Money Matters in Matthew -- By: Werner G. Marx

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 136:542 (Apr 1979)
Article: Money Matters in Matthew
Author: Werner G. Marx


Money Matters in Matthew

Werner G. Marx

[Werner G. Marx, Former Director, Moravian Bible Institute, Kilwas-karma, Nicaragua.]

If a physician wrote the Gospel of Luke, there should be traces of a choice of medical words in the book, and there are. Or if Mark wrote as Peter’s secretary, there should be some reflection of Peter’s personality in the Gospel of Mark, and there is. Yet why do critics ignore the footprints of a publican in the Gospel of Matthew? The answer is found in a consensus among modern New Testament scholars that runs like this:

Mark was the earliest Gospel and if Mark’s date is placed in the early sixties, then Matthew must be later. Moreover, Matthew has a block of material in common with Luke. For this to have happened the date of Matthew must be moved forward at least a decade. Thus when Polycarp, who died ca. A.D. 155, said that Matthew had “noted down” (συνεγράψατο) Jesus’ sayings, it is understood that he was not speaking of the completed Book of Matthew as it is known today, but that he was referring to a collection of the “sayings of Jesus” which came originally from Matthew’s pen, and which gave the name of “Matthew” to a much longer book which other writers put together after Matthew’s death.1

Much as when a machine does not measure up to expectations and its engineers say, “Back to the drawingboard,” so in this case

it will be rewarding to take a fresh look at Matthew by freeing oneself of the presuppositions of the source critics and the form critics who argue for a late date for Matthew.

Twenty years ago Goodspeed in Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist gave a body blow to this kind of thinking. Goodspeed saw a trace of the publican in Matthew’s love of numbers (as in the grouping by fourteens of names in his genealogy of Jesus). He also stressed the fact that only Matthew included the parable of the talents (25:14–30) and of the unmerciful servant (18:21–35).2

Wiping the slate clean, then, the purpose of this article is to determine whether money matters to Matthew, a tax collector. First, Matthew’s use of the word τελώνης (“tax collector”) will be discussed in order to determine if his use of the word differs from that of the other Synoptists. Second, Matthew’s use of money words will be considered. And third, a brief examination will be made of other money-related terms us...

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