Gospel of St. Matthew
FREE Catholic Classes
The earliest Christian communities looked upon the books of the Old Testament as Sacred Scripture , and read them at their religious assemblies. That the Gospels, which contained the words of Christ and the narrative of His life, soon enjoyed the same authority as the Old Testament, is made clear by Hegesippus ( Eusebius, "Hist. eccl.", IV, xxii, 3), who tells us that in every city the Christians were faithful to the teachings of the law, the prophets, and the Lord. A book was acknowledged as canonical when the Church regarded it as Apostolic, and had it read at her assemblies. Hence, to establish the canonicity of the Gospel according to St. Matthew , we must investigate primitive Christian tradition for the use that was made of this document, and for indications proving that it was regarded as Scripture in the same manner as the Books of the Old Testament .
The first traces that we find of it are not indubitable, because post-Apostolic writers quoted the texts with a certain freedom, and principally because it is difficult to say whether the passages thus quoted were taken from oral tradition or from a written Gospel. The first Christian document whose date can be fixed with comparative certainty (95-98), is the Epistle of St. Clement to the Corinthians. It contains sayings of the Lord which closely resemble those recorded in the First Gospel (Clement, 16:17 = Matthew 11:29 ; Clem., 24:5 = Matthew 13:3 ), but it is possible that they are derived from Apostolic preaching, as, in chapter xiii, 2, we find a mixture of sentences from Matthew, Luke, and an unknown source. Again, we note a similar commingling of Evangelical texts elsewhere in the same Epistle of Clement, in the Doctrine of the Twelve Apostles , in the Epistle of Polycarp, and in Clement of Alexandria. Whether these these texts were thus combined in oral tradition or emanated from a collection of Christ's utterances, we are unable to say.
- The Epistles of St. Ignatius ( martyred 110-17) contain no literal quotation from the Holy Books; nevertheless, St. Ignatius borrowed expressions and some sentences from Matthew ("Ad Polyc.", 2:2 = Matthew 10:16 ; "Ephesians", 14:2 = Matthew 12:33 , etc.). In his "Epistle to the Philadelphians" (v, 12), he speaks of the Gospel in which he takes refuge as in the Flesh of Jesus ; consequently, he had an evangelical collection which he regarded as Sacred Writ, and we cannot doubt that the Gospel of St. Matthew formed part of it.
- In the Epistle of Polycarp (110-17), we find various passages from St. Matthew quoted literally (12:3 = Matthew 5:44 ; 7:2 = Matthew 26:41 , etc.).
- The Doctrine of the Twelve Apostles ( Didache ) contains sixty-six passages that recall the Gospel of Matthew; some of them are literal quotations (8:2 = Matthew 6:7-13 ; 7:1 = Matthew 28:19 ; 11:7 = Matthew 12:31 , etc.).
- In the so-called Epistle of Barnabas (117-30), we find a passage from St. Matthew (xxii, 14), introduced by the scriptural formula, os gegraptai , which proves that the author considered the Gospel of Matthew equal in point of authority to the writings of the Old Testament .
- The "Shepherd of Hermas" has several passages which bear close resemblance to passages of Matthew, but not a single literal quotation from it.
- In his "Dialogue" (xcix, 8), St. Justin quotes, almost literally, the prayer of Christ in the Garden of Olives, in Matthew, xxvi, 39,40.
- A great number of passages in the writings of St. Justin recall the Gospel of Matthew, and prove that he ranked it among the Memoirs of the Apostles which, he said, were called Gospels (I Apol., lxvi), were read in the services of the Church (ibid., i), and were consequently regarded as Scripture.
- In his "Legatio pro christianis", xii, 11, Athenagoras (117) quotes almost literally sentences taken from the Sermon on the Mount ( Matthew 5:44 ).
- Theophilus of Antioch (Ad Autol., III, xiii-xiv) quotes a passage from Matthew (v, 28, 32), and, according to St. Jerome (In Matt. Prol.), wrote a commentary on the Gospel of St. Matthew.
- We find in the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs--drawn up, according to some critics, about the middle of the second century--numerous passages that closely resemble the Gospel of Matthew (Test. Gad, 5:3; 6:6; 5:7 = Matthew 18:15, 35 ; Test. Joshua 1:5, 6 = Matthew 25:35-36 , etc.), but Dr. Charles maintains that the Testaments were written in Hebrew in the first century before Jesus Christ, and translated into Greek towards the middle of the same century. In this event, the Gospel of Matthew would depend upon the Testaments and not the Testaments upon the Gospel. The question is not yet settled, but it seems to us that there is a greater probability that the Testaments, at least in their Greek version, are of later date than the Gospel of Matthew, they certainly received numerous Christian additions.
- The Greek text of the Clementine Homilies contains some quotations from Matthew (Hom. 3:52 = Matthew 15:13 ); in Hom. xviii, 15, the quotation from Matthew 13:35 , is literal.
