The call of Matthew (Mt 9:9-9:9)

“As Jesus was walking along,

He saw a man

Called Matthew.

He was sitting

At the tax booth.

Jesus said to him.

‘Follow me!’

He got up.

He followed him.”

 

Καὶ παράγων ὁ Ἰησοῦς ἐκεῖθεν εἶδεν ἄνθρωπον καθήμενον ἐπὶ τὸ τελώνιον, Μαθθαῖον λεγόμενον, καὶ λέγει αὐτῷ Ἀκολούθει μοι. καὶ ἀναστὰς ἠκολούθησεν αὐτῷ.

 

This saying about the call of Matthew is similar to Mark, chapter 2:14, and Luke, chapter 5:27-28, but there he was called Levi, his Jewish name, and not Matthew.  Also, the other stories mention his father, but not here.  It is strange that if this Matthew the apostle was the author of this gospel, why it was not mentioned here.  Jesus was walking along (Καὶ παράγων ὁ Ἰησοῦς ἐκεῖθεν), when he saw a man called Matthew sitting in his tax office, toll booth, or tax booth (εἶδεν ἄνθρωπον καθήμενον ἐπὶ τὸ τελώνιον, Μαθθαῖον λεγόμενον).  Jesus simply said to him, “Follow me!” (καὶ λέγει αὐτῷ Ἀκολούθει μοι).  Then Matthew got up and followed him (καὶ ἀναστὰς ἠκολούθησεν αὐτῷ) without any need to explain why or how he was doing this.  At this point in the Matthew gospel narrative, he is the 5th named apostle after Simon Peter, Andrew, James, and John, the first individual without a brother follower.

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The authority of Jesus (Mt 7:29-7:29)

“Jesus taught them,

As one who had authority,

Not as their scribes”

 

ἦν γὰρ διδάσκων αὐτοὺς ὡς ἐξουσίαν ἔχων, καὶ οὐχ ὡς οἱ γραμματεῖς αὐτῶν.

 

Matthew spoke about the authority of Jesus, that also was in Luke, chapter 4:32, as well as Mark, chapter 1:22.  What was this authority that Jesus had?  He was not like one of the scribes (καὶ οὐχ ὡς οἱ γραμματεῖς αὐτῶν).  The scribes were religious experts who determined the traditions to be followed.  These scribes were professional copiers of manuscript documents, although they had a wider role in Jewish society.  They might have been the forerunners of the rabbinic class that was developing at that time.  Perhaps, the author of this gospel might have been a Jewish scribe himself because he was very familiar with Hebrew scriptures.  Jesus taught on his own authority (ἦν γὰρ διδάσκων αὐτοὺς ὡς ἐξουσίαν ἔχων) without referring to tradition.

Title

“The Gospel according to Mathew”

 

Τὸ κατὰ Ματθαῖον εὐαγγέλιον

 

What is a gospel?  Who is Matthew?  The English term gospel comes from the Old English ‘godspel.’  There was a musical play with the name “Godspell” that opened on Broadway in 1971.  Like the Greek word εὐαγγέλιον, gospel means good news or good tidings.  This term originally meant the Christian message itself.  However, in the second century, it came to be used for the books where this message was set out.  Thus, the gospels became known as written accounts of the career and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth.  This Gospel of Matthew is anonymous, since there is no explicit mention of a named author within the text itself.  This title (Τὸ κατὰ Ματθαῖον εὐαγγέλιον), however was added some time in the second century, perhaps with Papias of Hierapolis (100–140 CE), an early bishop and apostolic father.  The apostle Matthew was among the early followers and apostles of Jesus.  He was a first century Galilean, the son of Alpheus.  As a tax collector he would have been literate in Aramaic and Greek.  His fellow Jews would have despised him because he was seen as collaborating with the Roman occupation force.  What we do know for certain is that the author of this gospel was probably a traditional male Jew, familiar with the technical and legal aspects of Hebrew Scripture.  He wrote in a polished Semitic synagogue Greek style.  Most scholars hold that the Gospel of Matthew was a product of the last quarter of the 1st century, a work of the second generation of Christians, probably sometime between 70-110 CE, or more precisely between 80-90 CE.  The defining event for this community was the Roman destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in 70 CE, during the Jewish–Roman War of 66–73 CE.  The author of this Gospel of Matthew wrote for a community of Greek-speaking Jewish Christians probably located in Syria, just north of Galilee.  Antioch was the largest city in Roman Syria and the third-largest city in the Roman Empire, after Rome and Alexandria.  This is where the term “Christian” was first used.  Thus, it would seem like an appropriate place for Jewish Christians in the second half of the first century.   For practical traditional purposes, I will use the name Matthew as the author of this gospel.

The Writings

The Writings, as they were referred to in the New Testament, were the poetic or wisdom books.  They include the Psalms, some written by David, but mostly ranging from the 10th–4th century BCE, and the Proverbs, ascribed to Solomon, ranging from the 9th century–3rd century BCE, as well as the Book of Job, from the 6th century BCE.  Both the Psalms and Proverbs were written over a period of time, but they each have an author attributed to them, King David to the Psalms, and King Solomon to the ProverbsJob was not an Israelite, but his story was instructive to the Israelites.

The fearful dream of the king (Dan 4:4-4:5)

“I,

King Nebuchadnezzar,

Was living at ease

In my house.

I was prospering

In my palace.

I saw a dream

That frightened me.

My fantasies in bed

Terrified me.

The visions of my head

Alarmed me.”

This author of the Book of Daniel has the king of Babylon speaking in the first-person singular. He was living at ease in his house, prospering in his palace. Everything was all good. Then he had a dream that frightened him. These fantasies and visions terrified and alarmed him.

The Fall of Jerusalem (Dan 1:1-1:2)

“In the third year

Of the reign

Of King Jehoiakim

In Judah,

King Nebuchadnezzar

Of Babylon

Came to Jerusalem.

He besieged it.

The Lord let

King Jehoiakim

Of Judah

Fall into his power,

As well as some of the vessels

Of the house of God.

Then he brought them

To the land of Shinar,

He placed

The vessels

In the treasury

Of his gods.”

This Book of Daniel starts out on a dire note, the capture of Jerusalem. However, unlike the Book of Ezekiel, there is only a vague date for the siege of Jerusalem, the 3rd year of King Jehoiakim, which would have been 606 BCE.   However, there is no other indication of a siege at that time. Perhaps, this meant 598 BCE when King Jehoiakim was deposed. It is not clear who the author of this work was. However, the Judaean king fell under the power of King Nebuchadnezzar, because the Lord let it happen. Yahweh is not the term used for God in this post-exilic work. Rather the Greek Kyrios was used. The Babylonian king took some of the Temple vessels and treasures with him to Babylon, or Shinar as it is called here. He brought them to the treasury of his gods, which would have been Marduk and Nebo.