Matthew, Mark


The Cornerstone Biblical Commentary series (18 volumes) is the product of nearly 40 scholars, many of whom participated in the creation of the NLT. The contributors to this series, who are well-known and represent a wide spectrum of theological positions within the evangelical community, have built each volume to help pastors, teachers, and students of the Bible understand every thought contained in the Bible. In short, this will be one of the premier resources for those seeking an accessible but fairly ...

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The Cornerstone Biblical Commentary series (18 volumes) is the product of nearly 40 scholars, many of whom participated in the creation of the NLT. The contributors to this series, who are well-known and represent a wide spectrum of theological positions within the evangelical community, have built each volume to help pastors, teachers, and students of the Bible understand every thought contained in the Bible. In short, this will be one of the premier resources for those seeking an accessible but fairly high-level discussion of scriptural interpretation.

David L. Turner, PhD, is a graduate of Cedarville University, Grace Theological Seminary (ThD), and Hebrew Union College—Jewish Institute of Religion, Cincinnati (MPhil, PhD candidate). He has been professor of New Testament at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary since 1986 and has previously published several articles on the Gospel of Matthew.

Darrel L. Bock, PhD (University of Aberdeen), is research professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary. His special fields of study include the use of the Old Testament in the New Testament, Luke—Acts, the historical Jesus, and the integration of theology and culture. Among his most recent publications are Breaking the Da Vinci Code (New York Times best-seller, May 2004), and a two-volume commentary on Luke (Baker). Tyndale House Publishers

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780842334372
  • Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers
  • Publication date: 4/28/2006
  • Series: Cornerstone Biblical Commentary Series , #11
  • Pages: 576
  • Sales rank: 1,068,593
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.30 (d)

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Copyright © 2005 David L. Turner
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-8423-3437-8

Chapter One

The Gospel of Matthew



As the first Gospel in the Christian canon, Matthew has received a great deal of attention through the centuries (Luz 1994). Indeed, Massuax (1990) has argued that Matthew is the New Testament book that most influenced the early church. Matthew's prominence is due to some extent to its unique structure, which focuses the reader's attention on the Sermon on the Mount and four other major discourses of Jesus. The history of the interpretation of Matthew is outside the scope of the present volume, but it is clear that through the centuries, the first Gospel has occupied the minds of many great expositors.

Nevertheless, by the twentieth century Matthean studies had become somewhat passé, due largely to the dominance of the Marcan priority view of the synoptic problem and the ensuing focus on Mark as purportedly embodying an earlier and more authentic version of the life and teaching of the historical Jesus. More recently, however, Matthew has begun to receive more attention, and several major commentaries have been written, among them those by Beare (1981), Blomberg (1992), Davies and Allison (1988, 1991, 1997), France (1985), Garland (1993), Gundry (1982, 1994), Hagner (1993, 1995),Harrington (1991), Keener (1999), Luz (1989, 2001), Meier (1978, 1980), Morris (1992), Nolland (2005), Overman (1996), and Simonetti (2001, 2002). This renewed interest in Matthew is likely due to the rise of the disciplines of redaction and narrative criticism and to the increasing awareness of Matthew's Jewish roots.

With these fine works on Matthew readily available, one may wonder why this one has been written. Many commentaries on Matthew embody a doctrinaire acceptance of the view that Matthew is rewriting and expanding Mark. Be that as it may, it is doubtful that the original readers of Matthew held it in one hand and Mark in the other, assuming that Matthew could not be understood apart from Mark. Thus, the present commentary seeks to understand Matthew in its own right, utilizing the discipline that has come to be known as narrative criticism (Powell 1990). This method of literary study attempts to relate the parts of a Gospel to the whole of it rather than operating from plausible yet unprovable hypotheses about the dependence of one Gospel upon another. Additionally, this commentary attempts to explain Matthew in the context of Second Temple Judaism, which had not yet become unified by the ascendancy of the Jabneh (Jamnia) rabbis after the AD 70 destruction of Jerusalem (cf. Lewis in Freedman 1992:3.634-37). It is written from the perspective argued in scholarly studies by Overman (1990b), Saldarini (1994), and Sim (1998) to the effect that Matthew was written to a group of Christian Jews who were still in contact with non-Christian Jews in the synagogue. This view seems to avoid the anachronistic reading of Matthew as promoting a new and distinct religion in opposition to a monolithic old religion, Judaism. In other words, Matthew and his community were part of an ongoing process in which Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, Jesus' followers, and others were presenting divergent and competing versions of Judaism. Matthew should not be read from a later perspective that reflects the results of this process after the "parting of the way" between Christianity and Judaism in the second century. Rather, Matthew should be read as the voice of the first "Jews for Jesus," as it were, during a time of much diversity within Judaism.

The origins of the Gospel of Matthew are not easily ascertained. Matthew is anonymous, as are the other three Gospels. One can only make educated guesses about the author, recipients, and setting of this Gospel. Such guesses amount to hypotheses that are formed by noting the book's grammar, syntax, and literary style; studying its distinctive themes; reading "between the lines"; and assessing the patristic traditions about the book.


