Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Gospel Authorship: Matthew

The author of Matthew draws a parallel between Jesus and Moses, the most striking example being the flight to Egypt in the nativity.

The evidence that the Gospel of Matthew was written by the apostle Matthew is poor indeed. This seems to be:
  1. It has consistently been accredited to Matthew from around the middle of the second century
  2. The testament of Papias
  3. The fact that only this gospel mentions that Matthew was a tax collector and details his call to discipleship
In fact, the testament of Papias argues against Matthew as the author. He is cited by Euebius: "Matthew collected the oracles (ta logia) in the Hebrew language, and each interpreted them as best he could." As discussed later, modern scholars recognise that the Gospel of Matthew we have was originally written in Greek, and therefore is not the text that Papias talked about.

The supposed prophesy about a virgin birth is due to a mistranslation of Isaiah in the Septuagint, a Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible (in the original, the text indicates a young woman, not a virgin). The author must have been more familiar with this Greek translation than the original, indicating a Hellenised Jew, not a Galilean countryman,

The other important fact to note is that Matthew draws heavily on Mark. Fully 94% of Mark is reproduced in Matthew. Why would a first -hand witness base his account on a second-hand witness?

Was Matthew First?

Of course, some hold instead that Mark is based on Matthew, but Marcon priority has been accepted by the majority of scholars since the late nineteenth century. It is based on a number of things, including a refinement of language (Luke and Matthew will modify clumsy wordage in Mark). Omissions in Mark are easy to explain (Mark did not include the Lord's prayer because he did not know about, rather than because he felt it was not important). Also, while Luke and Matthew add much to the narrative, they conversely tend to be more succinct in the text. It is hard to imagine why Mark would be so selective in what he chose to include, whilst also choosing to be more wordy in his accounts.

For more on Marcan priority, see here:

The chances that the disciple Matthew wrote the gospel ascribed to him seem remote, but perhaps he did have some influence on it. It may be that the text the Papias mentions was used by the real author, together with the Gospel of Mark, to write the work we have today.

Written in Greek

The majority of scholars believe Matthew was originally written in Greek, despite Papias:

If Matthew originally wrote his Gospel in Aramaic, it is difficult to explain why he sometimes, but not always, quoted from a Greek translation of the Old Testament, the Septuagint. The Hebrew Old Testament would have been the normal text
for a Hebrew or Aramaic author to use. A Greek translator might have used the Septuagint (abbreviated LXX) to save himself some work, but if he did so—why did he not use it consistently?
This cannot possibly mean our Gospel of Matthew, for the identities of Greek expression between it and Mark and Luke cannot be reconciled with the idea that it is a translation; the Greek relationship between the three must have come through Greek and could not have survived independent translation, which always breeds variation in abundance.
These peculiarities of language, especially the repetition of the same words and expressions, would indicate that the Greek Gospel was an original rather than a translation, and this is confirmed by the paronomasiæ (battologein, polulogia; kophontai kai ophontai, etc.), which ought not to have been found in the Aramaic, by the employment of the genitive absolute, and, above all, by the linking of clauses through the use of men . . . oe, a construction that is peculiarly Greek.
Against Papias, it has been claimed, however, that Matthew cannot be a translation from Hebrew or Aramaic (even though some of the Old Testament quotations seem to have come from the Hebrew Bible), especially since it is written in a clear Greek which reflects an advance over Mark’s style and language; there is a play on the Greek words ‘kopsontai’ and ‘opsontai’ in Matthew 24:30. This claim neglects the wide variety to be found in the work of translators, and the play on Greek words can be balanced by Matthew 1:21: ‘you shall call his name Jesus, for it is he who will save his people from their sins -- ‘Jesus’ and ‘save’ are related in Hebrew (‘ieshua’ -- ‘ieshoa’).


The consensus appears to be that the Gospel of Matthew was written in Greek, in Antioch between 80 and 100 AD by an anonymous Hellenised Christian Jew.

More here:

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