Lectionary Calendar
Monday, June 24th, 2024
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12
Tired of seeing ads while studying? Now you can enjoy an "Ads Free" version of the site for as little as 10¢ a day and support a great cause!
Click here to learn more!

Bible Commentaries

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary

- Matthew

by Dr. Robert Utley



A. Until the time of the Renaissance/Reformation the Gospel of Matthew was thought to have been the first Gospel written (and still is by the Roman Catholic church).

B. It was the most copied, most quoted, most used Gospel in catechism and in the early liturgy by the church for the first two centuries.

C. William Barclay in The First Three Gospels, p. 19, said "When we turn to Matthew, we turn to the book which may well be called the most important single document of the Christian faith, for in it we have the fullest and the most systematic account of the life and the teachings of Jesus."

This is because it developed the teachings of Jesus in a thematic way. It was used to teach new converts (both Jew and Gentile) about the life and message of Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ.

D. It forms a logical bridge between the Old and New Covenants, between Jewish believers and Gentile believers. It used the Old Testament in a promise/fulfillment format as did the early sermons of Acts which are called the kerygma. The Old Testament is quoted over fifty times and alluded to many more. Also, many of the titles and analogies used of YHWH are applied to Jesus.

E. Therefore, the purposes of The Gospel According to Matthew were evangelism and discipleship, the twin aspects of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20).

1. They were to help convert Jews by informing them of Jesus' life and teachings,

2. They were to disciple both believing Jews and Gentiles into how they should live as Christians.


A. Although the earliest copies of the Greek NT ( A.D. 200-400) have the designation "according to Matthew," the book itself is anonymous.

B. The uniform tradition of the early church is that Matthew (also known as Levi, cf. Mark 2:14; Luke 5:27, Luke 5:29), tax-collector (cf. Matthew 9:9; Matthew 10:3) and disciple of Jesus, wrote the Gospel.

C. Matthew, Mark and Luke are strikingly similar:

1. they often agree in form on OT quotes that are not found in the Masoretic text nor the Septuagint,

2. they often quote Jesus in unusual grammatical constructions, even using rare Greek words,

3. they often use phrases and even sentences of exactly the same Greek words,

4. obviously literary borrowing has occurred.

D. Several theories have been advanced concerning the relationship between Matthew, Mark and Luke (the Synoptic Gospels).

1. The uniform tradition of the early church is that Matthew (Levi), the tax-collector and disciple of Jesus, wrote the Gospel. The Apostle Matthew was unanimously affirmed to be the author until the Renaissance/Reformation.

2. Around 1776 A. E. Lessing (and later Gieseler in 1818), theorized an oral stage in the development of the Synoptic ("to see together") Gospels. He asserted that they were all dependent on earlier oral traditions which the writers modified for their own target audiences:

a. Matthew: Jews

b. Mark: Romans

c. Luke: Gentiles

Each was related to a separate geographical center of Christianity

a. Matthew: Antioch, Syria

b. Mark: Rome, Italy

c. Luke: Caesarea by the Sea, Palestine

d. John: Ephesus, Asia Minor

3. In the early nineteenth century J. J. Griesbach theorized that Matthew and Luke wrote separate accounts of Jesus' life, completely independent of each other. Mark wrote a brief Gospel trying to mediate between these other two accounts.

4. In the early twentieth century H. J. Holtzmann theorized that Mark was the first written Gospel and that both Matthew and Luke used his Gospel structure plus a separation document containing the sayings of Jesus called Q (German quelle or "source"). This was labeled the "two source"theory (also endorsed by Fredrick Schleiermacher in 1832).

5. Later B. H. Streeter theorized a modified "two source"theory called "the four source"theory which posited a "proto Luke"plus Mark plus Q.

6. The above theories of the formation of the Synoptic Gospels are only speculation. There is no historical nor actual manuscript evidence of either a "Q"source or a "proto Luke."

Modern scholarship simply does not know how the Gospels developed nor who wrote them (the same is true of the OT Law and former Prophets). However, this lack of information does not affect the Church's view of their inspiration or trustworthiness as historical as well as faith documents.

7. There are obvious similarities in structure and wording between the Synoptics, but there are also many arresting differences. Differences are common in eye witness accounts. The early church was not bothered by the divergence of these three eyewitness accounts of Jesus' life.

It may be that the target audience, the style of the author and the different languages involved (Aramaic and Greek) account for the seeming discrepancies. It must be stated that these inspired writers, editors or compilers had the freedom to select, arrange, adapt and summarize the events and teachings of Jesus' life (cf. How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth by Fee and Stuart, pp. 113-148).