Though the Gospel of Matthew is anonymous, it seems clear that it was ascribed to Matthew the apostle by the first quarter of the second century AD. Notable ancient manuscripts have titles that ascribe the book to the apostle Matthew (Davies and Allison 1988:129). Patristic tradition univocally agrees with this ascription. Eusebius' Ecclesiastical History (early- to mid-fourth century AD) cites Papias (3.39; early second century), Clement of Alexandria (6.14; early third century), and Origen (6.25.4; mid third-century) to this effect. The words of Irenaeus (late second century) agree (Against Heresies 3.1.1; cf. Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 5.8.2). Additional fourth century testimony to this effect may be found in Cyril of Jerusalem (Catechesis 14), Epiphanius (Heresies 30.3), and Jerome (Prologue to Matthew). The remarkable fact that some patristic tradition posits that Matthew was originally written in Hebrew will be discussed later under Canonicity and Textual History.

The patristic testimony aside, most scholars are led by the Jewish orientation of Matthew to conclude that its author was a Jewish Christian. Perhaps "Christian Jew" is a more historically accurate term. But there is a minority view that asserts that Matthew's Jewish trappings are the literary creation of a Gentile author's polemics against Judaism (Meier 1978:17-25).


It is very likely that there are allusions to Matthew in Ignatius (late first/early second century AD) and in the Didache (early second century AD). When these allusions are taken in conjunction with Papias' testimony (cited below), it seems clear that Matthew was well known by the early second century. Accordingly, the Gospel must have been written by the turn of the first century AD at the latest. The current scholarly consensus, based on the Marcan priority view of Gospel relationships, places Matthew's origin in the eighties or nineties AD. In some cases, this view is buttressed by the idea that Matthew 24-25 constitutes a vaticinium ex eventu (prophecy after the event), written after the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. Additionally, it is sometimes argued that the historical situation reflected in Matthew is the conflict of the developing church with the formative rabbinic Judaism that emanated from the council of Jamnia (Jabneh) after the destruction of Jerusalem.

However, if one accepts the patristic testimony to apostolic authorship, the date will probably need to be set earlier. Additionally, if one takes Matthew 24-25 as an authentic word of Jesus, not as prophecy after the event, there is no need to date the Gospel after AD 70. And if one is not convinced of Matthew's dependence upon Mark, there is another reason for an earlier date. Noteworthy scholars who favor a pre- AD 70 Matthew include C. Blomberg, D. A. Carson, R. H. Gundry, G. Maier, B. Reicke, and J. A. T. Robinson. But these scholars are generally not dogmatic.


Every student of Matthew is compelled to draw some conclusion about the relationship of this Gospel's recipients to Judaism. Matthew's presentation of a Jesus who came not to destroy but to fulfill the law, and his formulaic portrayal of the fulfillment of the Hebrew Scriptures in Jesus' life make the issue unavoidable. Scholars are divided, with some convinced that Matthew's community contained many Gentiles and had already separated from the synagogue (Gundry, Stanton), and others holding the opposite view that Matthew's community was largely Jewish and was still connected with the synagogue (Harrington, Overman, Saldarini, Sigal, Sim). And there are those who occupy middle ground, arguing that Matthew can be satisfactorily explained only when it is viewed against the background of an embattled minority in the process of leaving the synagogue (Hagner 1993:lxxxi). In this commentary, I maintain the view that Matthew's community was still engaged with the synagogue.

While many theories have been proposed, the location of Matthew's community will likely never be known with anything approaching certainty. Many have advocated the city of Antioch, but others suggest Tyre or Sidon (Kilpatrick), Galilee (Overman), or even Pella in Transjordan (Slingerland). It is a happy fact that grasping the message of the book does not depend on knowing the location of its original recipients.

The occasion of the Gospel's writing and its purposes are, of course, not explicitly stated anywhere in it and can only be approximated in hypotheses inferred from the text. Assuming that the audience is a Christian Jewish community, it is evidently a community that needs to understand how the life of Jesus the Messiah "fulfilled" the Hebrew Bible (see "Major Themes" later in this introduction) and how Jesus' teaching interpreted the Torah of Moses (5:17ff). The community also needed to know why the entrenched, non-Christian Jewish leaders were no longer to be emulated (ch 23). The community also evidently needed to expand its horizons toward Gentile missions. Matthew regularly portrays Gentiles in a positive light, as when the Gentile women are mentioned in Jesus' genealogy (1:3, 5, 6) and the faith of certain Gentiles is stressed (8:10; 15:28; 27:54). Such details from the narrative prepare the reader for the climactic commission that the community take Jesus' message to all the nations (28:19). The following discussion of Matthew's theological emphasis provides additional implications about the occasion and purpose of the Gospel.


