Books of the Bible Matthew: The earliest New Testament book in the Bible, Matthew, was initially written in Greek. Additionally, it is the first book in the so-called Matthew’s gospel. There are four gospels in total: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. A gospel is a book that chronicles Jesus’ life on Earth. “Gospel” is derived from an Old English term that means “good news.”
Between 80 and 100 AD, a writer who goes by the name “Matthew” wrote the Gospel of Matthew. Its goal was to demonstrate how Jesus fulfilled Jewish predictions found in the Hebrew Scriptures regarding him (also called the Old Testament).
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who wrote the book of matthew
The book begins with an account of Jesus’ birth and early life. After that, there are several chapters devoted to his ministry, including miracles performed by him during his earthly life. The final chapter ends with his death on the cross and resurrection from death three days later.
history of the book of matthew
Matthew’s account of the gospel is not only the first book in the New Testament, but also considered by many to be the most comprehensive story of Jesus, who he was, and what he did during his time on earth.
While all four gospels are anonymous, early church leaders held that Matthew, a former tax collector and one of the 12 apostles of Jesus Christ, authored this book. Matthew, whose name means “gift of the Lord,” is also referred to as “Levi” in Mark 2:13-17 and Luke 5:27-28.
Matthew began following Jesus partway through Jesus’s journeys, and his gospel account includes the story of his own call to become a disciple. He was an eyewitness of the events and a member of Jesus’s inner circle.
“In no other gospel is the teaching of Jesus so systematically assembled and gathered together,” wrote theologian William Barclay in his foreword to The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1. “And it is pre-eminently the gospel which is concerned to show us Jesus as the man born to be King.”
Because the Gospel of Matthew references the Gospel of Mark, some scholars debate whether Matthew was indeed the author, wondering why an eyewitness would reference the account of another eyewitness. However, no other authors have been suggested, and most scholars agree on Matthew as the author.
Context and Background of Matthew
The Gospel of Matthew is thought to have been written sometime between A.D. 50 and 110, possibly A.D. 70. Given that the account was written in Greek, not Aramaic, and that much of the language in the book assumes the readers are familiar with Jewish customs and terminology, the audience seems to be former Jews who have converted to Christianity, probably those living in an urban area such as Palestine or Antioch.
Main Theme and Purpose of Matthew
There was a great deal of curiosity about who Jesus was following his death and resurrection. Much of this is thoroughly and methodically explained in Matthew’s account, from Jesus’s lineage and birth conditions to his teaching, healing, and other miracles. By employing anecdotes about Jesus to explain who he is—the messiah, the savior of Israel—the account goes beyond providing historical knowledge to function as a complete biography. Other themes include making disciples, leading the church, and getting ready for the end of the world.
Beginning with the circumstances surrounding Jesus’s conception by the virgin Mary, his family’s departure to Egypt in search of safety from the child killings ordered by King Herod, and his final upbringing in Nazareth, the book traces Jesus’ genealogy, which links him to both David and Abraham. The focus of the book then changes to the beginning of Jesus’ public career, which includes his baptism by the prophet John, his temptation in the wilderness following a 40-day fast, and his selection of the first disciples. The majority of the Gospel of Matthew focuses on Jesus’ public ministry, and the narrative seems to be organized primarily around his five most important talks or sermons:
First is the Sermon on the Mount, which covers the central principles of Christian discipleship and includes the Beatitudes (Matthew 5), a set of blessings offering a new standard of living that focuses on mercy, humility, and love. It also includes lessons on how to pray, including the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6), as well Jesus’s teachings on adultery, anger, false prophets, loving one’s enemies, and more.
The second is often called the “Little Commission,” when Jesus sends out his 12 apostles (Matthew 10) to perform healings and other miracles. This comes just after Matthew recounts a series of miracles performed by Jesus, including healing a man suffering from leprosy and restoring two men possessed by demons
The third centers on several key parables about the Kingdom of Heaven, all designed to illustrate God’s plan—the parables of the sower, weeds, mustard seed, yeast, pearl, net, and more.
The fourth focuses on the Church. Jesus has informed his disciples of his pending death and resurrection, and here he offers instructions on how they will lead a future community of followers, largely through humility and servitude. He uses the parables of the wandering sheep and the unmerciful servant to illustrate his points.
The fifth and final discourse, from the Mount of Olives (Matthew 24-25), focuses on the “end times” and the judgment that will ultimately come. “Be ready” and “conduct yourself well” are common themes through parables offered by Jesus, such as the ten virgins, the bags of gold (also known as the parable of the talents), and the sheep and goats.
The remainder of the Gospel of Matthew details the last week in the life of Jesus, from entering Jerusalem in triumph to the last supper, his betrayal in the garden, and his arrest, torture, crucifixion, death, and resurrection. The story ends with the post-resurrection Jesus issuing his disciples what is known as the Great Commission, urging them to continue his work on earth to further the Kingdom of Heaven.
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).
What Can We Learn from Matthew Today?
Jesus’s counter-cultural messages throughout the Gospel of Matthew have a big impact on many Christians today trying to live like Christ in an increasingly worldly, pleasure-seeking society. In the beatitudes, Jesus’s messages about caring for others and being content with what we have contrast starkly with the “me first” and “buy this now” messages splashed across our phone or TV screens. And many can equate Jesus’s messages from the Parable of the Sower to the petty worries and earthly distractions that steer many of us today from living out the gospel.
Our Favorite Verses from Matthew
The Gospel of Matthew is filled with hard-hitting, Kingdom-centered verses that remind us of what is truly important: God and delivering God’s message. Besides those above, here are other favorites:
You are the light of the world, according to Matthew 5:14–16. You cannot hide a town that is perched on a hill. No one lights a lamp and places it beneath a dish either. Instead, they placed it on its stand, and it illuminates the entire house. In the same way, let your good works be evident to others so that they may praise your heavenly Father via seeing them.
Matthew 6:20-21 – “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Matthew 7:4 – “How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?”
Matthew 7:7-8 – “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”