St. Matthew is one of only two Apostles to write a Gospel. Before St. Matthew became an Apostle, he was a publican or, more colloquially, a tax collector. St. Matthew may have worked for the Roman Empire or for Herod Antipas. In this lesson we will study the life of St. Matthew as presented in the Gospels, in the writings of the Church Fathers, and in the Catechism. We will also learn several prayers to him and have an engaging activity in honor of St. Matthew.
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The evidence from the ancient Fathers seems strong so why have scholars questioned the Apostle Matthew’s authorship? Some authors argue that the Gospel of Matthew was not the first Gospel but was rather adapted from the Gospel of Mark:
“…the view arose that the first Gospel in the canon was written by Matthew, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus and an eyewitness of his ministry. Most scholars doubt this tradition, primarily because the author relies on a number of earlier sources.
“…In writing his Gospel, Matthew drew on three primary sources: material shared with Luke (Q), material unique to Matthew (M) and material shared with Mark.” (Burkett. 2002. pgs. 174-175)
Both Q and M are symbols for materials available to Matthew and Luke which are now lost. Scholars who argue that St. Matthew the Apostle was not the writer of the Gospels point out that it is implausible that St. Matthew, who was an eyewitness to the events of Jesus’ life, would have relied on other sources so heavily. The other objection to St. Matthew’s authorship comes from the language of the Gospel. Most of the early Fathers report that St. Matthew wrote in either Hebrew or Aramaic but the Gospel according to St. Matthew was written in Greek – and very good idiomatic Greek at that. Some scholars hypothesize that the original writings of St. Matthew are lost and that someone else wrote the Gospel of St. Matthew, either based on his original writings or gathered from his teachings (which would be the source of the M materials).
Others disagree. In his commentary on the Gospels, Herschel Hobbs, states:
“This volume is written on the assumption that this Gospel was written by Matthew or Levi, the publican. According to Papias, as quoted by Eusebius, Matthew wrote the Logia, a record of Jesus, in Hebrew or Aramaic. Some see this Gospel as a Greek translation of the Logia. However, there is no reason why Matthew could not have written both.” (Hobbs. 1961. pg. 9)
R. T. France suggests that perhaps St. Matthew did originally write in Greek. Perhaps the early Church Fathers, understanding that he wrote for the Hebrews, simply assumed that he wrote in Hebrew or Aramaic. He could just as easily have written in Greek -
“… in the light of the increasing evidence for at least a bilingual situation in first-century Palestine, particularly in Galilee.” (France. 1989. pg. 66)
St. Matthew was uniquely qualified since ...
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