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IT appears from the concurrent testimony of all antiquity, that this Gospel was really written by St. Matthew, whose name it bears, and that it was from the earliest times universally received as such by the Christian Church.
Matthew, called also Levi, was the son of Alpheus, but probably not of that Alpheus who was the father of the Apostle James the Less. He was a native of Galilee; but it is not known in what city of that country he was born, or to what tribe of the people of Israel he belonged. Although a Jew, he was a publican or tax gatherer under the Romans; and his office seems to have consisted in collecting the customs due upon commodities which were carried, and from persons who passed over the lake of Gennesareth. Our Saviour commanded him, as he was sitting at a place where he received these customs, to follow Him, Matt. ix. 9. He immediately obeyed, and from that time became a constant attendant on our Saviour, and was appointed one of the twelve Apostles. Matthew, probably soon after his call, made an entertainment at his house, at which were present Christ and some of His disciples, and also several publicans, Matt. ix. 10; Luke v. 29. After the ascension of our Saviour, he continued, with the other Apostles, to preach the Gospel for some time in Judea; but, as there is no farther account of him in any writer of the first four centuries, we must consider it as uncertain into what country he afterwards went, and likewise in what manner, and at what time, he died.
It is generally agreed, on the most satisfactory evidence, that St. Matthew's Gospel was the first that was written; but, respecting its precise date, we have no certain information, and a great variety of opinions has prevailed. Of the several dates assigned to it, which deserve any attention, the earliest is the year 38 of the Christian era, and the latest the year 64. On considering the respective arguments in favour of these, it appears very improbable that the Christians should be left any considerable number of years without a written history of our Saviour's ministry. It is certain that the Apostles, immediately after the descent of the Holy Ghost, which took place only ten days after the ascension of our Saviour into heaven, preached the Gospel to the Jews with great success and surely it is reasonable to suppose, that an authentic account of His doctrines and miracles would very soon be committed to writing, for the confirmation of those who believed in His divine mission, and for the conversion of others; and more particularly to enable the Jews to compare the circumstances of the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus, with their ancient prophecies relative to the Messiah: and we may conceive that the Apostles would be desirous of losing no time in writing an account of the miracles which Jesus performed, and of the discourses which He delivered, because the sooner such an account was published, the easier it would be to inquire into its truth and accuracy; and consequently, when these points were satisfactorily ascertained, the greater would be its weight and authority.
There has also been of late years great difference of opinion respecting the language in which this Gospel was originally written. However, many ancient Fathers positively assert, that it was written by St. Matthew in Hebrew, that is, in the language then spoken in Palestine: and in a question of this sort, which is a question of fact, the concurrent voice of antiquity perhaps ought to be decisive with us. It may be observed too, that the opinion that the first published Gospel was written in the language of the Jews, and for their peculiar use, is perfectly conformable to the distinction with which we know they were favoured, of having the Gospel preached to them exclusively by our Saviour, and before all other nations by His Apostles.
Though the Fathers are unanimous in declaring that St. Matthew wrote his Gospel in Hebrew, yet they have not informed us by whom it was translated into Greek. It is however universally allowed that the Greek translation was made very early, and that it was more in use than the original. This last circumstance is easily accounted for. After the destruction of Jerusalem, the language of the Jews, and every thing which belonged to them, fell into great contempt, and the early Fathers, writing in Greek, would naturally quote and refer to the Greek copy of St. Matthew's Gospel, in the same manner as they constantly used the Septuagint version of the Old Testament. There being no longer any country in which the language of St. Matthew's original Gospel was commonly spoken, that original would soon be forgotten; and the translation into Greek, the language then generally understood, would be substituted in its room. This early and exclusive use of the Greek translation, is a strong proof of its correctness, and leaves us but little reason to lament the loss of the original.
