Who was Matthew in the New Testament?

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By BibleAsk Team


Matthew

The New Testament, a collection of sacred texts in Christianity, introduces us to four Gospel accounts, each providing a unique perspective on the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. Among these, the Gospel According to Matthew stands as a pivotal narrative, attributed to a figure named Matthew. In this extensive exploration, we delve into the multifaceted identity of the man, examining his background, role in the New Testament, and the theological richness embedded in his Gospel.

Historical Context

Matthew, also known as Levi, emerges from the shadows of obscurity as a tax collector, a profession despised by many in the ancient world. His encounter with Jesus, as recorded in his book chapter 9:9-13, marks a transformative moment. Jesus calls this man to follow Him, and he leaves behind his tax booth to become a devoted disciple. This transition from a tax collector to a Gospel writer exemplifies the redemptive power of Christ’s transformative ministry.

Literary Style

The Gospel of Matthew unfolds with a distinctive literary style and thematic structure. This disciple employs a narrative technique that often groups teachings of Jesus into five discourse sections, echoing the five books of the Pentateuch. The genealogy at the beginning of the Gospel traces Jesus’ lineage back to Abraham, emphasizing his connection to the promises made to the patriarchs. Throughout his Gospel, he frequently cites Old Testament prophecies to underscore Jesus’ fulfillment of messianic expectations.

Christology

Matthew’s Gospel presents a robust Christology, portraying Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah. Numerous titles and descriptions highlight Jesus’ divine nature and earthly mission. In chapter 16:13-20, Peter’s confession of Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the living God, serves as a pivotal moment affirming Jesus’ identity. The Gospel consistently emphasizes Jesus’ authority, as seen in his teachings, miracles, and the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20).

Ethical Teachings

Central to Matthew’s Gospel is the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7), a comprehensive discourse on ethical and moral living. This sermon encapsulates the core teachings of Jesus, including the Beatitudes, the Lord’s Prayer, and instructions on love, forgiveness, and righteousness. The author presents Jesus as the authoritative interpreter of the Law and the embodiment of true righteousness.

The Kingdom of Heaven

Matthew’s Gospel frequently employs the term “Kingdom of Heaven,” reflecting a distinctive emphasis on God’s reign. The parables in this gospel often convey the nature and characteristics of this kingdom. Through these narratives, the author invites readers to understand the profound transformation brought about by the presence of the Kingdom, challenging societal norms and expectations.

Ecclesiology

Matthew contributes significantly to the emerging understanding of the church within early Christian communities. In Matthew 16:18, Jesus declares, “I will build my church,” indicating a future community that transcends ethnic and religious boundaries. The Gospel hints at the inclusivity of the church, foreshadowing its mission to all nations, as emphasized in the Great Commission.

Apocalyptic Elements

Matthew records Jesus’ Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24-25), a prophetic discourse on the end times. This section intertwines apocalyptic imagery with ethical exhortations, underscoring the need for watchfulness and preparedness. The discourse addresses the destruction of the temple, the coming of the Son of Man, and the final judgment, offering a perspective on the eschatological dimension of Christian faith.

The Jewish-Christian Relations

As a former tax collector and a Jew, Matthew bridges the worlds of Roman occupation and Jewish tradition. His Gospel exhibits a sensitivity to Jewish concerns and engages in dialogues with Pharisees and religious leaders. Matthew seeks to demonstrate the continuity between Jesus’ ministry and the Jewish scriptures, portraying Jesus as the fulfillment of Old Testament promises.

Legacy

The Gospel According to Matthew has left an indelible mark on Christian theology and spirituality. Its rich theological content, ethical teachings, and portrayal of Jesus as the Messiah continue to shape the faith of millions. Matthew’s Gospel serves as a bridge between the Old and New Testaments, presenting Jesus as the culmination of God’s redemptive plan.

Conclusion

In the vast tapestry of the New Testament, Matthew emerges not merely as an author but as a witness, disciple, and messenger of the transformative power of Jesus Christ. From the tax collector’s booth to the Gospel proclamation, Matthew’s journey mirrors the overarching narrative of redemption woven throughout the pages of the New Testament. His Gospel invites readers to explore the depths of Christ’s teachings, embrace the Kingdom of Heaven, and participate in the unfolding drama of God’s redemptive plan.

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In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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