9, 10) are borrowed from the Hebrew; five (ii, 18; iv, 15, 16; xii, 18-21; xiii, 35; xxi, 4, 5) bear points of resemblance to the Septuagint, but were not borrowed from that version. In the answer of the chief priests and scribes to Herod (ii, 6), the text of the Old Testament is slightly modified, without, however, conforming either to the Hebrew or the Septuagint. The Prophet Micheas writes (v, 2): "And thou Bethlehem, Ephrata, art a little one among the thousands of Juda"; whereas Matthew says (ii, 6): "And thou Bethlehem the land of Juda art not the least among the princes of Juda". A single quotation of this first class (iii, 3) conforms to the Septuagint, and another (i, 23) is almost conformable. These quotations are to be referred to the first Evangelist himself, and relate to facts, principally to the birth of Jesus (i, ii), then to the mission of John the Baptist, the preaching of the Gospel by Jesus in Galilee, the miracles of Jesus, etc. It is surprising that the narratives of the Passion and the Resurrection of Our Lord, the fulfilment of the very clear and numerous prophecies of the Old Testament, should never be brought into relation with these prophecies.
Many critics, e.g. Burkitt and Stanton, think that the quotations of the first class are borrowed from a collection of Messianic passages, Stanton being of opinion that they were accompanied by the event that constituted their realization. This "catena of fulfilments of prophecy", as he calls it, existed originally in Aramaic, but whether the author of the First Gospel had a Greek translation of it is uncertain. The second class of quotations from the Old Testament is chiefly composed of those repeated either by the Lord or by His interrogators. Except in two passages, they are introduced by one of the formula: "It is written"; "As it is written"; "Have you not read?" "Moses said". Where Matthew alone quotes the Lord's words, the quotation is sometimes borrowed from the Septuagint (v, 21 a, 27, 38), or, again, it is a free translation which we are unable to refer to any definite text (v, 21 b, 23, 43). In those Passages where Matthew runs parallel with Mark and Luke or with either of them, all the quotations save one (xi, 10) are taken almost literally from the Septuagint.
(4) Analogy to the Gospels of St. Mark and St. Luke
From a first comparison of the Gospel of Matthew with the two other Synoptic Gospels we find
that 330 verses are peculiar to it alone; that it has between 330 and 370 in common with both the others, from 170 to 180 with Mark's, and from 230 to 240 with Luke's;
that in like parts the same ideas are expressed sometimes in identical and sometimes in different terms; that Matthew and Mark most frequently use the same expressions, Matthew seldom agreeing with Luke against Mark. The divergence in their use of the same expressions is in the number of a noun or the use of two different tenses of the same verb. The construction of sentences is at times identical and at others different.
That the order of narrative is, with certain exceptions which we shall later indicate, almost the same in Matthew, Mark, and Luke.
These facts indicate that the three Synoptists are not independent of one another. They borrow their subject-matter from the same oral source or else from the same written documents. To declare oneself upon this alternative, it would be necessary to treat the synoptic question, and on this critics have not vet agreed. We shall, therefore, restrict ourselves to what concerns the Gospel of St. Matthew. From a second comparison of this Gospel with Mark and Luke we ascertain:
that Mark is to be found almost complete in Matthew, with certain divergences which we shall note;
that Matthew records many of our Lord's discourses in common with Luke;
that Matthew has special passages which are unknown to Mark and Luke.
Let us examine these three points in detail, in an endeavour to learn how the Gospel of Matthew was composed.
(a) Analogy to Mark
Mark is found complete in Matthew, with the exception of numerous slight omissions and the following pericopes: Mark, i, 23-28, 35-39; iv, 26-29; vii, 32-36; viii, 22-26; ix, 39, 40; xii, 41-44. In all, 31 verses are omitted. The general order is identical except that, in chapters v-xiii, Matthew groups facts of the same nature and savings conveying the same ideas. Thus, in Matthew 8:1-15, we have three miracles that are separated in Mark; in Matthew 8:23-9:9, there are gathered together incidents otherwise arranged in Mark, etc. Matthew places sentences in a different environment from that given them by Mark. For instance, in 5:15, Matthew inserts a verse occurring in Mark 4:21, that should have been placed after 13:23, etc.
In Matthew the narrative is usually shorter because he suppresses a great number of details. Thus, in Mark, we read: "And the wind ceased: and there was made a great calm", whereas in Matthew the first part of the sentence is omitted. All unnecessary particulars are dispensed with, such as the numerous picturesque features and indications of time, place, and number, in which Mark's narrative abounds.
Sometimes, however, Matthew is the more detailed. Thus, in 12:22-45, he gives more of Christ's discourse than we find in Mark, iii, 20-30, and has in addition a dialogue between Jesus and the scribes. In chapter xiii, Matthew dwells at greater length than Mark, iv, upon the object of the parables, and introduces those of the cockle and the leaven, neither of which Mark records. Moreover, Our Lord's apocalyptic discourse is much longer in Matthew, xxiv-xxv (97 verses), than in Mark, xiii (37 verses).
