Introduction to the Book of Matthew

 Who was Matthew? 

He was a tax collector for the Roman Empire in Capernaum, probably stationed on a main trade route where he collected tolls for Herod Antipas from commercial traffic.  Tax collectors were known for lying about how much money was owed and pocketing the difference.  Matthew was a Jew and his profession as a tax collector was considered a betrayal of the Jewish people, who regarded him as a sinner and religious outsider. 

 As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him.(NSRV Matthew 9:9-13) 

Matthew, with Peter, James, and John, was a witness of Jesus’ adult life and ministry. As the presumed author of the Book of Matthew, he is considered one of the four evangelists, along with gospel authors Mark, Luke and John. He is also called Levi the son of Alphaeus. In his account of Jesus’ life Matthew makes few personal references, though he does not hide his past:  These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon, also known as Peter, and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; 3Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; 4 Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed him. Matthew 10:2-4  This gives us insight into his character.  

There is no official documentation that states Matthew is the author of the Gospel of Matthew; however, other historical writings, his style (he cites specific amounts of money/gold 28 times) and references imply his role. Matthew is often considered an example of forgiveness and hope for those who believe they are not worthy of redemption. After the resurrection there is no other mention of him in the New Testament.

 Why was the Book of Matthew written, and for whom?

Matthew tells the story of how Jesus fulfilled the Messiah prophecy in Isaiah and the Old Testament law for his Jewish audience. The book documents Jesus’ family lineage as a descendant of the House of Abraham and David. The Book of Matthew serves as a bridge from the Old Testament to the New Testament. Matthew documents the political culture of the Romans, Jews, Jewish Christians, and Pharisees, legal experts who interpreted the laws handed down from Moses.

Why did Matthew start with a genealogy? (Matthew 1:1-17)

The genealogy introduces Jesus as the “son of Abraham” and the “son of David,” placing him in the lineage of two of the most significant figures in biblical history and establishing the legitimacy of Jesus’ place as king. Genealogy was important in Jewish culture and tradition (See Numbers 26:52-56, Luke 2:1-4, Romans 11:1). Genealogy is provided over 50 times in the Old Testament as a way to document inheritance, land ownership, where tribes would live in the promised land, legal rights, etc. In the New Testament it was used by the Romans for taxation.

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