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The Writing of the Gospel of Christ According to Matthew

Many people witnessed the life, speeches, death, and resurrection of Christ. We learn from the testimony of these people that Christ did not write books, though he was able to write in Hebrew. He is the word of God become flesh. He lived out what he said, and his conduct and way of life form and produce the open gospel to everyone who loves the truth. His word is more than a teaching. It is the constructive power of God. The word "gospel" signifies "good news", as it offers the riches of God’s kindness and grace through Christ Jesus.

The Four Gospels

The word "gospel" is intended as translation of Greek "evangelion" which signifies "good tidings" or "good news." The Gospel is the proclamation of the good news of salvation. This word sometimes stands for the record of the life of our Lord Jesus Christ (Mark 1:1) and the embracing of all his teachings (Acts 20:24).

But now the word "gospel" primarily describes the message that Christianity preaches. "Good news" is its significance. The gospel is a gift from God. It is the proclamation of the remission of sins and sonship with God restored through Christ.

The Spirit of the Lord put into our hands four books recording the life of Christ as revealed to his penmen, the evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Two of these penmen were close disciples of Christ. The other two were companions of his apostles. They accurately took the news from the apostles. When we look at the Gospels, we find that the first three Gospels have much in common. Sometimes the same or related wording appears in each, in spite of the fact that each of them mentions distinctive news about the life of Christ that the other ones did not mention. Thus each Gospel has its distinctive character.

Who is Matthew?

Matthew is one of the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ (Matthew 10:1-4). He was a Galilean (Act 2:7). His original name was "Levi son of Alphaeus" (Mark 2:14; Luke 5:29). "Matthew" signifies "the gift of Jehovah." The great feast that Matthew made in his house for Jesus, to which he invited many tax collectors and sinners, was on the occasion of his pleasant response to the call of the Lord. But he did not comment on it because of his humility.

Matthew’s occupation, in the beginning, was collecting taxes for the Roman government. Such people were hated and despised by the Jews who considered them unworthy of the Jewish nationality. Tax collectors were often ranked with sinners and outcasts (Matthew 9:10-11, 18:17), and the Pharisees have frequently complained about the Lord’s conversing with tax collectors, and entering their houses (Luke 5:30, 15:1-2, 19:7). But God’s grace is intended for everyone without exception and is able to save the worst sinners. It called Matthew from the Roman tax office to be an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ. After he was a misfortune to the Jews by collecting taxes from them, God’s grace made Matthew their "gift of God" through his gospel. That is why he was not ashamed of calling himself "Matthew the tax collector" (Matthew 10:3).

The Characteristic of the Gospel According to Matthew

The gospel according to Matthew brings into view: Christ’s call to those who labor and are heavy laden (Chapter 11); some parables about the growth of the kingdom of God (Chapter 13); the parable of the wicked servant and idle laborers in the vineyard (Chapter 20); and the parable of the ten wise and foolish virgins, and the description of the final judgment (Chapter 25).

The Aramaic Original Gospel

The first three Gospels present together a selected view of the life and sayings of Christ. It is evident that those three apostles—before writing their Gospel in Greek—collected and reported what happened during the life of Christ and what he said in Aramaic that was the basis upon which all the evangelists wrote their Gospels (Luke 1:1-4, John 20:30).

Who Wrote the Gospel of Matthew?

Matthew, the penman of the first and longest Gospel, was a chief tax collector. He was despised by the people for being a skillful official serving the occupying state. His original name was "Levi" (Mark 2:14, Luke 5:27). But Christ gave him a new name, "Matthew", i.e. "the gift of God".

The oldest testimony concerning the Gospel of Matthew may be found in the writings of Papias, an elder of the church. We read in his records that Matthew compiled the sayings of the Lord, first in Aramaic. This is confirmed by the many words written in their Aramaic pronunciation in the Gospel, such as "raca" (worthless), and "mammon" (wealth, money, riches). It is most probable that the apostles entrusted Matthew, the most skillful among them in languages, with the compilation and translation of the sayings of Christ into Greek, under their care.

The internal evidences also give powerful support to the fact that the writer is Matthew, the tax collector, considering that this Gospel mentions more different currencies than any other Gospel. The Gospel, in fact, refers to three monetary units that are not mentioned any other place in the New Testament. The Gospel of Matthew solely mentions the "two-drachma" (Matthew 17:24), the "stater" (Matthew 17:27), and the "talent" (Matthew 18:24), which tells that the writer of this Gospel was familiar with the different kinds of currencies and that he was interested in identifying and defining their values to the followers. It is also to be mentioned that in his Gospel, Matthew refers to himself, among the other disciples of Christ, as "Matthew, the tax collector" as an indication of his humility, whereas Mark and Luke refer to him as "Matthew" without mentioning the degrading attribute of "tax collector." This humility of Matthew also appears in not mentioning particular details that may speak of him in glowing terms. He does not mention that he made the feast for Jesus. He talks of Jesus’ sitting down in "the house" (Matthew 9:10) without telling whose house it was, whereas Luke mentions (Luke 5:29) that Matthew gave Christ "a great feast." In his Gospel, Matthew does not mention the story of Zacchaeus and the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector (Luke 19:1-10; 18:9-14) maybe because both imply praise to the faith of the tax collector.

The Six Speaches of Jesus

Christ’s sayings in the Gospel of Matthew may be divided into six comprehensive parts, systematically successive, and having no repeated ideas. Matthew adopted the teaching of his Master step by step. First, he brought into view the constitution of the kingdom of heaven (Chapter 10), then the secrets of its growth (Chapter 13), followed by its interior organization (Chapter 18), the woes against the enemies of his kingdom (Chapter 23), and finally his appearance on the coming of his kingdom (Chapter 24, 25). The mentioning of these sayings of Jesus is the most valuable treasure in the Gospel of Matthew that deserves thorough study and meditation.

The Purpose of the Gospel of Matthew

The special purpose that Matthew had in view in his Gospel was to present the details of the tradition of Christ by proving to the Jewish people that Jesus of Nazareth is the predicted Messiah, the son of David and the son of Abraham. Matthew quotes more frequently from the Old Testament than any other evangelist does to prove that Jesus is the promised Messiah in whom is to be found the fulfillment and realization of the Messianic predictions of the Old Testament prophets and seers. Accordingly, his Gospel is considered the best book to build and strengthen believers through growing deeper into the teaching of Christ. It is, at the same time, good for preaching to the sons of Abraham and bringing them over to their Savior who took upon himself, in their place, the judgment of God.

These two purposes "preaching and teaching" are so wonderfully correlated in the Gospel of Matthew that it is the first book in the New Testament, glorifying Jesus, the Christ of God.

The Date of Writing the Gospel According to Matthew

This unique Gospel was written around 58 AD—about 25 years after the crucifixion. Scholars agree that it was written before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, as it does not report the fall of Jerusalem and the temple but, on the contrary, describes these events as still in the future (please refer to 23:37-38; 24:1-2). Furthermore, Matthew reports many warnings in his Gospel against the Sadducees who lost their power and authority after the destruction of Jerusalem.

We find in this Gospel true statements about the words and deeds of our Master Jesus Christ who calls us to follow him just as he called Matthew.

Who is Matthew, and how did he introduce himself?
What are the characteristics of the Gospel according to Matthew?
What is the purpose of the Gospel according to Matthew?