Changes of terms or divergences in the mode of expression are extremely frequent. Thus, Matthew often uses eutheos, when Mark has euthus; men . . . de, instead of kai, as in Mark, etc.; the aorist instead of the imperfect employed by Mark. He avoids double negatives and the construction of the participle with eimi; his style is more correct and less harsh than that of Mark; he resolves Mark's compound verbs, and replaces by terms in current use the rather unusual expressions introduced by Mark, etc.
He is free from the lack of precision which, to a slight extent, characterizes Mark. Thus, Matthew says "the tetrarch" and not "the king" as Mark does, in speaking of Herod Antipas; "on the third day" instead.of "in three days". At times the changes are more important. Instead of "Levi, son of Alpheus," he says: "a man named Matthew"; he mentions two demoniacs and two blind persons, whereas Mark mentions only one of each, etc.
Matthew extenuates or omits everything which, in Mark, might be construed in a sense derogatory to the Person of Christ or unfavourable to the disciples. Thus, in speaking of Jesus, he suppresses the following phrases: "And looking round about on them with anger" (Mark 3:5); "And when his friends had heard of it, they went out to lay hold on him. For they said: He is beside himself" (Mark 3:21), etc. Speaking of the disciples, he does not say, like Mark, that "they understood not the word, and they were afraid to ask him" (ix, 3 1; cf. viii, 17, 18); or that the disciples were in a state of profound amazement, because "they understood not concerning the loaves; for their heart was blinded" (vi, 52), etc.
He likewise omits whatever might shock his readers, as the saying of the Lord recorded by Mark: "The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath" (ii, 27). Omissions or alterations of this kind are very numerous. It must, however, be remarked that between Matthew and Mark there are many points of resemblance in the construction of sentences (Matthew 9:6; Mark 2:10; Matthew 26:47 = Mark 14:43, etc.); in their mode of expression, often unusual. and in short phrases (Matthew 9:16 = Mark 2:21; Matthew 16:28 = Mark 9:1; Matthew 20:25 = Mark 10:42); in some pericopes, narratives, or discourses, where the greater part of the terms are identical (Matthew 4:18-22; Mark 1:16-20; Matthew 26:36-38 = Mark 14:32-34; Matthew 9:5-6 = Mark 2:9-11), etc.
(b) Analogy to Luke
A comparison of Matthew and Luke reveals that they have but one narrative in common, viz., the cure of the centurion's servant (Matthew 8:5-13 = Luke 7:1-10). The additional matter common to these Evangelists, consists of the discourses and sayings of Christ. In Matthew His discourses are usually gathered together, whereas in Luke they are more frequently scattered. Nevertheless, Matthew and Luke have in common the following discourses: the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7, the Sermon in the Plain, Luke 6); the Lord's exhortation to His disciples whom He sends forth on a mission (Matthew 10:19-20, 26-33 = Luke 12:11-12, 2-9); the discourse on John the Baptist (Matthew 11 = Luke 7); the discourse on the Last Judgment (Matthew 24; Luke 17). Moreover, these two Evangelists possess in common a large number of detached sentences, e.g., Matt., iii, 7b-19, 12 = Luke. iii, 7b-9, 17; Matt., iv, 3-11 = Luke, iv, 3-13; Matt., ix, 37, 38 = Luke x, 2; Matt., xii, 43-45 = Luke, xi, 24-26 etc. (cf. Rushbrooke, "Synopticon", pp. 134-70).
However, in these parallel passages of Matthew and Luke there are numerous differences of expression, and even some divergences in ideas or in the manner of their presentation. It is only necessary to recall the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12 = Luke 6:20b-25): in Matthew there are eight beatitudes, whereas in Luke there are only four, which, while approximating to Matthew's In point of conception, differ from them in general form and expression. In addition to having in common parts that Mark has not, Matthew and Luke sometimes agree against Mark in parallel narratives. There have been counted 240 passages wherein Matthew and Luke harmonize with each other, but disagree with Mark in the way of presenting events, and particularly in the use of the same terms and the same grammatical emendations. Matthew and Luke omit the very pericopes that occur in Mark.
(c) Parts peculiar to Matthew
These are numerous, as Matthew has 330 verses that are distinctly his own. Sometimes long passages occur, such as those recording the Nativity and early Childhood (i, ii), the cure of the two blind men and one dumb man (ix, 27-34), the death of Judas (xxvii, 3-10), the guard placed at the Sepulchre (xxvii, 62-66), the imposture of the chief priests (xxviii, 11-15), the apparition of Jesus in Galilee (xxviii, 16-20), a great portion of the Sermon on the Mount (v, 17-37; vi, 1-8; vii, 12-23), parables (xiii, 24-30; 35-53; xxv, 1-13), the Last Judgment (xxv, 31-46), etc., and sometimes detached sentences, as in xxiii, 3, 28, 33; xxvii, 25, etc. (cf. Rushbrooke, "Synopticon", pp.171-97). Those passages in which Matthew reminds us that facts in the life of Jesus are the fulfilment of the prophecies, are likewise noted as peculiar to him, but of this we have already spoken.
