The Gospel According to St. Matthew
[Sidenote: The Author.]

St. Matthew is one of the least known of the Apostles. He was first called Levi the son of Alphaeus, and was a "publican" or collector of customs at Capernaum. At the call of Jesus, "he forsook all, and rose up and followed Him." He then made a great feast, to which he invited his old companions, no doubt that they too might come under the influence of the Lord. After the appointment of the twelve Apostles, he was put in the second of the three groups of Apostles. The New Testament gives us no further information concerning him. An early tradition narrates that the Apostles remained at Jerusalem until twelve years after the Ascension, and certainly St. Paul does not seem to have found any of the Apostles at Jerusalem when he was there in A.D.56 (Acts xxi.17). According to Clement of Alexandria, A.D.190, St. Matthew led a rigorously ascetic life, such as is also recorded of St. James. Nothing certain is known of his missionary labours. Parthia, Ethiopia, and India were believed in the 4th and 5th centuries to have been visited by St. Matthew. We learn from Clement of Alexandria that he did not suffer martyrdom.[1] The fact that he disappears almost completely from the realm of history is an additional reason for believing the tradition which connects our first Gospel with his name. A false tradition would have probably connected it with one of the more favourite figures of early Christian story.


It is repeatedly asserted by the Fathers that St. Matthew wrote his Gospel in Hebrew, which may either mean the sacred language of the synagogues, or the popular language of Palestine which we now call Aramaic. It should, however, be remembered that Papias, our earliest authority, describes St. Matthew's composition by the word Logia, which seems to point to a list of sacred sayings or "oracles" of our Lord, rather than to a historical narrative. About A.D.125, Papias writes: "Matthew then composed the Logia in the Hebrew tongue, and every one interpreted them as he was able." [2] About A.D.185, St. Irenaeus writes: "Matthew published a Gospel among the Hebrews in their own dialect." [3] Origen and Eusebius make similar statements. St. Jerome, in A.D.392, writes: "Matthew, also called Levi, who from being a publican became an apostle, first wrote a Gospel of Christ in Judaea, and in Hebrew letters and words for the benefit of those of the circumcision who believed. Who afterwards translated it into Greek is not quite certain." [4] We naturally inquire what became of this Hebrew Gospel?

St. Jerome, in A.D.392, believed that he had found it. He says that it was still preserved at Caesarea, and that the Nazarenes, a Jewish Christian sect of Palestine, allowed him to transcribe a copy of it at Beroea (now Aleppo). In A.D.398, he says that he had translated this Gospel into Greek and Latin. It is known that it was used by the Nazarenes and by the Ebionites, a Jewish sect which admitted that Jesus was the Messiah, but denied that He was divine. Lastly, we find St. Epiphanius, about the same time as St. Jerome, describing the Hebrew "Gospel according to the Hebrews" as the Gospel written by St. Matthew.

So at the end of the 4th century it was generally believed that the Gospel used by the Nazarenes, and ordinarily known as "the Gospel according to the Hebrews," was the original {35} Hebrew version of Matt. The opinion arose from the two simple facts that it was known that (1) St. Matthew originally wrote in Hebrew, and that (2) the Nazarenes possessed a Gospel in Hebrew. The conclusion was natural, but it was false. Clement of Alexandria and Origen, who quote the Gospel according to the Hebrews, do not represent it as the work of St. Matthew. St. Jerome himself felt doubts. When he first discovered the Hebrew Gospel, he felt the enthusiasm of a critic who has made an important find. He believed that he had discovered the original Gospel. He afterwards became more cautious. His later allusions to the Gospel say that "it is called by most the original Matthew," [5] and that it is "the Gospel according to the Apostles or, as most suppose, according to Matthew." [6] In fact, this Hebrew Gospel, which bore sometimes the title of "the Hebrews," sometimes "the Apostles," sometimes "St. Matthew," was not the Hebrew original of our present Matthew, nor could it have been written by an Apostle. The fragments of it which now remain come from two versions. Both versions show traces of a mixed Jewish and Gnostic heresy, and are plainly apocryphal. The Holy Spirit is called the "mother" of Jesus, and represented as transporting Him by a hair of His head to Mount Tabor, and our Lord is represented as handing His grave-clothes to the servant of the high-priest as soon as He was risen from the dead. The Gospel certainly seems not only to be a forgery, but to betray a knowledge both of our Greek Gospel according to St. Matthew and that according to St. John.[7] We are obliged to conclude that it throws no light on the origin of our Matt., and that the original Hebrew Matt. was lost at an early date.

