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The Gospel of Matthew

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The Gospel of Matthew is an eyewitness story written for an audience of believers, under great stress, and persecution. Matthew develops a theological plot incorporating genealogy, speeches, parables, inter and intra textual references, common vocabulary, and fulfillment quotations, with a tension that builds as we are invited into the story. The crucifixion and resurrection bring us to a Christological climax that symbolically points beyond its conclusion to God’s Kingdom, bringing atonement, salvation and the ushering in the Eschaton. The extraordinary events surrounding the crucifixion act as commentary, adding important details concerning the death of Jesus.1

The author’s intent is Christological. Jesus is the Son of God. He is God amongst us. Recognized titles in Matthew include Christ, Son of God, Son of Man, Son of David, King, Immanuel. In addition, “the allusions and actions of Jesus of Matthew’s Jesus also communicate his Messianic claims.”2 The Gospel functions as a teaching tool and can be used liturgically. The author of Matthew intended it to be read and for his audience to understand, be engaged in and appreciate the literary devices and references. He “did not write for bad or casual readers, but in stead for good and attentive listeners. The ancient audiences were “accustomed to retain minute textual details”.3

The Gospel of Matthew exhibits the plan of atonement and salvation for all people and the beginning of a new era. The Kingdom has come. Matthew’s Gospel is eschatological. Through the direct use of and allusions to the Hebrew scriptures, as well as fulfillment citations Matthew clearly connects Jesus’ life and ministry with Israel’s traditions and promised history.4 At the same time, through stories that illustrate Gentile participation he points to an inclusive future.

Matthew’s Gospel is Prophetic. The Gospel of Matthew often states “in order to fulfill”.

These fulfillment citations represent an “application of a prophecy from the Hebrew Bible by Matthew with the claim that a certain event took place something which was predicted by a prophet.”5“Jesus is the fulfillment of the hopes and promises of all the Scripture, and he is portrayed in the colors drawn from the biblical palette, even when explicit Christological claims are not present.”6

Matthew’s Gospel is Ecclesiological. His “exhortation to righteous behavior are dependent upon his Christology.”7 God’s people are defined by their relationship to Jesus, His purpose and identity. This requires an ethical dimension. Regardless, of whether Gentile or Jew, bond or free, woman or man, Jesus’ people must produce fruit worthy of the kingdom.8 Matthew’s Christological narration tills the soil for prophetic revelation, eschatological and ecclesiological fruits to be born.


Understanding the Gospel of Matthew may require freeing ones mind from presuppositions about space and time. Many interpreters struggle with the events recorded in the Book of Matthew due to the lack of chronological order, the movement of events from one scene to another, as well as the addition of new details in Matthew. The composition seems ‘out of order’. Ulrich Luz states “For many interpreters the text, simply cannot be interpreted on the chronological level; it is instead the symbolic encoding of a theological truth.”9 Although the text is symbolic of a theological truth, we should not eliminate that the author records that divine events took place and how they support the narrative.

Alstrup Dahl states “The account of the miracles at the death of Jesus is also a later insertion. This is shown by the premature mention of the appearance in Jerusalem of the resurrected saints after the resurrection of Jesus (27:51b-54).”10 Dahl is concerned that the order of the rising of the dead is out of sequence. We may question here, why the ‘out



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