These various considerations have given rise to a great number of hypotheses, varying in detail, but agreeing fundamentally. According to the majority of present critics--H. Holtzmann, Wendt, Jülicher, Wernle, von Soden, Wellhausen, Harnack, B. Weiss, Nicolardot, W. Allen, Montefiore, Plummer, and Stanton--the author of the First Gospel used two documents: the Gospel of Mark in its present or in an earlier form, and a collection of discourses or sayings, which is designated by the letter Q. The repetitions occurring in Matthew (v, 29, 30 = xviii, 8, 9; v, 32 xix, 9; x, 22a = xxiv, 9b; xii, 39b = xvi, 4a, etc.) may be explained by the fact that two sources furnished the writer with material for his Gospel. Furthermore, Matthew used documents of his own. In this hypothesis the Greek Gospel is supposed to be original. and not the translation of a complete Aramaic Gospel. It is admitted that the collection of sayings was originally Aramaic, but it is disputed whether the Evangelist had it in this form or in that of a Greek translation.
Critics also differ regarding the manner in which Matthew used the sources. Some would have it that Matthew the Apostle was not the author of the First Gospel, but merely the collector of the sayings of Christ mentioned by Papias. "However", says Jülicher, "the author's individuality is so strikingly evident in his style and tendencies that it is impossible to consider the Gospel a mere compilation". Most critics are of a like opinion. Endeavours have been made to reconcile the information furnished by tradition with the facts resulting from the study of the Gospel as follows: Matthew was known to have collected in Aramaic the sayings of Christ, and, on the other hand, there existed at the beginning of the second century a Gospel containing the narratives found in Mark and the sayings gathered by Matthew in Aramaic. It is held that the Greek Gospel ascribed to Matthew is a translation of it, made by him or by other translators whose names it was later attempted to ascertain.
To safeguard tradition further, while taking into consideration the facts we have already noted, it might be supposed that the three Synoptists worked upon the same catechesis, either oral or written and originally in Aramaic, and that they had detached portions of this catechesis, varying in literary condition. The divergences may be explained first by this latter fact, and then by the hypothesis of different translations and by each Evangelist's peculiar method of treating the subject-matter, Matthew and Luke especially having adapted it to the purpose of their Gospel. There is nothing to prevent the supposition that Matthew worked on the Aramaic catechesis; the literary emendations of Mark's text by Matthew may have been due to the translator, who was more conversant with Greek than was the popular preacher who furnished the catechesis reproduced by Mark. In reality, the only difficulty lies in explaining the similarity of style between Matthew and Mark. First of all, we may observe that the points of resemblance are less numerous than they are said to be. As we have seen, they are very rare in the narratives at all events, much more so than in the discourses of Christ.
Why, then, should we not suppose that the three Synoptists, depending upon the same Aramaic catechesis, sometimes agreed in rendering similar Aramaic expressions in the same Greek words? It is also possible to suppose that sayings of Christ, which in the three Synoptic Gospels (or in two of them) differed only in a few expressions, were unified by copyists or other persons. To us it seems probable that Matthew's Greek translator used Mark's Greek Gospel, especially for Christ's discourses. Luke, also, may have similarly utilized Matthew's Greek Gospel in rendering the discourses of Christ. Finally, even though we should suppose that Matthew were the author only of the Logia, the full scope of which we do not know, and that a part of his Greek Gospel is derived from that of Mark, we would still have a right to ascribe this First Gospel to Matthew as its principal author.
Other hypotheses have been put forth. In Zahn's opinion, Matthew wrote a complete Gospel in Aramaic; Mark was familiar with this document, which he used while abridging it. Matthew's Greek translator utilized Mark, but only for form, whereas Luke depended upon Mark and secondary sources, but was not acquainted with Matthew. According to Belser, Matthew first wrote his Gospel in Hebrew, a Greek translation of it being made in 59-60, and Mark depended on Matthew's Aramaic document and Peter's preaching. Luke made use of Mark, of Matthew (both in Aramaic and Greek), and also of oral tradition. According to Camerlynck and Coppieters, the First Gospel in its present form was composed either by Matthew or some other Apostolic writer long before the end of the first century, by combining the Aramaic work of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke.
III. PLAN AND CONTENTS OF THE FIRST GOSPEL
The author did not wish to compose a biography of Christ, but to demonstrate, by recording His words and the deeds of His life, that He was the Messias, the Head and Founder of the Kingdom of God, and the promulgator of its laws. One can scarcely fail to recognize that, except in a few parts (e.g. the Childhood and the Passion), the arrangement of events and of discourses is artificial. Matthew usually combines facts and precepts of a like nature. Whatever the reason, he favours groups of three (thirty-eight of which may be counted)--three divisions in the genealogy of Jesus (i, 17), three temptations (iv, 1-11), three examples of justice (vi, 1-18), three cures (viii, 1-15), three parables of the seed (xiii, 1-32), three denials of Peter (xxvi, 69-75), etc.; of five (these are less numerous)--five long discourses (v-vii, 27; x; xiii, 1-52; xviii; xxiv-xxv), ending with the same formula (Kai egeneto, ote etelesen ho Iesous), five examples of the fulfilment of the law (v, 21-48), etc.; and of seven--seven parables (xiii), seven maledictions (xxiii), seven brethren (xxii, 25), etc. The First Gospel can be very naturally divided as follows:-
A. INTRODUCTION (1-2)
The genealogy of Jesus, the prediction of His Birth, the Magi, the Flight into Egypt, the Massacre of the Innocents, the return to Nazareth, and the life there.