On the other hand, it is certain that our Greek Matt. was {36} regarded as authentic in the 2nd century, and it is plain that it records the sayings of Christ with peculiar fulness.

We must now return to what was stated in our previous chapter when dealing with the Synoptic problem. We there saw that there is a great mass of common material in all three Synoptic Gospels, and saw that Mark was probably used as a groundwork for Matt. and Luke. We therefore are led to the conclusion that the Gospel according to St. Matthew is a combination of a Greek version of St. Matthew's original Hebrew Logia -- St. Matthew possibly wrote a Greek version of it as well as the Hebrew -- with the Gospel written by St. Mark. The combination was apparently made either by the apostle himself, or by a disciple of the apostle as the result of his directions. The Catholic Jewish Christians, knowing that the Gospel contained St. Matthew's own Logia, and that the rest of the Gospel was in accordance with his teaching as delivered to them, called it "the Gospel according to Matthew." The less orthodox Jewish Christians, as we have seen, invented a Gospel of their own.

A little help is given us by the internal evidence afforded by Matt. The author appears to be writing for Greek-speaking converts from Judaism, who need to have Hebrew words interpreted to them. Thus he interprets "Immanuel" (i.23), "Golgotha" (xxvii.33), and the words of our Lord on the cross (xxvii.46). The numerous quotations from the Old Testament have for a long time exercised the ingenuity of scholars, who have believed that they enable us to determine how the Gospel was written. On the whole these quotations suggest two conclusions: (1) That the evangelist knew both Greek and Aramaic, (2) that the Gospel is not a mere translation from the Aramaic or Hebrew. Roughly speaking, the quotations which St. Matthew has in common with the other Synoptists are from the Greek (Septuagint) version of the Old Testament, while those which are peculiar to his {37} Gospel show that the Hebrew has been consulted. Altogether the quotations number 45. Of these there are 11 which are texts quoted by the evangelist himself to illustrate the Messianic work of our Lord, and 9 of the 11 seem to imply a knowledge of Hebrew. They are i.23; ii.15, iv.15-16, viii.17, xii.18-21; xiii.14-15; xiii.35b; xxi.5; xxvii.9, 10. The other 34 texts comprise the quotations which are made in the discourses of our Lord, and they are sometimes called context-quotations or cyclic quotations, as coming in the cycle of discourses. Perhaps 6 or 7 of these 34 texts imply a knowledge of the Hebrew. But it is certain that this class of quotations is far nearer to the Septuagint than the other class. This conclusion remains good in spite of the fact that even the Messianic quotations show the influence of the Septuagint, e.g. in i.23 the writer uses the Septuagint, inasmuch as the Greek word translated "virgin" necessarily implies the unique condition of the mother of our Lord, whereas the corresponding Hebrew word does not necessarily imply the same condition. Now, it is plain that if the Gospel had been translated from the Hebrew, the context-quotations would probably have been as near to the Hebrew as the quotations made by the evangelist himself. This is not the case. The quotations in Matt. show that the writer knew Hebrew but wrote in Greek, and based part of his work on a Greek document.

The fact that the Gospel was written in Greek does not prove that it was not written in Palestine. It has been urged that it cannot have been written in Palestine, because in ix.26, 31 we find Palestine called "that land," but the phrase may refer only to a part of Palestine, and therefore can hardly be urged as proving anything. It is well known that educated persons in Palestine were acquainted with Greek, although the majority spoke Aramaic. The two languages existed side by side, very much as Welsh and English exist side by side in North Wales. If the Gospel was not written in Palestine, it was probably written in South Syria.


