Click here to get a free copy of the Matthew Bible Study Guide I have just completed with the Adult Sunday School class. Feel free to distribute as you deem necessary.
Here is the introductory text.
Written in a polished Semitic “synagogue Greek”, the author draws on three main sources: 1. the Gospel of Mark, 2. the hypothetical collection of sayings known as the “Q source”, and 3. the material unique to his own community, called the “M source” or “Special Matthew”.
The divine nature of Jesus was a major issue for the Matthaean community in the early Christian community. It is the crucial component in distinguishing them from their Jewish neighbors. While Mark begins with baptism and transfiguration, Matthew goes back further, showing Jesus as the Son of God from his birth, and emphasizing the fulfillment of Old Testament messianic prophecies (1:22; 2:15,23; 4:14;5:17; 8:17; 12:17; 13:14,35; 21:4; 27:9). The title, Son of David, identifies Jesus as the healing and miracle-working Messiah of Israel (it is used exclusively in relation to miracles). As Son of Man he will return to judge the world, a fact his disciples recognize but of which his enemies are unaware. As Son of God, he is God revealing himself through his son, and Jesus proving his divinity through his obedience and example.
The gospel reflects the struggles and conflicts between the evangelist’s community and the other Jews, particularly with its rather severe criticism of the Scribes and Pharisees. Prior to the Crucifixion the Jews are called Israelites, the honorific title of God’s chosen people; after it, they are called Jews, a sign that through their rejection of the Christ the “Kingdom of Heaven” has been taken away from them and given instead to the Christian Church.
The book of Matthew entered the Christian canon of the New Testament because it was considered to have apostolic authority. In other words, the apostles or those near to the apostles agreed that the book was authoritative. This in and of itself does not prove that Matthew wrote the book. A large number of liberal scholars and a smaller number of conservative scholars say it is not likely he wrote the book. However, many others are more or less convinced he did. Without the manuscript (actual original) of the gospel, we will have to be content with knowing that tradition tells us that the Apostle Matthew wrote the gospel. And what is sufficient to know is that the Gospel of Matthew was accepted by the church in the first century as authoritative and inspired.
The most widely accepted theory is that both Matthew and Luke used Mark as a source. Matthew even reproduced about ninety percent of Mark, while Luke reproduced about sixty percent. Without going into much detail on the dating of Mark’s Gospel, it was probably written somewhere between AD 50 and AD 55. Consequently, Matthew’s Gospel could have reasonably been written anywhere between AD 55 and AD 60. This date allows time for Matthew to have access to Mark’s Gospel, and suggests that he completed the Gospel before the destruction of the temple in AD 70. It would seem strange for the author not to mention this event in light of chapter 24:1-2. This dating also allows time for Luke to use Matthew’s Gospel in composing his own Gospel, as well as its sequel, the book of Acts.