B. THE PUBLIC MINISTRY OF JESUS (3-25)
This may be divided into three parts, according to the place where He exercised it.
(1) In Galilee (3-18)
(a) Preparation for the public ministry of Jesus (3:1 to 4:11)
John the Baptist, the Baptism of Jesus, the Temptation, the return to Galilee.
(b) The preaching of the Kingdom of God (4:17 to 18:35)
(1) the preparation of the Kingdom by the preaching of penance, the call of the disciples, and numerous cures (iv, 17-25), the promulgation of the code of the Kingdom of God in the Sermon on the Mount (v, I-vii, 29);
(2) the propagation of the Kingdom in Galilee (viii, I-xviii, 35). He groups together:
the deeds by which Jesus established that He was the Messias and the King of the Kingdom: various cures, the calming of the tempest, missionary journeys through the land, the calling of the Twelve Apostles, the principles that should guide them in their missionary travels (viii, 1-x, 42);
various teachings of Jesus called forth by circumstances: John's message and the Lord's answer, Christ's confutation of the false charges of the Pharisees, the departure and return of the unclean spirit (xi, 1-xii, 50);
finally, the parables of the Kingdom, of which Jesus makes known and explains the end (xiii, 3-52).
(3) Matthew then relates the different events that terminate the preaching in Galilee: Christ's visit to Nazareth (xiii, 53-58), the multiplication of the loaves, the walking on the lake, discussions with the Pharisees concerning legal purifications, the confession of Peter at Cæsarea, the Transfiguration of Jesus, prophecy regarding the Passion and Resurrection, and teachings on scandal, fraternal correction, and the forgiveness of injuries (xiv, 1-xviii, 35).
(2) Outside Galilee or the way to Jerusalem (19-20)
Jesus leaves Galilee and goes beyond the Jordan; He discusses divorce with the Pharisees; answers the rich young man, and teaches self-denial and the danger of wealth; explains by the parable of the labourers how the elect will be called; replies to the indiscreet question of the mother of the sons of Zebedee, and cures two blind men of Jericho.
(3) In Jerusalem (21-25)
Jesus makes a triumphal entry into Jerusalem; He curses the barren fig tree and enters into a dispute with the chief priests and the Pharisees who ask Him by what authority He has banished the sellers from the Temple, and answers them by the parables of the two sons, the murderous husbandmen, and the marriage of the king's son. New questions are put to Jesus concerning the tribute, the resurrection of the dead, and the greatest commandment. Jesus anathematizes the scribes and Pharisees and foretells the events that will precede and accompany the fall of Jerusalem and the end of the world.
C. THE PASSION AND THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS (26-28)
(1) The Passion (26-27)
Events are now hurrying to a close. The Sanhedrin plots for the death of Jesus, a woman anoints the feet of the Lord, and Judas betrays his Master. Jesus eats the pasch with His disciples and institutes the Eucharist. In the Garden of Olives, He enters upon His agony and offers up the sacrifice of His life. He is arrested and brought before the Sanhedrin. Peter denies Christ; Judas hangs himself. Jesus is condemned to death by Pilate and crucified; He is buried, and a guard is placed at the Sepulchre (xxvi, 1-xxvii, 66).
(2) The Resurrection (28)
Jesus rises the third day and appears first to the holy women at Jerusalem, then in Galilee to His disciples, whom He sends forth to propagate throughout the world the Kingdom of God.
IV. OBJECT AND DOCTRINAL TEACHING OF THE FIRST GOSPEL
Immediately after the descent of the Holy Ghost upon the Apostles, Peter preached that Jesus, crucified and risen, was the Messias, the Saviour of the World, and proved this assertion by relating the life, death, and resurrection of the Lord. This was the first Apostolic teaching, and was repeated by the other preachers of the Gospel, of whom tradition tells us that Matthew was one. This Evangelist proclaimed the Gospel to the Hebrews and, before his departure from Jerusalem, wrote in his mother tongue the Gospel that he had preached. Hence the aim of the Evangelist was primarily apologetic. He wished to demonstrate to his readers, whether these were converts or still unbelieving Jews, that in Jesus the ancient prophecies had been realized in their entirety. This thesis includes three principal ideas:
Jesus is the Messias, and the kingdom He inaugurates is the Messianic kingdom foretold by the prophets;
because of their sins, the Jews, as a nation, shall have no part in this kingdom
the Gospel will be announced to all nations, and all are called to salvation.
