The Gospel According to Matthew
The Gospel of Matthew is generally dated by scholars to around 80-90 AD due to it’s setting reflecting the final separation of the Christian Church from the Jewish Synagogue around 85 AD and the capture of Jerusalem and destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans in 70 AD as well as the fact that it appears to use Mark as a source, which is usually dated around 70 AD.
The position of the Gospel according to Matthew as the first of the four gospels in the New Testament reflects both the traditional view that it was the first to be written, a view that goes back to the late second century A.D., and the esteem in which it was held by the church; no other was so frequently quoted in the noncanonical literature of earliest Christianity. Although the majority of scholars now reject the opinion about the time of its composition, the high estimation of this work remains.
The questions of authorship, sources, and the time of composition of this gospel have received many answers, none of which can claim more than a greater or lesser degree of probability. The one now favored by the majority of scholars is the following.
The ancient tradition that the author was the disciple and apostle of Jesus named Matthew (see Mt 10:3) is untenable because the gospel is based, in large part, on the Gospel according to Mark (almost all the verses of that gospel have been utilized in this), and it is hardly likely that a companion of Jesus would have followed so extensively an account that came from one who admittedly never had such an association rather than rely on his own memories. The attribution of the gospel to the disciple Matthew may have been due to his having been responsible for some of the traditions found in it, but that is far from certain.
The unknown author, whom we shall continue to call Matthew for the sake of convenience, drew not only upon the Gospel according to Mark but upon a large body of material (principally, sayings of Jesus) not found in Mark that corresponds, sometimes exactly, to material found also in the Gospel according to Luke. This material, called “Q” (probably from the first letter of the German word Quelle, meaning “source”), represents traditions, written and oral, used by both Matthew and Luke. Mark and Q are sources common to the two other synoptic gospels; hence the name the “Two-Source Theory” given to this explanation of the relation among the synoptics.
In addition to what Matthew drew from Mark and Q, his gospel contains material that is found only there. This is often designated “M,” written or oral tradition that was available to the author. Since Mark was written shortly before or shortly after A.D. 70 (see Introduction to Mark), Matthew was composed certainly after that date, which marks the fall of Jerusalem to the Romans at the time of the First Jewish Revolt (A.D. 66–70), and probably at least a decade later since Matthew’s use of Mark presupposes a wide diffusion of that gospel. The post-A.D. 70 date is confirmed within the text by Mt 22:7, which refers to the destruction of Jerusalem.
As for the place where the gospel was composed, a plausible suggestion is that it was Antioch, the capital of the Roman province of Syria. That large and important city had a mixed population of Greek-speaking Gentiles and Jews. The tensions between Jewish and Gentile Christians there in the time of Paul (see Gal 2:1–14) in respect to Christian obligation to observe Mosaic law are partially similar to tensions that can be seen between the two groups in Matthew’s gospel. The church of Matthew, originally strongly Jewish Christian, had become one in which Gentile Christians were predominant. His gospel answers the question how obedience to the will of God is to be expressed by those who live after the “turn of the ages,” the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Excerpts from the Gospel of Matthew:
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The Gospel According to Matthew
The Genealogy of Jesus.
The Birth of Jesus.
- The magi who do Jesus homage prefigure the Gentiles who will accept the preaching of the gospel. The infancy narrative proclaims who Jesus is, the savior of his people from their sins (Mt 1:21), Emmanuel in whom “God is with us” (Mt 1:23), and the Son of God (Mt 2:15).
- [1:1] The Son of David, the son of Abraham: David is placed first in order to emphasize that Jesus is the royal Messiah. The mention of Abraham is due not only to his being the father of the nation Israel but to Matthew’s interest in the universal scope of Jesus’ mission; cf. Gn 22:18 “…. in your descendants all the nations of the earth shall find blessing.”
- [1:17] Matthew is concerned with fourteen generations because fourteen is the numerical value of the Hebrew letters forming the name of David.
- [1:18–25] Although the virginal conception of Jesus is the work of the Spirit of God, Joseph’s decision to divorce Mary is overcome by the heavenly command that he take her into his home and accept the child as his own. Thus the natural genealogical line is broken but the promises to David are fulfilled; through Joseph’s adoption the child belongs to the family of David. Matthew sees the virginal conception as the fulfillment of Is 7:14.
- [1:18] Betrothed to Joseph: betrothal was the first part of the marriage, constituting a man and woman as husband and wife. Subsequent infidelity was considered adultery. The betrothal was followed some months later by the husband’s taking his wife into his home, at which time normal married life began.
- [1:21] Jesus: in first-century Judaism the Hebrew name Joshua (Greek Iēsous) meaning “Yahweh helps” was interpreted as “Yahweh saves.”
- [1:23] God is with us: God’s promise of deliverance to Judah in Isaiah’s time is seen by Matthew as fulfilled in the birth of Jesus, in whom God is with his people. The name Emmanuel is alluded to at the end of the gospel where the risen Jesus assures his disciples of his continued presence, “…I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Mt 28:20).
- [1:25] Until she bore a son: the evangelist is concerned to emphasize that Joseph was not responsible for the conception of Jesus. The Greek word translated “until” does not imply normal marital conduct after Jesus’ birth, nor does it exclude it.
The Visit of the Magi.
- [2:1] In the days of King Herod: Herod reigned from 37 to 4 B.C. Magi: originally a designation of the Persian priestly caste, the word became used of those who were regarded as having more than human knowledge. Matthew’s magi are astrologers.
- [2:2] We saw his star: it was a common ancient belief that a new star appeared at the time of a ruler’s birth. Matthew also draws upon the Old Testament story of Balaam, who had prophesied that “A star shall advance from Jacob” (Nm 24:17), though there the star means not an astral phenomenon but the king himself
- [2:4] Herod’s consultation with the chief priests and scribes has some similarity to a Jewish legend about the child Moses in which the “sacred scribes” warn Pharaoh about the imminent birth of one who will deliver Israel from Egypt and the king makes plans to destroy him
- [2:15] The fulfillment citation is taken from Hos 11:1. Israel, God’s son, was called out of Egypt at the time of the Exodus; Jesus, the Son of God, will similarly be called out of that land in a new exodus. The father-son relationship between God and the nation is set in a higher key. Here the son is not a group adopted as “son of God,” but the child who, as conceived by the holy Spirit, stands in unique relation to God. He is son of David and of Abraham, of Mary and of Joseph, but, above all, of God
- [2:22] With the agreement of the emperor Augustus, Archelaus received half of his father’s kingdom, including Judea, after Herod’s death. He had the title “ethnarch” (i.e., “ruler of a nation”) and reigned from 4 B.C. to A.D. 6
- [2:23] Nazareth…he shall be called a Nazorean: the tradition of Jesus’ residence in Nazareth was firmly established, and Matthew sees it as being in accordance with the foreannounced plan of God. The town of Nazareth is not mentioned in the Old Testament, and no such prophecy can be found there. The most reasonable explanation for this is that it may have been a prophecy handed down through Jewish Tradition.
The Preaching of John the Baptist.
4John wore clothing made of camel’s hair and had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey.
5 At that time Jerusalem, all Judea, and the whole region around the Jordan were going out to him
- [3:1] Unlike Luke, Matthew says nothing of the Baptist’s origins and does not make him a relative of Jesus.
- [3:4] The clothing of John recalls the austere dress of the prophet Elijah (2 Kgs 1:8). The expectation of the return of Elijah from heaven to prepare Israel for the final manifestation of God’s kingdom was widespread, and according to Matthew this expectation was fulfilled in the Baptist’s ministry (Mt 11:14; 17:11–13)
- [3:6] Ritual washing was practiced by various groups in Palestine between 150 B.C. and A.D. 250. John’s baptism may have been related to the purificatory washings of the Essenes at Qumran
- [3:7] Pharisees and Sadducees: the former were marked by devotion to the law, written and oral, and the scribes, experts in the law, belonged predominantly to this group. The Sadducees were the priestly aristocratic party, centered in Jerusalem. They accepted as scripture only the first five books of the Old Testament, followed only the letter of the law, rejected the oral legal traditions, and were opposed to teachings not found in the Pentateuch, such as the resurrection of the dead. Matthew links both of these groups together as enemies of Jesus (Mt 16:1, 6, 11, 12; cf. Mk 8:11–13, 15). The threatening words that follow are addressed to them rather than to “the crowds” as in Lk 3:7.
- [3:12] The discrimination between the good and the bad is compared to the procedure by which a farmer separates wheat and chaff. The winnowing fan was a forklike shovel with which the threshed wheat was thrown into the air. The kernels fell to the ground; the light chaff, blown off by the wind, was gathered and burned up.
- [3:13–17] The baptism of Jesus is the occasion on which he is equipped for his ministry by the holy Spirit and proclaimed to be the Son of God.
- [3:14–15] This dialogue, peculiar to Matthew, reveals John’s awareness of Jesus’ superiority to him as the mightier one who is coming and who will baptize with the holy Spirit (Mt 3:11). His reluctance to admit Jesus among the sinners whom he is baptizing with water is overcome by Jesus’ response. To fulfill all righteousness: in this gospel to fulfill usually refers to fulfillment of prophecy, and righteousness to moral conduct in conformity with God’s will. Here, however, as in Mt 5:6; 6:33, righteousness seems to mean the saving activity of God. To fulfill all righteousness is to submit to the plan of God for the salvation of the human race. This involves Jesus’ identification with sinners; hence the propriety of his accepting John’s baptism.
The Temptation of Jesus.
5 Then the devil took him to the holy city, and made him stand on the parapet of the temple,
6 and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down. For it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you’ and ‘with their hands they will support you, lest you dash your foot against a stone.’”
7 Jesus answered him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.’”
11Then the devil left him and, behold, angels came and ministered to him.
The Beginning of the Galilean Ministry.
16 the people who sit in darkness have seen a great light, on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death light has arisen.”
17 From that time on, Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
The Call of the First Disciples.
Ministering to a Great Multitude.