St. Matthew, being from the time of his call a constant attendant upon our Saviour, was well qualified to write the history of His life. He relates what he saw and heard in a natural and unaffected style; and he is more circumstantial in his accounts than any other of the Evangelists. That he published his Gospel in Palestine for the immediate use of the Jews, was the opinion of all ancient ecclesiastical writers; and it is confirmed by the contents of the book itself. There are more references in this than in any other Gospel to Jewish customs; and cities and places in Palestine are always mentioned in it as being well known by those to whom it is addressed. St. Matthew seems studiously to have selected such circumstances, as were calculated to conciliate or strengthen the faith of the Jews; for example, no sentiment relative to the Messiah was more prevalent among them than that He should be of the race of Abraham, and family of David; and accordingly St. Matthew begins his narrative by showing the descent of Jesus from those two illustrious persons. He then relates the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, the city in which the Messiah was expected to be born; and throughout his Gospel he omits no opportunity of explaining the Scriptures, and of pointing out the fulfilment of prophecy, which was known to have greater weight with the Jews than any other species of evidence: moreover, he records many of our Saviour's reproofs to the Jews for their errours and superstitions, and thus endeavours to eradicate from their minds those prejudices which impeded the progress, or sullied the purity, of the Christian faith. Though this Gospel was particularly adapted to the Jews, it must also have been very useful in confirming and in converting other persons, especially those who were acquainted with the types and predictions of the Old Testament. As the sacred writers, 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 St. 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 eyewitness and earwitness of most of the things which he relates: and though I do not think it was the scope of any of these historians to adjust their narratives to the precise order of time wherein the events happened, there are some circumstances which incline me to think, that St. Matthew has approached at least as near to that order as any of them. And this, we may observe, would naturally be the distinguishing characteristick of a narrative written very soon after the events had taken place. The most remarkable things recorded in St. Matthew's Gospel, and not found in any other, are the following: The visit of the eastern magi; our Saviour's flight into Egypt; the slaughter of the infants at Bethlehem; the parable of the ten virgins; the dream of Pilate's wife; the resurrection of many saints at our Saviour's crucifixion; and the bribing of the Roman guard, appointed to watch at the holy sepulchre, by the chief priests and elders. Bp. Tomline.
a Luke 3. 23.
2 b Abraham begat Isaac; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat Judas and his brethren;
1 The genealogy of Christ from Abraham to
4 And Aram begat Aminadab;
5 And Salmon begat Booz of
Chap. I. ver. 1. The book of the generation] It has been the subject of much discussion among interpreters, whether these words form the title of the whole Gospel, and are to be understood to mean "a history of all that relates to Jesus Christ, His pedigree, birth, actions, death," &c. or whether they merely form the title of the genealogy with which the Gospel begins. Our translators, by rendering the words "the book of the generation," seem to apply the title to the whole of St. Matthew's Gospel. Edit.
Messiah, Luke i. 32, 69. It was particularly matter of expectation that the Messiah was to be of the race of David; whence those who believed Jesus to be the Messiah called Him "the son of David," Matt. xii. 23; xv. 22; xxi. 9. Beausobre. There is a modesty and simplicity in the manner in which the Evangelist introduces this subject. He says no more than is necessary to make his readers distinguish the Person of whom he speaks, leaving them to form their judgment of His mission and character from an unadorned narration of facts. Dr. of Jesus Christ,] Jesus signifies "Saviour;" and Campbell. St. Matthew, being the first Evangelist, proChrist, having the same sense as Messiah, signifies ceeds as a regular historian, and being solicitous to con'anointed." See notes at chap. i. 21; John i. 41. vince the Jews, for whose instruction he penned his son of David, the son of Abraham.] These two Gospel, begins with the genealogy of our Saviour, and ancestors of Jesus Christ are particularly mentioned, proves from their own registers that he was, according because to them the promises of the Messiah had been to the promises, the legal descendant of Abraham and especially made; to Abraham, that of a son "in whom David. Dr. H. Owen.
all the nations of the earth should be blessed," Gen. 2. Abraham begat Isaac ; &c.] By opening his Gosxxii. 18; and to David, of a son whose reign should be pel with this genealogy, the Evangelist, besides proving eternal, 2 Sam. vii. 12, 13. The Jews expected the ac- to the Jews that Christ, according to the prophecies complishment of these promises in the person of the and promises made concerning Him, was legally de
scended from Abraham and David, also prepared his readers to understand the words of the angel to Joseph at ver. 20, "Joseph, thou son of David," and the title given to our Saviour by the wise men, of "King of the Jews," chap. ii. 2. As it was probable that the Jews, among the first points of inquiry concerning Christ, would demand whether He was of the house of David, and whether He was born at Bethlehem; therefore St. Matthew, being a Jew himself, and writing his Gospel for the use of Jews, satisfies them at the very beginning, as to these two particulars, shewing, in this chapter, His legal descent from David, and, in the next, His birth at Bethlehem. Dr. Lightfoot.