- Passages which suggest the Gospel of Matthew might be quoted from heretical writings of the second century and from apocryphal gospels --the Gospel of Peter, the Protoevangelium of James, etc., in which the narratives, to a considerable extent, are derived from the Gospel of Matthew.
- Tatian incorporated the Gospel of Matthew in his "Diatesseron"; we shall quote below the testimonies of Papias and St. Irenæus. For the latter, the Gospel of Matthew, from which he quotes numerous passages, was one of the four that constituted the quadriform Gospel dominated by a single spirit.
- Tertullian (Adv. Marc., IV, ii) asserts, that the "Instrumentum evangelicum" was composed by the Apostles, and mentions Matthew as the author of a Gospel (De carne Christi, xii).
- Clement of Alexandria (Strom., III, xiii) speaks of the four Gospels that have been transmitted, and quotes over three hundred passages from the Gospel of Matthew, which he introduces by the formula, en de to kata Maththaion euaggelio or by phesin ho kurios .
It is unnecessary to pursue our inquiry further. About the middle of the third century, the Gospel of Matthew was received by the whole Christian Church as a Divinely inspired document, and consequently as canonical. The testimony of Origen ("In Matt.", quoted by Eusebius, "Hist. eccl.", III, xxv, 4), of Eusebius (op. cit., III, xxiv, 5; xxv, 1), and of St. Jerome ("De Viris Ill.", iii, "Prolog. in Matt.,") are explicit in this repsect. It might be added that this Gospel is found in the most ancient versions: Old Latin, Syriac, and Egyptian. Finally, it stands at the head of the Books of the New Testament in the Canon of the Council of Laodicea (363) and in that of St. Athanasius (326-73), and very probably it was in the last part of the Muratorian Canon. Furthermore, the canonicity of the Gospel of St. Matthew is accepted by the entire Christian world.
II. AUTHENTICITY OF THE FIRST GOSPEL
The question of authenticity assumes an altogether special aspect in regard to the First Gospel. The early Christian writers assert that St. Matthew wrote a Gospel in Hebrew; this Hebrew Gospel has, however, entirely disappeared, and the Gospel which we have, and from which ecclesiastical writers borrow quotations as coming from the Gospel of Matthew, is in Greek. What connection is there between this Hebrew Gospel and this Greek Gospel, both of which tradition ascribes to St. Matthew ? Such is the problem that presents itself for solution. Let us first examine the facts.A. TESTIMONY OF TRADITION
According to Eusebius (Hist. eccl., 111, xxxix, 16), Papias said that Matthew collected ( synetaxato ; or, according to two manuscripts, synegraphato , composed) ta logia (the oracles or maxims of Jesus ) in the Hebrew (Aramaic) language, and that each one translated them as best he could.
Three questions arise in regard to this testimony of Papias on Matthew: (1) What does the word logia signify? Does it mean only detached sentences or sentences incorporated in a narrative, that is to say, a Gospel such as that of St. Matthew ? Among classical writers, logion , the diminutive of logos , signifies the "answer of oracles ", a "prophecy"; in the Septuagint and in Philo, "oracles of God " ( ta deka logia , the Ten Commandments ). It sometimes has a broader meaning and seems to include both facts and sayings. In the New Testament the signification of the word logion is doubtful, and if, strictly speaking, it may be claimed to indicate teachings and narratives, the meaning "oracles" is the more natural. However, writers contemporary with Papias--e.g. St. Clement of Rome (Ad Cor., liii), St. Irenæus (Adv. Hær., I, viii, 2), Clement of Alexandria (Strom., I, cccxcii), and Origen (De Princip., IV, xi)--have used it to designate facts and savings. The work of Papias was entitled "Exposition of the Oracles " [ logion ] of the Lord", and it also contained narratives ( Eusebius, "Hist. eccl.", III, xxxix, 9). On the other hand, speaking of the Gospel of Mark, Papias says that this Evangelist wrote all that Christ had said and done, but adds that he established no connection between the Lord's sayings ( suntaxin ton kuriakon logion ). We may believe that here logion comprises all that Christ said and did. Nevertheless, it would seem that, if the two passages on Mark and Matthew followed each other in Papias as in Eusebius, the author intended to emphasize a difference between them, by implying that Mark recorded the Lord's words and deeds and Matthew chronicled His discourses. The question is still unsolved; it is, however, possible that, in Papias, the term logia means deeds and teachings.
(2) Second, does Papias refer to oral or written translations of Matthew, when he says that each one translated the sayings "as best he could"? As there is nowhere any allusion to numerous Greek translations of the Logia of Matthew, it is probable that Papias speaks here of the oral translations made at Christian meetings, similar to the extemporaneous translations of the Old Testament made in the synagogues. This would explain why Papias mentions that each one (each reader) translated "as best he could".