- [4:1–11] Jesus, proclaimed Son of God at his baptism, is subjected to a triple temptation. Obedience to the Father is a characteristic of true sonship, and Jesus is tempted by the devil to rebel against God, overtly in the third case, more subtly in the first two. Each refusal of Jesus is expressed in language taken from the Book of Deuteronomy (Dt 8:3; 6:13, 16). The testings of Jesus resemble those of Israel during the wandering in the desert and later in Canaan, and the victory of Jesus, the true Israel and the true Son, contrasts with the failure of the ancient and disobedient “son,” the old Israel. In the temptation account Matthew is almost identical with Luke; both seem to have drawn upon the same source.
- [4:2] Forty days and forty nights: the same time as that during which Moses remained on Sinai (Ex 24:18). The time reference, however, seems primarily intended to recall the forty years during which Israel was tempted in the desert (Dt 8:2).
- [4:4] Cf. Dt 8:3. Jesus refuses to use his power for his own benefit and accepts whatever God wills
- [4:5–7] The devil supports his proposal by an appeal to the scriptures, Ps 91:11a, 12. Unlike Israel (Dt 6:16), Jesus refuses to “test” God by demanding from him an extraordinary show of power.
- [4:9] The worship of Satan to which Jesus is tempted is probably intended to recall Israel’s worship of false gods. His refusal is expressed in the words of Dt 6:13
- [4:12–17] Isaiah’s prophecy of the light rising upon Zebulun and Naphtali (Is 8:22–9:1) is fulfilled in Jesus’ residence at Capernaum. The territory of these two tribes was the first to be devastated (733–32 B.C.) at the time of the Assyrian invasion. In order to accommodate Jesus’ move to Capernaum to the prophecy, Matthew speaks of that town as being “in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali” (Mt 4:13), whereas it was only in the territory of the latter, and he understands the sea of the prophecy, the Mediterranean, as the sea of Galilee
- [4:17] At the beginning of his preaching Jesus takes up the words of John the Baptist (Mt 3:2) although with a different meaning; in his ministry the kingdom of heaven has already begun to be present (Mt 12:28).
- [4:18–22] The call of the first disciples promises them a share in Jesus’ work and entails abandonment of family and former way of life. Three of the four, Simon, James, and John, are distinguished among the disciples by a closer relation with Jesus (Mt 17:1; 26:37)
- [4:23] Their synagogues: Matthew usually designates the Jewish synagogues as their synagogue(s) (Mt 9:35; 10:17; 12:9; 13:54) or, in address to Jews, your synagogues (Mt 23:34), an indication that he wrote after the break between church and synagogue.
- [4:25] The Decapolis: a federation of Greek cities in Palestine, originally ten in number, all but one east of the Jordan.
The Sermon on the Mount.
The Similes of Salt and Light.
Teaching About the Law.
Teaching About Anger.
Teaching About Adultery.
Teaching About Divorce.
Teaching About Oaths.
Teaching About Retaliation.
Love of Enemies.
- [5:1–7:29] The first of the five discourses that are a central part of the structure of this gospel. It is the discourse section of the first book and contains sayings of Jesus derived from Q and from M. The Lucan parallel is in that gospel’s “Sermon on the Plain” (Lk 6:20–49)
- [5:3–12] The form Blessed are (is) occurs frequently in the Old Testament in the Wisdom literature and in the psalms.
- [5:3] The poor in spirit: in the Old Testament, the poor (’anāwîm) are those who are without material possessions and whose confidence is in God (see Is 61:1; Zep 2:3). Matthew added in spirit in order either to indicate that only the devout poor were meant or to extend the beatitude to all, of whatever social rank, who recognized their complete dependence on God.
- [5:8] Cf. Ps 24:4. Only one “whose heart is clean” can take part in the temple worship. To be with God in the temple is described in Ps 42:3 as “beholding his face,” but here the promise to the clean of heart is that they will see God not in the temple but in the coming kingdom.
- [5:13–16] By their deeds the disciples are to influence the world for good. They can no more escape notice than a city set on a mountain. If they fail in good works, they are as useless as flavorless salt or as a lamp whose light is concealed.
- [5:13] The unusual supposition of salt losing its flavor has led some to suppose that the saying refers to the salt of the Dead Sea that, because chemically impure, could lose its taste.
- [5:17–20] This statement of Jesus’ position concerning the Mosaic law is composed of traditional material from Matthew’s sermon documentation (see note on Mt 5:1–7:29), other Q material (cf. Mt 18; Lk 16:17), and the evangelist’s own editorial touches.
- [5:21–48] Six examples of the conduct demanded of the Christian disciple. Each deals with a commandment of the law, but as “antitheses.” Three of them accept the Mosaic law but extend or deepen it (Mt 5:21–22; 27–28; 43–44); three reject it as a standard of conduct for the disciples (Mt 5:31–32; 33–37; 38–39).
- [5:21] Cf. Ex 20:13; Dt 5:17. The second part of the verse is not an exact quotation from the Old Testament, but cf. Ex 21:12.
- [5:22] Anger is the motive behind murder. Raqa: an Aramaic word rēqā’ or rēqâ probably meaning “imbecile,” a term of abuse. The ascending order of punishment, judgment (by a local council), trial before the Sanhedrin, condemnation to Gehenna, points to a higher degree of seriousness in each of the offenses. Sanhedrin: the highest judicial body of Judaism. Gehenna: in Hebrew gê-hinnōm, “Valley of Hinnom,” or gê ben-hinnōm, “Valley of the son of Hinnom,” southwest of Jerusalem, the center of an idolatrous cult during the monarchy in which children were offered in sacrifice (see 2 Kgs 23:10; Jer 7:31). In Jos 18:16 (Septuagint, Codex Vaticanus) the Hebrew is transliterated into Greek as gaienna, which appears in the New Testament as geenna. The concept of punishment of sinners by fire either after death or after the final judgment is found in Jewish apocalyptic literature (e.g., Enoch 90:26) but the name geenna is first given to the place of punishment in the New Testament.
- [5:29–30] No sacrifice is too great to avoid total destruction in Gehenna.
- [5:31–32] See Dt 24:1–5. The Old Testament commandment that a bill of divorce be given to the woman assumes the legitimacy of divorce itself. Matthew’s “exceptive clauses” are understood by some as a modification of the absolute prohibition. It seems, however, that the unlawfulness that Matthew gives as a reason why a marriage must be broken refers to a situation peculiar to his community: the violation of Mosaic law forbidding marriage between persons of certain blood and/or legal relationship (Lv 18:6–18). Marriages of that sort were regarded as incest (porneia), but some rabbis allowed Gentile converts to Judaism who had contracted such marriages to remain in them. Matthew’s “exceptive clause” is against such permissiveness for Gentile converts to Christianity; cf. the similar prohibition of porneia in Acts 15:20, 29.
- [5:43–48] See Lv 19:18. There is no Old Testament commandment demanding hatred of one’s enemy, but the “neighbor” of the love commandment was understood as one’s fellow countryman. Both in the Old Testament (Ps 139:19–22) and at Qumran (1QS 9:21) hatred of evil persons is assumed to be right. Jesus extends the love commandment to the enemy and the persecutor.
Teaching About Almsgiving.
Teaching About Prayer.
The Lord’s Prayer.
Teaching About Fasting.
Treasure in Heaven.
The Light of the Body.
God and Money.
Dependence on God.
- [6:7–15] Matthew inserts into his basic traditional material an expansion of the material on prayer that includes the model prayer, the “Our Father.” That prayer is found in Lk 11:2–4 in a different context and in a different form.
- [6:7] The example of what Christian prayer should be like contrasts it now not with the prayer of the hypocrites but with that of the pagans. Their babbling probably means their reciting a long list of divine names, hoping that one of them will force a response from the deity.
- [6:9–13] Matthew’s form of the “Our Father” follows the liturgical tradition of his church. Luke’s less developed form also represents the liturgical tradition known to him, but it is probably closer than Matthew’s to the original words of Jesus.
- [6:9] Our Father in heaven: this invocation is found in many rabbinic prayers of the post-New Testament period. Hallowed be your name: though the “hallowing” of the divine name could be understood as reverence done to God by human praise and by obedience to his will, this is more probably a petition that God hallow his own name, i.e., that he manifest his glory by an act of power (cf. Ez 36:23), in this case, by the establishment of his kingdom in its fullness.
- [6:10] Your kingdom come: this petition sets the tone of the prayer, and inclines the balance toward divine rather than human action in the petitions that immediately precede and follow it. Your will be done, on earth as in heaven: a petition that the divine purpose to establish the kingdom, a purpose present now in heaven, be executed on earth.
- [6:11] Give us today our daily bread: the rare Greek word epiousios, here daily, occurs in the New Testament only here and in Lk 11:3. A single occurrence of the word outside of these texts and of literature dependent on them has been claimed, but the claim is highly doubtful. The word may mean daily or “future” (other meanings have also been proposed). The latter would conform better to the eschatological tone of the whole prayer. So understood, the petition would be for a speedy coming of the kingdom (today), which is often portrayed in both the Old Testament and the New under the image of a feast (Is 25:6; Mt 8:11; 22:1–10; Lk 13:29; 14:15–24).
- [6:13] Jewish apocalyptic writings speak of a period of severe trial before the end of the age, sometimes called the “messianic woes.” This petition asks that the disciples be spared that final test.
- [6:16] The only fast prescribed in the Mosaic law was that of the Day of Atonement (Lv 16:31), but the practice of regular fasting was common in later Judaism; cf. Didache 9:1.
- [6:24] Mammon: an Aramaic word meaning wealth or property.
Pearls Before Swine.
The Answer to Prayers.
The Golden Rule.
The Narrow Gate.
The True Disciple.
The Two Foundations.
- [7:1] This is not a prohibition against recognizing the faults of others, which would be hardly compatible with Mt 7:5, 6 but against passing judgment in a spirit of arrogance, forgetful of one’s own faults.
