Online Sunday School, The Gospel of Matthew, God With Us, Kerygma Materials. Introducton

 

  1. Gospel means “good news” from the word, “evangelion” in Greek, the language in which they were originally written. It has also come to mean the books written about the life of Jesus. The Church has long recognized four gospels. Three of them, Matthew, Mark and Luke, have many similarities and are called the “synoptics”
  2. The Gospels are not the same as the biographies, histories and documentaries of today. They were written by believers for believers, and often reflect theological perspectives based on their intended audience. They are believed to include traditions that had been passed on orally in a culture where literacy was limited.
  3. The authors of the gospels are not identified in the Gospels themselves. The first centuries of Christians came to attribute them to figures of the early church. Thus Matthew’s gospel came to be identified with Matthew the tax collector (Matthew 9: 9) and/or Matthew the apostle (Matthew 10:3). Because the book refers to the destruction of the Temple by the Romans, scholars estimate it was finalized in 70-80 AD.
  4. During the time depicted, as well as the time Matthew was written, the Holy Land was occupied by the Roman Empire. Greek was the language of commerce and philosophy, going back to the conquest by Alexander in 330 BC. The Jews were divided into numerous branches, sects, and schools of thought. These included the Pharisees (who separated themselves from those who did not follow law and rituals), Sadducees (wealthy, powerful and priestly) Essenes (who formed communities in remote sites and left the “dead sea scrolls”) Scribes (learned and skilled in writing about the law) Zealots (religious nationalists who wished to revolt against the Romans) and Hellenists (like Herod who were comfortable with Greek culture and serving Rome).
  5. Jewish Scripture, such as Isaiah 9, 2-7, had predicted the coming of a Messiah, anointed by God, who would break the rod of the oppressor and establish the kingdom of David with justice, righteousness and endless peace.
  6. The author of Matthew is thought to be a Christian Jew, fluent in Greek and likely a scribe, writing for a Christian-Jewish audience in a city distant from Jerusalem at a time before Christianity finally split from Judaism.
  7. This gospel makes the most references to Jewish scripture of any gospel. Jesus is depicted as the culmination of Abraham, Moses, David, and Elijah, obedient to God and fulfilling the law and the prophets. However Jesus also crosses the traditional boundaries of Judaism. “Many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 8, 11.
  8. In Matthew’s gospel Jesus refers to the “ekklesia” which means “assembly of ones called out”. Such assemblies would debate and take action. In Chapters 10 and 18 Jesus calls this community of faith to life and service.