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History of the Christian Church, Volume I: Apostolic Christianity. A.D. 1-100.
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§ 80. Matthew.


Critical.


Bernh. Weiss: Das Matthäusevangelium und seine Lucas-Parallelen erklärt. Halle, 1876. Exceedingly elaborate.

Edw. Byron Nicholson: The Gospel according to the Hebrews. Its Fragments translated and annotated. Lond., 1879.


Exegetical


Commentaries on Matthew by Origen, Jerome, Chrysostom, Melanchthon (1523), Fritzsche, De Wette, Alford, Wordsworth, Schegg (R. Cath., 1856–58, 3 vols.), J. A. Alexander, Lange (trsl. and enlarged by Schaff, N. Y., 1864, etc.), James Morison (of Glasgow, Lond., 1870), Meyer, (6th ed., 1876), Wichelhaus (Halle, 1876), Keil (Leipz., 1877), Plumptre (Lond., 1878), Carr (Cambr., 1879), Nicholson (Lond., 1881), Schaff (N. Y., 1882).


Life of Matthew.


Matthew,902902    Μαθθαῖος, Matt. 9:9 (according to the spelling of א B* D, adopted by Lachmann, Tischendorf, Tregelles, Westcott and Hort), or Ματθαῖος(as spelled in the text. rec.), like Matthias and Mattathias, means Gift Jehovah ( היָּתִּמַ , היָנְתַּמַ, יאתִָּמַ, יתַּמַ ), and corresponds to the Greek Theodore. He perhaps took this name after his call; his former name being Levi, Λευίς, Λευείς ( ויִלִִ , a joining), according to Mark 2:12; Luke 5:27, 29. The new name overshadowed the old, as the names of Peter and Paul replaced Simon and Saul. The identity is evident from the fact that the call of Matthew or Levi is related by the three Synoptists in the same terms and followed by the same discourse. Nicholson (Com. on Matt. 9:9) disputes the identity, as Grotius and Sieffert did before, but on insufficient grounds. Before Mark 3:16 Peter is called by his former name Simon (Mark 1:16, 29, 30, 36), and thereby shows his historical tact. formerly called Levi, one of the twelve apostles, was originally a publican or taxgatherer903903    Hence called Μαθθαῖος ὁ τελώνης ,Matt. 10:3. He inserts his previous employment to intimate the power of divine grace in his conversion. at Capernaum, and hence well acquainted with Greek and Hebrew in bilingual Galilee, and accustomed to keep accounts. This occupation prepared him for writing a Gospel in topical order in both languages. In the three Synoptic lists of the apostles he is associated with Thomas, and forms with him the fourth pair; in Mark and Luke he precedes Thomas, in his own Gospel he is placed after him (perhaps from modesty).904904    Matt. 10:3, compared with Mark 3:18; Luke 6:15. But in the list in Acts 1:13 he is associated with Bartholomew, and Thomas with Philip. Hence the conjecture that he was a twin brother of Thomas (Didymus, i.e., Twin), or associated with him in work. Thomas was an honest and earnest doubter, of a melancholy disposition, yet fully convinced at last when he saw the risen Lord; Matthew was a strong and resolute believer.

Of his apostolic labors we have no certain information. Palestine, Ethiopia, Macedonia, the country of the Euphrates, Persia, and Media are variously assigned to him as missionary fields. He died a natural death according to the oldest tradition, while later accounts make him a martyr.905905    Clement of Alexandria represents him as a strict Jewish Christian who abstained from the use of flesh. This would make him one of the weak brethren whom Paul (Rom. 14:1sqq.) charitably judges. But there is nothing in the first Gospel to justify this tradition.

The first Gospel is his imperishable work, well worthy a long life, yea many lives. Matthew the publican occupies as to time the first place in the order of the Evangelists, as Mary Magdalene, from whom Christ expelled many demons, first proclaimed the glad tidings of the resurrection. Not that it is on that account the best or most important—the best comes last,—but it naturally precedes the other, as the basis precedes the superstructure.906906    The priority and relative superiority of Matthew are maintained not only by Augustin and the catholic tradition, but also by moderately liberal critics from Griesbach to Bleek, and even by the radical critics of the Tübingen school (Baur, Strauss, Schwegler, Zeller, Hilgenfeld, Davidson), and especially by Keim..

In his written Gospel he still fulfils the great commission to bring all nations to the school of Christ (Matt. 28:19).