- [7:6] Dogs and swine were Jewish terms of contempt for Gentiles. This saying may originally have derived from a Jewish Christian community opposed to preaching the gospel (what is holy, pearls) to Gentiles. In the light of Mt 28:19 that can hardly be Matthew’s meaning. He may have taken the saying as applying to a Christian dealing with an obstinately impenitent fellow Christian (Mt 18:17).
- [7:9–10] There is a resemblance between a stone and a round loaf of bread and between a serpent and the scaleless fish called barbut.
- [7:13–14] The metaphor of the “two ways” was common in pagan philosophy and in the Old Testament. In Christian literature it is found also in the Didache (1–6) and the Epistle of Barnabas (18–20).
- [7:15–20] Christian disciples who claimed to speak in the name of God are called prophets (Mt 7:15) in Mt 10:41; Mt 23:34. They were presumably an important group within the church of Matthew. As in the case of the Old Testament prophets, there were both true and false ones, and for Matthew the difference could be recognized by the quality of their deeds, the fruits (Mt 7:16). The mention of fruits leads to the comparison with trees, some producing good fruit, others bad.
The Cleansing of a Leper.
The Healing of a Centurion’s Servant.
The Cure of Peter’s Mother-in-Law.
The Would-be Followers of Jesus.
The Calming of the Storm at Sea.
The Healing of the Gadarene Demoniacs.
- [8:5–13] This story comes from Q (see Lk 7:1–10) and is also reflected in Jn 4:46–54. The similarity between the Q story and the Johannine is due to a common oral tradition, not to a common literary source. As in the later story of the daughter of the Canaanite woman (Mt 15:21–28) Jesus here breaks with his usual procedure of ministering only to Israelites and anticipates the mission to the Gentiles.
- [8:5] A centurion: a military officer commanding a hundred men. He was probably in the service of Herod Antipas, tetrarch of Galilee; see note on Mt 14:1.
- [8:19] Teacher (rabbi): for Matthew, this designation of Jesus is true, for he has Jesus using it of himself (Mt 10:24, 25; 23:8; 26:18), yet when it is used of him by others they are either his opponents (Mt 9:11; 12:38; 17:24; 22:16, 24, 36) or, as here and in Mt 19:16, well-disposed persons who cannot see more deeply. Thus it reveals an inadequate recognition of who Jesus is.
- [8:20] Son of Man: see note on Mk 8:31. This is the first occurrence in Matthew of a term that appears in the New Testament only in sayings of Jesus, except for Acts 7:56 and possibly Mt 9:6 (//Mk 2:10; Lk 5:24). In Matthew it refers to Jesus in his ministry (seven times, as here), in his passion and resurrection (nine times, e.g., Mt 17:22), and in his glorious coming at the end of the age (thirteen times, e.g., Mt 24:30).
- [8:22] Let the dead bury their dead: the demand of Jesus overrides what both the Jewish and the Hellenistic world regarded as a filial obligation of the highest importance. See note on Lk 9:60.
- [8:28] Gadarenes: this is the reading of Codex Vaticanus, supported by other important textual witnesses. The original reading of Codex Sinaiticus was Gazarenes, later changed to Gergesenes, and a few versions have Gerasenes. Each of these readings points to a different territory connected, respectively, with the cities Gadara, Gergesa, and Gerasa (modern Jerash). There is the same confusion of readings in the parallel texts, Mk 5:1 and Lk 8:26; there the best reading seems to be “Gerasenes,” whereas “Gadarenes” is probably the original reading in Matthew. The town of Gadara was about five miles southeast of the Sea of Galilee, and Josephus (Life 9:42) refers to it as possessing territory that lay on that sea. Two demoniacs: Mark (5:1–20) has one.
- [8:29] What have you to do with us?: see note on Jn 2:4. Before the appointed time: the notion that evil spirits were allowed by God to afflict human beings until the time of the final judgment is found in Enoch 16:1 and Jubilees 10:7–10.
- [8:30] The tending of pigs, animals considered unclean by Mosaic law (Lv 11:6–7), indicates that the population was Gentile.
The Healing of a Paralytic.
The Call of Matthew.
The Question About Fasting.
The Official’s Daughter and the Woman with a Hemorrhage.
The Healing of Two Blind Men.
The Healing of a Mute Person.
The Compassion of Jesus.
- [9:9] A man named Matthew: Mark names this tax collector Levi (Mk 2:14). No such name appears in the four lists of the twelve who were the closest companions of Jesus (Mt 10:2–4; Mk 3:16–19; Lk 6:14–16; Acts 1:13 [eleven, because of the defection of Judas Iscariot]), whereas all four list a Matthew, designated in Mt 10:3 as “the tax collector.” The evangelist may have changed the “Levi” of his source to Matthew so that this man, whose call is given special notice, like that of the first four disciples (Mt 4:18–22), might be included among the twelve. Another reason for the change may be that the disciple Matthew was the source of traditions peculiar to the church for which the evangelist was writing.
- [9:15] Fasting is a sign of mourning and would be as inappropriate at this time of joy, when Jesus is proclaiming the kingdom, as it would be at a marriage feast. Yet the saying looks forward to the time when Jesus will no longer be with the disciples visibly, the time of Matthew’s church. Then they will fast: see Didache 8:1.
- [9:37–38] This Q saying (see Lk 10:2) is only imperfectly related to this context. It presupposes that only God (the master of the harvest) can take the initiative in sending out preachers of the gospel, whereas in Matthew’s setting it leads into Mt 10 where Jesus does so.
The Mission of the Twelve.
The Commissioning of the Twelve.
Courage Under Persecution.
Jesus: A Cause of Division.
The Conditions of Discipleship.
- [10:1] His twelve disciples: although, unlike Mark (Mk 3:13–14) and Luke (Lk 6:12–16), Matthew has no story of Jesus’ choosing the Twelve, he assumes that the group is known to the reader. The earliest New Testament text to speak of it is 1 Cor 15:5. The number probably is meant to recall the twelve tribes of Israel and implies Jesus’ authority to call all Israel into the kingdom. While Luke (Lk 6:13) and probably Mark (Mk 4:10, 34) distinguish between the Twelve and a larger group also termed disciples, Matthew tends to identify the disciples and the Twelve. Authority…every illness: activities the same as those of Jesus; see Mt 4:23; Mt 9:35; 10:8. The Twelve also share in his proclamation of the kingdom (Mt 10:7). But although he teaches (Mt 4:23; 7:28; 9:35), they do not. Their commission to teach comes only after Jesus’ resurrection, after they have been fully instructed by him (Mt 28:20).
- [10:2–4] Here, for the only time in Matthew, the Twelve are designated apostles. The word “apostle” means “one who is sent,” and therefore fits the situation here described. In the Pauline letters, the place where the term occurs most frequently in the New Testament, it means primarily one who has seen the risen Lord and has been commissioned to proclaim the resurrection. With slight variants in Luke and Acts, the names of those who belong to this group are the same in the four lists given in the New Testament (see note on Mt 9:9). Cananean: this represents an Aramaic word meaning “zealot.” The meaning of that designation is unclear (see note on Lk 6:15).
The Messengers from John the Baptist.
Jesus’ Testimony to John.
Reproaches to Unrepentant Towns.
The Praise of the Father.
The Gentle Mastery of Christ.
- [11:9–10] In common Jewish belief there had been no prophecy in Israel since the last of the Old Testament prophets, Malachi. The coming of a new prophet was eagerly awaited, and Jesus agrees that John was such. Yet he was more than a prophet, for he was the precursor of the one who would bring in the new and final age. The Old Testament quotation is a combination of Mal 3:1; Ex 23:20 with the significant change that the before me of Malachi becomes before you. The messenger now precedes not God, as in the original, but Jesus.
- [11:12] The meaning of this difficult saying is probably that the opponents of Jesus are trying to prevent people from accepting the kingdom and to snatch it away from those who have received it.
- [11:16–19] See Lk 7:31–35. The meaning of the parable (Mt 11:16–17) and its explanation (Mt 11:18–19b) is much disputed. A plausible view is that the children of the parable are two groups, one of which proposes different entertainments to the other that will not agree with either proposal. The first represents John, Jesus, and their disciples; the second those who reject John for his asceticism and Jesus for his table association with those despised by the religiously observant. Mt 11:19c (her works) forms an inclusion with Mt 11:2 (“the works of the Messiah”). The original form of the saying is better preserved in Lk 7:35 “…wisdom is vindicated by all her children.” There John and Jesus are the children of Wisdom; here the works of Jesus the Messiah are those of divine Wisdom, of which he is the embodiment. Some important textual witnesses, however, have essentially the same reading as in Luke.
- [11:21] Tyre and Sidon were pagan cities denounced for their wickedness in the Old Testament; cf. Jl 4:4–7.
- [11:23] Capernaum’s pride and punishment are described in language taken from the taunt song against the king of Babylon (Is 14:13–15).
- [11:25–27] This Q saying, identical with Lk 10:21–22 except for minor variations, introduces a joyous note into this section, so dominated by the theme of unbelief. While the wise and the learned, the scribes and Pharisees, have rejected Jesus’ preaching and the significance of his mighty deeds, the childlike have accepted them. Acceptance depends upon the Father’s revelation, but this is granted to those who are open to receive it and refused to the arrogant. Jesus can speak of all mysteries because he is the Son and there is perfect reciprocity of knowledge between him and the Father; what has been handed over to him is revealed only to those whom he wishes.
Picking Grain on the Sabbath.
The Man with a Withered Hand.
The Chosen Servant.
Jesus and Beelzebul.
A Tree and Its Fruits.
The Demand for a Sign.
The Return of the Unclean Spirit.
The True Family of Jesus.
- [12:3–4] See 1 Sm 21:2–7. In the Marcan parallel (Mk 2:25–26) the high priest is called Abiathar, although in 1 Samuel this action is attributed to Ahimelech. The Old Testament story is not about a violation of the sabbath rest; its pertinence to this dispute is that a violation of the law was permissible because of David’s men being without food.
