Introduction to the Gospel According to Matthew-2
The traditional attribution of the gospel authorship to Matthew occurred as early as the latter half of the 2nd century, with the bishop Papias writing around 125 AD: “Matthew arranged in order the sayings in the Hebrew language, and each one interpreted/translated as he was able” (Brown 209)
While much as been discussed regarding Papias’ statement, modern scholarship agrees in stating that the gospel was originally written in Greek by a Jewish Christian (among the reasons given to support a Jewish Christian author are the use of Old Testament, genealogy, knowledge of Jewish legends, etc.).
Due to source criticism we know today that this gospel was very unlikely written by the apostle Matthew, given that it contains some eighty percent of Mark’s gospel, so it seems unlikely that an apostle would use as source material a writing from a secondary source, as Mark was not one of the apostles. Even though ancient tradition believed the gospel to have been written in Aramaic, today the consensus is that it was written originally in Greek, using sources like the Gospel of Mark and Q.
The intended audience of the gospel has always been supposed as a Jewish one. Most scholars today agree to the gospel being composed in Syria, most specifically Antioch. One of the reasons for this is that two of the earliest sources that mention this gospel, namely Ignatius and the Didache are associated with Antioch. The most agreed date of composition is the last third of the first century AD, sometime between 70 and 100 AD. This dating is supported by the events surrounding the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD. There would be much animosity toward Jewish Christians, since this group did not side with the seditious group. Some of the statements in the gospel seem to support an expulsion (maybe even persecution?) of the Jewish Christians from the Jewish communities (see Jesus predictions of his disciples being scourged in synagogues in ch. 10).
Join us next week as we discuss the division of the gospel and some of its major emphases.