Who was Matthew, known also as Levi? We read in the Bible that he was a tax collector and that Jesus called him to be one of his apostles (Mt 9:9
and Mk 2:13
). Yet we know for certain that the Gospel under his name was drawn up in its actual form towards the year 80 CE that is after his death. Could the author have been one of his disciples and used a first draft compiled by Matthew? (See Introduction to New Testament.) Most probably this Gospel was written in a Christian community of both Jews and Greeks, possibly at Antioch (see Acts 12:19
and 13). It was a time deeply marked by conflict between Jews and Christians, when the Jewish community – suffering terribly from the war with Rome that destroyed the nation – was reorganizing itself under the direction of the Pharisees. These latter had only recently decided to exclude all Jews who believed in Jesus and were members of a Christian community.
This Gospel intends to assure Christians that they have no reason to be troubled even if their own people reject them. The very fact that the Jewish community did not recognize its Messiah resulted in the loss of its right to speak and to decide about God’s promises. Matthew refers to numerous texts in the Old Testament to prove that Christians are the true heirs of the people of the covenant.
In this perspective the whole history of Jesus is presented as a conflict, ending in a separation. The turning point corresponds with the end of chapter 13 where Jesus no longer speaks to the crowd, but to his disciples.
Matthew was impressed by the fact that Jesus during his two or three years of ministry presented himself most often as a preacher, as a teacher of Scripture. He therefore insists on the words of Jesus, which are more numerous in his Gospel than in the others.
It does not surprise us then that Matthew builds his gospel around five “discourses,” in which he has put together the words of Jesus spoken on different occasions. These discourses are:
– The New Law: 5–7.
– Instructions to Missionaries: 10.
– Parables of the Kingdom: 13.
– Admonitions for the Christian community: 18.
– The Future of the Church: 23–25.
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