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The Gospel of Matthew introduces its presumably Jewish Christian readers to a very

Jewish perspective of the person, words and actions of Jesus Christ. Matthew aims to provide

evidence of the Messiahship of Jesus Christ throughout the Gospel. He warns those who deny

Jesus’ redemptive role or who choose not to fully follow Him of the consequences, which will

await them. Matthew shares his earnest desire to let others hear what Jesus taught and how

everything in His life proved to be the fulfillment of the prophecy found in the Hebrew


By viewing Jesus through a distinctly Jewish lens, Matthew inadvertently delivers

arguments to Replacement Theology, which denies the role of Israel as a continuing part of

God’s plan for mankind post Jesus Christ.

Ultimately, Matthew leaves his readers with a view of the future reign of the Messiah-

King that expands far beyond Israel and extends to the whole world.


From the beginning verses, it is clear that Matthew, the assumed writer of the Gospel

of Matthew, one of three gospels referred to as Synoptic Gospels, writes to a readership who

views the world around them to them through a decidedly Jewish filter. Through everything

introduced in the Gospel text, Matthew wants his readers to understand the fulfillment of all

Messianic prophecy in the Hebrew Scriptures through Jesus Christ.

While Matthew aims to show his readers that Jesus Christ is indeed the promised

Messiah of Israel, he strongly warns against his readers’ understanding of the religiosity of

Judaism in favor of the authenticity of a life of a person redeemed by and yielded to the


Messiah. Matthew seeks to show what following the Messiah means. His end time parables

explain that God will select only those who are faithful and true to the end.

Regrettably, the Gospel of Matthew through its writing style has also delivered some

arguments to those who pursue the concepts of replacement theology, a belief that holds that

Israel has been replaced by the church in God’s view. Matthew is the only of the four

evangelists to use the term “church” in his gospel. He is the only Gospel writer who has the

Jews cry out at Jesus’ trial before Pontius Pilate: “And all the people answered. ‘His blood be

on us and on our children!’”1 Taking a critical look at some of the passages, however,

highlights that Matthew sought to alert his readership solely to the dangers of neglecting a

relationship to the Messiah that would lead to eternal reward.

Ultimately, Matthew leaves his readers with a clear understanding and directive of

what Jesus, the Messiah, expects of the church, of those who have put their trust in Him. He

assures his readers that the Messiah has not only come, but will come again to redeem His

bride , the Church, which will be made up of those who have trusted in the redemptive work

of salvation completed by Jesus Christ, the Son of Man, Son of God and Messiah.


From ancient writings left by the early church fathers and transmitted to us through the

centuries, we can assume to be true that that which has been passed on to us regarding the

authorship of the Gospel of Matthew. In particular, “the early Father Papias, who was a

disciple of Polycarp, the disciple of the apostle John”,2 seems to refer to the Gospel as written

The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Mt 27:25.
Normal L. Geisler, A Popular Survey of the New Testament. (Grand Rapids, MI, Baker Books, 2007), 50.


by the same Matthew whom we have met through the pages of the gospels as Matthew the


Interestingly enough, the exact wording of Papias when referring to Matthew’s work,

which includes the phrase “in the Hebrew language”, gives us a first hint as to who wrote the

Gospel – even though this has led to a discussion of different sorts as to the language of the


However, according to the Tyndale Bible Dictionary regarding Papias’ comments,

“Irenaeus understood this as a reference to Hebraisms in Matthew’s Gospel, whereas Origen

took this to mean that Matthew originally wrote his Gospel in Hebrew.”3 Since no original

Hebrew source of Matthew has been found, the Hebraic character seems to be the more likely

reference in Papias’ statement and shows us first glimpses of the author Matthew. So who was

this man Matthew, known as an apostle of Jesus Christ?

On further examination, some of the internal evidence suggested by Norman L.

