Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Introducing Matthew's Gospel

In addition to our daily readings from the book of Genesis, we are also reading the first book of the New Testament - Matthew's gospel. Before I begin my comments on Matthew's gospel, let me first say a few words about the genre of literature we call gospel.
The word gospel comes from the Greek word meaning "good news." The gospels of the New Testament have as their subject the "good news" of Jesus Christ. Therefore, these books were not written strictly as historical documents or even biographies, since they aim to articulate a specific theological message, the message that Jesus is the Messiah (the Christ) and that through his death and resurrection we have received forgiveness of our sins and been made citizens of God's Kingdom. It is important to recognize, however, that the gospels do, in fact, narrate a historically and biographically accurate protrayal of Jesus and his ministry, but their primary intent is to communicate the theological message of salvation and redemption.
Now back to Matthew's gospel. There are two important distinguishing characteristics of Matthew's account of the "good news" of Jesus:
Jesus the Jewish Messiah
More than the other three gospels, Matthew works hard to demonstrate that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies concerning the coming of the Messiah (the Anointed One). In just the first two chapters, there are several quotations from the Old Testament regarding Jesus as the fulfilment of the ancient prophecies. As the Jewish Messiah, Jesus did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill the law; therefore, Matthew's gospel has a higher regard for the law than the other gospel accounts.
Jesus the Teacher
Matthew's gospel also presents the clearest and most comprehensive record of Jesus' teaching. In the Old Testament, Moses is regarded as the great teacher of the law and the first five books of the bible are traditionally attributed to Moses. In Matthew's gospel, Jesus presents five great topical sermons, linking him to the tradition of Moses. These five sermons or teachings are as follows:

The Sermon on the Mount (Chapters 5-7)
Teaching About Mission (Chapter 10)
Teaching About Parables (Chapter 13)
Teaching about Community (Chapter 18)
Teaching About the End Times (Chapters 24-25)


  1. I've been noticing the connections about fulfilling the prophecies, as you mentioned above and 4:14's wording in the NIV sounded like Jesus was doing stuff on purpose because of all the prophecies than the other way around. Surprised at that.

  2. just hit on the link off to the left THROUGH THE BIBLE IN A YEAR. Found some answers to some of my questions -- going back to look for Peleg. Just thought I'd comment for others that may haven't tried it too. Thanks.

  3. Remember that the gospels were written several decades after Jesus' ministry. Therefore, they represent early Christian interpretations of the story of Jesus. What we are reading is Matthew's narrative. Jesus himself was probably aware that his life was somehow the fulfillment or, at least, the continuation of Israel's story. However, I don't think Jesus was thinking about every action as intentionally fulfilling a specific prophecy.

    As the early Church grappled with questions concerning the identity and mission of Jesus, they naturally went back to the Old Testament for answers. They began to see that much of what Jesus did corresonded to the Old Testament narrative. What we have in Matthew's gospel is the weaving together of the Old Testament narrative with the story of Jesus.

  4. Ahhh, Thank you for that! I was siding with Kathy and since it has been years and years since I spent so much time thinking of the Bible this fact escaped me. I can now go back to reading with a clear head.