How to Study the Bible Pt. III


How to Study the Bible Pt. III

The Gospel of Matthew


flickr photo by wonderlane

Here’s a brief overview of the book of Matthew that will help us gain a better understanding as we’re reading the text


Assumed to be the Apostle Matthew mentioned in Matthew 9:9 and referenced as Levi in Luke 5:27 based on early church tradition

Direct Audience:

Jews who didn’t believe that Jesus was the Messiah spoken of in the Old Testament


Around A.D. 55-65

Purpose of the text:

To make a defense to the Jews that Jesus is indeed the fulfillment of the OT prophecies concerning a Messiah that would redeem Israel.

Major Themes:

  1. Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament Prophecies which refer to a coming Messiah

  2. Jesus came to bring salvation first to the Jew but also to the Gentiles

  3. The Kingdom of heaven is a present reality and a future hope.

  4. Love Ethic, Matthew makes particular note of Jesus teachings on loving your enemies and praying for those who persecute you.

Literary Elements:

Matthew being a Jew himself, carefully constructed his narrative of the gospel based on his own background and understanding of the Jewish culture in an attempt to reach the Jews. You can see the basis for this by the phrasings he used as well as what he decided to portray from Jesus life as opposed to the other gospels.

Matthew doesn’t use the term “Kingdom of God” but rather “Kingdom of Heaven” The reason behind this was because of Matthews upbringing as a Jew and his Jewish audience, they held such a high reverence of the term God, and Gods name: “Yahweh” that they would write it as “YHWH” or not write the term at all, hence excluding the term God and substituting it for heaven. Being sensitive to this issue in trying to reach his audience he uses the term “heaven” as opposed to Mark, Luke and John who all use the term “God”.

Matthew also opens up his Gospel with the lineage of Jesus to make a strong defense to the Jews that Jesus comes from the bloodline of David. This was of highest importance to the Jews because the OT prophets all spoke of the Messiah in terms of his descent from the davicid dynasty and him being the continuation of the davidic rule which was established as a kingdom that would have no end.

In addition, Matthew has the most references to Old Testament passages regarding the Messiah to show that Jesus is indeed the Christ.

Matthews mention of Jesus teachings in the Sermon on the Mount, another example of Matthew showing Jesus as being in harmony with the OT and further supporting his role as the OT messiah.

Portrait of Jesus in Matthew:

Davidic Messiah/Son of David

Authoritative on Earth

Suffering Servant

Royal but Humble

Background on Matthew:

As we can infer from Luke 5:27 and Matthew 9:9, Matthew was a tax collector. Tax collectors in Biblical times were usually of Jewish citizenship but employed by Rome. They had a reputation for extorting their fellow jewish citizens for more than the Roman law required and keeping the extra amount. They were domineering and dishonest, despised by other jews and marginalized with the prostitutes, lepers, ‘sinners’, and gentiles. The Roman empire forceably and  violently subjugated the Jewish culture to their governing, and the taxation Matthew collected would’ve went to paying the Roman army to ensure that it stayed that way. To say that the Jewish culture had a disdian and disgust for tax collectors, for seeing their brethern behave in such a way would be putting it lightly. Matthew in spending time with Jesus and writing his gospel thereafter would’ve done so through the lens of being abhorred by society but embraced by the foretold Messiah. He would’ve had a particularly vivid picture of what it looked like for the sinner to be forgiven and welcomed into the family God.