Geisler for Matthew’s authorship4 may also lead the reader to a better understanding not just

of the author, but of the Gospel itself. First, the reference to money seems to fit Matthew’s

role as a tax collector as described in the three synoptic gospels. Secondly, the many self-

references to “Matthew the tax collector” fit a presumed humility on the part of the writer. In

a third point, the writer refers to a “dinner” rather than a “great banquet”, as the same scene is

described in the Gospel of Luke, again showing humility in the writer. Geisler further

highlights the omission of the parable of the tax collector and the story of Zacchaeus who is

also described as a tax collector, the long discourses on Jesus’ teachings which seem to be in

Walter A. Elwell and Philip Wesley Comfort, Tyndale Bible Dictionary, Tyndale reference library (Wheaton,
Ill.: Tyndale House Publishers, 2001), 987.
Norman L. Geisler, ibid., 49.


line with someone who is a record keeper and the fact that as an apostle, Matthew would have

had direct access to the words of Jesus and the events surrounding His ministry.

What were the purposes behind Matthew’s writing? Stanley D. Toussaint identifies

two distinct purposes: the purpose to prove that Jesus is the Messiah, by showing that “He is

the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies concerning the promised Messiah” 5, and the

purpose to present the kingdom program of God, by showing that “first of all that the Jews

rejected an earthly kingdom when they rejected their King”6, meaning that the kingdom is

now postponed and promises are yet to be fulfilled.

From the evidence known to us, Matthew writes as a Jewish believer with a clear

message to his fellow Jewish Christians and with the great hope of bringing them and other

Jewish listeners to a truly repentant and fruitful walk with their Messiah as he shares the



Proving Jesus’ Messiahship was tantamount to Matthew throughout his Gospel. As

such, Matthew sought to show two clear proof points:

(a) Jesus was the Messiah, and so he was the son of David; (b) Jesus was conceived
and born in a wholly miraculous manner, being conceived and born of a virgin without
human intervention.7

Matthew employs the telling of Jesus’ genealogy at the very beginning of the Gospel

as a tool to set the stage for a clear affirmation of Jesus as the Messiah. He wants to start with

Stanley D. Toussaint, Behold the King (Multnomah Press, Portland, 1981), 18.
The Anchor Bible. Matthew. Introduction, Translation, and Notes by Albright, W.F. and Mann, C.S.
(Doubleday & Company , Inc., Garden City, NY, 1971), 9.


a clear statement that proves to his readers that Jesus clearly fit the prophetic requirements

regarding the lineage for the Messiah.

As John Nolland points out in his commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, Matthew

draws on materials from Genesis, Ruth (Ru. 4:18–22) and 1 Chronicles (1 Ch. 3:10–19) to

build his genealogy of Jesus as the Christ, the promised Messiah. Matthew lets his Jewish

readers understand how Jesus fits into the salvation history as they have understood it so far:

by “evoking important aspects of the story of Israel’s history the genealogy functions as a

compressed retelling of the OT story”.8 Garry Willis further explains:

The artificial arrangement of the generations in Matthew – three groups of fourteen

ancestors – is meant as a shorthand history of the whole Jewish people, leading to its
fulfillment in Jesus.9

Stanley D. Toussaint shows that Matthew in addition was not as concerned as Luke to

show God’s reaching all the way back to the beginning of mankind with Adam as the first link

in Jesus’ genealogy, but rather that he wants to make sure his readers understand the clear line

back to Abraham, the father of the Jewish people and hence the clear connection to Messianic


Another mark of the Jewish character of Matthew’s Gospel is found in the genealogy
of chapter one. Matthew traces the record of ancestors of Jesus back through David to
Abraham, the father of the Jewish race.10

One other noteworthy point in Matthew’s genealogy is his highlighting of a number of

somewhat surprising women in the telling of Jesus’ descent. By choosing to include women

of an ambiguous state who according to according to Garry Willis “were not the types that

John Nolland, The Gospel of Matthew : A Commentary on the Greek Text (Grand Rapids, Mich.; Carlisle: W.B.
Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 2005), 34.
Gary Willis, What the Gospels Meant (Penguin Group, New York, 2008), 64.
Toussaint, Behold the King, 17.


proper Victorians would boast of in their bloodlines”11, Matthew reminds the Jewish people

again not only of their history but also highlights that God is fully capable of working through

human obstacles by restoring lives and intervening divinely to make the arrival of the

promised Messiah a reality.

In addition, Matthew’s genealogy hints at a restoration of the Tribes of Israel as it lists

“representatives of all twelve tribes since the Messiah would restore them all – a fact that

Jesus affirms in his choice of the Twelve to follow him (Mt. 19.28)”12.