(3) Finally, were the Logia of Matthew and the Gospel to which ecclesiastical writers refer written in Hebrew or Aramaic? Both hypotheses are held. Papias says that Matthew wrote the Logia in the Hebrew ( Hebraidi ) language; St. Irenæus and Eusebius maintain that he wrote his gospel for the Hebrews in their national language, and the same assertion is found in several writers. Matthew would, therefore, seem to have written in modernized Hebrew, the language then used by the scribes for teaching. But, in the time of Christ, the national language of the Jews was Aramaic, and when, in the New Testament, there is mention of the Hebrew language ( Hebrais dialektos ), it is Aramaic that is implied. Hence, the aforesaid writers may allude to the Aramaic and not to the Hebrew. Besides, as they assert, the Apostle Matthew wrote his Gospel to help popular teaching. To be understood by his readers who spoke Aramaic, he would have had to reproduce the original catechesis in this language, and it cannot be imagined why, or for whom, he should have taken the trouble to write it in Hebrew, when it would have had to be translated thence into Aramaic for use in religious services. Moreover, Eusebius (Hist. eccl., III, xxiv, 6) tells us that the Gospel of Matthew was a reproduction of his preaching, and this we know, was in Aramaic. An investigation of the Semitic idioms observed in the Gospel does not permit us to conclude as to whether the original was in Hebrew or Aramaic, as the two languages are so closely related. Besides, it must be home in mind that the greater part of these Semitisms simply reproduce colloquial Greek and are not of Hebrew or Aramaic origin. However, we believe the second hypothesis to be the more probable, viz., that Matthew wrote his Gospel in Aramaic.
Let us now recall the testimony of the other ecclesiastical writers on the Gospel of St. Matthew. St. Irenæus (Adv. Haer., III, i, 2) affirms that Matthew published among the Hebrews a Gospel which he wrote in their own language. Eusebius (Hist. eccl., V, x, 3) says that, in India, Pantænus found the Gospel according to St. Matthew written in the Hebrew language, the Apostle Bartholomew having left it there. Again, in his "Hist. eccl." (VI xxv, 3, 4), Eusebius tells us that Origen, in his first book on the Gospel of St. Matthew, states that he has learned from tradition that the First Gospel was written by Matthew, who, having composed it in Hebrew, published it for the converts from Judaism. According to Eusebius (Hist. eccl., III, xxiv, 6), Matthew preached first to the Hebrews and, when obliged to go to other countries, gave them his Gospel written in his native tongue. St. Jerome has repeatedly declared that Matthew wrote his Gospel in Hebrew ("Ad Damasum", xx; "Ad Hedib.", iv), but says that it is not known with certainty who translated it into Greek. St. Cyril of Jerusalem, St. Gregory of Nazianzus, St. Epiphanius, St. John Chrysostom, St. Augustine, etc., and all the commentators of the Middle Ages repeat that Matthew wrote his Gospel in Hebrew. Erasmus was the first to express doubts on this subject: "It does not seem probable to me that Matthew wrote in Hebrew, since no one testifies that he has seen any trace of such a volume." This is not accurate, as St. Jerome uses Matthew's Hebrew text several times to solve difficulties of interpretation, which proves that he had it at hand. Pantænus also had it, as, according to St. Jerome ("De Viris Ill.", xxxvi), he brought it back to Alexandria. However, the testimony of Pantænus is only second-hand, and that of Jerome remains rather ambiguous, since in neither case is it positively known that the writer did not mistake the Gospel according to the Hebrews (written of course in Hebrew) for the Hebrew Gospel of St. Matthew . However all ecclesiastical writers assert that Matthew wrote his Gospel in Hebrew, and, by quoting the Greek Gospel and ascribing it to Matthew, thereby affirm it to be a translation of the Hebrew Gospel.
Our chief object is to ascertain whether the characteristics of the Greek Gospel indicate that it is a translation from the Aramaic, or that it is an original document; but, that we may not have to revert to the peculiarities of the Gospel of Matthew, we shall here treat them in full.(1) The Language of the Gospel
St. Matthew used about 1475 words, 137 of which are apax legomena (words used by him alone of all the New Testament writers). Of these latter 76 are classical; 21 are found in the Septuagint ; 15 ( battologein biastes, eunouchizein etc.) were introduced for the first time by Matthew, or at least he was the first writer in whom they were discovered; 8 words ( aphedon, gamizein , etc.) were employed for the first time by Matthew and Mark, and 15 others ( ekchunesthai, epiousios , etc.) by Matthew and another New Testament writer. It is probable that, at the time of the Evangelist, all these words were in current use. Matthew's Gospel contains many peculiar expressions which help to give decided colour to his style. Thus, he employs thirty-four times the expression basileia ton ouranon ; this is never found in Mark and Luke, who, in parallel passages, replace it by basileia tou theou , which also occurs four times in Matthew. We must likewise note the expressions: ho pater ho epouranions, ho en tois ouranois, sunteleia tou alonos, sunairein logon, eipein ti kata tinos, mechri tes semeron, poiesai os, osper, en ekeino to kairo, egeiresthai apo , etc. The same terms often recur: tote (90 times), apo tote, kai idou