[Sidenote: Date.]

The date must be shortly before A.D.70. A favourite argument of modern sceptics is that it contains a reference (xxii.7) to the burning of Jerusalem by the Romans in A.D.70, and therefore must have been written after that event. The argument rests upon the assumption that our Lord could not have foreseen the event predicted -- an assumption which no Christian can accept. Even the favoured servants of God in later ages have sometimes possessed the gift of prophecy. Savonarola certainly foretold the fall of Rome, which took place in A.D.1527, and the prophecy was printed long before the event seemed credible. Much more might the Son of God have foretold the fall of that city which had so signally neglected His summons. Such expressions as "the holy city," "the holy place," "the city of the great King," suggest that when the Gospel was written it had not yet become the home of "the abomination of desolation." And a far stronger proof is afforded by the caution of the writer in xxiv.15, "let him that readeth understand." This is an editorial note inserted by the evangelist, as by St. Mark, before our Lord's warning to flee from Judaea. We learn from the early historians of the Church that the Jewish Christians took warning from this statement to flee from Judaea to Peraea before the Romans invested the holy city in A.D.70. Now, it would have been absurd for the evangelist to insert this note after the Roman forces had begun the siege, as absurd as it would have been to warn the Parisians to flee to England after Paris had been surrounded by the Prussians in 1870, or to warn the English to leave Ladysmith in 1900 after it was surrounded by the Boers. Another and final proof that the Gospel was written before A.D.70 is given by the form in which the evangelist has recorded our Lord's prophecy of the end of the world (the so-called "eschatological discourse" in chs. xxiv.-xxv.). The prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem and that of the last coming of the Lord are placed side by side with no perceptible break. Ch. xxiv.29-31 refers to the {39} last coming of Christ, whereas the verses which immediately precede it refer to the destruction of Jerusalem, and so do vers.32-34. It is impossible to resist the conclusion that the evangelist believed that the judgment upon Jerusalem would be immediately followed by the last judgment of the world. He knows that our Lord foretold both, and both events loom large in his mind. As a traveller in a valley sees before him two great mountains which appear close to one another, though really separated by many miles, so the evangelist sees these two events together. After the fall of Jerusalem he would almost certainly have made a definite break between the two subjects.

[Sidenote: Literary Style.]

We have already noticed in ch. ii. the fondness for numerical arrangement, which is a marked characteristic of the style of this Gospel. There are other proofs of the fact that this Gospel is more Hebrew in tone than the others. In the other Gospels we find the expression "the kingdom of God," but here we find it called "the kingdom of heaven," an instance of the peculiarly Jewish reverence which shrank from uttering the name of God. There are a few Aramaic words found in this Gospel -- raca (v.22), gehenna (v.22), mammon (vi.24); and we should add the peculiar use of "righteousness" in vi.1, where the word is used in the sense of "alms" in accordance with a Jewish idiom. But the Greek phrases are often neat and clear-cut. They sometimes seem to imply a play upon words, e.g. in vi.16 and xxiv.30. This is another indication that the Gospel, as it stands, was first written in Greek. The Greek is smoother than that of St. Mark, though not so vivid. The evangelist writes with a joyous interest in his work. The historical parts of it are full of beauty, but he uses them mainly as a framework for the discourses of Jesus, which he preserves with loving fidelity.