Having set up his initial proof points of the Messiahship of Jesus, Matthew throughout

the Gospel continues to reiterate to his readers that Jesus is the fulfillment of Messianic

prophecy through extensive use of Hebrew Scripture passages. Clearly, he has in mind that

his readership knows these prophecies already, and he does not feel the need to explain them,

as some of the other Gospel writers have to do to make the content understandable to their

non-Jewish readers. Graham Stanton points out one particular passage in Matthew 11 to show

how Matthew draws his readers’ attention back to what they know quite well – their


In Matthew 11:2-6 John’s disciples are told by Jesus to go and tell their imprisoned
leader that they have seen evidence of the fulfillment of Scripture: the blind are
regaining their sight, the lame are walking again, the lepers are made clean, the deaf
are hearing, the dead are being raised to life, the poor are hearing the good news
proclaimed to them… In their original context in Mark and Q they were not set out as
the fulfillment of Scripture, but they are in Matthew.13
Willis, What the Gospels Meant, 65.
Ibid., 66
Graham Stanton, Gospel Truth? New Light on Jesus & the Gospels (Trinity Press, Valley Forge, PA 1995),


According to John Nolland, Matthew uses Old Testament material as context to the

coming of Jesus and claims the eschatological fulfillment of at that point unfulfilled or only

partially fulfilled prophecy. In addition, Matthew displays the continuation of biblical patterns

and moral ethics in Jesus’ words and actions and provides models from the Jewish people's

history relating to the current circumstances.14

The world “fulfilled” is used fifteen times in the text of the Gospel of Matthew,

according to Geisler15. Matthew’s clear intention is to argue from a common framework by

using that which his readers know well: the Hebrew Scriptures. In doing so, he is certain that

any argumentation will be fact-based as the readers can refer back to what they themselves

can verify.


As Nolland points out, “the scribes and Pharisees were walking copies of the Law.

What they did with it might be suspect, but not their knowledge of it. They could be relied on

to report the Law of Moses with care and accuracy.”16 Matthew uses this knowledge as the

launching point to Jesus teaching about human religiosity versus a redeemed life of true trust

and faith - and the mercy of God springing from this. Nolland continues:

After the positive beginning comes a sharp disjunction: the scribes and Pharisees
are a reliable source of information on the Law, but are not to be looked to in other
respects. Their ‘deeds’ stand in contrast to the ‘good deeds’ to which Jesus calls in
5:16. The contrast here between saying and doing echoes that warned against in 7:21.
15:3–9 explores an instance of how the Pharisees and scribes use their own tradition to
bypass one of the Ten Commandments, but it is primarily to the continuing material in
chap. 23 that we must look for illumination here. Matthew seems content to illuminate

Nolland, The Gospel of Matthew, 36.
Geisler, Survey of the New Testament, 52.
Nolland. The Gospel of Matthew, 923.


how the scribes and Pharisees are in the wrong in terms both of what they do and what
they fail to do. He makes no effort to link these things specifically with
commandments of the Mosaic Law; if what is done fails to stand moral scrutiny, it is
not the doing the Law.17

Matthew 5:16 says: “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they

may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. “18. Matthew 7:21

states: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the

one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.19 It is clear from the way Matthew

reports Jesus’ words that the emphasis is on the attitude of giving and serving rather than the

minute observance of every detail of the Law, much in line with passages from the Hebrew

Scriptures such as Isaiah 1:11-18, where God implores His people to change their hearts

rather than act more religiously.

Matthew provokes a clear provocation here to the understanding of the religious

understanding of the Pharisee and scribes, which ultimately sets the stage for the passion

chapters of the Gospel of Matthew.

James M. Robinson shows how much this teaching of Jesus conflicts with the

understanding of Jewish minds by highlighting another point of contention for the Pharisees

and scribes. Jesus is pointing out the inadequacies of their behavior in contrast to Gentile

behavior - Gentiles who were clearly not part of the chosen people of God:

Matthew betrays its Jewish Christian background by presenting even more such
And if you greet only your brother and sisters, what more are you doing than
others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?
When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for
they think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like
Nolland. The Gospel of Matthew, 924.
The Holy Bible : English Standard Version, (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Mt 5:16.
Ibid., Mt 7:21.