The scanty information of the person and life of Matthew in connection with his Gospel suggests the following probable inferences:

1. Matthew was a Hebrew of the Hebrews, yet comparatively liberal, being a publican who came in frequent contact with merchants from Damascus. This occupation was indeed disreputable in the eyes of the Jews, and scarcely consistent with the national Messianic aspirations; but Capernaum belonged to the tetrarchy of Herod Antipas, and the Herodian family, which, with all its subserviency to heathen Rome, was yet to a certain extent identified with the Jewish nation.

2. He was a man of some means and good social position. His office was lucrative, he owned a house, and gave a farewell banquet to "a great multitude" of his old associates, at which Jesus presided.907907    So Luke 5:29. Mark 2:15 ("many publicans and sinners sat down with Jesus and his disciples") and Matt. 9:10 ("many publicans and sinners") agree; but Matthew modestly omits his own name in connection with that feast. Some commentators understand "the house" to be the house of Jesus, but Jesus had no house and gave no dinner parties. Luke says expressly that it was the house of Levi. It was at the same time his farewell to the world, its wealth, its pleasures and honors. "We may conceive what a joyous banquet that was for Matthew, when he marked the words and acts of Jesus, and stored within his memory the scene and the conversation which he was inspired to write according to his clerkly ability for the instruction of the church in all after ages."908908    Carr, Com., p. 6. It was on that occasion that Jesus spoke that word which was especially applicable to Matthew and especially offensive to the Pharisees present: "I came not to call the righteous, but sinners." It is remarkable that the first post-apostolic quotation from the Gospel of Matthew is this very passage, and one similar to it (see below).

3. He was a man of decision of character and capable of great sacrifice to his conviction. When called, while sitting in Oriental fashion at his tollbooth, to follow Jesus, he "forsook all, rose up, and followed Him," whom he at once recognized and trusted as the true king of Israel.909909    Luke 5:28; Mark 2:14; Matt. 9:9. No one can do more than leave his "all," no matter how much or how little this may be; and no one can do better than to "follow Christ."


Character and Aim of the Gospel.


The first Gospel makes the impression of primitive antiquity. The city of Jerusalem, the temple, the priesthood and sacrifices, the entire religious and political fabric of Judaism are supposed to be still standing, but with an intimation of their speedy downfall.910910    Matt. 5:35 (" Jerusalem is the city of the great king"); 23:1 (sit on Moses’ seat") 23:16 (" swear by the temple"); 16:28; 24:15 (" in the holy place;" " let him that readeth understand"), and the whole twenty-fourth chapter. It alone reports the words of Christ that he came not to destroy but to fulfil the law and the prophets, and that he was only sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.911911    Matt. 5:17; 15:24; comp. 10:6. Hence the best critics put the composition several years before the destruction of Jerusalem.912912    Hug, Bleek, Olshausen, Ebrard, Meyer, Reim, Lange, and most commentators fix the date between 60 and 69, other writers as early as 37-45 (but in conflict with Matt. 27:8; 28:15). Baur’s view, which brings the Greek Matthew down to the second destruction of Jerusalem under Hadrian, 130-134, is exploded. Even Volkmar puts it much earlier (105 to 115), Hilgenfeld (Einleitung in das N. T., p. 497) immediately after the destruction of Jerusalem, Keim a.d. 66. Dr. Samuel Davidson, in the second ed. of his Introd. to the N. T. (London, 1882, vol. I. 413-416), assigns the present Greek Matthew with Volkmar to 105, but assumes an Aramaean original and Greek paraphrases of the same which were written before the destruction of Jerusalem. He thinks that "the eschatological discourses which connect the fail of Jerusalem, the destruction of the temple and the end of the world, have been falsified by history" (?); that consequently Jesus did not utter them as they are recorded, but they were revised and altered by writers who incorporated with them Jewish ideas and expressions (I. 403).