A foundational question in the textual history of Matthew is its possible origin as a Semitic text that was only later translated into our present Greek text. Patristic sources that take this position have been cited in the previous discussion of authorship. The key patristic text is found in Eusebius's Ecclesiastical History 33.39.16, which cites Papias to the effect that "Matthew collected the oracles [logia, sayings of and about Jesus] in the Hebrew language [Hebraidi dialekto] and each one interpreted [hermeneusen] them as best he could."

At first glance, Eusebius's citation of Papias seems to say that Matthew was originally composed in Hebrew and that later editions were translated from that Hebrew original. Since our present Greek Matthew does not read like a translation of a Hebrew original, some have argued that Matthew wrote both a Hebrew Gospel and a Greek Gospel. Others think that Papias's logia were the sayings of Jesus that modern source critics call Q, or even the discourses of Jesus found in our Greek Matthew. But there seem to be no manuscripts that exemplify the putative Hebrew Matthew mentioned by Papias (Howard 1987). For these and additional reasons, others (e.g., Gundry 1994:619-20) propose that the expression Hebraidi dialekto does not mean the Hebrew language but Semitic rhetorical style, and that hermeneusen does not refer to translation but to interpretation. If this is the case, Papias says that Matthew's style of composition was Jewish, and that subsequent individuals interpreted this Jewish style to the best of their ability. Perhaps such features as Matthew's genealogy and stress on "fulfillment" are indicative of this Jewish compositional style.

Greek Manuscripts. The textual history of Matthew is exemplified in a great number of Greek manuscripts. More than twenty uncial manuscripts contain complete or nearly complete texts of Matthew including the following: N and B (fourth century); C, D, and W (fifth century); O, Z, 042, 043 (sixth century); 0211 (seventh century); L (eighth century); K, M, U, 037, and 038 (ninth century); G and S (tenth century).

There are eighteen early and often fragmentary papyrus manuscripts containing portions of Matthew (see Comfort and Barrett 2001:6). These include the following: P104 (Matt 21; second century); P64+67 (Matt 3, 5, 26; late second century); P77 (Matt 23, late second century); P103 (Matt 13-14; second century); P1 (Matt 1, third century); P45 (Matt 20-21; 25-26, third century); P37 (Matt 26, third century); P70 (Matt 2-3, 11-12, 24, third century); P101 (Matt 3; third century); P102 (Matt 4; late third century); P110 (Matt 10; late third century); P53 (Matt 26; late third century); P86 (Matt 5, third/fourth century); P35 (Matt 25; third/fourth century); P25 (Matt 18-19, fourth century); P62 (Matt 11, fourth century); P71 (Matt 19, fourth century); P19 (Matt 10-11, fourth century); and P21 (Matt 12, fourth century).

In addition to its presence in the above papyrus and uncial manuscripts, hundreds of minuscules testify to the text of Matthew. Of course, Matthew is also abundantly cited in patristic sources, often used in church lectionaries, and translated into other languages by the early versions.

Canonicity. As the most popular Gospel of the early church, there was no doubt about Matthew's canonicity among the orthodox in either the eastern or western regions of the church. However, the heretic Marcion (second century) and his followers held to a canon that did not include Matthew, not to mention the Old Testament, Mark, John, and the General Epistles. Marcion affirmed a sort of gnostic dualism between the Old Testament and New Testament as revelations of two different gods, so Matthew's insistence on the fulfillment of the Old Testament by Jesus was unthinkable to Marcion, who accepted only an edited version of Luke's Gospel and the Pauline Epistles as his canon. Evidently his attack upon the incipient orthodox canon was a major factor in the process which led to the formalization of the canon in ensuing days.

In addition to the patristic sources already cited, the so-called Anti-Marcionite Prologues to Luke and John (date uncertain) and the Muratorian Fragment (probably late second century) both speak of the undisputed fourfold Gospel tradition of the church (cf. Irenaeus, Against Heresies 3.11.8; Cyprian, Epistle 73:10; Clement of Alexandria, Stromata 3.13; Origen, cited by Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 6.25.3ff; Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 3.25.1; Athanasius, Festal Letter 39; [and many others, see Bruce 1988:134-240]).


Gospel Genre: The Question of History and Theology. Due to concerns related to affirming the historicity of the Gospel stories about Jesus, conservative evangelicals have at times been reluctant to view the composition of the Gospels as being theologically motivated. This occurs in response to "liberal" scholarship that tends to view the Gospels as imaginative documents produced to meet the church's needs rather than to transmit reliable traditions about Jesus. Such liberal scholars find in the Gospels stories they think reflect situations and controversies faced by the church after AD 70 rather than what was presented by the historical Jesus (e.g., Beare 1981:13ff). Evangelicals have rightly responded in defense of the historical reliability of the Gospels (e.g., Blomberg 1987), but in so doing, the theological import of the Gospels has sometimes been eclipsed.

Others have argued-at times from misguided dispensational views-that the Gospels simply give us history, and that we get theology from the New Testament Epistles, especially those of Paul. However, the history vs. theology dichotomy is false. The Gospels narrate what really happened but do so for theological reasons.


Excerpted from CORNERSTONE BIBLICAL COMMENTARY Copyright ©2005 by David L. Turner. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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