etc. He adopts the Greek form Ierisiluma for Jerusalem, and not Ierousaleu , which he uses but once. He has a predilection for the preposition apo , using it even when Mark and Luke use ek , and for the expression uios David . Moreover, Matthew is fond of repeating a phrase or a special construction several times within quite a short interval (cf. ii, 1, 13, and 19; iv, 12, 18, and v, 2; viii, 2-3 and 28; ix, 26 and 31; xiii, 44, 4.5, and 47, etc.). Quotations from the Old Testament are variously introduced, as: outos, kathos gegraptai, ina , or opos, plerothe to rethen uto Kuriou dia tou prophetou , etc. These peculiarities of language, especially the repetition of the same words and expressions, would indicate that the Greek Gospel was an original rather than a translation, and this is confirmed by the paronomasiæ ( battologein, polulogia; kophontai kai ophontai , etc.), which ought not to have been found in the Aramaic, by the employment of the genitive absolute, and, above all, by the linking of clauses through the use of men . . . oe , a construction that is peculiarly Greek. However, let us observe that these various characteristics prove merely that the writer was thoroughly conversant with his language, and that he translated his text rather freely. Besides, these same characteristics are noticeable in Christ's sayings, as well as in the narratives, and, as these utterances were made in Aramaic, they were consequently translated; thus, the construction men . . . de (except in one instance) and all the examples of paronomasia occur in discourses of Christ. The fact that the genitive absolute is used mainly in the narrative portions, only denotes that the latter were more freely translated; besides, Hebrew possesses an analogous grammatical construction. On the other hand, a fair number of Hebraisms are noticed in Matthew's Gospel ( ouk eginosken auten, omologesei en emoi, el exestin, ti emin kai soi , etc.), which favour the belief that the original was Aramaic. Still, it remains to be proved that these Hebraisms are not colloquial Greek expressions.
Distinct unity of plan, an artificial arrangement of subject-matter, and a simple, easy style--much purer than that of Mark--suggest an original rather than a translation. When the First Gospel is compared with books translated from the Hebrew, such as those of the Septuagint, a marked difference is at once apparent. The original Hebrew shines through every line of the latter, whereas, in the First Gospel Hebraisms are comparatively rare, and are merely such as might be looked for in a book written by a Jew and reproducing Jewish teaching. However, these observations are not conclusive in favour of a Greek original. In the first place, the unity of style that prevails throughout the book, would rather prove that we have a translation. It is certain that a good portion of the matter existed first in Aramaic--at all events, the sayings of Christ, and thus almost three-quarters of the Gospel. Consequently, these at least the Greek writer has translated. And, since no difference in language and style can be detected between the sayings of Christ and the narratives that are claimed to have been composed in Greek, it would seem that these latter are also translated from the Aramaic. This conclusion is based on the fact that they are of the same origin as the discourses. The unity of plan and the artificial arrangement of subject-matter could as well have been made in Matthew's Aramaic as in the Greek document; the fine Greek construction, the lapidary style, the elegance and good order claimed as characteristic of the Gospel, are largely a matter of opinion, the proof being that critics do not agree on this question. Although the phraseology is not more Hebraic than in the other Gospels, still it not much less so. To sum up, from the literary examination of the Greek Gospel no certain conclusion can be drawn against the existence of a Hebrew Gospel of which our First Gospel would be a translation; and inversely, this examination does not prove the Greek Gospel to be a translation of an Aramaic original.(3) Quotations from the Old Testament
It is claimed that most of the quotations from the Old Testament are borrowed from the Septuagint, and that this fact proves that the Gospel of Matthew was composed in Greek. The first proposition is not accurate, and, even if it were, it would not necessitate this conclusion. Let us examine the facts. As established by Stanton ("The Gospels as Historical Documents", II, Cambridge, 1909, p. 342), the quotations from the Old Testament in the First Gospel are divided into two classes. In the first are ranged all those quotations the object of which is to show that the prophecies have been realized in the events of the life of Jesus. They are introduced by the words: "Now all this was done that it might be fulfilled which the Lord spoke by the prophet," or other similar expressions. The quotations of this class do not in general correspond exactly with any particular text. Three among them (ii, 15; viii, 17; xxvii, 9, 10) are borrowed from the Hebrew; five (ii, 18; iv, 15, 16; xii, 18-21; xiii, 35; xxi, 4, 5) bear points of resemblance to the Septuagint, but were not borrowed from that version. In the answer of the chief priests and scribes to Herod (ii, 6), the text of the Old Testament is slightly modified, without, however, conforming either to the Hebrew or the Septuagint. The Prophet Micheas writes (v, 2): "And thou Bethlehem, Ephrata, art a little one among