Matthew’s Gospel was evidently written for Hebrews, and Hebrew Christians with the aim to prove that Jesus of Nazareth is the promised Messiah, the last and greatest prophet, priest, and king of Israel. It presupposes a knowledge of Jewish customs and Palestinian localities (which are explained in other Gospels).913913    Comp. Matt. 15:2 with Mark 7:3, 4. The translation of the exclamation on the cross, Matt. 27:46, is intended for Greek Jews, It is the connecting link between the Old and the New Covenant. It is, as has been well said,914914    By Godet, Studies on the New Testament, p. 23. "the ultimatum of Jehovah to his ancient people: Believe, or prepare to perish! Recognize Jesus as the Messiah, or await Him as your Judge!" Hence he so often points out the fulfilment of Messianic prophecy in the evangelical history with his peculiar formula: "that it might be fulfilled," or "then was fulfilled." 915915    ἵνα (or ὅπως)πληρωθῇ τὸ ῤηθέν, orτότε ἐπληρώθη τὸ ῤηθέν. This formula occurs twelve times in Matthew (1:22; 2:15, 17, 23; 4:14; 8:17; 12:17, 13:35; 21:4; 26:56; 27:9, 35), six times in John, but nowhere in Luke nor in Mark; for Mark 15:28 (καὶ ἐπληρώθη ἡ γραφη κ. τ. λ.) in the text. rec. is spurious and probably inserted from Luke 22:37.

In accordance with this plan, Matthew begins with the genealogy of Jesus, showing him to be the son and heir of David the king, and of Abraham the father, of the Jewish race, to whom the promises were given. The wise men of the East come from a distance to adore the new-born king of the Jews. The dark suspicion and jealousy of Herod is roused, and foreshadows the future persecution of the Messiah. The flight to Egypt and the return from that land both of refuge and bondage are a fulfilment of the typical history of Israel. John the Baptist completes the mission of prophecy in preparing the way for Christ. After the Messianic inauguration and trial Jesus opens his public ministry with the Sermon on the Mount, which is the counterpart of the Sinaitic legislation, and contains the fundamental law of his kingdom. The key-note of this sermon and of the whole Gospel is that Christ came to fulfil the law and the prophets, which implies both the harmony of the two religions and the transcendent superiority of Christianity. His mission assumes an organized institutional form in the kingdom of heaven which he came to establish in the world. Matthew uses this term (ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν) no less than thirty-two times, while the other Evangelists and Paul speak of the "kingdom of God" (ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ). No other Evangelist has so fully developed the idea that Christ and his kingdom are the fulfilment of all the hopes and aspirations of Israel, and so vividly set forth the awful solemnity of the crisis at this turning point in its history.

But while Matthew wrote from the Jewish Christian point of view, he is far from being Judaizing or contracted. He takes the widest range of prophecy. He is the most national and yet the most universal, the most retrospective and yet the most prospective, of Evangelists. At the very cradle of the infant Jesus he introduces the adoring Magi from the far East, as the forerunners of a multitude of believing Gentiles who "shall come from the east and the west, and shall sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven;" while "the sons of the kingdom shall be cast forth into the outer darkness." The heathen centurion, and the heathen woman of Canaan exhibit a faith the like of which Jesus did not find in Israel. The Messiah is rejected and persecuted by his own people in Galilee and Judaea. He upbraids Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum, wherein his mighty works were done, because they repented not; He sheds tears over Jerusalem because she would not come to Him; He pronounces his woe over the Jewish hierarchy, and utters the fearful prophecies of the destruction of the theocracy. All this is most fully recorded by Matthew, and he most appropriately and sublimely concludes with the command of the universal evangelization of all nations, and the promise of the unbroken presence of Christ with his people to the end of the world.916916    Comp. Matt. 2:1-12; 8:11, 12; 11:21; 12:41; 15:21-28; Matt. 23 and 24; 28:19, 20.


Topical Arrangement.


The mode of arrangement is clear and orderly. It is topical rather than chronological. It far surpasses Mark and Luke in the fulness of the discourses of Christ, while it has to be supplemented from them in regard to the succession of events. Matthew groups together the kindred words and works with special reference to Christ’s teaching; hence it was properly called by Papias a collection of the Oracles of the Lord. It is emphatically the didactic Gospel.

The first didactic group is the Sermon on the Mount of Beatitudes, which contains the legislation of the kingdom of Christ and an invitation to the whole people to enter, holding out the richest promises to the poor in spirit and the pure in heart (Matt. 5–7. The second group is the instruction to the disciples in their missionary work (Matt. 10). The third is the collection of the parables on the kingdom of God, illustrating its growth, conflict, value, and consummation (Matt. 13). The fourth, the denunciation of the Pharisees (Matt. 23), and the fifth, the prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the world (Matt. 24 and 25).

