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The Gospel of Matthew

1. A note before we start examining the first book of the New Testament:  each book will have the same outline:

2. What is a gospel? "Gospel" comes from the Greek language and means "Good News." You can think of a Gospel as a biography of Jesus, although the 4 Gospels focus on the last 3 years of Jesus' life on earth and do not tell much about his life before the age of 30.

Author

Place and Time of Writing

Audience

Unique Characteristics

Theme

Jesus is the spiritual Messiah ("Messiah" from Hebrew means "chosen one").

Details about the Gospel of Matthew

1. As an example of the theme, the Gospel of Matthew contains the phrase "kingdom of Heaven" 32 times. This phrase is not found anywhere else in the New Testament. This shows the emphasis of Matthew on Jesus being a spiritual Messiah and that he did not come to create a kingdom on earth, but to show that the "kingdom of Heaven" (meaning the presence of God) is with all those who follow Jesus.

2. Two of the four Gospels discuss the birth and infancy of Jesus, Matthew and Luke. The birth story of Jesus includes stories about shepherds and the Magi/3 wise men. Matthew discussed the Magi and Luke discussed the shepherds. The reason for this is that Matthew shows Jesus as a leader (a spiritual Messiah) and so includes the story about leaders (Magi) coming to see a new-born leader (Jesus). Luke is writing to the common person and so describes how common people (shepherds) came to see Jesus.

3. The way that the Gospel of Matthew is arranged helps to show the Jewish audience. The Gospel can be divided into 5 sections:

  1. The Sermon on the Mount (chapters 5-7)
  2. Miracles Jesus performs (8-9)
  3. Parables (12-13)
  4. Questions and answers (15-20)
  5. Triumphal Entry, the last week of his life, and his resurrection (20-28)

Explanation: The first 5 books of the Old Testament are the most significant books for Jews. These books contain the stories from creation to Moses and include the Law of Moses. (Remember that this is one of the cornerstones of the Old Testament.) By arranging his Gospel into 5 parts, Matthew shows that Jesus fulfilled the Jewish Law.

4. In the Sermon on the Mount, the first sermon of Jesus in Matthew, he used the phrases "you have heard that it was said" and "but I tell you." For example, Matthew 5:27, 28: "You have heard that it was said, 'Do not commit adultery.' But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery in his heart." The first phrase ("You have heard that it was said") refers to something that is in the Law (Do not commit adultery, which is one of the 10 Commandments.) and in the second phrase ("but I tell you") Jesus replaced it with a new teaching (do not even think about it). In this way Jesus shows that God gave the Law to Moses, and God, in the form of Jesus, can fulfill it. In each case Jesus takes an idea from the Law of Moses (do not kill; do not commit adultery) and "raises the bar" or raises the expectation (do not even get angry; do not even think about committing adultery). So Jesus did not come to eradicate the Jewish faith, but to "fulfill" it. [More on this when we discuss Paul's ideas.]

5. Another point about the Sermon on the Mount: Matthew and Luke contain similar teachings. In Matthew, Jesus gives these teachings at the beginning of his ministry and while on top of a mountain. In Luke, Jesus gives these teachings in a plain or flat area and about halfway through Jesus' ministry. So almost the same teachings, but the two Gospels give two different times and two different places for them. This helps to show the nature of Gospels: they did not write in chronological order. The Synoptic Gospels contained many of the same stories and teachings, but the authors put the stories in different places. So why did Matthew put this teaching on a mountain and at the beginning of Jesus' ministry? Jews would have understood the reason: This is supposed to cause Jews to think back to Moses: Moses received the Law while on a mountain. Matthew chose to put this teaching at the beginning of Jesus' ministry and while Jesus was on a mountain to help show that Jesus would fulfill the Law, which Moses received on a mountain.

6. Matthew includes the verses often used by Catholics to prove that Peter was the first Pope: 16:13-19.

Timeline up to the Gospel of Matthew

Year Event
63 B.C. Romans conquer Israel.
27 B.C. Pax Romana began and lasted until 180.
4 B.C. Jesus born.
All dates after this are A.D. ["c." means "about"]
c.27 Jesus baptized.
c.30 Jesus crucified, buried, rose from the dead, and ascended to heaven.
64 Fire in Rome and Christians persecuted by Emperor Nero; Peter crucified upside down and Paul beheaded.
70 Temple in Jerusalem destroyed by Romans (it has not been rebuilt).
c.80 Gospel of Matthew written.
95 Persecution by Emperor Domitian; Apostle John exiled on island of Patmos where he wrote Revelation.
96 Emperor Domitian died; Apostle John probably moved to Ephesus.
c.100 Apostle John died; he was the last Apostle to die.
390's NT canon "closed" at Councils of Hippo (393) and Carthage (397).
1200's Chapters added to the NT.
1500's Verses added to the NT.

©2012 Mark Nickens