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Bible Commentaries

Peake's Commentary on the BiblePeake's Commentary

- Matthew

by Arthur Peake



Introduction.— A well-known passage in Eusebius ( Hist., iii. 39) quotes Papias, Bishop of Hierapolis ( c. A.D. 125) as saying: “ Matthew, in the Hebrew dialect, compiled the Logia, and each one interpreted them according to his ability.” Irenæ us (c. 180) has a similar remark ( Haer., iii. 1), and adds a date: “ When Peter and Paul were preaching in Rome and founding the Church.” Papias’ s statement has been taken by many scholars to refer to a collection of sayings of Jesus, [77] with a certain amount of narrative, in fact the hypothetical source called Q (pp. 672, 675f.) which lies behind our First and Third Gospels. Our Mt. is not the work of an apostle (an eyewitness would not have depended so much on earlier writings), nor is it a translation from a Hebrew or Aramaic original. But if Matthew did as Papias asserts, we can understand how his name would be given to the Gospel which most completely incorporated his work.

[77] P. C. Burkitt and Rendel Harris, however, argue that it was a collection of Testimonia or OT proof-texts of the Messiahship of Jesus.

Contente and Sources.— After describing the birth and infancy of Jesus (1f.) and the mission of John the Baptist ( Matthew 3:1-12), the Gospel narrates the Baptism and Temptation of Jesus ( Matthew 3:13 to Matthew 4:17). The account of His work in Galilee (teaching, healing, the call of the Twelve, and the effect on the people, on the authorities, and on Himself) take up Matthew 4:18 to Matthew 15:20. Thence to the end of Matthew 18 the narrative deals with work outside Galilee, in the midst of which comes the decisive episode of Cæ sarea Philippi. 19f. describes the journey to Jerusalem, Matthew 21-28 the Passion and Resurrection. The article on the Synoptic Problem has shown (p. 673f.) how greatly indebted Mt. is to Mk. in subject-matter, language, and order of events. This was his first main source, though he often abbreviates it, for he had much other material which he was anxious to use without exceeding the length of an ordinary papyrus roll. And while we may trace an impulse to omit or soften passages in Mk. which seem derogatory to the Messiah or the Twelve, we may easily go too far in ascribing such motives to our evangelist, who was perhaps mainly concerned with the simple task of saving space (see H. J. White, in Church Quarterly Review, July 1915). Mt.’ s second main source was Q, quite as useful to him as Mk., and besides these he appears to have had ( a) the little manual of OT passages ( testimonia) which the early Church deemed prophetic of incidents in the life of Jesus, ( b) a number of Palestinian traditions which may have come to him orally. These include incidents in the Infancy and Passion Narratives (especially portions of Matthew 27), but also sections like Matthew 14:28-31, Matthew 17:24-27, Matthew 21:10 f.

Characteristics.— The tendency of Mt. to group and classify his material has often been noticed. There may be some intention of providing a systematic manual for the use of converts and the instruction of youth. Attempts have been made to show that he is fond of numerical schemes, groups of three, seven, five, or ten incidents or topics, but they are not always successful. More important than such matters of form is the purpose that dominates the book. This is the presentation of the Messiahship of Jesus, His royal dignity and prerogatives. This aim can be traced from the genealogy and the adoration of the Magi, through the whole of the teaching (with its claim to supersede the Law), down to the Passion with the unconscious testimony of the inscription on the cross, and to the final assertion of all authority in heaven and on earth. In like manner the true heirs of the kingdom, His ecclesia, are those who accept the Messiahship of Jesus. There is throughout a blending of the Judaic and the supra-Judaic that makes one think of the author as the shining example of a “ scribe instructed unto the Kingdom of Heaven” ( Matthew 13:52), bringing out of his store things new and old. These and other characteristics are noted in the course of the following commentary.

Date and Authorship.— The Gospel must have been subsequent to that of Mk., i.e. some time after A.D. 70 ( cf. Matthew 22:7 *). The letter of Clement to the Corinthians (c. A.D. 95) has some similarities, the Ep. of Barnabas seems to quote Matthew 22:14 as Scripture, but the date of this work is uncertain (70– 132). In any case the Gospel was known to Ignatius ( c. 110) and to Hermas ( c. 120). Archdeacon Allen pleads for a date as early as 50, but the usually received opinion is 80 or 90. This conclusion is partly suggested by what appear to be reflections of Church life, thought, and organisation, belonging to the last decades of the first century. The Gospel breathes the air of Palestine, but its compiler was one somewhat out of touch with Jerusalem, and there came to him traditions of very varying value. He is an archæ ologist, but not a critical one. More than this we can hardly say, but we cannot simply brand as pseudonymous a production which had its genesis in the sagacity and affection of the erstwhile customs-officer. It is good that Matthew’ s name should remain in the title.

The writer of these notes wishes to acknowledge his special obligations to the works of Mr. C. G. Montefiore and Dr. A. H. M’ Neile. It only remains to insist that the plan of this commentary on Mt. necessitates the reader’ s study of what has been written on the parallel sections in Mk. by Mr. Wood. Only so can he get a proper treatment of the passages that occur in both Gospels.

Literature. Commentaries; ( a) Morison, Slater (Cent.B), Smith (WNT), Plummer, Anderson, Micklem (West.C); ( b) Allen (ICC), Bruce (EGT), M’ Neile, Carr (CGT); ( c) Wellhausen, Zahn (ZK), Zö ckler, R. Weiss (Mey.), Holtzmann (HC), Klostermann and Gressmann (HNT), Merx, Nö sgen, J. Weiss (SNT), Rose, Baljon; ( d) Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, Gibson (Ex.B); Articles in Dictionaries, Introductions to NT, the Gospels, and the Synontic Problem; Works on the Life and Teaching of Christ (as on pp. 670f.); Harnack, Sayings of Jesus; Bruce, With Open Face; Lukyn Williams, The Hebrew Christian Messiah,

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