Between these chief groups are inserted smaller discourses of Christ, on his relation to John the Baptist (11:1–19); the woe on the unrepenting cities of Galilee (11:20–24); the thanksgiving for the revelation to those of a childlike spirit (11:25–27); the invitation to the weary and heavy laden (11:28–30); on the observance of the Sabbath and warning to the Pharisees who were on the way to commit the unpardonable sin by tracing his miracles to Satanic powers (Matt. 12); the attack on the traditions of the elders and the hypocrisy of the Pharisees (Matt. 15 and 16); the prophecy of the founding of the church after the great confession of Peter, with the prediction of his passion as the way to victory (Matt. 16); the discourse on the little children with their lesson of simplicity and humility against the temptations of hierarchial pride; the duty of forgiveness in the kingdom and the parable of the unforgiving servant (Matt. 18); the discourse about divorce, against the Pharisees; the blessing of little children; the warning against the danger of riches; the parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard and the nature of the future rewards (Matt. 19 and 20); the victorious replies of the Lord to the tempting questions of the Pharisees and Sadducees (Matt. 22).

These discourses are connected with narratives of the great miracles of Christ and the events in his life. The miracles are likewise grouped together (as in Matt. 8–9), or briefly summed up (as in 4:23–25). The transfiguration (Matt. 17) forms the turning-point between the active and the passive life; it was a manifestation of heaven on earth, an anticipation of Christ’s future glory, a pledge of the resurrection, and it fortified Jesus and his three chosen disciples for the coming crisis, which culminated in the crucifixion and ended in the resurrection.917917    For a full analysis see the critical monograph of Weiss, and Lange’s Matth., pp. 43-46. Keim, who builds his Geschichte Jesu—the ablest and least objectionable of the purely critical biographies of Christ,—chiefly on Matthew, praises its plan as sorgfältig, einfach und einleuchtend, durchsichtig und sehr wohl durchgeführt (I. 52). He divides it into two chief sections: the entry upon the public ministry with the Bussruf and Reichspredigt (4:17: απὸ τότε ἤρξατο ὁ Ἰησοῦς κηρύσσειν, κ. τ. λ.), and the entry upon the path of death with the Leidensruf and the Zukunftspredigt (Matt16:21: ἀπο τότε ἤρξατο ὁ Ἰης., κ. τ. λ.). He also finds an ingenious symmetry of numbers in the collocation of 10 miracles, 8 [7] beatitudes, 7 woes, 4 and 3 parables, 3 temptations, etc.


Peculiar Sections.


Matthew has a number of original sections:

1. Ten Discourses of our Lord, namely, the greater part of the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5–7); the thanksgiving for the revelation to babes (11:25–27); the touching invitation to the heavy laden (11:28–30), which is equal to anything in John; the warning against idle words (12:36, 37); the blessing pronounced upon Peter and the prophecy of founding the church (16:17–19); the greater part of the discourse on humility and forgiveness (Matt. 18); the rejection of the Jews (21:43); the denunciation of the scribes and Pharisees (Matt. 23); the description of the final judgment (25:31–46); the great commission and the promise of Christ’s presence to the end of time (28:18–20).

2. Ten Parables: the tares; the hidden treasure; the pearl of great price; the draw-net (13:24–50); the unmerciful servant (18:23–35); the laborers in the vineyard (20:1–16); the two sons (21:28–32); the marriage of the king’s son (22: 1–14); the ten virgins (25:1–13); the talents (25:14–30).

3. Two Miracles: the cure of two blind men (9:27–31); the stater in the fish’s mouth (17:24–27).

4. Facts and Incidents: the adoration of the Magi; the massacre of the innocents; the flight into Egypt; the return from Egypt to Nazareth (all in Matt. 2); the coming of the Pharisees and Sadducees to John’s baptism (3:7); Peter’s attempt to walk on the sea (14:28–31); the payment of the temple tax (17:24–27); the bargain of Judas, his remorse, and suicide (26:14–16; 27:3–10); the dream of Pilate’s wife (27:19); the appearance of departed saints in Jerusalem (27:52); the watch at the sepulchre (27:62–66); the lie of the Sanhedrin and the bribing of the soldiers (28:11–15); the earthquake on the resurrection morning (28:2, a repetition of the shock described in 27:51, and connected with the rolling away of the stone from the sepulchre).


The Style.


The Style of Matthew is simple, unadorned, calm, dignified, even majestic; less vivid and picturesque than that of Mark; more even and uniform than Luke’s, because not dependent on written sources. He is Hebraizing, but less so than Mark, and not so much as Luke 1–2. He omits some minor details which escaped his observation, but which Mark heard from Peter, and which Luke learned from eye-witnesses or found in his fragmentary documents. Among his peculiar expressions, besides the constant use of "kingdom of heaven," is the designation of God as "our heavenly Father," and of Jerusalem as "the holy city" and "the city of the Great King." In the fulness of the teaching of Christ he surpasses all except John. Nothing can be more solemn and impressive than his reports of those words of life and power, which will outlast heaven and earth (24:34). Sentence follows sentence with overwhelming force, like a succession of lightning flashes from the upper world.918918    For particulars on the style of Matthew and the other Evangelists see my Companion to the Study of the Greek Testament (third ed., 1888), pp. 43 sqq.


