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JOHN JOHNSTONE, HUNTER SQUARE.
J. NISBET & CO., AND R. GROOMBRIDGE, LONDON. W. CURRY, JUN., & CO., DUBLIN ;
AND W. M'COMB, BELFAST.
THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO MATTHEW ·
THE word Gospel means good news, or a joyful message. It commonly signifies the message itself. But it is here used to denote the book containing the record of the message. The title “Saint,” given to the sacred writers of the New Testament, is of Romish origin, and is of no authority.
It is now conceded pretty generally that Matthew wrote his Gospel in his native tongue; that is, the language of Palestine. That language was not pure Hebrew, but a mixture of the Hebrew, Chaldaic, and Syriac, commonly called Syro-Chaldaic, or Aramean. This language our Saviour undoubtedly used in his conversation; and his disciples would naturally use this language also, unless there were good reasons why they should write in a foreign tongue. It is agreed that the remainder of the New Testament was written in Greek. The reason for this, in preference to the native language of the writers, was, that Greek was the language then generally spoken and understood throughout the eastern countries conquered by Alexander the Great, and particularly in Judea, and in the regions where the apostles first laboured.
The Christian Fathers, without any exception, assert that Matthew wrote his Gospel for the use of the Christians in Palestine; and say that it was written in the Hebrew dialect. It should be remarked, however, that many modern critics of much eminence do not suppose the evidence that Matthew wrote in Hebrew to be decisive; and believe that there is sufficient proof that, like the other writers of the New Testament, Matthew wrote in Greek. See Lardner's works, vol. v., p. 308-318, London edition, 1823.
The Gospel of Matthew exists now, however, only in Greek. The original Hebrew, or SyroChaldaic, if it was written in that language, has been designedly laid aside, or undesignedly lost. The question, then, naturally arises, Who is the author of the Greek translation which we possess; and is it to be regarded as of divine authority?
It has been conjectured by some that Matthew himself furnished a Greek translation of the Hebrew. This conjecture, in itself probable enough, wants human testimony to support it. Athanasius, one of the early Fathers, says that it was translated by "James, the brother of our Lord according to the flesh." Papias, another of the early Fathers, says, that "each one translated it as he was able." If James translated it, there can be no question about its inspiration and canonical authority. Nor does it affect the question of its inspiration, even if we are ignorant of the name of the translator. The proper inquiry is, whether it had such evidence of inspiration as to be satisfactory to the Church in the times when they were under the direction of the apostles. That it had such evidence, none acquainted with ancient history will doubt.
Epiphanius says that the Gospel by Matthew was written while Peter and Paul were preaching at Rome. This was about the year of our Lord 63, about the time of the destruction of Jerusalem. It is now generally supposed, that this Gospel was written about this time. There is very clear evidence in the Gospel that it was written before the destruction of Jerusalem. The destruction of the Holy City is clearly and minutely told; but there is not the slightest intimation in it that
these predictions had been accomplished; a thing which we should naturally expect if the Gospel was not written until after these calamities came upon the Jews. Compare Acts xi. 28. It has been till lately uniformly regarded as having been written before either of the other evangelists. Some of late have, however, endeavoured to show, that Luke was written first. All testimony, and all ancient arrangements of the books, are against the opinion; and when such is the fact, it is of little consequence to attend to other arguments.
In all copies of the New Testament, and in all translations, this Gospel has been placed first. This, it is probable, would not have been done, had not Matthew published his Gospel before any other was written.
Matthew, the writer of this Gospel, called also Levi, son of Alpheus, was a publican, or tax-gatherer, under the Romans. See notes on Matt. ix. 9, Luke v. 27. Of his life and death little is certainly known. Socrates, a writer of the fifth century, says that he went to Ethiopia, after the apostles were scattered abroad from Judea, and died a martyr in a city called Nadebbar; but by what kind of death is altogether uncertain. However, others speak of his preaching and dying in Parthia or Persia,—and the diversity of their accounts seems to show that they are all without good foundation. See Lardner's works, vol. v., pp. 296, 297.
