Background to The Gospel of St. Matthew

The Gospel of St. Matthew is one of the four canonical gospels in the New Testament and is a synoptic gospel. It narrates an account of the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. It describes his genealogy, his miraculous birth and childhood, his baptism and temptation, his ministry of healing and preaching, and finally his crucifixion and resurrection. The resurrected Jesus commissions his Apostles to “go and make disciples of all nations.” (Matthew 28:19)

The Christian community traditionally ascribes authorship to Matthew the Evangelist, one of Jesus’ twelve Apostles. Augustine of Hippo considered it to be the first gospel written (see synoptic problem), and it appears as the first gospel in most Bibles. Secular scholarship generally agrees it was written by an anonymous non-eyewitness to Jesus’ ministry. The author apparently used the Gospel of St. Mark as one source and the hypothetical Q document as another, possibly writing in Antioch, c 80-85[1] or c 80-90. With its integration of Mark’s narrative with Jesus’ teachings and it emphasis on the church, Matthew was the most popular Gospel when they circulated separately. Of the Synoptics, it is the Gospel best suited for public reading, and it has probably always been the best-known of them.

Of the four canonical gospels, Matthew is most closely aligned with first century Judaism, and the author was apparently Jewish Christian. Matthew repeatedly stresses how Jesus fulfilled Jewish prophecies. He regarded Jesus as a greater Moses and arranged Jesus’ teaching into five sermons, probably paralleling the five Books of Moses. The special commission given to Peter has been highly influential. He combines key teachings into the Sermon on the Mount. Matthew is the only Gospel to mention the church (ecclesia). Jesus cites its authority and calls on Christians to practice forgiveness (ch. 18). Most modern scholars consider the gospel, like every other book in the New Testament, to have been written in Koine Greek, though some maintain the traditional view[3] that it was originally composed in Aramaic, see also Aramaic primacy. The gospel is associated with noncanonical gospels written for Jewish Christians, such as the Gospel of the Hebrews.

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