Patristic Notices of Matthew.


The first Gospel was well known to the author of the "Didache of the Apostles," who wrote between 80 and 100, and made large use of it, especially the Sermon on the Mount.919919    See my book on the Didache (N. York, third ed., 1889), pp. 61-88.

The next clear allusion to this Gospel is made in the Epistle of Barnabas, who quotes two passages from the Greek Matthew, one from 22:14: "Many are called, but few chosen," with the significant formula used only of inspired writings, "It is written."920920    Ep. Barn., c. 4, at the close:προσέχωμεν, μήποτε, ὡς γέγραπται, πολλοὶ κλητοί, ὀλίγοι δὲ ἐκλεκτοὶ εὑρεθῶμεν. Since the discovery of the entire Greek text of this Epistle in the Codex Sinaiticus (1859), where it follows the Apocalypse, there can be no doubt any more about the formula γέγραπται(scriptum est). The other passage quoted in Matt. 5 is from Matt. 9:13: οὐκ ἧλθεν καλέσαι δικαίους ἀλλά ἁμαρτωλούς. The Ep. of Barnabas dates from the close of the first or the beginning of the second century. Some place it as early as a.d. 70, others an late as 120. The Didache is older. This shows clearly that early in the second century, if not before, it was an acknowledged authority in the church. The Gospel of John also indirectly presupposes, by its numerous emissions, the existence of all the Synoptical Gospels.


The Hebrew Matthew.


Next we hear of a Hebrew Matthew from Papias, bishop of Hierapolis, "a hearer of John and a companion of Polycarp."921921    Euseb., H. E., III. 39: Ἰωάννου μὲν ἀκουστής,Πολυκάρπου δὲ ἑταῖρος γεγονώς.. Whether this " John" is the apostle or the mysterious " Presbyter John," is a matter of dispute which will be discussed in the second volume in the section on Papias. Eusebius himself clearly distinguishes two Johns. The date of Papias must be set back several years with that of Polycarp, his " companion," who suffered martyrdom in 155 (not 164). The Chronicon Paschale which represents Papias as martyred at Pergamum about the same time, mistook ΠΑΠΥΛΟΣ in Eusebius, H. E., IV. 15 (at the close), for ΠΑΠΙΑΣ. See Lightfoot, " Contemp. Review" for August, 1875, p. 381 sqq. He collected from apostles and their disciples a variety of apostolic traditions in his "Exposition of Oracles of the Lord," in five books (λογίων κυριακῶν ἐξήγησις].In a fragment of this lost work preserved by Eusebius, he says distinctly that "Matthew composed the oracles [of the Lord] in the Hebrew tongue, and everyone interpreted them as best he could."922922    Eus., Hist. Eccl., III. 39: Ματθαῖος μὲν οὗν Ἑβραίδι διαλεκ́τῳ τὰ λόγια συνατάξατο (or, according to the reading of Heinichen, I. 150, συναγράψατο), ἠρμήνευσε δ’ αὐτὰ ὡς ἥν δυνατὸς ἕκαστος . This testimony has been thoroughly discussed by Schleiermacher (in the "Studien und Kritiken," 1832), Holtzmann (Synopt. Evang., 248 sqq.), Weizsäcker (Untersuchungen üb. d. ev. Gesch., 27 sqq.). Ewald (Jahrbücher, VI., 55 sqq.), Zahn (in "Stud. u. Kritiken," 1866, 649 sqq.), Steitz (ibid., 1868, 63 sqq.), Keim (Gesch. Jesu v. Naz., I., 56 sqq.), Meyer (Com. Evang. Matth., 6th ed. (1876), 4 sqq.), Lightfoot (in "Contemp. Review" for August, 1875, pp. 396-403), and Weiss (Das Matthäusevang., 1876, 1 sqq.).

Unfortunately the Hebrew Matthew, if it ever existed, has disappeared, and consequently there is much difference of opinion about this famous passage, both as regards the proper meaning of "oracles" (λογία) and the truth of the whole report.