In St. Matthew's Gospel the Old Testament is frequently quoted, that the reader may see that Jesus is the realization of {40} the hopes of the Jewish prophets. With set purpose the fair picture of the Servant of Jehovah drawn by Isaiah is placed in the middle of the Gospel (xii.18-21), that we may recognize it as the true portrait of Christ. Close to it on either side the blasphemies of the Pharisees are skilfully depicted as a foil to His divine beauty. We have already noticed the bearing of these quotations on the origin of the Gospel, but we must speak further of their bearing on the evangelist's view of the Old Testament. His Messianic quotations are introduced by such phrases as "that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet," or, "then was fulfilled," etc. The tendency of modern scepticism to ridicule the supernatural element in prophecy has caused some writers to depreciate this method of quotation. And we find even a thoughtful Roman Catholic writer speaking of it as "giving the impression that the supple and living story of the life of Jesus is only a chain of debts which fall due, and fulfilments which cannot be avoided." [8] In particular, it has been alleged that the Greek word translated "that," or "in order that," and prefixed to these quotations, implies this fatalistic necessity. But this particular argument is mistaken. In later Greek the use of the word was vaguer than it had been formerly.[9] It cannot be narrowed down so as to prove that the evangelist thought that events in the Old Testament only took place in order to be types which the Son of God constrained Himself to fulfil. And, speaking more generally, we may say that the evangelist shows an exquisite taste in his selection of Messianic quotations. Convinced that Jesus sums up the history of Israel, he does not hesitate to quote passages in the Old Testament, whether they directly refer to the Messianic King, or only call up some picture which has a counterpart in the life of Christ.


Thus the quotations in i.23 and ii.6 directly refer to one who is the expected King, that in viii.17 to one who is the ideal martyred Servant, that in ii.15 to Israel conceived of as the peculiar child of God and so a type of Christ. In ii.23 the evangelist finds in the name of Nazareth an echo of the ancient Messianic title Netzer (a branch). In ii.18 we see that the tomb of Rachel near Bethlehem reminds him of the mothers of Israel weeping over the death of their children at the hands of the Babylonians; and as Jeremiah poetically conceived of Rachel weeping with the mothers of his own day, so St. Matthew conceives of her as finding her crowning sorrow in the massacre of the Holy Innocents.

Three other quotations deserve special notice: (1) That in xxvii.9, which the evangelist quotes from "Jeremiah." It is often said that this is a mere mistake for Zechariah. But it is a quotation combined, according to the Jewish method known as the Charaz, or "string of pearls," from Zech. xi.12 and Jer. xix.1, 2, 6, the valley of the son of Hinnom being regarded as typical of "the field of blood." (2) That in xxvii.34, from Ps. lxix.21. It is said that the evangelist, in order to make our Lord's action correspond with the words of the Psalmist, makes Him drink "gall" instead of "myrrh" (Mark xv.23), and thus represents the soldiers as cruelly giving Him a nauseating draught instead of a draught to dull His pain. The argument will hardly hold good, for the Greek word translated "gall" can also signify a stupefying drug, and thus Matt. and Mark agree. (3) That in xxi.2-7, where our Lord is represented as making use of both an ass and a colt for His triumphal entry into Jerusalem. The other Synoptists mention a colt only, and it is supposed that the evangelist altered his narrative of the fact in order to make it agree with a too literal interpretation of Zech. ix.9. It must be admitted that the account in Mark and Luke has an air of greater probability, and it has the support of the brief account in John. But there is not a decisive contradiction between Matt. and the other Gospels, and it is therefore unreasonable to pass an unfavourable verdict on any of them. The story in Matt. cannot be discredited as containing an apocryphal miracle, and the mere fact that it is so independent of the other Gospels suggests that it is really primitive.

[Sidenote: Character and Contents.]

