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Gospel According to Mark, second of the four New Testament Gospels (narratives recounting the life and death of Jesus Christ) and, with Matthew and Luke, one of the three Synoptic Gospels (i.e., those presenting a common view). It is attributed to St. Mark the Evangelist (Acts 12:12; 15:37), an associate of St. Paul and a disciple of St. Peter, whose teachings the Gospel may reflect. It is the shortest and the earliest of the four Gospels, presumably written during the decade preceding the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE. Most scholars agree that it was used by St. Matthew and St. Luke in composing their accounts; more than 90 percent of the content of Mark’s Gospel appears in Matthew’s and more than 50 percent in the Gospel of Luke. Although the text lacks literary polish, it is simple and direct, and, as the earliest Gospel, it is the primary source of information about the ministry of Jesus.
Gospel According to Matthew, first of the four New Testament Gospels (narratives recounting the life and death of Jesus Christ) and, with The Gospels According to Mark and Luke, one of the three so-called Synoptic Gospels (i.e., those presenting a common view). It has traditionally been attributed to St. Matthew the Evangelist, one of the 12 Apostles, described in the text as a tax collector (10:3). The Gospel According to Matthew was composed in Greek, probably sometime after 70 CE, with evident dependence on the earlier Gospel According to Mark. There has, however, been extended discussion about the possibility of an earlier version in Aramaic. Numerous textual indications point to an author who was a Jewish Christian writing for Christians of similar background. The Gospel According to Matthew consequently emphasizes Christ’s fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies (5:17) and his role as a new lawgiver whose divine mission was confirmed by repeated miracles.
What do others say about the author of the First Gospel?
The early church is unanimous in their acceptance of Matthew as the writer of the First Gospel. Papias, Irenaeus, Pantaenus, and Origen all report Matthew as the writer of the First Gospel. Papias (c. AD 60-130) writes, “Matthew put together the oracles [of the Lord] in the Hebrew language, and each one interpreted them as best he could.” While we do not have a Hebrew or Aramaic edition of Matthew’s Gospel, there are reports that one may have existed in the early church. Regardless, one should not be surprised that Matthew, who would need to have great knowledge of Greek in the business world, originally wrote his Gospel in Hebrew or Aramaic, only to revise the Gospel in Greek. Even if his Gospel were written in Greek by another, even say an amanuensis, this would not negate Matthew’s authorship. Craig Evans recently recorded a video where he claims that Matthew may have come about in phases.
Pantaenus also confirmed that Matthew was the author of the First Gospel. The great church historian, Eusebius of Caesarea, writes that Pantaenus, a church leader in the late 2nd to possibly early 3rd century, came across the Hebrew version of Matthew’s Gospel. Eusebius notes that Pantaenus was “a man highly distinguished for his learning, had charge of the school of the faithful in Alexandria.” The following is Eusebius’s report of Pantaenus’s encounter with the Hebrew edition of Matthew’s Gospel:
“It is reported that among persons there who knew of Christ, he found the Gospel according to Matthew, which had anticipated his own arrival. For Bartholomew, one of the apostles, had preached to them, and left with them the writing of Matthew in the Hebrew language,6 which they had preserved till that time.”
It is certainly reasonable to accept that Matthew was written in the 50s due to the reasonable assumption that Acts was finished before AD 64, with Luke coming before Acts, and Matthew writing his Gospel before Luke’s. Scholars generally hold that Matthew composed his Gospel in or around Antioch of Syria.
Some may argue that a disciple like Matthew would not borrow material from Mark, if in fact it is true that Matthew did borrow material from Mark’s Gospel. However, when one considers that Matthew followed Jesus long after most of the apostles, and that Matthew was not an inner-circle disciple, then it stands to reason that Matthew would borrow material from Mark’s Gospel if it is true that Mark relayed information from Simon Peter—who was both an early apostle and inner-circle disciple.
While some will still disagree, it seems strange to me to ascribe the First Gospel to Matthew of all people, especially when the First Gospel was used as a church manual in many cases. Matthew was a tax-collector. Tax-collectors were held in slightly higher esteem than pond scum…but not by much. So, why ascribe the First Gospel to a tax-collector unless there was at least some merit to the claim?
In my humble opinion, I believe the First Gospel came to us in three phases. First, the apostle Matthew wrote the teachings of Jesus in Aramaic. Then, Matthew added the miracles and deeds of Jesus to his Aramaic and/or Hebrew edition of his Gospel adding his eyewitness testimony and the testimony of Simon Peter as found in Mark’s Gospel. Finally, either Matthew himself or a highly trained scribe translated the Gospel in Greek.