1. The "oracles" are understood by some to mean only the discourses of our Lord;923923    So Schleiermacher who first critically examined this passage (1832), Schneckenbarger (1834), Lachmann (1835), Credner, Wieseler. Ewald, Reuss, Weizsäcker, Holtzmann, Meyer (p. 11). It is supposed that Matthew’s Hebrew Gospel was similar to the lost work of Papias, with this difference that the former was simply a collection (σύνταξις or συγγραφή), the latter an interpretation (ἐξήγησις), of the Lord’s discourses (τῶν λογίων κυριακῶν). by others to include also the narrative portions.924924    So Lücke (1833), Kern, Hug, Harless, Anger, Bleek, Baur, Hilgenfeld, Lange, Ebrard, Thiersch, Keim, Zahn, Lightfoot, Thomson, Keil, Weiss (but the last with a limitation to a meagre thread of narrative). The chief arguments are: 1, that all early writers, from Irenaeus onward, who speak of a Hebrew Matthew mean a regular Gospel corresponding to our Greek Matthew; 2, the parallel passage of Papias concerning the Gospel of Mark (Eus., III. 39), where apparently "the Lord’s discourses" (λόγοι κυριακοί) includes actions as well as words. τὰ ὑπὸ τοῦ Χριστοῦ ἥ λεχθέντα ἥ πραχθέντα. But it is said somewhat disparagingly, that Mark (as compared with Matthew) did not give "an orderly arrangement of the Lord’s words" (οὐχ ὥσπερ σύνταξιν τῶν κυριακῶν ποιούμενος λόγων). The wider meaning of λογία is supported by Rom. 3:1, where τὰ λογία τοῦ θεοῦ, with which the Jews were intrusted, includes the whole Old Testament Scriptures; and Hebr. 5:12, " the first principles of the oracles of God". (τὰ στοιχεῖα –ϊτῆ–ͅϊς ἀρχῆς τῶν λογιων τοῦ θεοῦ). Lightfoot quotes also passages from Philo, Clement of Rome, Polycarp, and Origen (l.c., p. 400 sq.). But in any case the Hebrew Matthew must have been chiefly an orderly collection of discourses. This agrees best with the natural and usual meaning of Logia, and the actual preponderance of the doctrinal element in our canonical Matthew) as compared with our Mark. A parte potiori fit denominatio.

2. The report of a Hebrew original has been set aside altogether as a sheer mistake of Papias, who confounded it with the Ebionite "Gospel according to the Hebrews," known to us from a number of fragments.925925    So Wetstein, Hug, De Wette, Bleek, Ewald, Ritschl, Holtzmann, Keim, Delitzsch, Keil. Some of these writers assume that the Gospel according to the Hebrews was an Ebionite translation and recension of the Greek Matthew. So Delitzsch and Keil (Com. p. 23). Keim is mistaken when he asserts (I. 54) that scarcely anybody nowadays believes in a Hebrew Matthew. The contrary opinion is defended by Meyer, Weiss, and others, and prevails among English divines. It is said that Papias was a credulous and weak-minded, though pious man.926926    Eusebius (III. 39) calls him σφόδρα σμικρὸς τὸν νοῦν, " very narrow-minded," but on account of his millenarianism, as the context shows. In another place he calls him a man of comprehensive learning and great knowledge of the Scriptures (III. 39: τὰ τάντα μάλιστα λογιώτατος καὶ τῆς γραφῆς εἰδήμων ). But this does not impair his veracity or invalidate a simple historical notice. It is also said that the universal spread of the Greek language made a Hebrew Gospel superfluous. But the Aramaic was still the vernacular and prevailing language in Palestine (comp. Acts 21:40; 22:2) and in the countries of the Euphrates.