"As the sacred writers," remarks Dr Campbell, " especially the evangelists, have many qualities in common, so there is something in every one of them, which, if attended to, will be found to distinguish him from the rest. That which principally distinguishes Matthew, is the distinctness and particularity with which he has related many of our Lord's discourses and moral instructions. Of these, his sermon on the mount, his charge to the apostles, his illustrations of the nature of his kingdom, and his prophecy on Mount Olivet, are examples. He has also wonderfully united simplicity and energy in relating the replies of his Master to the cavils of his adversaries. Being early called to the apostleship, he was an eye and ear witness of most of the things which he relates : and though it does not seem to have been the scope of any of these historians to adjust their narratives by the precise order of time wherein the events happened, there are some circumstances which incline us to think, that Matthew has approached at least as near that order as any of them."
1 The genealogy of Christ from Abraham to Joseph. 18 He was conceived by the Holy Ghost, and born of the Virgin Mary when she was espoused to Joseph. 19 The angel satisfieth the misdeeming thoughts of Joseph, and interpreteth the names of Christ.
HE book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.
a Luke iii. 23. b Ps. cxxxii. 11; Isa. xi. 1; Jer. xxlii. 5; chap. xxii. 42; John vii. 42; Acts ii. 30, and xiii. 23; Rom. i. 3. e Gen. xii. 3, and xxii. 18; Gal. iii. 16.
moreover, as we
Ver. 1. The book of the generation. This is the proper title of the chapter. It is the same as "The account of the ancestry or family, or the genealogical table of Jesus Christ." The phrase is common in Jewish writings. Compare Gen. v. 1. "This is the book of the generations of Adam;" e., the genealogical table of the family or descendants of Adam. See also Gen. vi. 9. The Jews, do, kept such tables of their own families, and it is probable that this was copied from the record of the family of Joseph. Jesus. See ver. 21. Christ. The word Christ is a Greek word, signifying anointed. The Hebrew word signifying the same is Messiah. Hence, Jesus is called either the Messiah, or the Christ, meaning the same thing. The Jews speak of the Messiah; Christians speak of him as the Christ. Anciently when kings and priests were set apart to their office, they were anointed with oil. Lev. iv. 3, vi. 20; Exod. xxviii. 41, xxix. 7; 1 Sam. ix. 16, xv. 1; 2 Sam. xxiii. 1. To anoint, therefore, means often the same as to consecrate, or set apart to any office. Thence those thus set apart are said to be anointed, or the anointed of God. It is for this reason that the name is given to the Lord Jesus. Dan. ix. 24. He was set apart by God to be the King, and High Priest, and Prophet of his people. Anointing with oil was, moreover, supposed to be emblematic of the influences of the Holy Spirit; and as God gave him the Spirit without measure (John iii. 34), so he is called peculiarly the Anointed of God. The son of David. The word son among the Jews had a great variety of significations. It means literally a son; then a grandson, a descendant, an adopted son, a disciple, or one who is an object of tender affectionone who is to us as a son. In this place it means a descendant of David, or one who was of the family of David. It was important to trace the genealogy of Jesus up to David, because the pro"mise had been made that the Messiah should be of his family, and all the Jews expected that it would be so. It would be impossible, therefore, to convince a Jew that Jesus was the Messiah, unless it could be shown that he was descended from David. See Jer. xxiii. 5; Ps. cxxxii. 10, 11; compared with Acts xiii. 23, and John vii. 42. The son of Abraham. The descendant of Abraham. The promise was made to Abraham also. See Gen. xii. 3, xxi. 12; compare Heb. xi. 13; Gal. iii. 16. The Jews expected that the Messiah would be descended from him; and it was important, therefore, to trace the genealogy up to him also. Though Jesus was of humble birth, yet he was descended from most illustrious ancestors. Abraham, the father of the faithful, and "the beauteous model of an Eastern prince ;" and David, the sweet psalmist of Israel, the conqueror, the magnificent and victorious leader of the people of God, were both among his ancestors. From