Robert Carroll and Stephen Prickett

in The Bible: Authorized King James Version

Published in print February 1998 | ISBN: 9780192835253
Published online April 2009 |

Series: Oxford World's Classics


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The earliest reference to Matthew appears in a report by Papias (c.130 ce): ‘Matthew collected the oracles in the Hebrew language, and each one interpreted them as best he could.’105 Neither clear nor helpful, this may not even refer to the Gospel of Matthew. Nor do the facts that Matthew was one of Jesus's twelve disciples (10: 3), and that a tax-collector named Matthew only occurs in Matthew's gospel (9: 9), constitute evidence that this Matthew wrote the gospel now named after him. It is normally dated after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 ce, mainly on the strength of the phrase ‘and burned up their city’ in 22: 7. Apart from such shaky guesswork, we do not know who wrote the gospels, nor when, where, why, for whom, or how. Matthew's gospel is more systematically organized than Mark's. Jesus is represented as a teacher, and his life and ministry as the fulfilment of biblical prophecy. This is the only one of the canonical Gospels to refer to ‘the church’ (ekklesia: 16: 18; 18: 17)—possibly indicating that it was written to instruct certain ecclesiastical communities at a time when Jews and Jewish Christians were separating. Since the ‘end of the world’ (24: 3) did not occur after the destruction of the Jerusalem temple (24: 4–51), those addressed by this gospel may have required encouragement to live according to non-eschatological principles: hence the teachings attributed to Jesus known now as the ‘Sermon on the Mount’ (5–7), a form not found in any other gospel (Luke has a shorter ‘Sermon on the Plain’ (6: 17–49)).

Chapter.  1401 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies ; Biblical Studies

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