the thousands of Juda "; whereas Matthew says (ii, 6): " And thou Bethlehem the land of Juda art not the least among the princes of Juda ". A single quotation of this first class (iii, 3) conforms to the Septuagint, and another (i, 23) is almost conformable. These quotations are to be referred to the first Evangelist himself, and relate to facts, principally to the birth of Jesus (i, ii), then to the mission of John the Baptist, the preaching of the Gospel by Jesus in Galilee, the miracles of Jesus, etc. It is surprising that the narratives of the Passion and the Resurrection of Our Lord, the fulfilment of the very clear and numerous prophecies of the Old Testament, should never be brought into relation with these prophecies. Many critics, e.g. Burkitt and Stanton, think that the quotations of the first class are borrowed from a collection of Messianic passages, Stanton being of opinion that they were accompanied by the event that constituted their realization. This "catena of fulfilments of prophecy ", as he calls it, existed originally in Aramaic, but whether the author of the First Gospel had a Greek translation of it is uncertain. The second class of quotations from the Old Testament is chiefly composed of those repeated either by the Lord or by His interrogators. Except in two passages, they are introduced by one of the formula: "It is written"; "As it is written"; "Have you not read?" "Moses said". Where Matthew alone quotes the Lord's words, the quotation is sometimes borrowed from the Septuagint (v, 21 a, 27, 38), or, again, it is a free translation which we are unable to refer to any definite text (v, 21 b, 23, 43). In those Passages where Matthew runs parallel with Mark and Luke or with either of them, all the quotations save one (xi, 10) are taken almost literally from the Septuagint.(4) Analogy to the Gospels of St. Mark and St. Luke
From a first comparison of the Gospel of Matthew with the two other Synoptic Gospels we find
- that 330 verses are peculiar to it alone; that it has between 330 and 370 in common with both the others, from 170 to 180 with Mark's, and from 230 to 240 with Luke's;
- that in like parts the same ideas are expressed sometimes in identical and sometimes in different terms; that Matthew and Mark most frequently use the same expressions, Matthew seldom agreeing with Luke against Mark. The divergence in their use of the same expressions is in the number of a noun or the use of two different tenses of the same verb. The construction of sentences is at times identical and at others different.
- That the order of narrative is, with certain exceptions which we shall later indicate, almost the same in Matthew, Mark, and Luke.
- that Mark is to be found almost complete in Matthew, with certain divergences which we shall note;
- that Matthew records many of our Lord's discourses in common with Luke;
- that Matthew has special passages which are unknown to Mark and Luke.
- Mark is found complete in Matthew, with the exception of numerous slight omissions and the following pericopes: Mark, i, 23-28, 35-39; iv, 26-29; vii, 32-36; viii, 22-26; ix, 39, 40; xii, 41-44. In all, 31 verses are omitted.
- The general order is identical except that, in chapters v-xiii, Matthew groups facts of the same nature and savings conveying the same ideas. Thus, in Matthew 8:1-15 , we have three miracles that are separated in Mark; in Matthew 8:23-9:9 , there are gathered together incidents otherwise arranged in Mark, etc. Matthew places sentences in a different environment from that given them by Mark. For instance, in 5:15 , Matthew inserts a verse occurring in Mark 4:21 , that should have been placed after 13:23 , etc.
- In Matthew the narrative is usually shorter because he suppresses a great number of details. Thus, in Mark, we read: "And the wind ceased: and there was made a great calm", whereas in Matthew the first part of the sentence is omitted. All unnecessary particulars are dispensed with, such as the numerous picturesque features and indications of time, place, and number, in which Mark's narrative abounds.
- Sometimes, however, Matthew is the more detailed. Thus, in 12:22-45 , he gives more of Christ's discourse than we find in Mark, iii, 20-30, and has in addition a dialogue between Jesus and the scribes. In chapter xiii, Matthew dwells at greater length than Mark, iv, upon the object of the parables, and introduces those of the cockle and the leaven, neither of which Mark records. Moreover, Our Lord's apocalyptic discourse is much longer in Matthew, xxiv-xxv (97 verses), than in Mark, xiii (37 verses).
- Changes of terms or divergences in the mode of expression are extremely frequent. Thus, Matthew often uses eutheos , when Mark has euthus; men . . . de , instead of kai , as in Mark, etc.; the aorist instead of the imperfect employed by Mark. He avoids double negatives and the construction of the participle with eimi ; his style is more correct and less harsh than that of Mark; he resolves Mark's compound verbs, and replaces by terms in current use the rather unusual expressions introduced by Mark, etc.
- He is free from the lack of precision which, to a slight extent, characterizes Mark. Thus, Matthew says "the tetrarch" and not "the king" as Mark does, in speaking of Herod Antipas ; "on the third day" instead.of "in three days". At times the changes are more important. Instead of "Levi, son of Alpheus," he says: "a man named Matthew"; he mentions two demoniacs and two blind persons, whereas Mark mentions only one of each, etc.