A. JESUS AS MESSIAS
St. Matthew has shown that in Jesus all the ancient prophesies on the Messias were fulfilled. He was the Emmanuel, born of a Virgin Mother (i, 22, 23), announced by Isaias (vii, 14); He was born at Bethlehem (ii, 6), as had been predicted by Micheas (v, 2), He went to Egypt and was recalled thence (ii, 15) as foretold by Osee (xi, 1). According to the prediction of Isaias (xl, 3), He was heralded by a precursor, John the Baptist (iii, 1 sqq.); He cured all the sick (viii, 16 so.), that the Prophecy of Isaias (liii, 4) might be fulfilled; and in all His actions He was indeed the same of whom this prophet had spoken (xiii, 1). His teaching in parables (xiii, 3) was conformable to what Isaias had said (vi, 9). Finally, He suffered, and the entire drama of His Passion and Death was a fulfilment of the prophecies of Scripture (Isaiah 53:3-12; Psalm 21:13-22). Jesus proclaimed Himself the Messias by His approbation of Peter's confession (16:16-17) and by His answer to the high priest (26:63-64). St. Matthew also endeavours to show that the Kingdom inaugurated by Jesus Christ is the Messianic Kingdom. From the beginning of His public life, Jesus proclaims that the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand (4:17); in the Sermon on the Mount He promulgates the charter of this kingdom, and in parables He speaks of its nature and conditions. In His answer to the envoys of John the Baptist Jesus specifically declares that the Messianic Kingdom, foretold by the Prophets, has come to pass, and He describes its characteristics: "The blind see, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead rise again, the poor have the gospel preached to them." It was in these terms, that Isaias had described the future kingdom (xxxv, 5, 6; loci, 1). St. Matthew records a very formal expression of the Lord concerning the coming of the Kingdom: "But if I by the Spirit of God cast out devils, then is the kingdom of God come upon you" (xii, 28). Moreover, Jesus could call Himself the Messias only inasmuch as the Kingdom of God had come.
B. EXCLUSION OF JEWS FROM MESSIANIC KINGDOM
The Jews as a nation were rejected because of their sins, and were to have no part in the Kingdom of Heaven. This rejection had been several times predicted by the prophets, and St. Matthew shows that it was because of its incredulity that Israel was excluded from the Kingdom, he dwells on all the events in which the increasing obduracy of the Jewish nation is conspicuous, manifested first in the princes and then in the hatred of the people who beseech Pilate to put Jesus to death. Thus the Jewish nation itself was accountable for its exclusion from the Messianic kingdom.
C. UNIVERSAL PROCLAMATION OF THE GOSPEL
That the pagans were called to salvation instead of the Jews, Jesus declared explicitly to the unbelieving Israelites: "Therefore I say to you that the kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and shall be given to a nation yielding the fruits thereof" (xxi, 43); "He that soweth the good seed, is the Son of man. And the field is the world" (xiii, 37-38). "And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a testimony to all nations, and then shall the consummation come" (xxiv, 14). Finally, appearing to His Apostles in Galilee, Jesus gives them this supreme command: "All power is given to me in heaven and in earth. Going therefore, teach ye all nations" (xxviii 18, 19). These last words of Christ are the summary of the First Gospel. Efforts have been made to maintain that these words of Jesus, commanding that all nations be evangelized, were not authentic, but in a subsequent paragraph we shall prove that all the Lord's sayings, recorded in the First Gospel, proceed from the teaching of Jesus.
V. DESTINATION OF THE GOSPEL
The ecclesiastical writers Papias, St. Irenæus, Origen, Eusebius, and St. Jerome, whose testimony has been given above (II, A), agree in declaring that St. Matthew wrote his Gospel for the Jews. Everything in this Gospel proves, that the writer addresses himself to Jewish readers. He does not explain Jewish customs and usages to them, as do the other Evangelists for their Greek and Latin readers, and he assumes that they are acquainted with Palestine, since, unlike St. Luke he mentions places without giving any indication of their topographical position. It is true that the Hebrew words, Emmanuel, Golgotha, Eloi, are translated, but it is likely that these translations were inserted when the Aramaic text was reproduced in Greek. St. Matthew chronicles those discourses of Christ that would interest the Jews and leave a favourable impression upon them. The law is not to be destroyed, but fulfilled (v, 17). He emphasizes more strongly than either St. Mark or St. Luke the false interpretations of the law given by the scribes and Pharisees, the hypocrisy and even the vices of the latter, all of which could be of interest to Jewish readers only. According to certain critics, St. Irenæus (Fragment xxix) said that Matthew wrote to convert the Jews by proving to them that Christ was the Son of David. This interpretation is badly founded. Moreover, Origen (In Matt., i) categorically asserts that this Gospel was published for Jews converted to the Faith. Eusebius (Hist. eccl. III, xxiv) is also explicit on this point, and St. Jerome, summarizing tradition, teaches us that St. Matthew published his Gospel in Judea and in the Hebrew language, principally for those among the Jews who believed in Jesus, and did not observe even the shadow of the Law, the truth of the Gospel having replaced it (In Matt. Prol.). Subsequent ecclesiastical writers and Catholic exegetes have taught that St. Matthew wrote for the converted Jews. "However," says Zahn (Introd. to the New Testament, II, 562), "the apologetical and polemical character of the book, as well as the choice of language, make it extremely probable that Matthew wished his book to be read primarily by the Jews who were not yet Christians. It was suited to Jewish Christians who were still exposed to Jewish influence, and also to Jews who still resisted the Gospel".
