THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW
Most scholars hold today that the Gospel of Matthew was written after Mark. Matthew’s Gospel was the one that was used most often in the early Church and so it has been placed before Mark in the Bible. It is known as the Ecclesial Gospel or the Gospel of the Church. One reason for this is that Matthew’s thesis seems to be that since Israel for whom Jesus came rejected Jesus as Messiah, the Church has become now the new and true Israel. Also Matthew is the only one of the four Evangelists who uses the word “Ekklesia” translated “Church” in his Gospel (16,18,;18,17). There is however, throughout the Gospel the tension between Particularism on the one had and Universalism on the other. The Jesus of the Gospel of Matthew is sent “only to the lost sheep of Israel” (15,24; see also 10,6) and the same Jesus can tell Israel “the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation producing the fruits of it” (21,43).
Matthew’s Gospel begins with the genealogy of Jesus, which goes back to Abraham. Joseph is not called the father of Jesus but the husband of Mary (1,16) since Matthew is clear that Joseph was not the biological father of Jesus. The birth of Jesus is then narrated, followed by the visit of the wise men to Bethlehem and Herod’s plan to kill Jesus. This leads the family to go to Egypt where they remain till Herod’s death and then return to Nazareth. The birth, flight into Egypt and return to Nazareth all fulfil scripture. Matthew then goes on to narrate the Baptism of Jesus by John and Jesus’ temptations and his overcoming them. Jesus then begins his public ministry in Galilee after calling the first four disciples. Unlike Mark, which is a story, Matthew intersperses his narrative with long discourses. The first of these is the Sermon on the Mount (5,1-7,29). There are four other discourses in the Gospel. These are The Mission Discourse (10,1-11,1), The parable Discourse (13,1-53), The Community Discourse (18,1-19,1) and the Eschatological Discourse (24,1-26,1). Each of these discourses ends in a similar manner with the words, “and when Jesus had finished (7,28; 11,1; 13,53; 19,1; 26,1). This is also Matthew’s way of focussing on the teaching of Jesus and giving it as much if not more importance that the deeds of Jesus. Like in Mark, Jesus enters Jerusalem triumphantly, but soon encounters opposition, which grows and leads to his arrest, passion and death. The Gospel ends with accounts of the resurrection appearances of Jesus to his disciples and what is known as the Great Commission, in which the disciples are commanded to go to all nations and make disciples of them and assured of the presence of the ever present Lord to whom all authority in heaven and earth has been given (28,16-20).
The characteristics unique to Matthew’s Gospel are as under:
1. Matthew mentions five women in his genealogy (Luke has no mention of women). While many explanations have been offered to explain this fact the most plausible one is that in the case of all five women there was something irregular in their union with their husbands.
2. The visit of the wise men from the East (2,1-12) is exclusive to Matthew and probably with the intention to show that though the Jewish leaders “know” the details of the birth of the Messiah, they “do” nothing about it. On the other hand, Gentiles (represented by the Magi) do not “know” the details, but are willing to “obey and do”.
3. Only in the Gospel of Matthew is the tax collector who is called referred to as Matthew (9,9) and is referred to as "Matthew the tax collector" in the list of the disciples (10,3).
4. Matthew uses the phrase "the Kingdom of God" only in 12,28; 19,24; 21,31.43. Instead, the term "the Kingdom of Heaven" is preferred (3,2; 4,17; 5,3.10. 19.20; 7,21; 8,11; 10,7; 11,11.12; 13,220.127.116.11.18.104.22.168; 16,19; 18,1.3.4; 19,22.214.171.124; 20,1; 22,2; 23,13; 25,1). In some of these, Matthew has changed his Marcan source. The best explanation of this phenomenon is Matthew prefers to avoid use of the word "God," using the circumlocution "Heavens" instead.
5. More than the other synoptic gospels, the Gospel of Matthew stresses the fulfilment nature of Jesus' ministry. The author explicitly cites Old Testament messianic prophecies as having been fulfilled in or by Jesus, often with a formula using the verb "to fulfil." The following are those instances that are unique to the Gospel of Matthew.
6. Matthew often doubles the numbers found in his Marcan source. Thus one demoniac of Mark 5,1-20 becomes two in Mt 8,28-34; one blind man of Mark 10,46-52 becomes two blind men in Mt 20,29-34. Matthew also has in 22,2 an ass and a colt where Mark 11,2 has only a colt. One reason that has been proposed for this is that Matthew wants to ensure the proper number of witness that were required to certify an act.
7. Only in Matthew 16, 17-19 is Peter commended by Jesus after his answer that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the living God” and given the keys of the kingdom and the power to bind and loose. This is interpreted here as the authority to determine who is allowed in and for the authority to determine what interpretation of the law is binding. Also Peter’s failed attempt to walk on water (14,28-31) after Jesus has successfully done so and the incident of payment of the Temple tax in which Peter is asked to go to the sea to find a shekel in a fish’s mouth (17,24-27) are exclusive to Matthew. This probably indicates that Peter was an important figure in the Matthean community.
8. Matthew alone narrates that Judas was paid thirty pieces of silver for his willingness to betray Jesus (26,14-16). While some see the connection with Zech 11,12-13 where thirty shekels of silver is mentioned as the wages of the shepherd, others see it as related to Exodus 21,32 which is price that had to be paid by the owner of an ox to the master of a slave who was gored to death by the ox. Judas’ repentance and suicide is also exclusive to Matthew (27,3-10)
9. Pilate receiving a message from his wife to have nothing to do with Jesus (27,19) and his washing his hands and declaring himself innocent of the death of Jesus (27,24), are incidents that are found only in Matthew. Some see this as Pilate’s obedience to the command of God communicated to him by his wife’s dream and also as Matthew’s attempt to put the onus for the death of Jesus on the shoulders of the Jews. This is also probably why Matthew alone has the people as a whole answer, “His blood be on us and on our children!” (27,25).