In my final years of school I studied poetry. Not because I love poetry, in fact, whilst I can appreciate the artistry of it, I find it the most difficult of all genres to get into and understand. Yet, my assignment was to study poetry, in particular the poetry of W.B. Yeats.
To be honest there is a little I remember of the poetry of Yeats to this day, yet I remember the key to understanding Yeats at the time. It was Maude Gonne. Maud was an English heiress and Irish nationalist, whom Yeats was infatuated with. Over the course of his life Yeats would propose to her no less the four times, only to be met with rejection each time. This relationship was the back story to much of his poetry. Only in understanding his relationship with Maude Gonne could I hope to better engage the poetry of Yeats. Knowing about Maude Gonne gave Yeats poetry a depth that could have been missed without it.
This year at Mosaic we are inviting you to join us in reading the Bible together. At the moment we are exploring Genesis in the Old Testament and Matthew in the New Testament. As you read Matthew, let me show you “Maude Gonne”, in other words, not who Matthew was infatuated with, but simply provide some of the lens through which to better understand Matthew’s gospel.
Author: The traditional author of the book of Matthew is the Apostle Matthew. Some scholars have questioned whether Matthew was the author because the text seems to be anonymous and doesn’t have an introduction in the same way that Paul’s letters did, for example. Nevertheless the weight of evidence is that from its initial circulation this gospel was known as the gospel according to Matthew and there is little reason to think that Matthew was not the author.
Matthew was a tax collector who left his work to follow Jesus (Matthew 9: 9-13), and is called Levi in Mark and Luke’s gospels.
Date: Most likely between 50-70AD. Whilst dating of any gospel is a little difficult, it is assumed by most scholars that Matthew was written after the gospel of Mark (possibly written around 50AD), but before the destruction of the Temple at Jerusalem in 70AD.
Destination: This gospel was most likely written in a Jewish Christian centre such as Palestine or Antioch. It is thought that this was written to a Jewish audience, but is favourable to the gospel reaching Gentiles (non-Jews), which best fits Antioch which had a large Jewish population and yet was a centre for outreach into the Gentile world.
Characteristics: Matthew is characterized by a more concise narrative of the life of Jesus, but has larger blocks of teaching material. There is an emphasis on the Old Testament fulfilment concerning Jesus as the Messiah, Jesus as a fulfilment of the law, as well as interest in the end times and the church.