Introduction to the Gospel of Matthew

The gospel of Matthew emphasizes Jesus' fulfillment of God's messianic promises and portrays Jesus as the promised but rejected King of the Jews

Introduction to the Gospel of Matthew
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  • Matthew is one of two Gospels written directly by one of the 12 disciples
  • Gospel of Matthew was the church’s most popular Gospel in the decades up to the time of Irenaeus in AD 180.[1]
  • Matthew emphasizes Jesus' fulfillment of God's messianic promises, bridging the OT and the NT. Matthew portrays Jesus as the promised by rejected King of the Jews.


  • Like the other canonical gospels, Matthew is anonymous
  • Title ascribed to the Gospel to Matthew is early if not original
    • Generally, titles are necessary to to distinugish one Gospel from the other Gospels (the other three canonical gospels and the non-canonical gospels)

External evidence

  • Papias as quoted by Eusebius in his Ecclesiastical History from early fourth century
    • We have no original works from Papias
    • Papias received his information directly from those of Jesus' closest disciples including Matthew
    • Irenaeus (AD 130-200) claimed that Papias was a disciple of the apostle John.

Internal evidence

  • Author was a Jewish Christian
  • Naming the tax collector Matthew instead of Levi (Mark and Luke) seems to indicate Matthew's personal touch.
  • Matthew uses the precise term nomisma ("state coin") in the disucssion of the imperial taxes in Matthew 22:15-22. Mark and Luke use the Grek term denarion.
    • This suggests the expertise of a former tax collector.


  • Internal Evidence suggests before AD 70
    • Jesus predicted the fall of Jerusalem in Matthew 24:2
      • If you deny Jesus' capability of predictive prophecy, you can doubt it was written before AD 70.
    • Matthew 17:24-27 containing instruction of the two-drachma temple tax, but this was collected by Rome after the fall of Jerusalem to support the pagan temple of Jupiter Capitolinus in Rome. I doubt Matthew would include this account after AD 70 since this may be interpreted as supporting pagan idolatry.
    • Special references to sacrifices and sacrificial theology seems to best fit a date of compoisition before the temple was destroyed and the sacrificial system had ended.
  • External Evidence
    • Irenaeus claimed that Matthew wrote his gospel while Peter and Paul were preaching in Rome in Against Heresis 3.1.1
    • Some hold to Matthew written between AD 35-50 and was the first canonical gospel written.
  • Matthean Priority
    • A full discussion of the Synopic Problem is beyond the scope of this introduction.
    • I believe that Matthew was written without depending on Mark’s gospel.
    • I adopt this view because there is both internal evidence and external evidence since this view is supported by the early church fathers.
      • Irenaeus believed Matthew was written first. [2]
      • Clement wrote that Mark was written third before Matthew. [3]
      • Origen wrote that Matthew was written first. [4]
    • A lot of evangelicals including DA Carson hold to Markan priority based on internal evidence and explaining away the external evidence from Papias and church tradition regarding Matthean priority.


  • Cannot be sure where Matthew wrote the gospel. Most think either in Palestine or Syria, with Antioch of Syria being a popular suggestion.
  • If we assume Matthew wrote his gospel in Antioch of Syria, the church in Syria was the original intended audience.
  • No matter where the gospel was written, Matthew's gospel was widely circulated soon after its composition.
  • It was early quoted by Ignatius in Antioch first, Polycarp in Smyrna, and Justin Martyr in Ephesus. 2 Clement was probably written in Alexandria, and it quotes from Matthew.


  • Matthew's focus was Jesus' identity
    • Jesus is the Messiah, the long-awaited King of God's people
    • Jesus is the new Abraham, the founder of a new spiritual Israel consisting of all people (Jews and Gentiles)
    • Jesus is the new Moses, the deliver and instructor of God's people
    • Jesus is Immanuel, the virgin-born Son of God who fulfilled the promises of Isaiah and the OT.
  • Matthew is a theological biography
    • historical account of Jesus' life and his teachings that explains his spiritual significance.
  • Two main truths
    • Jesus is the fulfillment of OT messianic prophecy
    • God's Great Commission includes the Gentiles since followers are commanded to make disciples of "all nations."

Literary Structure

  • Matthew's gospel centers on the five major discourses of Jesus
    • chapters 5-7 (Sermon on the mount)
    • chapter 10 (Instruction to the twelve disciples)
    • chapter 13 (parables of the kingdom)
    • chapter 18 (more parables of the kingdom)
    • chapters 24-25 (Olivet discourse)
  • Each of these discourses is set off from the adjacent narrative portions with the phrase "when Jesus had finished saying these things."
  • Follows a general chronological order
    • Genealogy, birth, baptism, Ministry in Galilee, journey to Jerusalem, trial, crucifixion, resurrection

  1. Édouard Massaux, The Influence of the Gospel of Saint Matthew on Christian Literature Before Saint Irenaeus, trans. by Norman J. Belval and Suzanne Hecht; ed., Arthur J. Bellinzoni, 3 vols. (Macon, GA.: Mercer University, 1993) 3:186-87. ↩︎

  2. Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 3.1.1-4 ↩︎

  3. Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, 6.14.5-7; Clement, Hypotyposeis, 6. ↩︎

  4. Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, 6.25.3-6 ↩︎