Introduction to the Gospel of Matthew

Matthew reveals Jesus as Israel's promised Messiah

Gospel of Matthew
Jesus calls Matthew. Culture Club / Hulton Archive / Getty Images

The Gospel of Matthew was written to prove that Jesus Christ is Israel's long-awaited, promised Messiah, the King of all the earth, and to make plain the Kingdom of God. The expression "kingdom of heaven" is used 32 times in Matthew.

Key Takeaways: Book of Matthew

  • The main purpose of the book of Matthew was to give proof to Jewish believers that Jesus Christ is the promised Messiah.
  • Matthew is the first book of the New Testament.
  • While the author of the Gospel of Matthew is not identified, tradition has long assigned authorship to Matthew the apostle.
  • Matthew was written to Greek-speaking Jewish Christians.
  • Scholars are divided about the date the Gospel was written.
  • Matthew includes almost the whole book of Mark.
  • The Gospel of Matthew contains the Beatitudes, the Lord’s Prayer, the Golden Rule, and the Great Commission.

As the first book in the New Testament, Matthew is the joining link to the Old Testament, focusing on the fulfillment of prophecy. The book contains more than 60 quotations from the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, with the majority found in Jesus' speeches. Matthew is the second longest of the four Gospels and contains more teachings of Jesus than any of the others.

Matthew appears to be concerned with teaching Christians who are new to the faith, missionaries, and the body of Christ in general. The Gospel of Matthew organizes the teachings of Jesus into five major discourses: the Sermon on the Mount (chapters 5-7), the Commissioning of the 12 Apostles (chapter 10), the Parables of the Kingdom (chapter 13), the Discourse on the Church (chapter 18), and the Olivet Discourse (chapters 23-25).

Author of the Gospel of Matthew

Although the Gospel is anonymous, tradition dating to at least the early second century names the writer as Matthew, also known as Levi, the tax collector and one of the 12 disciples. To a great extent, the content in Matthew is dependent on the Gospel of Mark in terms of arrangement and wording, with Matthew including ninety percent of Mark.

Date Written

The Gospel of Matthew was likely written about 60-65 A.D.

Written To

Matthew wrote as a Jew to fellow Greek-speaking Jewish believers in Palestine. Matthew also wrote as a Christian believer for Christian believers.

Landscape of Matthew

The Gospel of Matthew opens in the town of Bethlehem. It is also set in Galilee, Capernaum, Judea and Jerusalem.

Purpose and Themes in the Gospel of Matthew

The predominate feature of the Gospel of Matthew is that it emphasizes Jesus Christ's kingly glory, and shows him to be the true heir to the throne of David.

Matthew was not written to chronicle the events of Jesus' life, but rather to present undeniable evidence through these occurrences that Jesus Christ is the promised Savior, the Messiah, Son of God, King of kings and Lord of lords. The book begins by accounting the genealogy of Jesus, showing him to be the true heir to David’s throne. The genealogy documents Christ’s credentials as Israel’s king. Then the narrative continues to revolve around this theme with his birth, baptism, and public ministry.

The Sermon on the Mount highlights Jesus' moral teachings and the miracles reveal his authority and true identity. Matthew also emphasizes Christ's abiding presence with humankind and the reality of the kingdom of God. Other minor themes in the Gospel of Matthew include the clash between Jesus and the religious leaders of his day, and Jesus as the fulfillment of the Law.

Key Characters

Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, John the Baptist, the 12 disciples, the Jewish religious leaders, Caiaphas, Pilate, Mary Magdalene.

Key Verses

Matthew 4:4
Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'" (NIV)

Matthew 5:17
Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. (NIV)

Matthew 10:39
Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (NIV)

Outline of the Gospel of Matthew:

  • The Birth of the King and Preparing to Receive Him - Matthew 1:1-4:11.
  • The Message and Ministry of the King - Matthew 4:12-25:46.
  • The Death and Resurrection of the King - Matthew 26:1-28:20.