- Matthew extenuates or omits everything which, in Mark, might be construed in a sense derogatory to the Person of Christ or unfavourable to the disciples. Thus, in speaking of Jesus, he suppresses the following phrases: "And looking round about on them with anger " ( Mark 3:5 ); "And when his friends had heard of it, they went out to lay hold on him. For they said: He is beside himself" ( Mark 3:21 ), etc. Speaking of the disciples, he does not say, like Mark, that "they understood not the word, and they were afraid to ask him" (ix, 3 1; cf. viii, 17, 18); or that the disciples were in a state of profound amazement, because "they understood not concerning the loaves; for their heart was blinded" (vi, 52), etc. He likewise omits whatever might shock his readers, as the saying of the Lord recorded by Mark: "The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath " (ii, 27). Omissions or alterations of this kind are very numerous. It must, however, be remarked that between Matthew and Mark there are many points of resemblance in the construction of sentences ( Matthew 9:6 ; Mark 2:10 ; Matthew 26:47 = Mark 14:43 , etc.); in their mode of expression, often unusual. and in short phrases ( Matthew 9:16 = Mark 2:21 ; Matthew 16:28 = Mark 9:1 ; Matthew 20:25 = Mark 10:42 ); in some pericopes, narratives, or discourses, where the greater part of the terms are identical ( Matthew 4:18-22 ; Mark 1:16-20 ; Matthew 26:36-38 = Mark 14:32-34 ; Matthew 9:5-6 = Mark 2:9-11 ), etc.
A comparison of Matthew and Luke reveals that they have but one narrative in common, viz., the cure of the centurion's servant ( Matthew 8:5-13 = Luke 7:1-10 ). The additional matter common to these Evangelists, consists of the discourses and sayings of Christ. In Matthew His discourses are usually gathered together, whereas in Luke they are more frequently scattered. Nevertheless, Matthew and Luke have in common the following discourses: the Sermon on the Mount ( Matthew 5 - 7 , the Sermon in the Plain, Luke 6 ); the Lord's exhortation to His disciples whom He sends forth on a mission ( Matthew 10:19-20, 26-33 = Luke 12:11-12, 2-9 ); the discourse on John the Baptist ( Matthew 11 = Luke 7 ); the discourse on the Last Judgment ( Matthew 24 ; Luke 17 ). Moreover, these two Evangelists possess in common a large number of detached sentences, e.g., Matt., iii, 7b-19, 12 = Luke. iii, 7b-9, 17; Matt., iv, 3-11 = Luke, iv, 3-13; Matt., ix, 37, 38 = Luke x, 2; Matt., xii, 43-45 = Luke, xi, 24-26 etc. (cf. Rushbrooke, "Synopticon", pp. 134-70). However, in these parallel passages of Matthew and Luke there are numerous differences of expression, and even some divergences in ideas or in the manner of their presentation. It is only necessary to recall the Beatitudes ( Matthew 5:3-12 = Luke 6:20b-25 ): in Matthew there are eight beatitudes , whereas in Luke there are only four, which, while approximating to Matthew's In point of conception, differ from them in general form and expression. In addition to having in common parts that Mark has not, Matthew and Luke sometimes agree against Mark in parallel narratives. There have been counted 240 passages wherein Matthew and Luke harmonize with each other, but disagree with Mark in the way of presenting events, and particularly in the use of the same terms and the same grammatical emendations. Matthew and Luke omit the very pericopes that occur in Mark.
(c) Parts peculiar to Matthew
These are numerous, as Matthew has 330 verses that are distinctly his own. Sometimes long passages occur, such as those recording the Nativity and early Childhood (i, ii), the cure of the two blind men and one dumb man (ix, 27-34), the death of Judas (xxvii, 3-10), the guard placed at the Sepulchre (xxvii, 62-66), the imposture of the chief priests (xxviii, 11-15), the apparition of Jesus in Galilee (xxviii, 16-20), a great portion of the Sermon on the Mount (v, 17-37; vi, 1-8; vii, 12-23), parables (xiii, 24-30; 35-53; xxv, 1-13), the Last Judgment (xxv, 31-46), etc., and sometimes detached sentences, as in xxiii, 3, 28, 33; xxvii, 25, etc. (cf. Rushbrooke, "Synopticon", pp.171-97). Those passages in which Matthew reminds us that facts in the life of Jesus are the fulfilment of the prophecies, are likewise noted as peculiar to him, but of this we have already spoken.
These various considerations have given rise to a great number of hypotheses, varying in detail, but agreeing fundamentally. According to the majority of present critics--H. Holtzmann, Wendt, Jülicher, Wernle, von Soden, Wellhausen, Harnack, B. Weiss, Nicolardot, W. Allen, Montefiore, Plummer, and Stanton--the author of the First Gospel used two documents: the Gospel of Mark in its present or in an earlier form, and a collection of discourses or sayings, which is designated by the letter Q . The repetitions occurring in Matthew (v, 29, 30 = xviii, 8, 9; v, 32 xix, 9; x, 22a = xxiv, 9b; xii, 39b = xvi, 4a, etc.) may be explained by the fact that two sources furnished the writer with material for his Gospel. Furthermore, Matthew used documents of his own. In this hypothesis the Greek Gospel is supposed to be original. and not the translation of a complete Aramaic Gospel. It is admitted that the collection of sayings was originally Aramaic, but it is disputed whether the Evangelist had it in this form or in that of a Greek translation. Critics also differ regarding the manner in which Matthew used the sources. Some would have it that Matthew the Apostle was not the author of the First Gospel, but merely the collector of the sayings of Christ mentioned by Papias. "However", says Jülicher, "the author's individuality is so strikingly evident in his style and tendencies that it is impossible to consider the Gospel a mere compilation". Most critics are of a like opinion. Endeavours have been made to reconcile the information furnished by tradition with the facts resulting from the study of the Gospel as follows: Matthew was known to have collected in Aramaic the sayings of Christ, and, on the other hand, there existed at the beginning of the second century a Gospel containing the narratives found in Mark and the sayings gathered by Matthew in Aramaic. It is held that the Greek Gospel ascribed to Matthew is a translation of it, made by him or by other translators whose names it was later attempted to ascertain.
