“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.