Introduction to Matthew

Structure of Matthew

I. Prologue/introduction: Origin of Jesus the Messiah (1:1–2:23)
II. Early days of kingdom word and deed (3:1–7:29)

A. Narrative 1: John and Jesus and the kingdom of God (3:1–4:25)

B. Discourse 1: Sermon on the Mount (5:1–7:29)

III. Galilean ministry continues (8:1–11:1)

A. Narrative 2: Three cycles of miracles and discipleship (8:1–10:4)

B. Discourse 2: Mission and suffering (10:5–11:1)

IV. Growing opposition to the kingdom of heaven (11:2–13:52)

A. Narrative 3: Three cycles of unbelief and belief (11:2–12:50)

B. Discourse 3: Parables of the kingdom of heaven (13:1–52)

V. Opposition to the kingdom continues (13:53–19:2)

A. Narrative 4: Various responses to the Son of God (13:53–17:27)

B. Discourse 4: Values and relationships in the kingdom community (18:1–19:2)

VI. Opposition comes to a head in Judea (19:3–26:2)

A. Narrative 5: Ministry in Judea (19:3–23:39)

B. Discourse 5: Judgment of Jerusalem and the coming of Christ (24:1–26:2)

VII. Epilogue/conclusion: Passion, resurrection, and commission (26:3–28:20)
 


Thesis and themes of Matthew

Matthew writes to Christian Jewish readers, teaching them about Jesus the Messiah, and preparing them to preach the gospel to all the nations. Matthew is known for the topical themes such as “King” or “Messiah.” He speaks of a Jesus who did not come to destroy but to fulfill the law and the prophets.
Matthew’s Christology is strong. He gives the readers hope by presenting the Messiah, the anointed one who have come as promised, the Son of David, of Abraham, Immanuel, the King, the Son of God, Son of Man, Teacher, and many more names.
Matthew has a strong presentation of the “Kingdom of Heavens” (ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν), occurring 32 times in Matthew, and the “kingdom of God,” (ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ) four or five times, and the word “kingdom” occurs another nineteen times in the book. Jesus’s miracles demonstrate the authority of the kingdom (Mt. 4:23–25; 8:9–13; 9:6–8; 12:28; 20:30–34). His teaching on the ethical life of disciples prominently features the kingdom (Mt. 5:3, 10, 19, 20; 6:10, 33; 7:21). His parables picture the work of the kingdom in redemptive history (Mt. 13:11, 19, 24, 31, 33, 38, 43–45, 47, 52; 18:23; 22:2; 25:1). As King, he judges the world (Mt. 25:34, 40). In the teaching about the kingdom, Matthew shows the conflict over authority between Christ, and the world, the Jewish leaders and Him and His followers.
Though Matthew’s gospel is considered the most Jewish of the Gospels, it is the only Gospel that uses the word “church” (ekklēsia, 16:18; 18:17). Matthew shows that the Kingdom of God is being built by ways that are unexpected, like the mentioning of women in the genealogy, mainly Gentile women.
Concluding, there is an important aspect in the teachings of Matthew that combines all these themes together, namely that Christ is the fulfillment of the law and the prophets. 16 times he mentions “fulfillment” by using the verb πληρόω (plēroō, fulfill), occurring 16 times, as mentioned below. The Kingdom has come, the prophesies are fulfilled, the chosen one has come, so that there is hope for Jews and Gentiles. The following verses show the fulfillment of these prophesies:
1:22

ἵνα πληρωθῇ τὸ ῥηθὲν ὑπὸ κυρίου διὰ τοῦ προφήτου λέγοντος, hina plērōthē to rhēthen hypo kyriou dia tou prophētou legontos, in order that what was said by the Lord through the prophet might be fulfilled, which says,

2:15

ἵνα πληρωθῇ τὸ ῥηθὲν ὑπὸ κυρίου διὰ τοῦ προφήτου λέγοντος, hina plērōthē to rhēthen hypo kyriou dia tou prophētou legontos, in order that what was said by the Lord through the prophet might be fulfilled, which says,

2:17

τότε ἐπληρώθη τὸ ῥηθὲν διὰ Ἰερεμίου τοῦ προφήτου λέγοντος, tote eplērōthē to rhēthen dia Ieremiou tou prophētou legontos, then what was said by the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled, which says,

2:23

ὅπως πληρωθῇ τὸ ῥηθὲν διὰ τῶν προφητῶν hopōs plērōthē to rhēthen dia tōn prophētōn so that what was said through the prophets might be fulfilled