If the offender refuses to listen to the church, let such a one be to you as a
Gentile and a tax collector.20


Matthew clearly portrays Pharisees as those who exemplify what God is not seeking in

His followers. By juxtaposing the strict interpretation of the Law interpreted without

consideration of any ameliorating circumstances producing acts of mercy by the Pharisees

with Jesus’ interpretations of the Law having been made for man, rather than made to restrict

man, Matthew shows the hardness of hearts of the first century religious leaders.

John Nolland observes:

It is hard to be sure how effective the comparison would have proved for Pharisees
with a fastidious approach to sabbath restrictions. It would certainly be effective in
disturbing simple certainties about rigid application of the Law.21


Matthew provides his ultimate declaration that Jesus is the Christ from historical start

to future finish in a passage, which has become known as the Olivet Discourse as recorded by

Matthew, Mark and Luke and which is deemed “the longest and most important section of

teaching about the future in the Synoptics22.” Matthew lets Jesus speak for Himself: “See that

no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they

will lead many astray. “23

James M. Robinson, In Search of the Original Good News: The Gospel of Jesus (Harper, San Francisco,
2005), 81.
Nolland, The Gospel of Matthew, 483.
D. R. W. Wood and I. Howard Marshall, New Bible Dictionary, 3rd ed. (Leicester, England; Downers Grove,
Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1996), 846.
The Holy Bible : English Standard Version, Mt 24:4-5.


Robin Griffith-Jones summarizes the style deployed by Matthew in this passage,

which serves as a warning not to just the Jewish audience, but also those now following Jesus

as their Messiah, but not entirely committed to Him yet:

Here is danger for those who deny Jesus’ call, who are not among the chosen. But
danger, too, for those within the church. Into these last days before Jesus’ death,
Matthew collects a series of Jesus’ own stories, each of them long and dramatic, with
which to warn his own community of troubles and temptations to come. There is no
special grandeur to this section. Gone are the short, sharp instructions and brisk
examples; here are full, spacious images of the dutiful and the delinquent, the alert and
the complacent, and finally of the rewards and punishments that they face.24

Matthew chooses one final passage to drive home the point that Jesus, the Son of Man,

is the Messiah and that He will return in glory as the King that the Jewish nation is so

anxiously waiting for. There is little doubt left under whose authority the Son of Man

operates. Matthew delights in sharing God the Father’s blessings on those chosen from the

foundation of the earth:

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will
sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will
separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33
And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King
will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the
kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 25


Matthew’s writing includes the only occurrences of the term “church” in the Gospels.

Interestingly enough, in its key meanings, the Greek term ἐκκλησία can mean both the

assembled people of Israel congregation or the assembled Christian community, either as the

Robin Griffith-Jones, The Four Witnesses: The Rebel, the Rabbi, the Chronicler, and the Mystic
(HarperCollins Publishers, New York, 2000), 172.
The Holy Bible : English Standard Version, Mt 25:31-34.


total number of Christians living in one place or as the universal body of believers.26 In other

words, in its definition and use it is not an exclusively Christian term.

However, during centuries of history the use of this term, as well as the misquoting of

such verses as Matthew 27:25 in which Matthew writes that “all the people answered, ‘His

blood be on us and on our children!’”27, has given rise to a theology that has replaced Israel as

God’s chosen people. In this line of thinking, termed Replacement Theology, the church as

the new Israel has taken over the promises originally vowed to the Jewish people while

leaving the curses with them.

This paper does not seek to analyze the validity or intentions of Replacement

Theology, but rather wants to point out that even the seemingly clear writings of the Gospel of

Matthew, while direct and always intending to point out God’s wish for reconciliation, have

been used to attempt to prove certain theological tenets. Regrettably, this thinking has also led

to the rise of anti-Semitism by leveraging Matthew’s attacks, which in Robin Griffith-Jones’

words, “were now in the armory of an imperial church whose heirs would use these weapons,

with terrible effect, for two millennia to come.”28


Matthew reports Jesus’ Great Commission to His disciples in the closing paragraph of

the Gospel of Matthew. Jesus does not wish to leave the Good News in just Israel and with the

Jewish people. To His disciples, this is a very novel concept. Nolland clarifies that although

Timothy Friberg, Barbara Friberg and Neva F. Miller, vol. 4, Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament,
Baker's Greek New Testament library (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 2000), 137.
The Holy Bible : English Standard Version, Mt 27:25.
Griffith-Jones, The Four Witnesses: The Rebel, the Rabbi, the Chronicler, and the Mystic, 163.