Judas and his brethren ;] The brethren of Judas seem here to be mentioned, as being heirs of the promise, and heads of that people whence the Messiah was to spring; also to shew that all the tribes, though not returned from the captivity, had an equal interest in the blessing promised to the seed of Abraham. Dr. Whitby. 8.- and Joram begat Ozias ;] Ozias, or Uzziah, 2 Kings xv. 32. Here three kings are omitted between Joram and Ozias, namely, Ahaziah, Joash, and Amaziah, which last was the father of Ozias or Uzziah. The probable reason for this omission is the curse which was twice denounced against the house of Ahab, (1 Kings xxi. 21; 2 Kings ix. 8,) to which these princes belonged, since this curse was to take place until the third generation. It is certain that the Jews frequently omitted names in their genealogies and records, especially on account of wickedness or idolatry. Thus five descents from Meraioth are omitted, Ezra vii. compared with 1 Chron. vi. and the whole tribe of Dan is passed over, Rev. vii. Dr. Wall, Dr. Whitby.
from Abraham to Joseph.
and his brethren, about the time they Josias begat
14 And Azor begat Sadoc; and Sadoc begat Achim; and Achim begat Eliud;
15 And Eliud begat Eleazar; and Eleazar begat Matthan; and Matthan begat Jacob;
16 And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.
17 So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen
and wife are given in Scripture to persons who are only betrothed. Thus Rachel is called the wife of Jacob, Gen. xxix. 21. See also Deut. xxii. 24. Beausobre. Thus it appears that St. Matthew traces the genealogy through Joseph, the supposed father of Jesus, and the husband of Mary. The reason is, that he was writing for the Jews, and tracing His legal descent from David; which legal descent was always reckoned in the male line, and was therefore properly traced through the husband of His mother. See note at Luke iii. 23. Publick registers of the tribe of Judah, and of the other tribes that adhered to it, were reserved even during the captivity and subsequent to it, as may be collected from the books of Ezra and Nehemiah: also from St. Luke's informing his readers that Anna was 'of the tribe of Aser," and St. Paul's, that he himself was "of the tribe of Benjamin." From one of these, no doubt, St. Matthew copied the latter part of his genealogy, as St. Luke did from another the beginning of his, each having then the civil records of the Jews to vouch for them. Dr. Lightfoot.
If it be objected, that we lay too much stress on a supposed accommodation to the Jews in commending the Messiah to them by this genealogy, when the Evangelist knew that Joseph was only the reputed father of our Lord, the answer is, 1st, that, as foster-father, it was something to prove Joseph to be of the lineage of David, and therefore not exceptionable to the Jews; and 2dly, that, by knowing this, it necessarily followed, as the Jews well understood, that Mary also, of whom Christ came according to the flesh, was of the same lineage, for the daughters of Israel were not permitted to marry out of their own tribe; at least, if this practice were not universal, as it is denied by some learned men to have been, yet it was so far usual as to form a presumptive evidence, which could only be set aside by
11.-Josias begat Jechonias and his brethren,] Josias had three sons who sat on the throne of Judah: 1st, Jehoahaz, a younger son, whom the people elected after the father's death. 2nd, Jehoiakim, (here called Jecho-proof to the contrary; and in the case of Mary, this was nias,) called also Eliakim, placed on the throne on the particularly enjoined according to the law laid down removal of his younger brother, 2 Kings xxiii. 31-36. concerning the daughters of Zelophehad, which ob3rd, Zedekiah, who succeeded to the throne after some tained in all such cases afterwards. The case of Mary interval, 2 Kings xxiv. 15, 17. The Jechonias men- and her sister, who had no brother, was exactly similar tioned in the next verse is a different person, being to this. See Numb. xxxvi. 6-9. Archdeacon Pott. Jehoiachin, the son of the former Jehoiakim. He succeeded his father, and was soon removed to Babylon. The two names in Hebrew are extremely similar in sound and import. Dr. Whitby, Dr. Wells.
17. So all the generations—are fourteen generations ;] It was customary with the Jews, for the convenience of memory, to reduce numbers in genealogies, &c. to the same quantities. Accordingly St. Matthew here, or the genealogist whom he copied, has brought the pedigree of our Saviour into three regular classes by omissions
16.-Joseph the husband of Mary,] The betrothed husband of Mary: see ver. 18. The titles of husband