The chief characteristic of this Gospel is the representation of Jesus as the Messiah in whom was fulfilled the {42} Law and the prophets. It was probably placed first in the New Testament because this Messianic doctrine is the point of union between the old covenant and the new. St. Matthew's representation of the Messiah is the result of very careful reflection, and it shows that the evangelist wrote in a spirit which was philosophical and in one sense controversial. He is philosophic because he is not a mere annalist. He groups incidents and discourses together in a manner which brings out their significance as illustrating the Messiahship of Jesus and the majestic forward movement of the kingdom of God. He is in one sense controversial because he wishes his picture of Christ to correct that false idea of the Messiah and His reign which was ruining the Jewish people. The best kind of controversy is that which is intent upon explaining the truth rather than eager to expose and ridicule what is false. So the evangelist presents to his readers Jesus as the Lord's Anointed with inspired powers of persuasion. The manner in which he records our Lord's urgent warnings against going after false Jewish Messiahs at the time when the destruction of Jerusalem should draw near, is a witness to the depth of his convictions. Like the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, who wrote shortly before him, he cannot endure the thought of any waverers or deserters. The Jewish Christian must be loyal to Jesus, even although the invasion of the holy land by Gentiles may sorely tempt him to throw in his lot with his patriotic but unbelieving kinsmen.

The very first verse suggests the nature of the Gospel -- "The book of the generation" (i.e. the genealogical tree) "of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham." This "book" includes the first 17 verses of the Gospel. While St. Luke traces the genealogy of our Lord back to Adam, the head of the human race, St. Matthew desires to show that our Lord, as the son of Abraham, is the child of promise in whom all the families of the earth shall be blessed, and, as the son of David, {43} is heir to the kingdom of spiritual Israel. The genealogy is partly based on that of the Greek version of 1 Chron. i.-iii., and is intended to teach certain special truths. It is arranged so as to be a kind of summary of the history of the people of God, each group of 14 names ending with a crisis. Jesus is the flower and fulfilment of that history. It furnishes a reply to Jewish critics. They would say that Jesus could not be Messiah unless Joseph, his supposed father, was descended from David. St. Matthew shows that St. Joseph was of Davidic descent. Again, the Jews would say that in any case the Messiah would not be likely to be connected with a humble carpenter and his folk. The evangelist's reply is that David himself was descended from comparatively undistinguished men and from women who were despised. Thus St. Matthew meets both points raised by the Jews.

Of recent years another criticism has been passed on this pedigree of our Lord. A copy of the Old Syriac version of the Gospels, discovered at Sinai and published in 1894, says that Joseph begat Jesus, and in this way denies that Jesus was born of a pure virgin. Some writers who wish to believe that our Lord was brought into the world in the same manner as ourselves, have said that this Syriac version represents what was actually the fact. There is, however, no reason for believing anything of the kind. There is no ground for the notion that the Syriac genealogy was taken from a primitive Jewish register. It is merely a translation of the Greek, probably from some Western Greek manuscript which had "Joseph begat Jesus." When the evangelist wrote the genealogy, he can only have meant that Joseph was by Jewish law regarded as the father of Jesus; for his whole narrative of our Lord's infancy assumes that He was born of a virgin mother. The truth that our Lord was born miraculously is asserted by St. Luke as well as by St. Matthew. It is assumed by St. Paul, when he argues that the second Adam was free from the taint of sin which affected the rest of the first Adam's descendants. It {44} was also cherished from the earliest times in every part of the Christian world where the teaching of the apostles was retained, and was only denied by a few heretics who had openly rejected the teaching of the New Testament on other subjects.

Connected with the representation of Jesus as the Messiah is the record of His continual teaching about the "kingdom of heaven." The "kingdom of heaven" or "kingdom of God" signifies the reign and influence of God. The meaning of it is best expressed by the words in the Lord's Prayer: "Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so on earth" (Matt. vi.10). The second petition explains the first. The kingdom comes in proportion as the righteous will of our loving Father is done among men. The kingdom therefore includes the influence of God in the heart of the believer, or in great movements in the world, or in the organization and growth of His Church (xvi.18; xviii.17). The kingdom has both a present and a future aspect. In xii.28 our Lord says to His hearers that it "is come upon you," and in xxi.31 He speaks of people who were entering into it at the time. But the night before He died He spoke of it as still future (xxvi.29). It is plain that He taught that it was already present, though its consummation is yet to come. The kingdom is spiritual, "not of this world," it is universal, for though the Jews were "the sons of the kingdom" (viii.12) by privilege, it is free to others. The worst sinner might come in (xxi.31), if he came with repentance, humility, and purity of heart. The teaching of Christ with regard to the kingdom was based upon an idea of God's personal rule, which runs through nearly all the Old Testament, beginning with the Books of Samuel and revealing itself in Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Daniel. But our Lord's teaching is original and distinctive. And it is more distant from the popular Jewish idea of a Hebrew counterpart to the Roman empire than the east is distant from the west.