VI. DATE AND PLACE OF COMPOSITION
Ancient ecclesiastical writers are at variance as to the date of the composition of the First Gospel. Eusebius (in his Chronicle), Theophylact, and Euthymius Zigabenus are of opinion that the Gospel of Matthew was written eight years, and Nicephorus Callistus fifteen years, after Christ's Ascension--i.e. about A.D. 38-45. According to Eusebius, Matthew wrote his Gospel in Hebrew when he left Palestine. Now, following a certain tradition (admittedly not too reliable), the Apostles separated twelve years after the Ascension, hence the Gospel would have been written about the year 40-42, but following Eusebius (Hist. eccl., III, v, 2), it is possible to fix the definitive departure of the Apostles about the year 60, in which event the writing of the Gospel would have taken place about the year 60-68. St Irenæus is somewhat more exact concerning the date of the First Gospel, as he says: "Matthew produced his Gospel when Peter and Paul were evangelizing and founding the Church of Rome, consequently about the years 64-67." However, this text presents difficulties of interpretation which render its meaning uncertain and prevent us from deducing any positive conclusion. In our day opinion is rather divided. Catholic critics, in general, favour the years 40-45, although some (e.g. Patrizi) go back to 36-39 or (e.g. Aberle) to 37. Belser assigns 41-42; Conély, 40-50; Schafer, 50-51; Hug, Reuschl, Schanz, and Rose, 60-67. This last opinion is founded on the combined testimonies of St. Irenæus and Eusebius, and on the remark inserted parenthetically in the discourse of Jesus in chapter xxiv, 15: "When therefore you shall see the abomination of desolation, which was spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place": here the author interrupts the sentence and invites the reader to take heed of what follows, viz.: "Then they that are in Judea, let them flee to the mountains." As there would have been no occasion for a like warning had the destruction of Jerusalem already taken place, Matthew must have written his Gospel before the year 70 (about 65-70 according to Batiffol). Protestant and Liberalistic critics also are greatly at variance as regards the time of the composition of the First Gospel. Zahn sets the date about 61-66, and Godet about 60-66; Keim, Meyer, Holtzmann (in his earlier writings), Beyschlag, and Maclean, before 70, Bartiet about 68-69; W. Allen and Plummer, about 65-75; Hilgenfeld and Holtzmann (in his later writings), soon after 70; B. Weiss and Harnack, about 70-75; Renan, later than 85, Réville, between 69 and 96, Jülicher, in 81-96, Montefiore, about 90-100, Volkmar, in 110; Baur, about 130-34. The following are some of the arguments advanced to prove that the First Gospel was written several years after the Fall of Jerusalem. When Jesus prophesies to His Apostles that they will be delivered up to the councils, scourged in the synagogues, brought before governors and kings for His sake; that they will give testimony of Him, will for Him be hated and driven from city to city (x, 17-23) and when He commissions them to teach all nations and make them His disciples, His words intimate, it is claimed, the lapse of many years, the establishment of the Christian Church in distant parts, and its cruel persecution by the Jews and even by Roman emperors and governors. Moreover, certain sayings of the Lord--such as: "Thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church" (xi, 18), "If he [thy brother] will not hear them: tell the Church" (xviii, 10)--carry us to a time when the Christian Church was already constituted, a time that could not have been much earlier than the year 100. The fact is, that what was predicted by Our Lord, when He announced future events and established the charter and foundations of His Church, is converted into reality and made coexistent with the writing of the First Gospel. Hence, to give these arguments a probatory value it would be necessary either to deny Christ's knowledge of the future or to maintain that the teachings embodied in the First Gospel were not authentic.
VII. HISTORIC VALUE OF THE FIRST GOSPEL
(1) OF THE NARRATIVES
Apart from the narratives of the Childhood of Jesus, the cure of the two blind men, the tribute money, and a few incidents connected with the Passion and Resurrection, all the others recorded by St. Matthew are found in both the other Synoptists, with one exception (viii, 5-13) which occurs only in St. Luke. Critics agree in declaring that, regarded as a whole, the events of the life of Jesus recorded in the Synoptic Gospels are historic. For us, these facts are historic even in detail, our criterion of truth being the same for the aggregate and the details. The Gospel of St. Mark is acknowledged to be of great historic value because it reproduces the preaching of St. Peter. But, for almost all the events of the Gospel, the information given by St. Mark is found in St. Matthew, while such as are peculiar to the latter are of the same nature as events recorded by St. Mark, and resemble them so closely that it is hard to understand why they should not be historic, since they also are derived from the primitive catechesis. It may be further observed that the narratives of St. Matthew are never contradictory to the events made known to us by profane documents, and that they give a very accurate account of the moral and religious ideas, the manners and customs of the Jewish people of that time. In his recent work, "The Synoptic Gospels" (London, 1909), Montefiore, a Jewish critic, does full justice to St. Matthew on these different points. Finally all the objections that could possibly have been raised against their veracity vanish, if we but keep in mind the standpoint of the author, and what he wished to demonstrate. The comments we are about to make concerning the Lord's utterances are also applicable to the Gospel narratives. For a demonstration of the historic value of the narratives of the Holy Childhood, we recommend Father Durand's scholarly work, "L'enfance de Jésus-Christ d'après les évangiles canoniques" (Paris, 1907).
