The author of this book was traditionally believed to be the Matthew the Evangelist, an apostle of Jesus Christ, whose name it bears. However, most modern scholars dispute this. Like the authors of the other Gospels, the author wrote this book according to his own plans and aims, and from his own point of view, while at the same time borrowing from other sources. According to the two source hypothesis, which is the most commonly accepted theory about the origin of the synoptic Gospels (the first three books of the New Testament), Matthew borrowed both from Mark and a hypothetical lost source, known by scholars as Q (an abbreviation for the German Quelle, or "Source").
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."
Critics charge that some of the passages in this book are anti-Semitic, and that these passages have shaped the way that many Christians viewed Jews.
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.
This Gospel sets forth a view of Jesus as Christ, and portrays him as an heir to King David's throne.
As to the relation of the Gospels to each other, that is the subject of some debate. Most scholars believe that Matthew borrowed from Mark and Q, but some scholars believe that Matthew was written first and that Mark borrowed from Matthew. In any case, 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."
The book is fitly divided into these four parts:
- Containing the genealogy, the birth, and the infancy of Jesus (1; 2).
- The discourses and actions of John the Baptist preparatory to Christ's public ministry (3; 4:11).
- The discourses and actions of Christ in Galilee (4:12-20:16).
- The sufferings, death and resurrection of Jesus (20:17-28).
Text originally from Easton Bible Dicionary of 1897 http://www.site-berea.com/dicionarios.html, published by Thomas Nelson, 1897.
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