Posted by / Sunday 15 January 2017 / No comments

Who wrote the gospel of Matthew?

In spite of the fact that the one who wrote the gospel of St. Matthew is not known for a fact, there are snippets of information in the accounts of known historians and in the bible narratives themselves that point to the particular person who may have written the book of Matthew. 

There is a lot of evidence in the gospel of Matthew to confirm that the gospel of Matthew was written by Matthew the tax collector, otherwise known as Levi who was one of the disciple of Jesus.

The call of Matthew
After Jesus called Matthew to become his disciple, he organized a dinner in his house to which he invited Jesus. In writing the account of this episode, Matthew chapter 9:10 indicates that the dinner was held “in the house”. When Mark recorded the same account in Mark chapter 2:15, he wrote that the dinner took place ‘in his house”. Bible scholars argue that Matthew was writing the account himself that was why he recorded “in the house”. Other writers were referring to the account about Matthew that is why they wrote “in his house” indicating that it took place in the house of Matthew.

Matthew’s occupation
When Jesus called Matthew, he was in the tax office, which is why it is known that he was a tax-collector. Tax-collectors of the days of Matthew held writing materials into which they recorded figures about their work. Scholars believe that since Matthew was already used to writing down pieces of information, he may have been taking notes of the happenings around Jesus, his activities and his teachings. Therefore he must have written the gospel of Matthew.

The use of figures
Matthew mentioned figures in the accounts of the gospel which only someone conversant with figures could have provided. In Matthew chapter 26:15, only Matthew recorded the exact amount (thirty shekels of silver) Judas Iscariot was paid for betraying Jesus and when Judas returned the blood money, he also recorded thirty shekels of silver as in Matthew chapter 27:3. Naturally, only a tax collector who is used to figures would be recording such values with the exactitude that is seen in the gospel of Matthew, hence, a proof that he wrote the gospel.

Matthew’s attitude of gratitude
Tax collectors during the time of the Roman occupation of Judaea were a hated lot. They were people who were seen as thieves and therefore not even allowed near the synagogue. To receive such a great salvation from God and to even become a disciple of God’s salvation of the human race, it was no surprise that Matthew shows his appreciation to God. Matthew recorded the words of Jesus when he was accused of dinning with sinners. Jesus said, he came not for the righteous but for the sinners, sinners like Matthew. In other parts of his gospel, Matthew wrote appreciating the mercy of God which was a show of gratitude.

Recording Jesus’ words of comfort
In Matthew chapter 28:28-30, Matthew recorded the comforting words of Jesus when he said “Come to me, all ye who labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest”. These comforting words could only have been captured by someone who hitherto was considered an outcast but who had been saved by God and brought into the kingdom work.

Words of Origen as quoted by Eusebius
Apart from the internal evidence to prove Matthew’s authorship, there is external evidence to prove same. Eusebius, a renowned historian, in one of his works, captured the words of the third century father of the church, Origen, when he said, “of all the disciples of the Lord, only Matthew and John have left us their memoirs; and they, it is reported, had recourse to writing only under the pressure of necessity, for Matthew who preached earlier to the Hebrews, when he was about to go to others also, committing his gospel in writing in his native tongue, compensated by his writing for the loss of his presence to those from whom he was sent away”.

Words of Irenaeus, the Bishop of Lyons in A.D. 180
The Bishop Lyons is quoted to have said, “Matthew put forth his written gospel among Hebrews in their own tongue”. In other words, Irenaeus was assigning the authorship of the gospel of Matthew to the disciple of Jesus called Matthew.

Words of Papias
 Papias was the Bishop of Hieropolis and he is quoted as saying “Matthew composed the divine oracles in the Hebrew dialect”.

No evidence of an eye-witness account
Bible scholars are of the view that the content of the book of Matthew does not give any particular evidence that it was written by the disciple of Jesus called Matthew. They argue that the bible narratives recorded in the book of Matthew, do not come out as from an eye-witness.

Reliance on Mark’s material
It is also argued that Matthew relied so much on material from Mark’s gospel and that even in copying from Mark his account lacks the details one sees in the Markan account.

Did Matthew the tax collector then write the gospel of Matthew?
A conclusion has been drawn by scholars that Matthew just arranged the stories that were circulating about the works of Jesus and his ministry not that he authored them himself. This being so, it was not wrong to attribute the authorship to him, hence, the attachment of his name to the book of Matthew. This is confirmed by Papias, saying, “Matthew arranged the oracles in the Hebrew dialect, but everyone interpreted them as he was able”.

1. Who wrote the gospel of St. Matthew?

2. Advance the evidence to prove that Matthew, the tax-collector, wrote the gospel of Matthew.

3.  If Matthew did not write the gospel of Matthew, why is his name ascribed to it?

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