Despite the fact that the book of Matthew is placed first in the New Testament, it was not the first gospel written. Mark was written possibly two decades before Matthew. About 90% of the Gospel of Mark is copied and placed in the Gospel of Matthew. While this is against property laws today (what we call plagiarism), it was considered an honorable thing to do at that time. The author of Matthew also used “Q”, that source that has gone missing. Of course, there are some parts of the Book of Matthew that are unique to that Gospel alone. Most scholars place the writing of Matthew somewhere around 80-90 C.E.
The gospels tell us that Matthew was a tax collector and then a disciple to Jesus. Some will try to tell you that since Matthew was a tax collector, he was a learned man and therefor the Gospel of Matthew is a more formal writing. Probably the gospel was not written by the disciple named Matthew. The writer does not claim to be Matthew and it is so far from the time when Jesus actually was on the earth that the author was probably not an actual eyewitness to the accounts.
Matthew emphasizes deep roots with Judaism; however, it is often quite hostile toward the “Jews”. When the gospel was written, the conflict between the followers of Jesus and Judaism was intense. This context could lead to anti-Semitism, if not carefully unpacked. Matthew clearly states that Jesus was a Jew himself and that his death and resurrection was a fulfillment of the Jewish faith. Marcus Borg writes: “To separate Christianity from its Jewish roots invariably leads not only to diminishment of Judaism, but to a serious distortion of Christianity.”
As we progress through Year A, the Year of Matthew, look for echoes of the Moses story and watch out for trappings of falling for the authors context being applied to Jesus’ story. Our first reading of Matthew will happen of the first Sunday of Advent, the first Sunday of the new church year.
Pastor Lynnae I Sorensen