E. There is a tradition of the early church from Papias, the bishop of Hierapolis (A.D. 130), which was recorded in Eusebius'Historical Ecclesiasticus 3:39:16, that Matthew wrote his Gospel in Aramaic. However, modern scholarship has rejected this tradition because

1. the Greek of Matthew does not have the characteristics of a translation from Aramaic

2. there are Greek word plays (cf. Matthew 6:16; Matthew 21:41; Matthew 24:30)

3. most of the OT quotes are from the Septuagint (LXX) not the Masoretic Hebrew Texts

It is possible that Matthew 10:3 is a hint at Matthew's authorship. It adds "tax-gatherer"after his name. This self-deprecating comment is not found in Mark. Matthew also was not a well known person in the NT or early church. Why would so much tradition have developed around his name and this first apostolic Gospel?


A. In many ways the date of the Gospel is linked to the Synoptic problem. Which Gospel was written first and who borrowed from whom?

1. Eusebius, in Historical Ecclesiasticus, 3:39:15 said Matthew used Mark as a structural guide.

2. Augustine, however, called Mark "a camp follower"and an abbreviator of Matthew.

B. The best approach would be to try to set the limits of possible dates

1. It must have been written before A.D. 96 or 115

a. Clement of Rome (A.D. 96) made an allusion to Matthew's Gospel in his letter to the Corinthians.

b. Ignatius (A.D. 110-115), the Bishop of Antioch, quoted Matthew 3:15 in his letter To the Smyrneans, Matthew 1:1

2. The more difficult question is how early could it have been written?

a. obviously after the events recorded, which would be in the mid 30's

b. some time would have had to pass for its need, composition, and circulation

c. what is the relationship of Matthew 24:0 to the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70? Parts of Matthew imply the sacrificial system was still in place (Matthew 5:23-24; Matthew 12:5-7; Matthew 17:24-27; Matthew 26:60-61). This means a date before A.D. 70.

d. if Matthew and Mark were written during the time of Paul's ministry (A.D. 48-68), why does he never refer to them? Irenaeus is quoted by Eusebius in Historical Ecclesiasticus Matthew 5:8:2, to say that Matthew wrote his Gospel while Peter and Paul were in Rome. Peter and Paul were both killed during Nero's reign which ended in A.D. 68

e. modern scholarship's earliest guess is A.D. 50

C. Many scholars believe that the four Gospels relate more to geographical centers of Christianity than to the traditional authors. Matthew may have been written from Antioch of Syria, because of its Jewish/Gentile church issues, possibly about A.D. 60 or at least before A.D. 70.


A. As the authorship and date of the Gospel are uncertain, so are the recipients. It seems best to relate it to both believing Jews and Gentiles. The Church at Antioch of Syria of the first century fits this profile best.

B. Origen is quoted by Eusebius in Historical Ecclesiasticus Matthew 6:25:4, that it was written for Jewish believers.


A. How is this Gospel structured? One can best find the intent of the original inspired author by analyzing the structure of the entire book.

B. Scholarship has suggested several structures

1. the geographical movements of Jesus

a. Galilee

b. north of Galilee

c. Perea and Judea (while traveling to Jerusalem)

d. in Jerusalem

2. Matthew's five thematic units. They are discernable by the recurrent phrase, "and when Jesus had finished these things"(cf. Matthew 7:28; Matthew 11:1; Matthew 13:53; Matthew 19:1; Matthew 26:1). Many scholars see these five units as Matthew's attempt to portray Jesus as the "new Moses," with each unit being analogous to one of the five books of Moses (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy)

a. a chiastic structure which alternates between narrative and discourse sections

b. a theological/biographical format which picks up on the recurrent phrase, "from that time on Jesus began. . ." (cf. Matthew 4:17; Matthew 16:21), thereby dividing the book into three sections (Matthew 1:1-16; Matthew 4:17-20; and Matthew 16:21-20)

c. Matthew's emphasis on OT predictive passages by use of the key term "fulfillment"(cf. Matthew 1:22; Matthew 2:15, Matthew 2:17, Matthew 2:23; Matthew 4:14; Matthew 8:17; Matthew 12:17; Matthew 13:35; Matthew 21:4; Matthew 27:9 and Matthew 27:35)

C. The "gospels" are a unique literary genre. They are not biographical. They are not historical narrative. They are a selective theological, highly structured literary type. Each of the Gospel writers chose from the life events and teachings of Jesus to uniquely present Him to their target audience. The Gospels were evangelistic tracts.

READING CYCLE ONE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Therefore, read the entire biblical book at one sitting. State the central theme of the entire book in your own words.

1. Theme of entire book

2. Type of literature (genre)

READING CYCLE TWO (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Therefore, read the entire biblical book a second time at one sitting. Outline the main subjects and express the subject in a single sentence.

1. Subject of first literary unit

2. Subject of second literary unit

3. Subject of third literary unit

4. Subject of fourth literary unit

5. Etc.

Ads FreeProfile