- [12:5–6] This and the following argument (Mt 12:7) are peculiar to Matthew. The temple service seems to be the changing of the showbread on the sabbath (Lv 24:8) and the doubling on the sabbath of the usual daily holocausts (Nm 28:9–10). The argument is that the law itself requires work that breaks the sabbath rest, because of the higher duty of temple service. If temple duties outweigh the sabbath law, how much more does the presence of Jesus, with his proclamation of the kingdom (something greater than the temple), justify the conduct of his disciples.
- [12:15–21] Matthew follows Mk 3:7–12 but summarizes his source in two verses (Mt 12:15, 16) that pick up the withdrawal, the healings, and the command for silence. To this he adds a fulfillment citation from the first Servant Song (Is 42:1–4) that does not correspond exactly to either the Hebrew or the LXX of that passage. It is the longest Old Testament citation in this gospel, emphasizing the meekness of Jesus, the Servant of the Lord, and foretelling the extension of his mission to the Gentiles.
- [12:25–26] Jesus’ first response to the Pharisees’ charge is that if it were true, Satan would be destroying his own kingdom.
- [12:27] Besides pointing out the absurdity of the charge, Jesus asks how the work of Jewish exorcists (your own people) is to be interpreted. Are they, too, to be charged with collusion with Beelzebul? For an example of Jewish exorcism see Josephus, Antiquities 8:42–49.
- [12:29] A short parable illustrates what Jesus is doing. The strong man is Satan, whom Jesus has tied up and whose house he is plundering. Jewish expectation was that Satan would be chained up in the last days (Rev 20:2); Jesus’ exorcisms indicate that those days have begun.
- [12:40] See Jon 2:1. While in Q the sign was simply Jonah’s preaching to the Ninevites (Lk 11:30, 32), Matthew here adds Jonah’s sojourn in the belly of the whale for three days and three nights, a prefigurement of Jesus’ sojourn in the abode of the dead and, implicitly, of his resurrection.
- [12:47] This verse is omitted in some important textual witnesses, including Codex Sinaiticus (original reading) and Codex Vaticanus.
The Parable of the Sower.
The Purpose of Parables.
The Privilege of Discipleship.
The Explanation of the Parable of the Sower.
The Parable of the Weeds Among the Wheat.
The Parable of the Mustard Seed.
The Parable of the Yeast.
The Use of Parables.
The Explanation of the Parable of the Weeds.
Treasures New and Old.
The Rejection at Nazareth.
- [13:3] In parables: the word “parable” (Greek parabolē) is used in the LXX to translate the Hebrew māshāl, a designation covering a wide variety of literary forms such as axioms, proverbs, similitudes, and allegories. In the New Testament the same breadth of meaning of the word is found, but there it primarily designates stories that are illustrative comparisons between Christian truths and events of everyday life. Sometimes the event has a strange element that is quite different from usual experience (e.g., in Mt 13:33 the enormous amount of dough in the parable of the yeast); this is meant to sharpen the curiosity of the hearer. If each detail of such a story is given a figurative meaning, the story is an allegory. Those who maintain a sharp distinction between parable and allegory insist that a parable has only one point of comparison, and that while parables were characteristic of Jesus’ teaching, to see allegorical details in them is to introduce meanings that go beyond their original intention and even falsify it. However, to exclude any allegorical elements from a parable is an excessively rigid mode of interpretation, now abandoned by many scholars.
- [13:11] Since a parable is figurative speech that demands reflection for understanding, only those who are prepared to explore its meaning can come to know it. To understand is a gift of God, granted to the disciples but not to the crowds. In Semitic fashion, both the disciples’ understanding and the crowd’s obtuseness are attributed to God. The question of human responsibility for the obtuseness is not dealt with, although it is asserted in Mt 13:13. The mysteries: as in Lk 8:10; Mk 4:11 has “the mystery.” The word is used in Dn 2:18, 19, 27 and in the Qumran literature (1QpHab 7:8; 1QS 3:23; 1QM 3:9) to designate a divine plan or decree affecting the course of history that can be known only when revealed. Knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven means recognition that the kingdom has become present in the ministry of Jesus.
- [13:13] Because ‘they look…or understand’: Matthew softens his Marcan source, which states that Jesus speaks in parables so that the crowds may not understand (Mk 4:12), and makes such speaking a punishment given because they have not accepted his previous clear teaching. However, his citation of Is 6:9–10 in Mt 13:14 supports the harsher Marcan view.
- [13:54–58] After the Sermon on the Mount the crowds are in admiring astonishment at Jesus’ teaching (Mt 7:28); here the astonishment is of those who take offense at him. Familiarity with his background and family leads them to regard him as pretentious. Matthew modifies his Marcan source (Mk 6:1–6). Jesus is not the carpenter but the carpenter’s son (Mt 13:55), “and among his own kin” is omitted (Mt 13:57), he did not work many mighty deeds in face of such unbelief (Mt 13:58) rather than the Marcan “…he was not able to perform any mighty deed there” (Mt 6:5), and there is no mention of his amazement at his townspeople’s lack of faith.
Herod’s Opinion of Jesus.
The Death of John the Baptist.
The Return of the Twelve and the Feeding of the Five Thousand.
The Walking on the Water.
The Healings at Gennesaret.
- [14:1–12] The murder of the Baptist by Herod Antipas prefigures the death of Jesus (see Mt 17:12). The Marcan source (Mk 6:14–29) is much reduced and in some points changed. In Mark Herod reveres John as a holy man and the desire to kill him is attributed to Herodias (Mk 6:19, 20), whereas here that desire is Herod’s from the beginning (Mt 14:5).
- [14:1] Herod the tetrarch: Herod Antipas, son of Herod the Great. When the latter died, his territory was divided among three of his surviving sons, Archelaus who received half of it (Mt 2:23), Herod Antipas who became ruler of Galilee and Perea, and Philip who became ruler of northern Transjordan. Since he received a quarter of his father’s domain, Antipas is accurately designated tetrarch (“ruler of a fourth [part]”), although in Mt 14:9 Matthew repeats the “king” of his Marcan source (Mk 6:26).
- [14:3] Herodias was not the wife of Herod’s half-brother Philip but of another half-brother, Herod Boethus. The union was prohibited by Lv 18:16; 20:21. According to Josephus (Antiquities 18:116–19), Herod imprisoned and then executed John because he feared that the Baptist’s influence over the people might enable him to lead a rebellion.
- [14:13–21] The feeding of the five thousand is the only miracle of Jesus that is recounted in all four gospels. The principal reason for that may be that it was seen as anticipating the Eucharist and the final banquet in the kingdom (Mt 8:11; 26:29), but it looks not only forward but backward, to the feeding of Israel with manna in the desert at the time of the Exodus (Ex 16), a miracle that in some contemporary Jewish expectation would be repeated in the messianic age (2 Bar 29:8). It may also be meant to recall Elisha’s feeding a hundred men with small provisions (2 Kgs 4:42–44).
- [14:19] The taking, saying the blessing, breaking, and giving to the disciples correspond to the actions of Jesus over the bread at the Last Supper (Mt 26:26). Since they were usual at any Jewish meal, that correspondence does not necessarily indicate a eucharistic reference here. Matthew’s silence about Jesus’ dividing the fish among the people (Mk 6:41) is perhaps more significant in that regard.
- [14:20] The fragments left over: as in Elisha’s miracle, food was left over after all had been fed. The word fragments (Greek klasmata) is used, in the singular, of the broken bread of the Eucharist in Didache 9:3–4.
- [14:25] The fourth watch of the night: between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m. The Romans divided the twelve hours between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. into four equal parts called “watches.”
The Tradition of the Elders.
The Canaanite Woman’s Faith.
The Healing of Many People.
The Feeding of the Four Thousand.
- [15:1–20] This dispute begins with the question of the Pharisees and scribes why Jesus’ disciples are breaking the tradition of the elders about washing one’s hands before eating (Mt 15:2). Jesus’ counterquestion accuses his opponents of breaking the commandment of God for the sake of their tradition (Mt 15:3) and illustrates this by their interpretation of the commandment of the Decalogue concerning parents (Mt 15:4–6). Denouncing them as hypocrites, he applies to them a derogatory prophecy of Isaiah (Mt 15:7–8). Then with a wider audience (the crowd, Mt 15:10) he goes beyond the violation of tradition with which the dispute has started. The parable (Mt 15:11) is an attack on the Mosaic law concerning clean and unclean foods, similar to those antitheses that abrogate the law (Mt 5:31–32, 33–34, 38–39). After a warning to his disciples not to follow the moral guidance of the Pharisees (Mt 15:13–14), he explains the parable (Mt 15:15) to them, saying that defilement comes not from what enters the mouth (Mt 15:17) but from the evil thoughts and deeds that rise from within, from the heart (Mt 15:18–20). The last verse returns to the starting point of the dispute (eating with unwashed hands). Because of Matthew’s omission of Mk 7:19b, some scholars think that Matthew has weakened the Marcan repudiation of the Mosaic food laws. But that half verse is ambiguous in the Greek, which may be the reason for its omission here.
- [15:8] The text of Is 29:13 is quoted approximately according to the Septuagint.
- [15:36] Gave thanks: see Mt 14:19, “said the blessing.” There is no difference in meaning. The thanksgiving was a blessing of God for his benefits.
The Demand for a Sign.
The Leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
Peter’s Confession About Jesus.
The First Prediction of the Passion.
The Conditions of Discipleship.
- [16:5–12] Jesus’ warning his disciples against the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees comes immediately before his promise to confer on Peter the authority to bind and to loose on earth (Mt 16:19), an authority that will be confirmed in heaven. Such authority most probably has to do, at least in part, with teaching. The rejection of the teaching authority of the Pharisees (see also Mt 12:12–14) prepares for a new one derived from Jesus.
- [16:12] After his rebuke, the disciples understand that by leaven he meant the corrupting influence of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. The evangelist probably understands this teaching as common to both groups. Since at the time of Jesus’ ministry the two differed widely on points of teaching, e.g., the resurrection of the dead, and at the time of the evangelist the Sadducee party was no longer a force in Judaism, the supposed common teaching fits neither period. The disciples’ eventual understanding of Jesus’ warning contrasts with their continuing obtuseness in the Marcan parallel (Mk 8:14–21).
