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Matthew - Introduction

Book Introduction - Matthew

Read first chapter of Matthew

WRITER: The writer of the first Gospel, as all agree, was Matthew, called also Levi, a Jew of Galilee who had taken service as a tax-gatherer under the Roman oppressor. He was, therefore, one of the hated and ill-reputed publicans.

DATE: The date of Matthew has been much discussed, but no convincing reason has been given for the discrediting the traditional date of A.D. 37.

THEME: The scope and purpose of the book are indicated in the first verse. Matthew is the "book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham" ( Matthew 1:1 ). This connects him at once with two of the most important of the Old Testament Covenants: the Davidic Covenant of kingship, and the Abrahamic Covenant of promise. ; 2 Samuel 7:8-16 ; Genesis 15:18 .

Of Jesus Christ in that twofold character, then, Matthew writes. Following the order indicated in the first verse, he writes first of the King, the son of David; then of the Son of Abraham, obedient unto death, according to the Isaac type Genesis 22:1-18 ; Hebrews 11:17-19 .

But the prominent character of Christ in Matthew is that of the covenanted King, David's "righteous Branch" Jeremiah 23:5 ; 33:15 . Matthew records His genealogy; His birth in Bethlehem the city of David, according to Micah 5:2, the ministry of His forerunner according to Malachi Malachi 3:1 . His rejection by Israel; and His predictions of His second coming in power and great glory.

Only then (Matthew 26-28) does Matthew turn to the earlier covenant, and record the sacrificial death of the son of Abraham.

This determines the purpose and structure of Matthew. It is peculiarly the Gospel for Israel; and, as flowing from the death of Christ, a Gospel for the whole world.

Matthew falls into three principal divisions:

  1. The manifestation to Israel and rejection of Jesus Christ the Son of David, born King of the Jews, 1:1-25:46. The subdivisions of this part are:
    1. The official genealogy and birth of the King, 1:1-25;
    2. The infancy and obscurity of the King, 2:1-23;
    3. The kingdom "at hand," 3:1-12:50 (the order of events of this subdivision is indicated in the text);
    4. The mysteries of the kingdom, 13:1-52;
    5. The ministry of the rejected King, 13:53-23:39;
    6. The promise of the King to return in power and great glory, 24:1-25:46.
  2. The sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of Abraham, 26:1-28:8.
  3. The risen Lord in ministry to His own, 28:9-20.

The events recorded in Matthew cover a period of 38 years (Ussher).