(2) OF THE DISCOURSES
The greater part of Christ's short sayings are found in the three Synoptic Gospels and consequently spring from the early catechesis. His long discourses, recorded by St. Matthew and St. Luke, also formed part of an authentic catechesis, and critics in general are agreed in acknowledging their historic value. There are, however some who maintain that the Evangelist modified his documents to adapt them to the faith professed in Christian communities at the time when he wrote his Gospel. They also claim that, even prior to the composition of the Gospels, Christian faith had altered Apostolic reminiscences. Let us first of all observe that these objections would have no weight whatever, unless we were to concede that the First Gospel was not written by St. Matthew. And even assuming the same point of view as our adversaries, who think that our Synoptic Gospels depend upon anterior sources, we maintain that these changes, whether attributable to the Evangelists or to their sources (i.e. the faith of the early Christians), could not have been effected.
The alterations claimed to have been introduced into Christ's teachings could not have been made by the Evangelists themselves. We know that the latter selected their subject-matter and disposed of it each in his own way, and with a special end in view, but this matter was the same for all three, at least for the whole contents of the pericopes, and was taken from the original catechesis, which was already sufficiently well established not to admit of the introduction into it of new ideas and unknown facts. Again, all the doctrines which are claimed to be foreign to the teachings of Jesus are found in the three Synoptists, and are so much a part of the very framework of each Gospel that their removal would mean the destruction of the order of the narrative. Under these conditions, that there might be a substantial change in the doctrines taught by Christ, it would be necessary to suppose a previous understanding among the three Evangelists, which seems to us impossible, as Matthew and Luke at least appear to have worked independently of each other and it is in their Gospels that Christ's longest discourses are found. These doctrines, which were already embodied in the sources used by the three Synoptists, could not have resulted from the deliberations and opinions of the earliest Christians. First of all, between the death of Christ and the initial drawing up of the oral catechesis, there was not sufficient time for originating, and subsequently enjoining upon the Christian conscience, ideas diametrically opposed to those said to have been exclusively taught by Jesus Christ. For example, let us take the doctrines claimed, above all others, to have been altered by the belief of the first Christians, namely that Jesus Christ had called all nations to salvation. It is said that the Lord restricted His mission to Israel, and that all those texts wherein He teaches that the Gospel should be preached throughout the entire world originated with the early Christians and especially with Paul. Now, in the first place, these universalist doctrines could not have sprung up among the Apostles. They and the primitive Christians were Jews of poorly developed intelligence, of very narrow outlook, and were moreover imbued with particularist ideas. From the Gospels and Acts it is easy to see that these men were totally unacquainted with universalist ideas, which had to be urged upon them, and which, even then, they were slow to accept. Moreover, how could this first Christian generation, who, we are told, believed that Christ's Second Coming was close at hand, have originated these passages proclaiming that before this event took place the Gospel should be preached to all nations? These doctrines do not emanate from St. Paul and his disciples. Long before St. Paul could have exercised any influence whatever over the Christian conscience, the Evangelical sources containing these precepts had already been composed. The Apostle of the Gentiles was the special propagator of these doctrines, but he was not their creator. Enlightened by the Holy Spirit, he understood that the ancient prophecies had been realized in the Person of Jesus and that the doctrines taught by Christ were identical with those revealed by the Scriptures.
Finally, by considering as a whole the ideas constituting the basis of the earliest Christian writings, we ascertain that these doctrines, taught by the prophets, and accentuated by the life and words of Christ, form the framework of the Gospels and the basis of Pauline preaching. They are, as it were, a kind of fasces which it would be impossible to unbind, and into which no new idea could be inserted without destroying its strength and unity. In the prophecies, the Gospels the Pauline Epistles, and the first Christian writings an intimate correlation joins all together, Jesus Christ Himself being the centre and the common bond. What one has said of Him, the others reiterate, and never do we hear an isolated or a discordant voice. If Jesus taught doctrines contrary or foreign to those which the Evangelists placed upon His lips, then He becomes an inexplicable phenomenon, because, in the matter of ideas, He is in contradiction to the society in which He moved, and must be ranked with the least intelligent sections among the Jewish people. We are justified, therefore, in concluding that the discourses of Christ, recorded in the First Gospel and reproducing the Apostolic catechesis, are authentic. We my however, again observe that, his aim being chiefly apologetic, Matthew selected and presented the events of Christ's life and also these discourses in a way that would lead up to the conclusive proof which he wished to give of the Messiahship of Jesus. Still the Evangelist neither substantially altered the original catechesis nor invented doctrines foreign to the teaching of Jesus. His action bore upon details or form, but not upon the basis of words and deeds.
