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Reference: Matthew, The Gospel According To


(See GOSPELS for its aspect of Christ compared with the other evangelists.)

Time of writing. As our Lord's words divide Acts (Ac 1:8) into its three parts, "ye shall be witnesses unto Me in Jerusalem, and all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth":

(1) the period in which the church was Jewish, Acts 1-11;

(2) the period when it was Gentile with strong Jewish admixture;

(3) the period when the Gentiles preponderated, Matthew's Gospel answers to the first or Jewish period, ending about A.D. 41, and was written probably in and for Jerusalem and Judea.

The expression (Mt 27:7-8; 28:15) "unto this day" implies some interval after Christ's crucifixion. Language. Ancient testimony is unanimous that Matthew wrote in Hebrew Papias, a disciple of John (the Presbyter) and companion of Polycarp (Eusebius, H. E. 3:3), says, "Matthew wrote his oracles (logia) in Hebrew, and each interpreted them in Greek as he could." Perhaps the Greek for "oracles," logia, expresses that the Hebrew Gospel of Matthew was a collection of discourses (as logoi means) rather than a full narrative. Matthew's Gospel is the one of the four which gives most fully the discourses of our Lord. Papias' use of the past tense (aorist) implies that "each interpreting" Matthew's Hebrew was in Papias' time a thing of the past, so that as early as the end of the first century or the beginning of the second the need for each to translate the Hebrew had ceased, for an authoritative Greek translation existed.

The Hellenists (Greek-speaking) Jews would from the first need a Greek version, and Matthew and the church would hardly leave this want unsupplied in his lifetime. Origen, Pantaenus, Eusebius (H. E. 6:25; 5:10; 5:8), and Irenaeus (adv. Haer. 3:1) state the same. Jerome (de Vir. Illustr. 3) adds, "who translated the Hebrew into Greek is uncertain." He identifies Matthew's Hebrew Gospel with "the Gospel of the Nazarenes," which he saw in Pamphilus' library at Caesarea. Epiphanius (Haer. 29, sec. 9) mentions this Nazarene Gospel as written in Hebrew. (Hebruikois grammasin) Probably this Nazarene was the original Hebrew Gospel of Matthew interpolated and modified, yet not so much so as the Ebionite Gospel. This view will account for the strange fact that nothing of the Hebrew Matthew has been preserved. Our Greek Gospel superseded the Hebrew, and was designed by the Holy Spirit (as its early acceptance, universal use, and sole preservation prove) to be the more universal canonical Gospel.

The Judaizing Nazarenes still clung to the Hebrew one; but their heresies and their corruptions of the text brought it into disrepute with the orthodox. Origen (on Prayer, 161:150) argues that epiousion, the Greek word for "daily" in the Lord's prayer, was formed by Matthew himself; Luke adopts the word. Eusebius (Lardher, Cred. 8 note p. 180) remarks that Matthew in quotations of the Old Testament does not follow the Septuagint, but makes his own translation. Quotations in his own narrative (1) pointing out the fulfillment of prophecy Matthew translates from the Hebrew. Quotations (2) of persons introduced, as Christ, are from the Greek Septuagint, even where differing from the Hebrew, e.g. Mt 3:3; 13:14. A mere translator would not have done so. An independent writer would do just what Matthew does, namely, in speeches of persons introduced would conform to the apostolic tradition which used the Septuagint, but in his own narrative would translate the Hebrew as he judged best under the Spirit.

These are arguments for Matthew's authorship of the Greek Gospel. Mark apparently alters or explains many passages found in our Matthew, for greater clearness, as if he had the Greek of Matthew before him (Mt 18:9; 19:1 with Mr 10:1; 9:47); and if the Greek existed so early it must have come from Matthew himself, not a transistor. The Latinisms (fragellosas, Mt 27:26; kodranteen, Mt 5:26) are unlike a translation from Hebrew into Greek, for why not use the Greek terms as Luke (Lu 12:59) does, rather than Graecised Latinisms? The Latinisms are natural to Matthew, as a portitor or gatherer of port dues, familiar with the Roman coin quadrans, and likely to quote the Latin for "scourging" (fragellosas from flagellum) used by the Roman governor in sentencing Jesus. Josephus' writing his history both in Greek and Hebrew (B. J. Preface 1) is parallel.

The great proof of Matthew's authorship of the Greek is that the Hebrew has left no trace of it except that which may exist in the Nazarene Gospel, whereas our Greek Matthew is quoted as authentic by the apostolic fathers (Polycarp, Ep. ii. 7; Ignatius, ad Smyr. 6; Clemens Romans i. 46; Barnabas, Ep. 4) and earliest Christians. Paul in writing to the Hebrew, Peter to the Jews of the dispersion, and James to the twelve tribes, write in Greek not Hebrew. How unlikely that Matthew's name should be substituted for the lost name of the unknown translator, and this in apostolic times; for John lived to see the completion of the canon; he never would have sanctioned as the authentic Gospel of Matthew a fragmentary compilation "in arrangement and selection of events not such as would have proceeded from an apostle and eye witness" (Alford). The Hebraisms accord with the Jewish character of Matthew's Gospel, and suit the earliest period of the church. At a later date it would have been less applicable to the existing state.

Early Christian writers quote the Greek, not the Hebrew, with implicit confidence in its authority as Matthew's work. The original Hebrew of which Papias, etc., speak none of them ever saw. If it had not been so, heretics would have gladly used such a handle against it, which they do not. The Syriac version of the second century is demonstrably made, not from its kindred tongue the Hebrew, but from the Greek Matthew; this to too in the country next Judea where Matthew wrote, and with which there was the freest communication. The Hebrew Matthew having served its local and temporary use was laid aside, just as Paul's temporary epistles (Col 4:16; 1Co 5:9) have not been transmitted to us, the Holy Spirit designing them to serve but for a time. Our Greek Matthew has few, if any, traces of being a translation; it has the general marks of being an independent work.

A translator would not have presumed to alter Matthew's original so as to have the air of originality which it has; if he had, his compilation would never have been accepted as the authentic Gospel of the inspired apostle Matthew by the churches which had within them men possessing the gift of "discerning spirits" (1Co 12:10). As Mark's name designates his Gospel, not that of Peter his apostolic guide, and Luke's name his Gospel not Paul's name, so if a translator had modified Matthew's Hebrew, his name not Matthew's would have designated it. All is clear if we suppose that, after inaccurate translations of his Hebrew by others such as Papias (above) notices, Matthew himself at a later date wrote, or dictated, in Greek for Greek speaking Jews the Gospel in fuller form than the Hebrew. His omission of the ascension (as included in the resurrection of which it is the complement) was just what we should expect if he wrote while the event was fresh in men's memory and the witnesses still at Jerusalem. If he had written at a later date he would have surely recorded it.

AIM. There is a lack in it of the vivid details found in the others, his aim being to give prominence to the Lord's discourses. Jesus' human aspect as the ROYAL. Son of David is mainly dwelt, on; but His divine aspect as Lord of David is also presented in Mt 22:45; 16:16; proving that Matthew's view accords with that of John, who makes prominent Jesus' divine claims. From the beginning Matthew introduces Jesus as "Son of David," but Mr 1:1 as "the Son of God," Luke as "the Son of Adam, the son of God" (Lu 3:38), John as "the Word" who "was God" (Joh 1:4). In the earlier part, down to the Baptist's death, he groups facts and discourses according to the subjects, not according to the times, whereas Mark arranges according to the times, in the places where they differ. Papias' description of the Hebrew Matthew as a studied arrangement (su

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