“the Jews sought to commend their faith in various ways within a Jewish frame, itinerant

mission even to fellow Jews is something of a novelty.”29

But with this new idea of discipling followers by sharing the good news that the

Messiah has come, died for our sins and now lives, comes affirmation of His divine authority

and great assurance of His never leaving His followers. Nolland adds:

As he commissions them, the risen Jesus confirms the full authority he has from God
and assures them that as they fulfil their discipling task, he will always be with them.30

Jesus instructs His disciples that as part of this fresh initiative of God the Gentiles are

to learn about their invitation to a relationship with the risen and soon returning Messiah,

Jesus Christ. This is to happen in the same fashion as with their Jewish Christian brothers and

sisters: through the traveling Word, brought by humans to humans under the guidance and

direction of the Holy Spirit.


The Gospel of Matthew is written for and aims at an audience that understands who

the Messiah is – those from a Jewish background, familiar with the Hebrew Scriptures.

By using didactic tools in laying out Jesus’ genealogy and leveraging the words of Old

Testament Scripture, Matthew intends to prove without a doubt the Messiahship of Jesus

Christ, whom he followed for approximately three years during His earthly ministry. It is

important for Matthew to draw a clear line between the strict following of the Law of Moses

by the religious sects of first-century Israel.

Nolland, The Gospel of Matthew, 1266.
Nolland, The Gospel of Matthew,1261.


Matthew repeats the strong chastisement of the behavior of Pharisees and religious

leaders given by Jesus. His intent is to show that God desires hearts, not the strict obedience

to the Law, yet the strong language Matthew relates unintentionally has been used to support

arguments for Replacement Theology, which denies any further role of Israel in the Kingdom

of God.

In its totality, the Gospel of Matthew seeks to prove without a shadow of a doubt that

Jesus Christ is the long awaited Messiah of Israel who has come and will come again – this

time to reign in glory over those who follow Him – Jew or Gentile.

The offer of salvation has been extended to the Gentiles of all nations. Matthew’s

readers are left knowing that they have been tasked with a commission to share the Good

News with those who were formerly excluded from the mercies and favors of God and who

have now been extended His grace through the Son of Man, Son of God and Messiah: Jesus




The Anchor Bible. Matthew. Introduction, Translation, and Notes by Albright, W.F. and
Mann, C.S. Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, Inc. 1971.

Blomberg, Craig, vol. 22, Matthew, electronic ed., Logos Library System; The New American
Commentary, Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2001, c1992.

Elwell , Walter A. and Beitzel, Barry J. Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible. Map on Lining
Papers. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1988.

Friberg, Timothy and Friberg, Barbara and Miller. Neva F., vol. 4, Analytical Lexicon of the
Greek New Testament. Baker's Greek New Testament library. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker
Books, 2000.

Geisler, Norman, L. A Popular Survey of the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker
Books, 2007.

Griffith-Jones, Robin. The Four Witnesses: The Rebel, The Rabbi, the Chronicler, and the
Mystic. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers, 2000.

The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001.

Nolland, John. The Gospel of Matthew : A Commentary on the Greek Text. Grand Rapids,
Mich.; Carlisle: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 2005.

Robinson, James M. The Gospel of Jesus: In Search of the Original Good News. New York:
HarperCollins Publishers, 2005.

Stanton, Graham. Gospel Truth? New Light on Jesus & the Gospels. Valley Forge, PA:
Harper Collins Publishers, 1995.

Toussaint, Stanley D. Behold the King. Portland ,OR: Multnomah Press, 1981.

Wills, Garry. What the Gospels Meant. New York, NY: Penguin Group, 2008.

Wood , D. R. W. and Marshall, I. Howard. New Bible Dictionary, 3rd ed. Leicester, England;
Downers Grove, Ill., InterVarsity Press, 1996.