The Purpose Of Matthew’s Gospel — Part I -- By: Andrew M. Woods

Journal: Journal of Dispensational Theology
Volume: JODT 11:33 (Aug 2007)
Article: The Purpose Of Matthew’s Gospel — Part I
Author: Andrew M. Woods


The Purpose Of Matthew’s Gospel — Part I

Andy M. Woods,

Ph.D. Cand., Dallas Theological Seminary

This series of articles represents an attempt to unveil the argument of Matthew’s Gospel. An argument is different than a typical journal article, which usually centers on a key exegetical issue; rather, an argument seeks to set forth the central point of a biblical book and then relate the contents of the entirety of the book to this central point. An argument asks what is the content of the book and how do each of its component parts contribute to its subject?

Attempting to uncover the argument of the canonical books is one of the most important exercises that a biblical interpreter can become engaged. While exegesis certainly has its place, it is of little value unless the interpreter first sees the general flow of thought of an entire book. Without first discovering a book’s argument, the interpreter is confined to straining so intensely at the veins on the leaves of the tree that he forgets what the forest looks like. However, Matthew’s message can best be appreciated only after the interpreter first grasps several key background issues. These background issues will be addressed in this article1 and Matthew’s argument will be traced in the subsequent article.

Authorship

External evidence favors Matthew as the book’s author. External sources include Pseudo Barnabas, Clement of Rome, Polycarp, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Justin Martyr, Papias, Irenaeus, Origen, Eusebius, Jerome, Dionysius, Theophilus, Cerinthus, Valentinus, and Tatian. Other sources confirming the authenticity of Matthew include the Didache, Ignatius, and Barnabas’ Epistle. The virtual unanimous voice of the early church is that Matthew is the book’s author. One wonders how such powerful tradition and external testimony could have emerged if Matthew had not written the book.

Interestingly, the earliest copies of the book contain the superscription “according to Matthew.” Only Matthean authorship explains the church’s early acceptance of the book.

Internal evidence also demonstrates Matthean authorship. Although Matthew does not identify himself as the book’s author, such an omission is not surprising. As a tax gatherer (10:3) he no doubt felt shame regarding his former profession and therefore omitted his name from the book. Interestingly, the book also omits other stories that Jesus told about tax gatherers (Luke 18:9–14; 19:...

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