Friday 13 December 2013

Introducing Matthew

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Before starting to read and discuss Matthew, here's an overview of the book and its author.

The book - Matthew's gospel was written by a well-educated Jew, probably between 60 and 80 AD [Tweet it!] (thirty to forty years after the events he describes). It seems certain he used three sources; these were Mark's gospel, the text of an earlier account that scholars call Q, and probably his own memories and those of his friends.

This gospel is focussed on Jewish traditions and people, and generally draws on a broad and deep understanding of Jewish society and customs at the time of Jesus. It was probably written for the Jewish diaspora living in Alexandria, Antioch and elsewhere, Jews who would have spoken Greek in everyday life.

The structure of Matthew closely follows that of Mark with the addition of extra material at the beginning (the genealogy and stories of Jesus' birth) and at the end (events after the resurrection).

The purpose of the book is to reveal Jesus as the Messiah, of the royal lineage of David, and the fulfillment of the Jewish scriptures. Matthew is also clear that Gentiles are included.

The author - The book may have been written by Matthew the tax collector (also called Levi), one of the twelve apostles. Certainly this is what the second century church fathers thought. The text itself suggests that the author was fluent in Greek with a good knowledge of either Aramaic or Hebrew (or indeed both).

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