To safeguard tradition further, while taking into consideration the facts we have already noted, it might be supposed that the three Synoptists worked upon the same catechesis, either oral or written and originally in Aramaic, and that they had detached portions of this catechesis, varying in literary condition. The divergences may be explained first by this latter fact, and then by the hypothesis of different translations and by each Evangelist's peculiar method of treating the subject-matter, Matthew and Luke especially having adapted it to the purpose of their Gospel. There is nothing to prevent the supposition that Matthew worked on the Aramaic catechesis; the literary emendations of Mark's text by Matthew may have been due to the translator, who was more conversant with Greek than was the popular preacher who furnished the catechesis reproduced by Mark. In reality, the only difficulty lies in explaining the similarity of style between Matthew and Mark. First of all, we may observe that the points of resemblance are less numerous than they are said to be. As we have seen, they are very rare in the narratives at all events, much more so than in the discourses of Christ. Why, then, should we not suppose that the three Synoptists, depending upon the same Aramaic catechesis, sometimes agreed in rendering similar Aramaic expressions in the same Greek words? It is also possible to suppose that sayings of Christ, which in the three Synoptic Gospels (or in two of them) differed only in a few expressions, were unified by copyists or other persons. To us it seems probable that Matthew's Greek translator used Mark's Greek Gospel, especially for Christ's discourses. Luke, also, may have similarly utilized Matthew's Greek Gospel in rendering the discourses of Christ. Finally, even though we should suppose that Matthew were the author only of the Logia , the full scope of which we do not know, and that a part of his Greek Gospel is derived from that of Mark, we would still have a right to ascribe this First Gospel to Matthew as its principal author.
Other hypotheses have been put forth. In Zahn's opinion, Matthew wrote a complete Gospel in Aramaic; Mark was familiar with this document, which he used while abridging it. Matthew's Greek translator utilized Mark, but only for form, whereas Luke depended upon Mark and secondary sources, but was not acquainted with Matthew. According to Belser, Matthew first wrote his Gospel in Hebrew, a Greek translation of it being made in 59-60, and Mark depended on Matthew's Aramaic document and Peter's preaching. Luke made use of Mark, of Matthew (both in Aramaic and Greek), and also of oral tradition. According to Camerlynck and Coppieters, the First Gospel in its present form was composed either by Matthew or some other Apostolic writer long before the end of the first century, by combining the Aramaic work of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke.
III. PLAN AND CONTENTS OF THE FIRST GOSPEL
The author did not wish to compose a biography of Christ, but to demonstrate, by recording His words and the deeds of His life, that He was the Messias, the Head and Founder of the Kingdom of God, and the promulgator of its laws. One can scarcely fail to recognize that, except in a few parts (e.g. the Childhood and the Passion), the arrangement of events and of discourses is artificial. Matthew usually combines facts and precepts of a like nature. Whatever the reason, he favours groups of three (thirty-eight of which may be counted)--three divisions in the genealogy of Jesus (i, 17), three temptations (iv, 1-11), three examples of justice (vi, 1-18), three cures (viii, 1-15), three parables of the seed (xiii, 1-32), three denials of Peter (xxvi, 69-75), etc.; of five (these are less numerous)--five long discourses (v-vii, 27; x; xiii, 1-52; xviii; xxiv-xxv), ending with the same formula ( Kai egeneto, ote etelesen ho Iesous ), five examples of the fulfilment of the law (v, 21-48), etc.; and of seven--seven parables (xiii), seven maledictions (xxiii), seven brethren (xxii, 25), etc. The First Gospel can be very naturally divided as follows:-A. INTRODUCTION (1-2)
The genealogy of Jesus, the prediction of His Birth, the Magi, the Flight into Egypt, the Massacre of the Innocents, the return to Nazareth, and the life there.B. THE PUBLIC MINISTRY OF JESUS (3-25)
This may be divided into three parts, according to the place where He exercised it.(1) In Galilee (3-18)
(a) Preparation for the public ministry of Jesus (3:1 to 4:11)
(b) The preaching of the Kingdom of God (4:17 to 18:35)
(1) the preparation of the Kingdom by the preaching of penance, the call of the disciples, and numerous cures (iv, 17-25), the promulgation of the code of the Kingdom of God in the Sermon on the Mount (v, I-vii, 29);
(2) the propagation of the Kingdom in Galilee (viii, I-xviii, 35). He groups together:
- the deeds by which Jesus established that He was the Messias and the King of the Kingdom: various cures, the calming of the tempest, missionary journeys through the land, the calling of the Twelve Apostles, the principles that should guide them in their missionary travels (viii, 1-x, 42);
- various teachings of Jesus called forth by circumstances: John's message and the Lord's answer, Christ's confutation of the false charges of the Pharisees, the departure and return of the unclean spirit (xi, 1-xii, 50);
- finally, the parables of the Kingdom, of which Jesus makes known and explains the end (xiii, 3-52).