4:14

ἵνα πληρωθῇ τὸ ῥηθὲν διὰ Ἠσαΐου τοῦ προφήτου λέγοντος, hina plērōthē to rhēthen dia Ēsaïou tou prophētou legontos, in order that what was said through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled, which says,

8:17

ὅπως πληρωθῇ τὸ ῥηθὲν διὰ Ἠσαΐου τοῦ προφήτου λέγοντος, hopōs plērōthē to rhēthen dia Ēsaïou tou prophētou legontos, so that what was said through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled, which says,

12:17

ἵνα πληρωθῇ τὸ ῥηθὲν διὰ Ἠσαΐου τοῦ προφήτου λέγοντος, hina plērōthē to rhēthen dia Ēsaïou tou prophētou legontos, in order that what was said through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled, which says,

13:35

ὅπως πληρωθῇ τὸ ῥηθὲν διὰ τοῦ προφήτου λέγοντος, hopōs plērōthē to rhēthen dia tou prophētou legontos, so that what was said through the prophet might be fulfilled, which says,

21:4

ἵνα πληρωθῇ τὸ ῥηθὲν διὰ τοῦ προφήτου λέγοντος, hina plērōthē to rhēthen dia tou prophētou legontos, in order that what was said through the prophet might be fulfilled, which says,

27:9

τότε ἐπληρώθη τὸ ῥηθὲν διὰ Ἰερεμίου τοῦ προφήτου λέγοντος, tote eplērōthē to rhēthen dia Ieremiou tou prophētou legontos, then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled, which says….

One passage presents the legal experts and Pharisees as fulfilling the measure of the sin of their ancestors (Mt. 23:32). Two passages present Jesus as the one who fulfills “all righteousness” at his baptism (Mt. 3:15) and who teaches that he comes not to destroy but to fulfill the law and the prophets (Mt. 5:17), while the remaining thirteen passages (ten in Matthew’s narrative comments, three in the words of Jesus) speak of biblical fulfillment in some fashion.

Presentation of Jesus’ ministry

Matthew presents this ministry in five “chapters,” each with a narrative about Jesus’s works and a discourse containing Jesus’s words. The story ends in Jerusalem, where God raises Jesus from the dead, reversing Jesus’s unjust crucifixion and empowering him to commission the disciples for world mission.
“From then on Jesus began” ἀπὸ τότε ἤρξατο ὁ Ἰησοῦς is mentioned two times in the gospel of Matthew. In Mt. 4:17, after the account of John the Baptist’s arrest, Matthew announces the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, and in Mt. 16:21, after Peter’s confession that Jesus Christ is the Messiah, Jesus’ Messianic ministry regarding his suffering began.

Regarding the Author and Debates

Authorship of Matthew

The Gospel of Matthew is anonymous, just like the other gospels. There are hints in the book that the author is Matthew, and also the early church fathers saw Matthew clearly as the author of this book. The internal evidence for the authorship of Matthew lies in its grammar, syntax, literary style and distinctive themes, that show that Matthew was a Jew who understood both Hebrew and Judaism, though this is not direct proof for his authorship. External evidence is given in the first quarter of the second century, where ancient documents ascribe the book to Matthew, as well as the patristic tradition; Eusebius, Papias, Clement of Alexandria and Origin, as well as many more.

Date of the Book

Matthew was well known by the early second century and therefore is it assumed that the Gospel was written in the end of the first century the latest, though many current scholars who hold to the Markan-priority view of the Gospels place the date in the eighties or nineties CE, after the destruction of Jerusalem.

Recipients of the Book

Many believe that the city of Antioch is the basis of Matthew’s letters. Some scholars say that the Gospel is written for a community that contained gentiles, others believe that his community is mostly Jewish and still has strong ties with the synagogue. Most scholars assume an audience of Christian Jews, for he speaks of Jesus the Messiah who “fulfilled” the Hebrew Bible and how Jesus’s teaching interpreted the Torah of Moses (Mt. 5:17–48).

Book of Matthew – his popularity

Matthew is the NT book that influenced the early church most leading to a rich reservoir of patristic commentary. During the twentieth century, Matthean studies became somewhat passé, mostly because of the dominance of the Markan-priority view of synoptic origins. Many scholars who took this view held that Mark embodied an earlier and more authentic version of the historical Jesus.
The literary dependence is debated. Some say that Matthew borrowed from Mark, for approximately 90 percent of Mark is also found in Matthew. Others argue that Matthew stands independently from any author. Augustine and many of the church fathers believed that the canonical order of the Gospels represented their order of literary dependence. But why would an eyewitness of Jesus’s ministry would base his Gospel on the account of Mark, who was not an eyewitness?