Nowhere else is our Lord shown to have given such an unmistakable sanction to the Law. It is here only that we {45} read, "Think not that I came to destroy the Law, or the prophets: I came not to destroy, but to fulfil" (v.17).[10] Here, too, we find an allusion to the observance of the sabbath after the Ascension (xxiv.20), a temporary prohibition of preaching to the Gentiles and Samaritans (x.5), and the statement of our Lord, "I was not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel" (xv.24). Most remarkable of all is the direction to obey the scribes and Pharisees (xxiii.3). On the other hand, there is a rigorous denunciation of the rabbinical additions to the Jewish Law. Mercy is preferable to sacrifice (xii.7), the Son of man is Lord of the sabbath (xii.8), moral defilement does not come from a failure to observe ceremonial (xv.11), the kingdom will be transferred to a more faithful nation (xxi.43), even the strangers from the east and the west (viii.11), the Gospel will be for all people (xxiv.14), and the scribes and Pharisees are specially denounced (xxiii.13).

It has been said that there is an absolute opposition between these two classes of sayings; that either Jesus contradicted Himself, or the evangelist drew from one source which was of a Judaizing character, and from another source which taught St. Paul's principle of justification by faith versus justification by the Law. But the same divine paradox of truth which we find in Matt. runs through most of the New Testament, and is found plainly in St. Paul. In the Epistle where he exposes the failure of contemporary Judaism most remorselessly, he asserts that "we establish the Law." The true inner meaning of the divine revelation granted in the Old Testament is fulfilled in Christ. Not only so, but Christ Himself was "the servant of the circumcision," living "under the Law." The limits which He imposed upon His own ministry (xv.24) and that of His apostles (x.5) were entirely fitting until Christ at His resurrection laid aside all that was peculiarly Jewish with its limits and humiliations.



The infancy of our Lord: i.1-ii.23. -- Genealogy from Abraham, announcement to Joseph, birth, visit of Magi, flight into Egypt, massacre of innocents, settlement at Nazareth.


Winter A.D.26 till after Pentecost 27.

The preparation for the ministry: iii.1-iv.11. --

The ministry of John the Baptist and the baptism of Jesus, the threefold temptation.


Pentecost A.D.27 till before Passover 28.

The preaching of the kingdom of God by Jesus in Galilee: iv.12-xiii.58. -- The call of the four fishermen, Jesus preaches and heals (iv.). The Sermon on the Mount -- Jesus fulfils the law, the deeper teaching concerning the commandments (v.). False and true almsgiving, prayer and fasting, worldliness, trust in God (vi.). Censoriousness, discrimination in teaching, encouragements to prayer, false prophets, the two houses (vii.). The ministry at Capernaum and by the lake is illustrated by the record of many works of Messianic healing power (viii.-ix.), the apostles are chosen and receive a charge (x.), and the ministry is illustrated by words and parables of Messianic wisdom (xi.-xiii.). We find a growing hostility on the part of the scribes and Pharisees (ix.11; ix.34; xii.2, xii.14; xii.24). Jesus returns to Nazareth (xiii.53-58).

[Perplexity of Herod and death of John the Baptist, xiv.1-12.]



Passover A.D.28 till before Tabernacles 28.

Climax of missionary work in Galilee: xiv.13-xviii.35. -- Christ feeds the 5000, walks on the sea, heals the sick in Gennesaret (xiv.). Christ now labours chiefly in the dominions of Herod Philip, the journeys are more plainly marked in Mark. Teaching about defilement, the Canaanite woman, Christ feeds the 4000 (xv.).

Leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees, Peter's confession of Christ, Christ's first prediction of His death (xvi.). Transfiguration, lunatic boy cured, second prediction of death, the shekel in the fish's mouth (xvii.). Treatment of children, Christ saving lost sheep, forgiveness (xviii.).


Tabernacles, September A.D.28 until early 29.

The ministry in Peraea; xix. i-xx.34. -- Christ forbids divorce, He blesses children, the rich young man, the difficulties of the rich (xix.). Parable of the labourers, Christ's third prediction of His death, the request of the mother of Zebedee's children, the two blind men of Jericho (xx.).


Passover A.D.29.

Last days at Jerusalem, and afterwards: xxi.1-xxviii.20. -- Entry into Jerusalem, the cleansing of the temple, the withered fig tree, Christ challenged, parable of the vineyard (xxi.). The marriage feast, three questions to entrap Christ, His question (xxii.). On not seeking chief places, denunciation of scribes and Pharisees, lament over Jerusalem (xxiii.).

Predictions of destruction of temple, siege of Jerusalem, the second coming (xxiv.), three discourses on the judgment (xxv.).


The Council discuss how they may arrest Jesus, the woman with the ointment, Judas' bargain, the Passover, Gethsemane, the betrayal, the trial before Caiaphas, Peter's denial (xxvi.). Jesus delivered to Pilate, Judas' suicide, Jesus tried by Pilate, Jesus and Barabbas, the mockery, crucifixion, burial by Joseph of Arimathaea, guard granted by Pilate (xxvii.).

The women at the sepulchre, the angel, Jesus meets them, the guard bribed, Jesus meets the eleven in Galilee, His commission to baptize and teach (xxviii.).

Note on the Date of Matthew. -- Irenaeus, apparently following Papias, says, "Matthew published a written Gospel among the Hebrews in their own dialect, Peter and Paul preaching the Gospel at Rome" (Adv. Haer. iii.1). This would fix the date of the Hebrew Matt. about A.D.63, if it was the intention of Irenaeus to give chronological information in this sentence. But the context makes it more probable that this is not the case, and that he simply wished to make it clear that the teaching of the four chief apostles, Peter and Paul, Matthew and John, has come down to us in writing. That of Matthew and John survives in their Gospels, that of Peter and Paul, though they wrote no Gospels, survives in Mark and Luke. Eusebius, in his Chronicle dates the composition in A.D.41. This he probably does in order to make it fit with the supposed departure of the apostles from Jerusalem after twelve years from the Crucifixion. His statement is very improbable. At any rate our Greek Matt. must have been written after Mark. The frequent quotations from it in primitive literature from the Epistle of Barnabas and the Didache onwards, bear witness both to its early date and its high authority. Internal evidence points to the same conclusion. In addition to what is said above (p.38), we may note some passages likely to perplex the reader. Such are ii.23, "the ass and the colt" in xxi.7, the "three days and three nights in the belly of the whale" mentioned as typical of Christ's rest in the tomb (xii.40), the absence of all reference to the burning of the temple in xxiv.2, the reference to Zachariah the son of Barachiah (xxiii.35; contrast 2 Chron. xxiv.20). Such verses would probably have been altered if the Gospel had not gained an authoritative position at a very early date.

[1] Strom. iv.9.

[2] Eusebius, H. E. iii.39.

[3] Adv. Haer. iii.1.

[4] De Vir, Ill. 3.

[5] In Matt. xii.13.

[6] Con. Pelag. iii.1.

[7] So Prof. Armitage Robinson, Expositor, March, 1897.

[8] Batiffol, Six Lecons sur les Evangiles, p.48.

[9] Burton, Syntax of the Moods and Tenses of New Testament Greek, pp.92-95.

[10] In this Gospel only is sin called "lawlessness."

[11] These analyses of the Gospels are not complete, but are arranged with the hope that the readers, by studying all the four, may gain a clearer conception of the life of our Lord.


chapter ii the gospels
Top of Page
Top of Page