There is an intrinsic probability of a Hebrew Gospel for the early stage of Christianity. And the existence of a Hebrew Matthew rests by no means merely on Papias. It is confirmed by the independent testimonies of most respectable fathers, as Irenaeus,927927    Adv. Haer., III1, 1: ὁ μεν̀ δὴ Ματθαῖος ἐν τοῖσ Ἐβραίοις τῆ ἰδίᾳ διαλέκτῳ αὐτῶν καὶ γραφὴν ἐξήνεγκεν εὐαγγελίου, τοῦ Πέτρου καὶ Παύλου ἐν Ῥ ώμη εὐαγγελιζομένων καὶ θεμελιούντων τὴν ἐκκλησίαν. The chronological reference is so far inaccurate, as neither Peter nor Paul were personally the founders of the church of Rome, yet it was founded through their influence and their pupils, and consolidated by their presence and martyrdom. Pantaenus,928928    He is reported by Eus., H.E. 10, to have found in India (probably in Southern Arabia) the Gospel according to Matthew in Hebrew (Ἑβραίων γράμμασι), which had been left there by Bartholomew, one of the apostles. This testimony is certainly independent of Papias. But it may be questioned whether a Hebrew original, or a Hebrew translation, is meant. Origen, 929929    In Eus., H. E., VI. 25. Origen, however, drew his report of a Hebrew Matthew not from personal knowledge, but from tradition (ὡς ἐν παραδόσει μαθών). Eusebius,930930    H. E., III. 24: Mατθαῖος μὲν γὰρ πρότερον Ἑβραίοις κηρύξας, ὡς ἔμελλε καὶ εφ ̓ ἑτέρους ἰέναι, πατρίῳ γλώττῃ γραφῇ παραδοὺς τὸ κατ ̓ αὐτὸν εύαγγέλιον, τὸ λεῖπον τῇ αὐτοῦ παρουσίᾳ τούτοις, ἀφ’ ὧν ἐστέλλετο, διὰ τῆς · γραφῆς ἀπεπλήρου. " M., having first preached the Gospel in Hebrew, when on the point of going also to other nations, committed it to writing in his native tongue, and thus supplied the want of his presence to them by his book." Cyril of Jerusalem,931931    Catech. 14: Ματθ. ὁ γράψας τὸ εὐαγγέλιον Ἑβραΐδι γλώσσῃ. Epiphanius,932932    Haer., XXX. 3; comp. LI. 5. and Jerome.933933    Praef. in Matth.; on Matt. 12:13; Dial. c Pelag., III, c. 2; De Vir. illustr., c. 2 and 3. Jerome’s testimony is somewhat conflicting. He received a copy of the Hebrew M. from the Nazarenes in Beraea in Syria for transcription (392). But afterward (415) he seems to have found out that the supposed Hebrew Matthew in the library of Pamphilus at Caesarea was "the Gospel according to the Hebrews" (Evangelium juxta, or secundum Hebraeos), which he translated both into Greek and Latin (De vir. ill., c. 2). This would have been useless, if the Hebrew Gospel had been only the original of the canonical Matthew. See Weiss, l.c., pp. 7 sq.

This Hebrew Matthew must not be identified with the Judaizing "Gospel according to the Hebrews," the best among the apocryphal Gospels, of which in all thirty-three fragments remain. Jerome and other fathers clearly distinguish the two. The latter was probably an adaptation of the former to the use of the Ebionites and Nazarenes.934934    The fragments of this Gospel ("quo utuntur Nazareni et Ebionitae," Jerome) were collected by Credner, Beiträge, I. 380 sqq.; Hilgenfeld, Nov. Test. extra can. rec., IV., and especially by Nicholson in the work quoted above. It is far superior to the other apocryphal Gospels, and was so much like the Hebrew Matthew that many confounded it with the same, as Jerome observes, ad Matth. 12:13 ("quod vocatur a plerisque Matthaei authenticum") and C. Pelag., III. 2. The Tübingen view (Baur, Schwegler, Hilgenfeld) reverses the natural order and makes this heretical gospel the Urmatthaeus (proto-Matthew), of which our Greek Matthew is an orthodox transformation made as late as 130; but Keim (I., 29 sqq.), Meyer (p. 19), and Weise (pp. 8 and 9) have sufficiently refuted this hypothesis. Nicholson modifies the Tübingen theory by assuming that Matthew wrote at different times the canonical Gospel and those portions of the Gospel according to the Hebrews, which run parallel with it. Truth always precedes heresy, as the genuine coin precedes the counterfeit, and the real portrait the caricature. Cureton and Tregelles maintain that the Curetonian Syriac fragment is virtually a translation of the Hebrew Matthew, and antedates the Peshito version. But Ewald has proven that it is derived from our Greek Matthew.935935    See Holtzmann, p. 269, and Ewald’s "Jahrbücher," IX. 69 sqq.