- [16:13–20] The Marcan confession of Jesus as Messiah, made by Peter as spokesman for the other disciples (Mk 8:27–29; cf. also Lk 9:18–20), is modified significantly here. The confession is of Jesus both as Messiah and as Son of the living God (Mt 16:16). Jesus’ response, drawn principally from material peculiar to Matthew, attributes the confession to a divine revelation granted to Peter alone (Mt 16:17) and makes him the rock on which Jesus will build his church (Mt 16:18) and the disciple whose authority in the church on earth will be confirmed in heaven, i.e., by God (Mt 16:19).
- [16:13] Caesarea Philippi: situated about twenty miles north of the Sea of Galilee in the territory ruled by Philip, a son of Herod the Great, tetrarch from 4 B.C. until his death in A.D. 34 (see note on Mt 14:1). He rebuilt the town of Paneas, naming it Caesarea in honor of the emperor, and Philippi (“of Philip”) to distinguish it from the seaport in Samaria that was also called Caesarea. Who do people say that the Son of Man is?: although the question differs from the Marcan parallel (Mk 8:27: “Who…that I am?”), the meaning is the same, for Jesus here refers to himself as the Son of Man (cf. Mt 16:15).
- [16:18] You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church: the Aramaic word kēpā’ meaning rock and transliterated into Greek as Kēphas is the name by which Peter is called in the Pauline letters (1 Cor 1:12; 3:22; 9:5; 15:4; Gal 1:18; 2:9, 11, 14) except in Gal 2:7–8 (“Peter”). It is translated as Petros (“Peter”) in Jn 1:42. The presumed original Aramaic of Jesus’ statement would have been, in English, “You are the Rock (Kēpā’) and upon this rock (kēpā’) I will build my church.” The Greek text probably means the same, for the difference in gender between the masculine noun petros, the disciple’s new name, and the feminine noun petra (rock) may be due simply to the unsuitability of using a feminine noun as the proper name of a male. Although the two words were generally used with slightly different nuances, they were also used interchangeably with the same meaning, “rock.” Church: this word (Greek ekklēsia) occurs in the gospels only here and in Mt 18:17 (twice). There are several possibilities for an Aramaic original. Jesus’ church means the community that he will gather and that, like a building, will have Peter as its solid foundation. That function of Peter consists in his being witness to Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of the living God. The gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it: the netherworld (Greek Hadēs, the abode of the dead) is conceived of as a walled city whose gates will not close in upon the church of Jesus, i.e., it will not be overcome by the power of death.
- [16:19] The keys to the kingdom of heaven: the image of the keys is probably drawn from Is 22:15–25 where Eliakim, who succeeds Shebna as master of the palace, is given “the key of the House of David,” which he authoritatively “opens” and “shuts” (Is 22:22). Whatever you bind…loosed in heaven: there are many instances in rabbinic literature of the binding-loosing imagery. Of the several meanings given there to the metaphor, two are of special importance here: the giving of authoritative teaching, and the lifting or imposing of the ban of excommunication. It is disputed whether the image of the keys and that of binding and loosing are different metaphors meaning the same thing. In any case, the promise of the keys is given to Peter alone. In Mt 18:18 all the disciples are given the power of binding and loosing, but the context of that verse suggests that there the power of excommunication alone is intended. That the keys are those to the kingdom of heaven and that Peter’s exercise of authority in the church on earth will be confirmed in heaven show an intimate connection between, but not an identification of, the church and the kingdom of heaven.
- [16:22–23] Peter’s refusal to accept Jesus’ predicted suffering and death is seen as a satanic attempt to deflect Jesus from his God-appointed course, and the disciple is addressed in terms that recall Jesus’ dismissal of the devil in the temptation account (Mt 4:10: “Get away, Satan!”). Peter’s satanic purpose is emphasized by Matthew’s addition to the Marcan source of the words You are an obstacle to me.
The Transfiguration of Jesus.
The Coming of Elijah.
The Healing of a Boy with a Demon.
The Second Prediction of the Passion.
Payment of the Temple Tax.
- [17:1–8] The account of the transfiguration confirms that Jesus is the Son of God (Mt 17:5) and points to fulfillment of the prediction that he will come in his Father’s glory at the end of the age (Mt 16:27). It has been explained by some as a resurrection appearance retrojected into the time of Jesus’ ministry, but that is not probable since the account lacks many of the usual elements of the resurrection-appearance narratives. It draws upon motifs from the Old Testament and noncanonical Jewish apocalyptic literature that express the presence of the heavenly and the divine, e.g., brilliant light, white garments, and the overshadowing cloud.
- [17:1] These three disciples are also taken apart from the others by Jesus in Gethsemane (Mt 26:37). A high mountain: this has been identified with Tabor or Hermon, but probably no specific mountain was intended by the evangelist or by his Marcan source (Mk 9:2). Its meaning is theological rather than geographical, possibly recalling the revelation to Moses on Mount Sinai (Ex 24:12–18) and to Elijah at the same place (1 Kgs 19:8–18; Horeb = Sinai).
- [17:4] Three tents: the booths in which the Israelites lived during the feast of Tabernacles (cf. Jn 7:2) were meant to recall their ancestors’ dwelling in booths during the journey from Egypt to the promised land (Lv 23:39–42). The same Greek word, skēnē, here translated tents, is used in the LXX for the booths of that feast, and some scholars have suggested that there is an allusion here to that liturgical custom.
- [17:5] Cloud cast a shadow over them: see note on Mk 9:7. This is my beloved Son…listen to him: cf. Mt 3:17. The voice repeats the baptismal proclamation about Jesus, with the addition of the command listen to him. The latter is a reference to Dt 18:15 in which the Israelites are commanded to listen to the prophet like Moses whom God will raise up for them. The command to listen to Jesus is general, but in this context it probably applies particularly to the preceding predictions of his passion and resurrection (Mt 16:21) and of his coming (Mt 16:27, 28).
- [17:24–27] Like Mt 14:28–31 and Mt 16:16b–19, this episode comes from Matthew’s special material on Peter. Although the question of the collectors concerns Jesus’ payment of the temple tax, it is put to Peter. It is he who receives instruction from Jesus about freedom from the obligation of payment and yet why it should be made. The means of doing so is provided miraculously. The pericope deals with a problem of Matthew’s church, whether its members should pay the temple tax, and the answer is given through a word of Jesus conveyed to Peter. Some scholars see here an example of the teaching authority of Peter exercised in the name of Jesus (see Mt 16:19). The specific problem was a Jewish Christian one and may have arisen when the Matthean church was composed largely of that group.
The Greatest in the Kingdom.
Temptations to Sin.
The Parable of the Lost Sheep.
A Brother Who Sins.
The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant.
- [18:6] One of these little ones: the thought passes from the child of Mt 18:2–4 to the disciples, little ones because of their becoming like children. It is difficult to know whether this is a designation of all who are disciples or of those who are insignificant in contrast to others, e.g., the leaders of the community. Since apart from this chapter the designation little ones occurs in Matthew only in Mt 10:42 where it means disciples as such, that is its more likely meaning here. Who believe in me: since discipleship is impossible without at least some degree of faith, this further specification seems superfluous. However, it serves to indicate that the warning against causing a little one to sin is principally directed against whatever would lead such a one to a weakening or loss of faith. The Greek verb skandalizein, here translated causes…to sin, means literally “causes to stumble”; what the stumbling is depends on the context. It is used of falling away from faith in Mt 13:21. According to the better reading of Mk 9:42, in me is a Matthean addition to the Marcan source. It would be better…depths of the sea: cf. Mk 9:42.
- [18:15–20] Passing from the duty of Christian disciples toward those who have strayed from their number, the discourse now turns to how they are to deal with one who sins and yet remains within the community. First there is to be private correction (Mt 18:15); if this is unsuccessful, further correction before two or three witnesses (Mt 18:16); if this fails, the matter is to be brought before the assembled community (the church), and if the sinner refuses to attend to the correction of the church, he is to be expelled (Mt 18:17). The church’s judgment will be ratified in heaven, i.e., by God (Mt 18:18). This three-step process of correction corresponds, though not exactly, to the procedure of the Qumran community; see 1QS 5:25–6:1; 6:24–7:25; CD 9:2–8. The section ends with a saying about the favorable response of God to prayer, even to that of a very small number, for Jesus is in the midst of any gathering of his disciples, however small (Mt 18:19–20). Whether this prayer has anything to do with the preceding judgment is uncertain.
- [18:17] The church: the second of the only two instances of this word in the gospels; see note on Mt 16:18. Here it refers not to the entire church of Jesus, as in Mt 16:18, but to the local congregation. Treat him…a Gentile or a tax collector: just as the observant Jew avoided the company of Gentiles and tax collectors, so must the congregation of Christian disciples separate itself from the arrogantly sinful member who refuses to repent even when convicted of his sin by the whole church. Such a one is to be set outside the fellowship of the community. The harsh language about Gentile and tax collector probably reflects a stage of the Matthean church when it was principally composed of Jewish Christians. That time had long since passed, but the principle of exclusion for such a sinner remained. Paul makes a similar demand for excommunication in 1 Cor 5:1–13.
- [18:20] For where two or three…midst of them: the presence of Jesus guarantees the efficacy of the prayer. This saying is similar to one attributed to a rabbi executed in A.D. 135 at the time of the second Jewish revolt: “…When two sit and there are between them the words of the Torah, the divine presence (Shekinah) rests upon them” (Pirqê ’Abôt 3, 3).
- [18:24] A huge amount: literally, “ten thousand talents.” The talent was a unit of coinage of high but varying value depending on its metal (gold, silver, copper) and its place of origin. It is mentioned in the New Testament only here and in Mt 25:14–30.
- [18:26] Pay you back in full: an empty promise, given the size of the debt.
- [18:28] A much smaller amount: literally, “a hundred denarii.” A denarius was the normal daily wage of a laborer. The difference between the two debts is enormous and brings out the absurdity of the conduct of the Christian who has received the great forgiveness of God and yet refuses to forgive the relatively minor offenses done to him.
