The subject of this book, and indeed of all the writings of the
New Testament, is the Gospel. The Greek word \~euaggelion\~
signifies a joyful message, good news, glad tidings of good
things; such as Christ was anointed to preach, the Angels
brought to the shepherds, and the Evangelists, Apostles, and
Ministers of Christ published to the world. \\#Isa 61:1, 52:7 Lu 2:10\\.
And such is the account given by this inspired writer, of the
incarnation, life, actions, ministry, miracles, sufferings, and
death of Jesus Christ; whereby peace and reconciliation, pardon
and righteousness, atonement and redemption, life and salvation,
are obtained for lost, perishing sinners. The Jews, to whom the
message of grace was first sent, and among whom the Gospel was
first preached, having despised and rejected it; they and their
posterity, in allusion to the word "Evangelion", most wickedly
and blasphemously call the whole New Testament, \^Nwylg Nwa\^ or
\^Nwylg Nwe\^ "Aven Gilion" {a}, a "revelation", or "volume of
iniquity and vanity"; but "blessed are the people that know
the joyful sound", see \\#Ps 89:15\\.
The writer of this Gospel, Matthew, who also was called Levi
in \\#Lu 5:27\\ was by occupation a publican, or tax-gatherer,
and was in his employ when Christ called him by his grace. He
was one of the twelve Apostles sent forth by Christ to preach
the Gospel of the kingdom, \\#Mt 10:3\\ and was honoured to be
the first of the writers of the New Testament, and to be the
first publisher therein of the good news of the incarnate
Saviour; and was a wonderful instance of the rich and sovereign
grace of God. Though he was employed in collecting the Roman
tax, yet he was of Jewish extract; as appears from his being
called the son of Alphaeus, \\#Mr 2:14\\ and from his name
Matthew Levi; for as the latter, so the former is an Hebrew
name. The Jews say {b} one of the disciples of Jesus was called
\^yatm\^, Matthai or Matthew: his name signifies a "gift" or
"given"; he was one of those the Father had given to Christ,
and was kept by him, when the son of perdition was lost,
\\#Joh 17:6,9,11,12\\.
It may not be improper to inquire in what language this
Gospel was written. The ancient Christian writers were generally
of opinion, that Matthew wrote it in Hebrew; Papias and {c}
Pantaenus were of this mind, as also Irenaeus {d}, Origen {e}
Eusebius {f}, Athanasius {g}, Epiphanius {h}, and Jerom {i}; and
it is asserted in the titles of the Arabic and Persic versions,
and at the end of the Syriac version of this Gospel, that it was
written in that language; and this opinion is espoused by
Grotius and Hammond, though justly exploded by others; for what
has been published by Munster, Mercer, Hutter, and Robertson,
are translations, made by themselves or others, and of no
antiquity: and since Hebrew and Syriac words are interpreted in
this Gospel, see \\#Mt 1:23 27:33,46\\ which would not have
been done, had it been written in either language; and since
Matthew generally follows the Septuagint version in the passages
cited by him out of the Old Testament; and since the Hebrew
language was not generally known at that time to the common
people, only to the learned; for the law and the prophets, when
read in the synagogues in that language, required an interpreter;
and since the Greek tongue was the language more commonly spoken,
and the rest of the Evangelists wrote in Greek, and the Gospel
was designed for the Gentiles as well as the Jews; it is most
reasonable to conclude that this Gospel also was wrote in Greek;
whereby that ancient prophecy was fulfilled, at least in part,
"God shall enlarge" or "persuade Japheth, and he shall dwell in
the tents of Shem", \\#Ge 9:27\\ the Gospel being published in
the language of Japheth, the Greek language, which the Jews, the
posterity of Shem, now understood; agreeably to which the Palmudic
writers interpret the prophecy; says {k} Bar Kaphra, mentioning the
above words,

``They shall speak \^tpy lv wnwvlb\^ in the language of Japheth,
in the tents of Shem;''


``the words of the law shall be spoken in the language of Japheth,
in the midst of the tents of Shem {l}.''

R. Jochanan {m} explains them thus:

``\^tpy lv wyrbr\^ "the words of Japheth" shall be in the tents of
Shem; and says R. Chiya ben Aba, the sense of it is, The beauty
of Japheth shall be in the tents of Shem.''

Which the gloss interprets thus:

``The beauty of Japheth is the language of Javan, or the Greek
language, which language is more beautiful than that of any
other of the sons of Japheth.''

The time when this Gospel was written is said {n} by some to be
in the eighth or ninth, by others, in the fifteenth year after
the ascension of Christ, when the Evangelist had received the
extraordinary gifts of the Spirit, among which was the gift of
tongues; and when the promise of Christ had been made good to
him, \\#Joh 14:26\\.

{a} T. Bab. Sabbat. fol. 116. 1. Vet. Nizzachou. p. 15, 39,
87, 94, 137, 186. Ed. Wagenseil.
{b} T. Bab. Sanhedrim, fol. 43. 1.
{c} Euseb. Hist. Eccl. l. 3. c. 39. p. 113. Vid. ib. l. 5. c. 8.
p. 172. c 10. p. 175. & l. 6. c. 25. p. 226.
{d} Adv. Haeres. l. 3. c 1.
{e} In Matt. Tom. l. p. 203. Ed. Huet.
{f} Eccl. Hist. l. 3. cap. 24. p. 95.
{g} Synops. sacr. Script. p. 134. Vol. 2.
{h} Contra Haeres. l. 1. Haer. 29. & 30.
{i} Catalog. Script. Eccles fol. 90. Tom. 1. ad Hedib. fol. 46. Tom. 3.
{k} T. Hieros. Megilla, fol. 71. 2.
{l} Bereshit. Rabba, sect. 36. fol. 32. 1.
{m} T. Bab. Megilla, fol. 9. 2.
{n} Vid. Fabricii Biblioth. Graec. l. 4. c. 5. sect. 2. p. 197.
& Vales. not. in Euseb. Eccl. Hist. p. 52.

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