The Image of the Evangelist has always been
a powerful one for they are the bringers of the Word, something
we are all called to do by how we live in the world. In
the Eastern tradition prayer begins by gazing, or looking
with fixed attention until one sees beyond the physical
image to what is truly there. In gazing upon the Image of
the Evangelist, a human vessel, the viewer opens him or
herself to the presence and power of the Divine in our midst.
Saint Matthew wrote his gospel for two reasons. One; to
convince those of Judaism that the Messiah had already come in
the person of Jesus Christ. Two, as encouragement for those who
believed as well as for those who would learn to believe. He carried
on with Christ's message that the kingdom of Heaven would embrace
The Gospel of Matthew was composed in his native Aramaic
or Hebrew tongue, as is mentioned in that Gospel and in the Acts
of the Apostles. One tradition places the writing of this Gospel
around the time of the persecution of Herod Agrippa I in 42 A.D.
Another tradition places the writing of his gospel around the
time of the Council of Jerusalem, between 42 A.D. or 50 A.D. or
later. All writing determines St. Matthew's Gospel was written
before the destruction of the city of Jerusalem by the Romans
in 70 A.D.
After the death and resurrection of Jesus Matthew's trade as
a tax collector became the trade of an evangelist. His records
and personal recordings of Jesus' words and teachings grew to
the Gospel as we know it today.
Writings of Matthew beyond the first Gospel have become
lost. He is said to have preached to the Jews in Palestine for
at least fifteen years after the Crucifixion.
The Gospel of Matthew begins with narrative prologue explaining
the genealogy of Jesus. Then Matthew begins to reveal the mystery
of Jesus person beginning with his birth from a virgin. (Matthew
1:23) "He shall be named Emmanuel for in him God is with
In the second and third chapters Matthew tells of the dangers
and yet joys of Jesus' childhood, from the Persecution of King
Herod to the visit of the magi, the flight into Egypt and the
return after Herod's death.
In the fourth chapter Matthew introduces Jesus' ministry
with the preaching of John the Baptist. He explains the central
message of Jesus' preaching is the coming of the kingdom of heaven,
the need for repentance and a complete change of heart and conduct
among those who wish to receive this gift from God. No other evangelist
provides the teachings of Jesus with such elegance and order as
Matthew. He carries on the passion and resurrection in continuing
chapters with a kind of serene dignity that is both spell binding
The Gospel of Matthew is suggested to have been composed,
perhaps in Antioch the capital of the Roman province of Syria.
The gospel explains how the obedience to the will of God is to
be articulated by those who live after the 'turn of the ages'
the death and resurrection of Jesus.
The principal divisions of Saint Matthew's Gospel are:
The Infancy Narrative (Matthew 1:1-2:23)
The Proclamation of the Kingdom (Matthew 3:1-7:29)
Ministry and Mission in Galilee (Matthew 8:1-11:1)
Opposition from Israel (Matthew 11:2-13:53)
Jesus, the Kingdom, and the Church (Matthew 13:54-18:35)
Ministry in Judea and Jerusalem (Matthew 19:1-25:46)
The Passion and Resurrection (Matthew 26:1-28:20)
The authenticity of the Gospel of Matthew has been questioned
from time to time. Early Christian writers argue that St. Matthew
wrote a Gospel in Hebrew but that Gospel has disappeared the Gospel
of today borrows quotations in Greek. The majority of scholars
date the gospel between the years of 70 A.D. and 100 A.D. but
there is an argument as to whether the Gospel of Matthew was written
before or after the destruction of Jerusalem
Of the four canonical gospels, the Gospel of Matthew is
most closely aligned with first century Judaism. Matthew repeated
stresses the ways Jesus fulfilled the Jewish prophecies of a Messiah.
Matthew is the only gospel which mentions the church (ecclesia).
Jesus sites the Church's authority and calls upon the disciples
to practice forgiveness. Matthew is the most popular of the Gospels
with its rhymical and often poetic prose. Certain details of the
life of Christ, such as the homage of the Wise Men and the massacre
of the innocents followed by the flight into Egypt, are related
only by Matthew.
The earliest Christian communities considered the books of the
Old Testament as Sacred Scripture and read them at religious assemblies.
The Gospels containing the words of Christ as well as the narrative
of his life soon gained the same authority as the Old Testament.
A book was acknowledged as canonical when the Church regarded
it as Apostolic. By the middle of the third century, the Gospel
of Matthew was received by the whole Christian Church as a divinely
inspired document and as canonical.
"Whoever therefore shall deprive of
authority one of these least commandments and shall teach
men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven.
But whoever shall do and teach them, this man shall be called
great in the kingdom of heaven."
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