Per Fidem Intrepidus means "Fearless Through Faith". My courage isn't my own, it comes from the Holy Spirit, it's my faith in God and my personal savior Christ Jesus that calms my fears and allows me to move forward in this fallen world. Personally I'm afraid of a lot of stuff, but having the faith that Jesus adopted me as his little, sin filled, brother keeps me going.

Friday, November 28, 2014

The Gospel According To Matthew

Saint Matthew and the Angel by Rembrandt
The record of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham: (Matthew 1:1)
Here begins the first verse of the first Gospel of the New Testament. When you start to research the origins of the Gospels you find yourself wandering down rabbit holes best left unexplored, to be honest they would have been better left off undug. 

People, being merely humans, will argue anything, many times just for the sake of arguing. I've often heard engineers arguing the exact same side of an argument as their opponent just as caustically as if they were disagreeing over a matter of life or death. My boss calls this "vehemently agreeing with each other." Much of the time disagreements, especially between scholars, has little to do with the actual subject and in the end the argument boils down to "Listen to me!

I see that a lot in arguments against the Gospels, intellectuals and psudo-intellectuals thumping their chests and promoting the theory du jur of why the Gospel they targeted is false/forged/phoney. In the end their treatises do little more bowdlerize the gospels by expunging Jesus from the material and focusing solely on the "researcher's" skills of morphology while congratulating themselves on their conversion to evangelical atheism. 

These people ignore the first rule about studying the Bible: "It's not about YOU, it's about GOD." They completely reject the spiritual aspects of the Gospel and attempt to see the Gospels as scholarly historical documents. The authors of the Bible were guided by the Holy Spirit, not by Flavius Josephus. In the end our neo-atheist authors wind up with something similar to attempting to write about space travel while at the same time rejecting Newtonian physics.

The three main arguments against Matthew being the author of Matthew are this: 

(1) It's improbable that an apostle would use of Mark as source material. In other words f you assume Mark was written first, why would an apostle use a gospel written by a non-apostle (or any written source for that matter) as source material? This assumes that Mark was written first and that the author of Matthew used source material rather than guidance from the Holy Spirit. The fallacy here is using an assumption as fact in an argument. There's more to say and I'll cover the rest in my next entry on Mark.

(2) This gospel is written in high quality Greek. This is poor argument against Matthew's authorship, and actually a fairly good argument in favor of Matthew. Greek was the lingua franca of the eastern Roman Empire. In fact Greek was widely spoken in the Holy Land for nearly 400 years before Matthew's time due to that whole Alexander conquering that entire area in 335 BC thing that biblical detractors find convenient to forget when talking about the use of the Greek language by Jews. Any savvy businessman in Palestine spoke Greek because it would be the common language between them, Romans, Egyptians, Syrians, Greeks and who knows how many other nationalities. Do not forget that  Matthew, being a tax collector, needed to speak to the Romans who were his bosses so a firm grasp of the Greek language was necessary. 

(3) The nonbiographical structure of the book is the last argument. Matthew is thematic and systematic in composition rather than biographical or chronological. To which I respond with a hearty "So what?" Having graduated recently from the State University of New York, the words of every history professor is still ringing in my ears "We will study [insert subject matter here] thematically rather than chronologically because it's easier to understand and write cause and effect that way."

There's quite a bit of evidence that suggest that the Author was a Jew and that he was Matthew

(1) The author of Matthew was definitely Jewish. He was familiar with the geography of the nation (Matthew 2:23), Jewish Customs (Matthew 1:18-19) and Jewish history (He calls Herod Antipas "Tetarch" instead of "king") He shows concern for Old Testament Law (Matthew 5:17-20) and he emphasizes Jesus' evangelical mission to the Jewish nation (Matthew 10)

(2) The author uses too many semitisms  in Matthew to not be Jewish. Even though he uses fewer Jewish expressions than Mark, he uses far too many to be a purely Greek author.

(3) The author uses the Old Testament quite often, too often to be anything but a Jew.

(4) The author attacks the Pharisees more than Mark or Luke do. It's thought that the reason for this was because the Pharisees were very hard on tax collectors associating them with sinners and Gentiles. This doesn't prove anything but can go to Matthew's state of mind. 

(5) The author frequently uses numbers, which would be natural for a tax-collector. He often divides things into three parts: the genealogy, the trilogies of Miracles in chapters 8 & 9; he divides things into five parts such as the five great sermons of Jesus (Matthew 7:28; 11:1; 13:53; 19:1; 26:1), six corrections in the misuse of the law (Matthew 5), the seven woes (Matthew 13). Dealing with numbers this much is consistent with a tax-collector, whom Matthew was.

(6) The author mentions money more frequently than the other gospel writers. He uses unique monetary terms too (drachma, stater, talent). He uses tax-collector terminology too, terms like "banker" and using the word "debts" where Luke uses "sins". The author was quite familiar with money as is any tax-collector.

(7) In Mark 2:14 and Luke 5:27-28 Jesus calls "Levi" but in Matthew 9:9 Jesus calls "Matthew". After that in all the lists of the apostles, all call him Matthew, (Matthew 10, Mark 3, Luke 6, Acts 1) but only in Matthew is Matthew called the tax-collector. Remember: back then "tax-collector" was a highly dishonorable profession, no Godly man would call another man a "tax-collector" even if that other man was a tax-collector. Matthews use of tax-collector shows humility and self depreciation, Matthew would call himself a tax-collector, but no one else would dream of it.

Each piece of evidence is hardly weighty on its own, but taken together, once can see that a Palestinian Jew fluent in Greek and well acquainted with money wrote this gospel. External testimony has already suggested Matthew as the author; the internal evidence only reinforces this impression. There is, therefore, little reason to doubt Matthean authorship.

As for me - does it really matter that Matthew is the author of the Gospel or someone else wrote it and used his name? No. The fact that the Gospel of Matthew is consistent with the rest of the bible is important. Very important.
“Christianity is a statement which, if false, is of no importance, and, if true, is of infinite importance. The one thing it cannot be is moderately important.”
J. Warner Wallace, Cold-Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels

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