Marriage and Divorce.
Blessing of the Children.
The Rich Young Man.
- [19:1–23:39] The narrative section of the fifth book of the gospel. The first part (Mt 19:1–20:34) has for its setting the journey of Jesus from Galilee to Jerusalem; the second (Mt 21:1–23:39) deals with Jesus’ ministry in Jerusalem up to the final great discourse of the gospel (Mt 24–25). Matthew follows the Marcan sequence of events, though adding material both special to this gospel and drawn from Q. The second part ends with the denunciation of the scribes and Pharisees (Mt 23:1–36) followed by Jesus’ lament over Jerusalem (Mt 23:37–39). This long and important speech raises a problem for the view that Matthew is structured around five other discourses of Jesus (see Introduction) and that this one has no such function in the gospel. However, it is to be noted that this speech lacks the customary concluding formula that follows the five discourses (see note on Mt 7:28), and that those discourses are all addressed either exclusively (Mt 10; 18; 24; 25) or primarily (Mt 5–7; 13) to the disciples, whereas this is addressed primarily to the scribes and Pharisees (Mt 23:13–36). Consequently, it seems plausible to maintain that the evangelist did not intend to give it the structural importance of the five other discourses, and that, in spite of its being composed of sayings-material, it belongs to the narrative section of this book. In that regard, it is similar to the sayings-material of Mt 11:7–30. Some have proposed that Matthew wished to regard it as part of the final discourse of Mt 24–25, but the intervening material (Mt 24:1–4) and the change in matter and style of those chapters do not support that view.
- [19:9] Moses’ concession to human sinfulness (the hardness of your hearts, Mt 19:8) is repudiated by Jesus, and the original will of the Creator is reaffirmed against that concession. (Unless the marriage is unlawful): see note on Mt 5:31–32. There is some evidence suggesting that Jesus’ absolute prohibition of divorce was paralleled in the Qumran community (see 11QTemple 57:17–19; CD 4:12b–5:14). Matthew removes Mark’s setting of this verse as spoken to the disciples alone “in the house” (Mk 10:10) and also his extension of the divorce prohibition to the case of a woman’s divorcing her husband (Mk 10:12), probably because in Palestine, unlike the places where Roman and Greek law prevailed, the woman was not allowed to initiate the divorce.
- [19:12] Incapable of marriage: literally, “eunuchs.” Three classes are mentioned, eunuchs from birth, eunuchs by castration, and those who have voluntarily renounced marriage (literally, “have made themselves eunuchs”) for the sake of the kingdom, i.e., to devote themselves entirely to its service. Some scholars take the last class to be those who have been divorced by their spouses and have refused to enter another marriage. But it is more likely that it is rather those who have chosen never to marry, since that suits better the optional nature of the decision: whoever can…ought to accept it.
The Workers in the Vineyard.
The Third Prediction of the Passion.
The Request of James and John.
The Healing of Two Blind Men.
- [20:20–28] Cf. Mk 10:35–45. The request of the sons of Zebedee, made through their mother, for the highest places of honor in the kingdom, and the indignation of the other ten disciples at this request, show that neither the two brothers nor the others have understood that what makes for greatness in the kingdom is not lordly power but humble service. Jesus gives the example, and his ministry of service will reach its highest point when he gives his life for the deliverance of the human race from sin.
- [20:20–21] The reason for Matthew’s making the mother the petitioner (cf. Mk 10:35) is not clear. Possibly he intends an allusion to Bathsheba’s seeking the kingdom for Solomon; see 1 Kgs 1:11–21. Your kingdom: see note on Mt 16:28.
- [20:22] You do not know what you are asking: the Greek verbs are plural and, with the rest of the verse, indicate that the answer is addressed not to the woman but to her sons. Drink the cup: see note on Mk 10:38–40. Matthew omits the Marcan “or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized” (Mk 10:38).
- [20:28] Ransom: this noun, which occurs in the New Testament only here and in the Marcan parallel (Mk 10:45), does not necessarily express the idea of liberation by payment of some price. The cognate verb is used frequently in the LXX of God’s liberating Israel from Egypt or from Babylonia after the Exile; see Ex 6:6; 15:13; Ps 77:16 (76 LXX); Is 43:1; 44:22. The liberation brought by Jesus’ death will be for many; cf. Is 53:12. Many does not mean that some are excluded, but is a Semitism designating the collectivity who benefit from the service of the one, and is equivalent to “all.” While there are few verbal contacts between this saying and the fourth Servant Song (Is 52:13–53:12), the ideas of that passage are reflected here.
The Entry into Jerusalem.
The Cleansing of the Temple.
The Cursing of the Fig Tree.
The Authority of Jesus Questioned.
The Parable of the Two Sons.
The Parable of the Tenants.
- [21:1–11] Jesus’ coming to Jerusalem is in accordance with the divine will that he must go there (cf. Mt 16:21) to suffer, die, and be raised. He prepares for his entry into the city in such a way as to make it a fulfillment of the prophecy of Zec 9:9 (Mt 21:2) that emphasizes the humility of the king who comes (Mt 21:5). That prophecy, absent from the Marcan parallel account (Mk 11:1–11) although found also in the Johannine account of the entry (Jn 12:15), is the center of the Matthean story. During the procession from Bethphage to Jerusalem, Jesus is acclaimed as the Davidic messianic king by the crowds who accompany him (Mt 21:9). On his arrival the whole city was shaken, and to the inquiry of the amazed populace about Jesus’ identity the crowds with him reply that he is the prophet, from Nazareth in Galilee (Mt 21:10, 11).
- [21:4–5] The prophet: this fulfillment citation is actually composed of two distinct Old Testament texts, Is 62:11 (Say to daughter Zion) and Zec 9:9. The ass and the colt are the same animal in the prophecy, mentioned twice in different ways, the common Hebrew literary device of poetic parallelism. That Matthew takes them as two is one of the reasons why some scholars think that he was a Gentile rather than a Jewish Christian who would presumably not make that mistake (see Introduction).
- [21:9] Hosanna: the Hebrew means “(O Lord) grant salvation”; see Ps 118:25, but that invocation had become an acclamation of jubilation and welcome. Blessed is he…in the name of the Lord: see Ps 118:26 and the note on Jn 12:13. In the highest: probably only an intensification of the acclamation, although Hosanna in the highest could be taken as a prayer, “May God save (him).”
- [21:12] These activities were carried on in the court of the Gentiles, the outermost court of the temple area. Animals for sacrifice were sold; the doves were for those who could not afford a more expensive offering; see Lv 5:7. Tables of the money changers: only the coinage of Tyre could be used for the purchases; other money had to be exchanged for that.
The Parable of the Wedding Feast.
Paying Taxes to the Emperor.
The Question About the Resurrection.
The Greatest Commandment.
The Question About David’s Son.
- [22:1–14] This parable is from Q; see Lk 14:15–24. It has been given many allegorical traits by Matthew, e.g., the burning of the city of the guests who refused the invitation (Mt 22:7), which corresponds to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in A.D. 70. It has similarities with the preceding parable of the tenants: the sending of two groups of servants (Mt 22:3, 4), the murder of the servants (Mt 22:6), the punishment of the murderers (Mt 22:7), and the entrance of a new group into a privileged situation of which the others had proved themselves unworthy (Mt 22:8–10). The parable ends with a section that is peculiar to Matthew (Mt 22:11–14), which some take as a distinct parable. Matthew presents the kingdom in its double aspect, already present and something that can be entered here and now (Mt 22:1–10), and something that will be possessed only by those present members who can stand the scrutiny of the final judgment (Mt 22:11–14). The parable is not only a statement of God’s judgment on Israel but a warning to Matthew’s church.
- [22:21] Caesar’s: the emperor Tiberius (A.D. 14–37). Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar: those who willingly use the coin that is Caesar’s should repay him in kind. The answer avoids taking sides in the question of the lawfulness of the tax. To God what belongs to God: Jesus raises the debate to a new level. Those who have hypocritically asked about tax in respect to its relation to the law of God should be concerned rather with repaying God with the good deeds that are his due; cf. Mt 21:41, 43.
- [22:23–33] Here Jesus’ opponents are the Sadducees, members of the powerful priestly party of his time; see note on Mt 3:7. Denying the resurrection of the dead, a teaching of relatively late origin in Judaism (cf. Dn 12:2), they appeal to a law of the Pentateuch (Dt 25:5–10) and present a case based on it that would make resurrection from the dead ridiculous (Mt 22:24–28). Jesus chides them for knowing neither the scriptures nor the power of God (Mt 22:29). His argument in respect to God’s power contradicts the notion, held even by many proponents as well as by opponents of the teaching, that the life of those raised from the dead would be essentially a continuation of the type of life they had had before death (Mt 22:30). His argument based on the scriptures (Mt 22:31–32) is of a sort that was accepted as valid among Jews of the time.
- [22:23] Saying that there is no resurrection: in the Marcan parallel (Mk 22:18) the Sadducees are correctly defined as those “who say there is no resurrection”; see also Lk 20:27. Matthew’s rewording of Mark can mean that these particular Sadducees deny the resurrection, which would imply that he was not aware that the denial was characteristic of the party. For some scholars this is an indication of his being a Gentile Christian; see note on Mt 21:4–5.
- [22:24] ‘If a man dies…his brother’: this is known as the “law of the levirate,” from the Latin levir, “brother-in-law.” Its purpose was to continue the family line of the deceased brother (Dt 25:6).
- [22:31–32] Cf. Ex 3:6. In the Pentateuch, which the Sadducees accepted as normative for Jewish belief and practice, God speaks even now (to you) of himself as the God of the patriarchs who died centuries ago. He identifies himself in relation to them, and because of their relation to him, the living God, they too are alive. This might appear no argument for the resurrection, but simply for life after death as conceived in Wis 3:1–3. But the general thought of early first-century Judaism was not influenced by that conception; for it human immortality was connected with the existence of the body.
