The Gospel of Matthew

March 17, 2015 · updated February 15, 2022

St. Matthew the Evangelist
Medieval painting of St. Matthew the Evangelist, symbolized as a winged man, holding the scroll of his Gospel. Vault of the Lower Church, Subiaco Monastery, Italy. Holly Hayes

The Gospel of Matthew is the first book in the Christian New Testament and is one of the four gospels. It is named for its traditional author, Matthew the tax collector and disciple, and was written sometime in the later 1st century CE.

The Gospel of Matthew, more commonly called simply "Matthew," is 28 chapters long. It is the longest of the four gospels when counting chapters, however the Gospel of Luke is longer when counting verses and words. It is organized around five discourses of Christ, with a prologue and epilogue (Ch. 5-7; Ch. 10; Ch. 13; Ch. 18; Ch. 24-25).

There is widespread agreement that Matthew was written for a Jewish audience and its primary purpose is to convince Jews that Jesus of Nazareth is the promised Messiah of the Hebrew Scriptures. Matthew contains 65 Old Testament quotations, while by comparison, Luke has 43.

Date of the Gospel of Matthew

Because Matthew uses earlier sources, including the Gospel of Mark, and alludes to the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE (Matthew 22:7, 21:41, 23:38), it was likely written some time after 70 CE. And it must have been written before 110 CE, the first reference to the Gospel (by Ignatius of Antioch). Modern scholars date it to around 80 to 85 CE,[#1974] 90 CE[#1973] or later.[#1969]

Author of the Gospel of Matthew

Since early Christianity, this gospel has been attributed to Matthew the tax collector, who was called to become Jesus' disciple in Matthew 9:9-13. This has made the Gospel of Matthew especially popular, as it was thought to record the eyewitness account of one of Jesus' disciples.[#1968]

Modern scholars, however, have concluded that this tradition is highly unlikely to be accurate, because:[#1968] [#1972]

  • the author never identifies himself as Matthew in his gospel
  • the author uses the third person to describe Matthew's calling
  • the author relies heavily on earlier sources, which an eyewitness to the events would be unlikely to do
  • Matthew was a Palestinian Jew living in the 20s CE, but textual evidence indicates the author was a Greek-speaker writing around 80 CE

A conservative Christian source that affirms the tradition of Matthew's authorship suggests that Matthew used the Gospel of Mark because "he agreed with it and and wanted to show that the apostolic testimony to Christ was not divided."[#1965]

Modern scholars have thus designated the author as an unknown Greek-speaking Christian, writing about 50 years after the death of Jesus. It is unknown whether he was a Jewish or Gentile Christian.[#1971] Although the author was not Matthew himself, "the disciple Matthew probably did play an important role in the church from which the Gospel of Matthew comes."[#1971]

In Christian art and symbolism, the authors of the Gospels are called the Four Evangelists and given symbols based on the four "living creatures" of Revelation 4. , The author of this gospel is known as St. Matthew the Evangelist and symbolized by a winged man.

Matthew's Sources

Matthew is one of the Synoptic Gospels, along with the Gospel of Mark and the Gospel of Luke. By analyzing the text, modern scholars have concluded that these three gospels share several sources.

The Gospel of Matthew's sources have been identified as: the Gospel of Mark (all but 60 verses of Mark appear in Matthew, with some modifications[#1969]), the source called Q, and a source known as "M." The M source consists of material, which may have come from written and/or oral sources, that is unique to Matthew.

Narratives Unique to Matthew

  • Christ's genealogy from Abraham to Joseph through the male line; the succession to the throne, from Abraham through king David to Joseph, 42 generations, with omissions.
  • Joseph's dreams (Matthew 1)
  • Christ worshipped by the wise men, Herod's massacre of the children at Bethlehem, Herod's death, and Christ's return to Nazareth (Matthew 2)
  • Sermon on the Mount in full (Matthew 5-7)
  • healing of two blind men (Matthew 9)
  • call to the heavy laden (Matthew 11)
  • parables of the hidden treasure, the pearl, and the drag-net (Matthew 13)
  • Peter's confession of Christ, and Christ's confirmation of Peter's name (Matthew 16; compare John 1:42).
  • Jesus pays the tribute with money from a fish (Matthew 17)
  • Jesus cures two blind men while going from Jericho (Matthew 20)
  • parable of the wedding garment (Matthew 22)
  • parables of the ten virgins, talents, and sheep and goats at the judgment (Matthew 25)
  • dream of Pilate's wife, appearance of many saints after the crucifixion (Matthew 27)
  • soldiers bribed to say that Christ's disciples had stolen His body (Matthew 28)

Outline of Matthew

  • Introduction; Christ's genealogy, birth; visit of the wise men; flight to Egypt; return to Nazareth; John the Baptist's preparatory ministry; Christ's baptism, with the Father's declared approval (Mt. 1-3).
  • Temptation; ministry in Galilee; call of disciples (Mt. 4).
  • Sermon on the Mount (Mt. 5--7).
  • Events in order, proving his claim to Messiahship by miracles (Mt. 8-9).
  • Appointment of apostles; doubts of John's disciples; cavils of the Pharisees; his loving invitations, miracles, series of parables on the kingdom; effects of his ministry on Herod and various classes; prophecy to his disciples of coming death (Mt. 10-18:35).
  • Ministry in Judea and Jerusalem (Mt. 19-20).
  • Passion week: entry into Jerusalem; opposition by Herodians, Sadducees, Pharisees; silences them all; denunciation of the Pharisees (Mt. 21-23).
  • Last discourses: His coming as Lord and Judge (Mt. 24-25).
  • Passion and resurrection (Mt. 26-28).

Online Text of the Gospel of Matthew

Online Guides to the Gospel of Matthew

Books on the Gospel of Matthew