Matthew Introduction

Matthew is the Gospel of the Church and is the only one to use the word Ekklesia (Matthew 16:18; 18:17). From the beginning of Christianity it has been the Gospel most used in formal worship (e.g. it forms the backbone of the set readings in the Book of Common Prayer) because it was traditionally thought by the Fathers of the Church, including St. Jerome, to have been written first, even before Mark. It enjoyed the status of an eye witness account written by the Apostle identified as "Matthew the tax collector". St. Augustine described Mark as a "lackey and abbreviator" of Matthew but contemporary scholars are almost unanimous that Mark was written before Matthew which Johnson describes as "the most successful edition of Mark". It is far more likely that Matthew wrote an extended commentary on Mark than that Mark produced a clumsy edit of Matthew. Matthew follows Mark's narrative order and contains 90% of the content but compresses it by 1/3 and then adds Matthew's particular material comprising a genealogy, birth and Resurrection narratives and a series of rich discourses.

It is impossible to be precise but Matthew appears to have been written after the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE and before 90 CE as a reaction to emerging Rabbinical Judaism which emerged after the destruction of the Temple reinforcing the Pharisaic tradition. This accounts for Matthew's wish at all points to differentiate Christianity from Judaism not by denying but by radicalising it. This to some extent accounts for the sharp tone which formed the Christian basis for anti Semitism.

There are primarily two different ways of looking at the structure of Matthew:

The two alternatives are not contradictory but the tendency to alternate narrative and discourse in blocks produces two striking literary effects: the first is a loss of the kind of dramatic effect seen in Mark; the second is a clarity and systematic approach to discourse material.

Partly taken from:

Johnson, Luke T.: The Writings of The New Testament: An Interpretation, Fortress, 2002

KC ix/07

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