Denunciation of the Scribes and Pharisees.
The Lament over Jerusalem.
- [23:2–3] Have taken their seat…Moses: it is uncertain whether this is simply a metaphor for Mosaic teaching authority or refers to an actual chair on which the teacher sat. It has been proved that there was a seat so designated in synagogues of a later period than that of this gospel. Do and observe…they tell you: since the Matthean Jesus abrogates Mosaic law (Mt 5:31–42), warns his disciples against the teaching of the Pharisees (Mt 14:1–12), and, in this speech, denounces the Pharisees as blind guides in respect to their teaching on oaths (Mt 23:16–22), this commandment to observe all things whatsoever they (the scribes and Pharisees) tell you cannot be taken as the evangelist’s understanding of the proper standard of conduct for his church. The saying may reflect a period when the Matthean community was largely Jewish Christian and was still seeking to avoid a complete break with the synagogue. Matthew has incorporated this traditional material into the speech in accordance with his view of the course of salvation history, in which he portrays the time of Jesus’ ministry as marked by the fidelity to the law, although with significant pointers to the new situation that would exist after his death and resurrection (see note on Mt 5:17–20). The crowds and the disciples (Mt 23:1) are exhorted not to follow the example of the Jewish leaders, whose deeds do not conform to their teaching (Mt 23:3).
- [23:5] To the charge of preaching but not practicing (Mt 23:3), Jesus adds that of acting in order to earn praise. The disciples have already been warned against this same fault (see note on Mt 6:1–18). Phylacteries: the Mosaic law required that during prayer small boxes containing parchments on which verses of scripture were written be worn on the left forearm and the forehead (see Ex 13:9, 16; Dt 6:8; 11:18). Tassels: see note on Mt 9:20. The widening of phylacteries and the lengthening of tassels were for the purpose of making these evidences of piety more noticeable.
- [23:6–7] Cf. Mk 12:38–39. ‘Rabbi’: literally, “my great one,” a title of respect for teachers and leaders.
- [23:8–12] These verses, warning against the use of various titles, are addressed to the disciples alone. While only the title ‘Rabbi’ has been said to be used in addressing the scribes and Pharisees (Mt 23:7), the implication is that Father and ‘Master’ also were. The prohibition of these titles to the disciples suggests that their use was present in Matthew’s church. The Matthean Jesus forbids not only the titles but the spirit of superiority and pride that is shown by their acceptance. Whoever exalts…will be exalted: cf. Lk 14:11.
- [23:13–36] This series of seven “woes,” directed against the scribes and Pharisees and addressed to them, is the heart of the speech. The phrase woe to occurs often in the prophetic and apocalyptic literature, expressing horror of a sin and punishment for those who commit it. Hypocrites: see note on Mt 6:2. The hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees consists in the difference between their speech and action (Mt 23:3) and in demonstrations of piety that have no other purpose than to enhance their reputation as religious persons (Mt 23:5).
- [23:13] You lock the kingdom of heaven: cf. Mt 16:19 where Jesus tells Peter that he will give him the keys to the kingdom of heaven. The purpose of the authority expressed by that metaphor is to give entrance into the kingdom (the kingdom is closed only to those who reject the authority); here the charge is made that the authority of the scribes and Pharisees is exercised in such a way as to be an obstacle to entrance. Cf. Lk 11:52 where the accusation against the “scholars of the law” (Matthew’s scribes) is that they “have taken away the key of knowledge.”
- [23:15] In the first century A.D. until the First Jewish Revolt against Rome (A.D. 66–70), many Pharisees conducted a vigorous missionary campaign among Gentiles. Convert: literally, “proselyte,” a Gentile who accepted Judaism fully by submitting to circumcision and all other requirements of Mosaic law. Child of Gehenna: worthy of everlasting punishment; for Gehenna, see note on Mt 5:22. Twice as much as yourselves: possibly this refers simply to the zeal of the convert, surpassing that of the one who converted him.
- [23:29–32] In spite of honoring the slain dead by building their tombs and adorning their memorials, and claiming that they would not have joined in their ancestors’ crimes if they had lived in their days, the scribes and Pharisees are true children of their ancestors and are defiantly ordered by Jesus to fill up what those ancestors measured out. This order reflects the Jewish notion that there was an allotted measure of suffering that had to be completed before God’s final judgment would take place.
- [23:34–36] There are important differences between the Matthean and the Lucan form of this Q material; cf. Lk 11:49–51. In Luke the one who sends the emissaries is the “wisdom of God.” If, as many scholars think, that is the original wording of Q, Matthew, by making Jesus the sender, has presented him as the personified divine wisdom. In Luke, wisdom’s emissaries are the Old Testament “prophets” and the Christian “apostles.” Matthew’s prophets and wise men and scribes are probably Christian disciples alone; cf. Mt 10:41 and see note on Mt 13:52. You will kill: see Mt 24:9. Scourge in your synagogues…town to town: see Mt 10:17, 23 and the note on Mt 10:17. All the righteous blood shed upon the earth: the slaying of the disciples is in continuity with all the shedding of righteous blood beginning with that of Abel. The persecution of Jesus’ disciples by this generation involves the persecutors in the guilt of their murderous ancestors. The blood of Zechariah: see note on Lk 11:51. By identifying him as the son of Barachiah Matthew understands him to be Zechariah the Old Testament minor prophet; see Zec 1:1.
The Destruction of the Temple Foretold.
The Beginning of Calamities.
The Great Tribulation.
The Coming of the Son of Man.
The Lesson of the Fig Tree.
The Unknown Day and Hour.
The Faithful or the Unfaithful Servant.
- [24:1–25:46] called the “eschatological” discourse since it deals with the coming of the new age (the eschaton) in its fullness, with events that will precede it, and with how the disciples are to conduct themselves while awaiting an event that is as certain as its exact time is unknown to all but the Father (Mt 24:36). The discourse may be divided into two parts, Mt 24:1–44 and Mt 24:45–25:46. In the first, Matthew follows his Marcan source (Mk 13:1–37) closely. The second is drawn from Q and from the evangelist’s own traditional material. Both parts show Matthew’s editing of his sources by deletions, additions, and modifications.
- [24:2] As in Mark, Jesus predicts the destruction of the temple. By omitting the Marcan story of the widow’s contribution (Mk 12:41–44) that immediately precedes the prediction in that gospel, Matthew has established a close connection between it and Mt 23:38, “…your house will be abandoned desolate.”
- [24:3] The Mount of Olives: see note on Mt 21:1. The disciples: cf. Mk 13:3–4 where only Peter, James, John, and Andrew put the question that is answered by the discourse. In both gospels, however, the question is put privately: the ensuing discourse is only for those who are disciples of Jesus. When will this happen…end of the age?: Matthew distinguishes carefully between the destruction of the temple (this) and the coming of Jesus that will bring the end of the age. In Mark the two events are more closely connected, a fact that may be explained by Mark’s believing that the one would immediately succeed the other. Coming: this translates the Greek word parousia, which is used in the gospels only here and in Mt 24:27, 37, 39. It designated the official visit of a ruler to a city or the manifestation of a saving deity, and it was used by Christians to refer to the final coming of Jesus in glory, a term first found in the New Testament with that meaning in 1 Thes 2:19.
- [24:15] The desolating abomination: in 167 B.C. the Syrian king Antiochus IV Epiphanes desecrated the temple by setting up in it a statue of Zeus Olympios (see 1 Mc 1:54). That event is referred to in Dn 12:11 LXX as the “desolating abomination” (NAB “horrible abomination”) and the same Greek term is used here; cf. also Dn 9:27; 11:31. Although the desecration had taken place before Daniel was written, it is presented there as a future event, and Matthew sees that “prophecy” fulfilled in the desecration of the temple by the Romans. In the holy place: the temple; more precise than Mark’s where he should not (Mk 13:14). Let the reader understand: this parenthetical remark, taken from Mk 13:14 invites the reader to realize the meaning of Daniel’s “prophecy.”
- [24:16] The tradition that the Christians of Jerusalem fled from that city to Pella, a city of Transjordan, at the time of the First Jewish Revolt is found in Eusebius (Ecclesiastical History, 3.5.3), who attributes the flight to “a certain oracle given by revelation before the war.” The tradition is not improbable but the Matthean command, derived from its Marcan source, is vague in respect to the place of flight (to the mountains), although some scholars see it as applicable to the flight to Pella.
The Parable of the Ten Virgins.
The Parable of the Talents.
The Judgment of the Nations.
- [25:31–46] The conclusion of the discourse, which is peculiar to Matthew, portrays the final judgment that will accompany the parousia. Although often called a “parable,” it is not really such, for the only parabolic elements are the depiction of the Son of Man as a shepherd and of the righteous and the wicked as sheep and goats respectively (Mt 25:32–33). The criterion of judgment will be the deeds of mercy that have been done for the least of Jesus’ brothers (Mt 25:40). A difficult and important question is the identification of these least brothers. Are they all people who have suffered hunger, thirst, etc. (Mt 25:35, 36) or a particular group of such sufferers? Scholars are divided in their response and arguments can be made for either side. But leaving aside the problem of what the traditional material that Matthew edited may have meant, it seems that a stronger case can be made for the view that in the evangelist’s sense the sufferers are Christians, probably Christian missionaries whose sufferings were brought upon them by their preaching of the gospel. The criterion of judgment for all the nations is their treatment of those who have borne to the world the message of Jesus, and this means ultimately their acceptance or rejection of Jesus himself; cf. Mt 10:40, “Whoever receives you, receives me.” See note on Mt 16:27.
- [25:41] Fire prepared…his angels: cf. 1 Enoch 10:13 where it is said of the evil angels and Semyaza, their leader, “In those days they will lead them into the bottom of the fire—and in torment—in the prison (where) they will be locked up forever.”
The Conspiracy Against Jesus.
The Anointing at Bethany.
The Betrayal by Judas.
Preparations for the Passover.
The Lord’s Supper.
Peter’s Denial Foretold.
The Agony in the Garden.