(3) Matthew then relates the different events that terminate the preaching in Galilee : Christ's visit to Nazareth (xiii, 53-58), the multiplication of the loaves, the walking on the lake, discussions with the Pharisees concerning legal purifications, the confession of Peter at Cæsarea, the Transfiguration of Jesus, prophecy regarding the Passion and Resurrection, and teachings on scandal, fraternal correction, and the forgiveness of injuries (xiv, 1-xviii, 35).(2) Outside Galilee or the way to Jerusalem (19-20)
Jesus leaves Galilee and goes beyond the Jordan ; He discusses divorce with the Pharisees ; answers the rich young man, and teaches self-denial and the danger of wealth ; explains by the parable of the labourers how the elect will be called; replies to the indiscreet question of the mother of the sons of Zebedee, and cures two blind men of Jericho.(3) In Jerusalem (21-25)
Jesus makes a triumphal entry into Jerusalem ; He curses the barren fig tree and enters into a dispute with the chief priests and the Pharisees who ask Him by what authority He has banished the sellers from the Temple, and answers them by the parables of the two sons, the murderous husbandmen, and the marriage of the king's son. New questions are put to Jesus concerning the tribute, the resurrection of the dead , and the greatest commandment. Jesus anathematizes the scribes and Pharisees and foretells the events that will precede and accompany the fall of Jerusalem and the end of the world.C. THE PASSION AND THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS (26-28) (1) The Passion (26-27)
Events are now hurrying to a close. The Sanhedrin plots for the death of Jesus, a woman anoints the feet of the Lord, and Judas betrays his Master. Jesus eats the pasch with His disciples and institutes the Eucharist. In the Garden of Olives, He enters upon His agony and offers up the sacrifice of His life. He is arrested and brought before the Sanhedrin. Peter denies Christ; Judas hangs himself. Jesus is condemned to death by Pilate and crucified; He is buried, and a guard is placed at the Sepulchre (xxvi, 1-xxvii, 66).(2) The Resurrection (28)
IV. OBJECT AND DOCTRINAL TEACHING OF THE FIRST GOSPEL
Immediately after the descent of the Holy Ghost upon the Apostles, Peter preached that Jesus, crucified and risen, was the Messias, the Saviour of the World, and proved this assertion by relating the life, death, and resurrection of the Lord. This was the first Apostolic teaching, and was repeated by the other preachers of the Gospel, of whom tradition tells us that Matthew was one. This Evangelist proclaimed the Gospel to the Hebrews and, before his departure from Jerusalem, wrote in his mother tongue the Gospel that he had preached. Hence the aim of the Evangelist was primarily apologetic. He wished to demonstrate to his readers, whether these were converts or still unbelieving Jews, that in Jesus the ancient prophecies had been realized in their entirety. This thesis includes three principal ideas :
- Jesus is the Messias, and the kingdom He inaugurates is the Messianic kingdom foretold by the prophets ;
- because of their sins, the Jews, as a nation, shall have no part in this kingdom
- the Gospel will be announced to all nations, and all are called to salvation.
St. Matthew has shown that in Jesus all the ancient prophesies on the Messias were fulfilled. He was the Emmanuel, born of a Virgin Mother (i, 22, 23), announced by Isaias (vii, 14); He was born at Bethlehem (ii, 6), as had been predicted by Micheas (v, 2), He went to Egypt and was recalled thence (ii, 15) as foretold by Osee (xi, 1). According to the prediction of Isaias (xl, 3), He was heralded by a precursor, John the Baptist (iii, 1 sqq.); He cured all the sick (viii, 16 so.), that the Prophecy of Isaias (liii, 4) might be fulfilled; and in all His actions He was indeed the same of whom this prophet had spoken (xiii, 1). His teaching in parables (xiii, 3) was conformable to what Isaias had said (vi, 9). Finally, He suffered, and the entire drama of His Passion and Death was a fulfilment of the prophecies of Scripture ( Isaiah 53:3-12 ; Psalm 21:13-22 ). Jesus proclaimed Himself the Messias by His approbation of Peter's confession ( 16:16-17 ) and by His answer to the high priest ( 26:63-64 ). St. Matthew also endeavours to show that the Kingdom inaugurated by Jesus Christ is the Messianic Kingdom . From the beginning of His public life, Jesus proclaims that the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand (
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