APPENDIX: DECISIONS OF THE BIBLICAL COMMISSION
The following answers have been given by the Biblical Commission to inquiries about the Gospel of St. Matthew: In view of the universal and constant agreement of the Church, as shown by the testimony of the Fathers, the inscription of Gospel codices, most ancient versions of the Sacred Books and lists handed down by the Holy Fathers, ecclesiastical writers, popes and councils, and finally by liturgical usage in the Eastern and Western Church, it may and should be held that Matthew, an Apostle of Christ, is really the author of the Gospel that goes by his name. The belief that Matthew preceded the other Evangelists in writing, and that the first Gospel was written in the native language of the Jews then in Palestine, is to be considered as based on Tradition.
The preparation of this original text was not deferred until after the destruction of Jerusalem, so that the prophecies it contains about this might be written after the event; nor is the alleged uncertain and much disputed testimony of Irenaeus convincing enough to do away with the opinion most conformed to Tradition, that their preparation was finished even before the coming of Paul to Rome. The opinion of certain Modernists is untenable, viz., that Matthew did not in a proper and strict sense compose the Gospel, as it has come down to us, but only a collection of some words and sayings of Christ, which, according to them, another anonymous author used as sources.
The fact that the Fathers and all ecclesiastical writers, and even the Church itself from the very beginning, have used as canonical the Greek text of the Gospel known as St. Matthew's, not even excepting those who have expressly handed down that the Apostle Matthew wrote in his native tongue, proves for certain that this very Greek Gospel is identical in substance with the Gospel written by the same Apostle in his native language. Although the author of the first Gospel has the dogmatic and apologetic purpose of proving to the Jews that Jesus is the Messias foretold by the prophets and born of the house of David, and although he is not always chronological in arranging the facts or sayings which he records, his narration is not to be regarded as lacking truth. Nor can it be said that his accounts of the deeds and utterances of Christ have been altered and adapted by the influence of the prophecies of the Old Testament and the conditions of the growing Church, and that they do not therefore conform to historical truth. Notably unfounded are the opinions of those who cast doubt on the historical value of the first two chapters, treating of the genealogy and infancy of Christ, or on certain passages of much weight for certain dogmas, such as those which concern the primacy of Peter (xvi, 17-19), the form of baptism given to the Apostles with their universal missions (xxviii, 19-20), the Apostles' profession of faith in Christ (xiv, 33), and others of this character specially emphasized by Matthew.
Publication information Written by E. Jacquier. Transcribed by Ernie Stefanik & Herman F. Holbrook. Omnes sancti Apostoli et Evangelistae, orate pro nobis. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume X. Published 1911. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, October 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York
Commemorated November 16
St Matthew (meaning "gift of God") was identified as a tax collector (Matthew 9:9; 10:3) and was of Jewish race. In the other accounts of his meeting with Jesus (Mark 2:13, 14; Luke 5:27-29), he is called Levi. This use of two different names has led some scholars to argue for two different persons, due to the absence of Levi from the apostolic lists. Others, however, have argued that Matthew had a double name, because the Jews frequently carried two names - such as Simon/Peter and Saul/Paul. When he was called by Jesus (Matthew 9:9), Matthew renounced the position of tax collector and became His disciple. According to Christian tradition, after Pentecost Matthew, filled with the Holy Spirit, preached the gospel in many places, especially to the Jews.
The Gospel of Matthew, though it has come down to us in Greek, has a Jewish/Hebraic flavour, which is evident in its Aramaic expressions and forms, and its use of numerous quotations and arguments from the Old Testament. Furthermore, Matthew gives details of Jewish religious observations, and often uses Jewish style and techniques of argument. God's final judgement, pictured in apocalyptic images common in Jewish writings, is also emphasized. Papias, a second-century Christian author, preserves the tradition that Matthew wrote the sayings of Christ in Aramaic, the common language of the Jews at the time of Christ, and that others later freely translated this work into Greek.
Though the Gospel does not name Matthew as the author, all the early manuscripts attribute authorship to Matthew, one of the twelve disciples listed in the New Testament. His authorship is attested by the universal witness of the ancient Church.
Matthew's usual emblem as an evangelist is a man, because his genealogy emphasized the family ties of Christ.
Dismissal Hymn (Third
O Holy Apostle and Evangelist Matthew, intercede to our merciful God, that He may grant our souls forgiveness of sins.
Kontakion (Fourth Tone)
When you cast away the publican's balance and was united to the yoke of uprightness, you prove a merchant of great excellence, one that gathered in the wealth of the wisdom of Heaven; for this cause, the word of truth you did herald, O Matthew, and you aroused the souls of sluggish men by signifying the dread day of reckoning.
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