The Betrayal and Arrest of Jesus.
Jesus Before the Sanhedrin.
Peter’s Denial of Jesus.
- [26:3] Caiaphas was high priest from A.D. 18 to 36.
- [26:5] Not during the festival: the plan to delay Jesus’ arrest and execution until after the festival was not carried out, for according to the synoptics he was arrested on the night of Nisan 14 and put to death the following day. No reason is given why the plan was changed.
- [26:26–29] The Marcan-Matthean is one of the two major New Testament traditions of the words of Jesus when instituting the Eucharist. The other (and earlier) is the Pauline-Lucan (1 Cor 11:23–25; Lk 22:19–20). Each shows the influence of Christian liturgical usage, but the Marcan-Matthean is more developed in that regard than the Pauline-Lucan. The words over the bread and cup succeed each other without the intervening meal mentioned in 1 Cor 11:25; Lk 22:20; and there is parallelism between the consecratory words (this is my body…this is my blood). Matthew follows Mark closely but with some changes.
- [26:27–28] My blood: see Lv 17:11 for the concept that the blood is “the seat of life” and that when placed on the altar it “makes atonement.” Which will be shed: the present participle, “being shed” or “going to be shed,” is future in relation to the Last Supper. On behalf of: Greek peri; see note on Mk 14:24. Many: see note on Mt 20:28. For the forgiveness of sins: a Matthean addition. The same phrase occurs in Mk 1:4 in connection with John’s baptism but Matthew avoids it there (Mt 3:11). He places it here probably because he wishes to emphasize that it is the sacrificial death of Jesus that brings forgiveness of sins.
- [26:36] Gethsemane: the Hebrew name means “oil press” and designates an olive orchard on the western slope of the Mount of Olives; see note on Mt 21:1. The name appears only in Matthew and Mark. The place is called a “garden” in Jn 18:1.
- [26:38] Cf. Ps 42:6, 12. In the Septuagint (Ps 41:5, 12) the same Greek word for sorrowful is used as here. To death: i.e., “enough to die”; cf. Jon 4:9.
- [26:57–68] This account contains elements that are contrary to the judicial procedures prescribed in the Mishnah, the Jewish code of law that dates in written form from ca. A.D. 200, e.g., trial on a feast day, a night session of the court, pronouncement of a verdict of condemnation at the same session at which testimony was received. Consequently, some scholars regard the account entirely as a creation of the early Christians without historical value. However, it is disputable whether the norms found in the Mishnah were in force at the time of Jesus. More to the point is the question whether the Matthean-Marcan night trial derives from a combination of two separate incidents, a nighttime preliminary investigation (cf. Jn 18:13, 19–24) and a formal trial on the following morning (cf. Lk 22:66–71).
- [26:65] Blasphemed: the punishment for blasphemy was death by stoning (see Lv 24:10–16). According to the Mishnah, to be guilty of blasphemy one had to pronounce “the Name itself,” i.e., Yahweh; cf. Sanhedrin 7, 4.5. Those who judge the gospel accounts of Jesus’ trial by the later Mishnah standards point out that Jesus uses the surrogate “the Power,” and hence no Jewish court would have regarded him as guilty of blasphemy; others hold that the Mishnah’s narrow understanding of blasphemy was a later development.
- [26:70] Denied it in front of everyone: see Mt 10:33. Peter’s repentance (Mt 26:75) saves him from the fearful destiny of which Jesus speaks there.
Jesus Before Pilate.
The Death of Judas.
Jesus Questioned by Pilate.
The Sentence of Death.
Mockery by the Soldiers.
The Way of the Cross.
The Death of Jesus.
The Burial of Jesus.
The Guard at the Tomb.
- [27:16–17] [Jesus] Barabbas: it is possible that the double name is the original reading; Jesus was a common Jewish name; see note on Mt 1:21. This reading is found in only a few textual witnesses, although its absence in the majority can be explained as an omission of Jesus made for reverential reasons. That name is bracketed because of its uncertain textual attestation. The Aramaic name Barabbas means “son of the father”; the irony of the choice offered between him and Jesus, the true son of the Father, would be evident to those addressees of Matthew who knew that.
- [27:24–25] Peculiar to Matthew. Took water…blood: cf. Dt 21:1–8, the handwashing prescribed in the case of a murder when the killer is unknown. The elders of the city nearest to where the corpse is found must wash their hands, declaring, “Our hands did not shed this blood.” Look to it yourselves: cf. Mt 27:4. The whole people: Matthew sees in those who speak these words the entire people (Greek laos) of Israel. His blood…and upon our children: cf. Jer 26:15. The responsibility for Jesus’ death is accepted by the nation that was God’s special possession (Ex 19:5), his own people (Hos 2:25), and they thereby lose that high privilege; see Mt 21:43 and the note on that verse. The controversy between Matthew’s church and Pharisaic Judaism about which was the true people of God is reflected here. As the Second Vatican Council has pointed out, guilt for Jesus’ death is not attributable to all the Jews of his time or to any Jews of later times.
- [27:34] Wine…mixed with gall: cf. Mk 15:23 where the drink is “wine drugged with myrrh,” a narcotic. Matthew’s text is probably an inexact allusion to Ps 69:22. That psalm belongs to the class called the individual lament, in which a persecuted just man prays for deliverance in the midst of great suffering and also expresses confidence that his prayer will be heard. That theme of the suffering Just One is frequently applied to the sufferings of Jesus in the passion narratives.
- [27:46] Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?: Jesus cries out in the words of Ps 22:2a, a psalm of lament that is the Old Testament passage most frequently drawn upon in this narrative. In Mark the verse is cited entirely in Aramaic, which Matthew partially retains but changes the invocation of God to the Hebrew Eli, possibly because that is more easily related to the statement of the following verse about Jesus’ calling for Elijah.
- [27:50] Gave up his spirit: cf. the Marcan parallel (Mk 15:37), “breathed his last.” Matthew’s alteration expresses both Jesus’ control over his destiny and his obedient giving up of his life to God.
- [27:51–53] Veil of the sanctuary…bottom: cf. Mk 15:38; Lk 23:45. Luke puts this event immediately before the death of Jesus. There were two veils in the Mosaic tabernacle on the model of which the temple was constructed, the outer one before the entrance of the Holy Place and the inner one before the Holy of Holies (see Ex 26:31–36). Only the high priest could pass through the latter and that only on the Day of Atonement (see Lv 16:1–18). Probably the torn veil of the gospels is the inner one. The meaning of the scene may be that now, because of Jesus’ death, all people have access to the presence of God, or that the temple, its holiest part standing exposed, is now profaned and will soon be destroyed. The earth quaked…appeared to many: peculiar to Matthew. The earthquake, the splitting of the rocks, and especially the resurrection of the dead saints indicate the coming of the final age. In the Old Testament the coming of God is frequently portrayed with the imagery of an earthquake (see Ps 68:9; 77:19), and Jesus speaks of the earthquakes that will accompany the “labor pains” that signify the beginning of the dissolution of the old world (Mt 24:7–8). For the expectation of the resurrection of the dead at the coming of the new and final age, see Dn 12:1–3. Matthew knows that the end of the old age has not yet come (Mt 28:20), but the new age has broken in with the death (and resurrection; cf. the earthquake in Mt 28:2) of Jesus; see note on Mt 16:28. After his resurrection: this qualification seems to be due to Matthew’s wish to assert the primacy of Jesus’ resurrection even though he has placed the resurrection of the dead saints immediately after Jesus’ death.
- [27:57–61] Cf. Mk 15:42–47. Matthew drops Mark’s designation of Joseph of Arimathea as “a distinguished member of the council” (the Sanhedrin), and makes him a rich man and a disciple of Jesus. The former may be an allusion to Is 53:9 (the Hebrew reading of that text is disputed and the one followed in the NAB OT has nothing about the rich, but they are mentioned in the LXX version). That the tomb was the new tomb of a rich man and that it was seen by the women are indications of an apologetic intent of Matthew; there could be no question about the identity of Jesus’ burial place. The other Mary: the mother of James and Joseph (Mt 27:56).
- [27:62] The next day…preparation: the sabbath. According to the synoptic chronology, in that year the day of preparation (for the sabbath) was the Passover; cf. Mk 15:42. The Pharisees: the principal opponents of Jesus during his ministry and, in Matthew’s time, of the Christian church, join with the chief priests to guarantee against a possible attempt of Jesus’ disciples to steal his body.
The Resurrection of Jesus.
The Report of the Guard.
The Commissioning of the Disciples.
- [28:1] After the sabbath…dawning: since the sabbath ended at sunset, this could mean in the early evening, for dawning can refer to the appearance of the evening star; cf. Lk 23:54. However, it is probable that Matthew means the morning dawn of the day after the sabbath, as in the similar though slightly different text of Mark, “when the sun had risen” (Mk 16:2). Mary Magdalene and the other Mary: see notes on Mt 27:55–56; 57–61. To see the tomb: cf. Mk 16:1–2 where the purpose of the women’s visit is to anoint Jesus’ body.
- [28:19] Therefore: since universal power belongs to the risen Jesus (Mt 28:18), he gives the eleven a mission that is universal. They are to make disciples of all nations. While all nations is understood by some scholars as referring only to all Gentiles, it is probable that it included the Jews as well. Baptizing them: baptism is the means of entrance into the community of the risen one, the Church. In the name of the Father…holy Spirit: this is perhaps the clearest expression in the New Testament of trinitarian belief. It may have been the baptismal formula of Matthew’s church, but primarily it designates the effect of baptism, the union of the one baptized with the Father, Son, and holy Spirit.
- [28:20] All that I have commanded you: the moral teaching found in this gospel, preeminently that of the Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5–7). The commandments of Jesus are the standard of Christian conduct, not the Mosaic law as such, even though some of the Mosaic commandments have now been invested with the authority of Jesus. Behold, I am with you always: the promise of Jesus’ real though invisible presence echoes the name Emmanuel given to him in the infancy narrative; see note on Mt 1:23. End of the age: see notes on Mt 13:39 and Mt 24:3.