Papias says that everybody "interpreted" the Hebrew Matthew as well as he could. He refers no doubt to the use of the Gospel in public discourses before Greek hearers, not to a number of written translations of which we know nothing. The past tense (ἠρμήνευσε) moreover seems to imply that such necessity existed no longer at the time when he wrote; in other words, that the authentic Greek Matthew had since appeared and superseded the Aramaic predecessor which was probably less complete.936936    So Meyer (p. 12, against Holtzmann), and Lightfoot (p. 397 against the author of "Supern. Rel."). Schleiermacher was wrong in referring ἡρμήνευσε to narrative additions. Papias accordingly is an indirect witness of the Greek Matthew in his own age; that is, the early part of the second century (about a.d. 130). At all events the Greek Matthew was in public use even before that time, as is evident from the, quotations in the Didache, and the Epistle of Barnabas (which were written before 120, probably before 100).


The Greek Matthew.


The Greek Matthew, as we have it now, is not a close translation from the Hebrew and bears the marks of an original composition. This appears from genuine Greek words and phrases to which there is no parallel in Hebrew, as the truly classical "Those wretches he will wretchedly destroy,"937937    Matt. 21:41: κακούς κακῶς ἀπολέσει, pessimos pessime (or malos male) perdet. The E. Revision reproduces the paronomasis (which is obliterated in the E. V.) thus: "He will miserably destroy those miserable men." Other plays on words: Πέτρος and πέτρα, 16:18; βαττολογεῖν and πολυλογία , 6:7; ἀφανίζουσιν ὅπως φανῶσι, "they make their faces unappearable (disfigure them), that they may appear,"6:16; comp. 24:7. Weiss derives the originality of the Greek Matthew from the use of the Greek Mark; but this would not account for these and similar passages. and from the discrimination in Old Testament quotations which are freely taken from the Septuagint in the course of the narrative, but conformed to the Hebrew when they convey Messianic prophecies, and are introduced by the solemn formula: "that there might be fulfilled," or "then was fulfilled."938938    Jerome first observed that Matthew follows not Septuaginta translatorum auctoritatem, sed Hebraicam (De vir. illustr., c. 3). Credner and Bleek brought out this important difference more fully, and Holtzmann (Die Syn. Evang., p. 259), Ritschl, Köstlin, Keim (I., 59 sqq), Meyer (p. 9), and Weiss (p. 44) confirm it. But Hilgenfeld and Keim unnecessarily see in this fact an indication of a later editor, who exists only in their critical fancy.

If then we credit the well nigh unanimous tradition of the ancient church concerning a prior Hebrew Matthew, we must either ascribe the Greek Matthew to some unknown translator who took certain liberties with the original,939939    Jerome acknowledges the uncertainty of the translator, De vir. ill., c. 3: Quis postea in Graecum transtulerit [the Hebrew Matthew], non satis certum est." It has been variously traced to James, the brother of the Lord Synops. Pseudo-Athan.), to a disciple of Matthew, or to another disciple. or, what seems most probable, we must assume that Matthew himself at different periods of his life wrote his Gospel first in Hebrew in Palestine, and afterward in Greek.940940    So Bengel, Guericke, Schott, Olshausen, Thiersch. In doing so, he would not literally translate his own book, but like other historians freely reproduce and improve it. Josephus did the same with his history of the Jewish war, of which only the Greek remains. When the Greek Matthew once was current in the church, it naturally superseded the Hebrew, especially if it was more complete.

Objections are raised to Matthew’s authorship of the first canonical Gospel, from real or supposed inaccuracies in the narrative, but they are at best very trifling and easily explained by the fact that Matthew paid most attention to the words of Christ, and probably had a better memory for thoughts than for facts.941941    Meyer and Weiss regard the reports of the resurrection of the dead at the crucifixion and the story of the watch, Matt. 27:52, 62-66, as post-apostolic legends; but the former is not more difficult than the resurrection of Lazarus, and the latter has all the marks of intrinsic probability. Meyer also gratuitously assumes that Matthew must be corrected from John on the date of the crucifixion; but there is no real contradiction between the Synoptic and the Johannean date. See p. 133. Meyer’s opinion is that Matthew wrote only a Hebrew collection of the discourses of our Lord, that an unknown hand at an early date added the narrative portions, and another anonymous writer, before the year 70, made the Greek translation which was universally and justly, as far as substance is concerned, regarded as Matthew’s work (pp. 14, 23). But these are an pure conjectures.

But whatever be the view we take of the precise origin of the first canonical Gospel, it was universally received in the ancient church as the work of Matthew. It was our Matthew who is often, though freely, quoted by Justin Martyr as early as a.d. 146 among the "Gospel Memoirs;" it was one of the four Gospels of which his pupil Tatian compiled a connected "Diatessaron;" and it was the only Matthew used by Irenaeus and all the fathers that follow.



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