Daily Bible Study Tips: Overview of Matthew

Overview of Matthew
Overview of Matthew, Day 1, Ch. 1 – 7
Overview of Matthew, Day 2, Ch. 8 – 12
Overview of Matthew, Day 3, Ch. 13 – 18
Overview of Matthew, Day 4, Ch. 19 – 24
Overview of Matthew, Day 5, Ch. 25 – 28

Miscellaneous Comments on Matthew Chapters 1 - 14
Miscellaneous Comments on Matthew Chapters 15 - 28

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Overview of Matthew, Day 1, Ch. 1 – 7

These overviews were written while our church was listening each day to “You’ve Got the Time,” the recorded New Testament available from Faith Comes by Hearing. It takes 28 minutes a day, and I enjoyed it tremendously. “Day 1, Ch. 1 – 7” and so on tell you what section to listen to.

As we read through the New Testament together, notice how much of the text is devoted to behavior, rather than theology. The New Testament (and, as a matter of fact, the Old Testament) is convinced that unholy deeds are a certain indicator of bad theology. Today we listen to the genealogy and infancy of Jesus, a little bit about John the Baptist and the baptism of Jesus, and the Sermon on the Mount. Almost the entirety of the Sermon is about our behavior. Jesus finishes the Sermon by saying, "Therefore, everyone who hears these words of mine and obeys them is like a wise man who built his house on a rock. … Everyone who hears these words of mine and doesn't obey them is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.” Faith comes by hearing, but sound theology comes by obedience.

The Gospel of Matthew was probably written sometime around 65 or 70 A.D. (Some scholars think it might have been written later.) It was not the first gospel; that honor belongs to the Gospel of Mark. Matthew is laid out wonderfully for teaching, however, and that is probably why it is given first place in the NT. There are an introduction, five sections that have action leading up to a discourse (teaching), and a conclusion. The Sermon on the Mount is an example of the discourses.

Overview of Matthew, Day 2, Ch. 8 – 12
Remember that Matthew is arranged in seven sections, five of which begin with action and end with a discourse. Within each section, similar items tend to be arranged in threes or sevens, for example, three groups of 14 names (2x7) in the genealogy (ch. 1), three things to do in secret (6:1-18), three healings (8:1-15), three parables (13:24-33), or seven woes (ch. 23). This layout makes it easy to divide the text into coherent sections for teaching, and easy to remember what’s in each section. (Quick: what are three parables about lost things? Lost coin, lost sheep, lost son!)

Here’s one way to look at the section divisions:
I. Chs. 1–2. Origin and childhood.
II. Chs. 3-7. Narrative and Sermon on the Mount.
III. Chs. 8-10. Narrative and instructions to the disciples.
IV. Chs. 11-13:52. Narrative and a sermon given from a boat.
V. Chs. 13:53-18. Narrative and a sermon on the Kingdom of Heaven.
VI. Chs. 19-25. Narrative and some sermons on judgment.
VII. Chs. 26-28. Passion and Resurrection.

Overview of Matthew, Day 3, Ch. 13 – 18
Matthew seems to be aiming his gospel primarily at his fellow Jews. He frequently cites the Old Testament (OT) to show that Jesus is the expected Messiah. Many of his citations are not scriptures that we would consider to be Messianic prophecy if they had not been used by Matthew. For example, Matthew uses “I called my son out of Egypt” (Mt. 2:15) as prophecy; if you look at Hosea 11:1, it looks like the prophet was speaking about the nation of Israel, not the Messiah. The formula to listen for here is, “this was to fulfill what was spoken (or written) by the prophet” so-and-so. Another interesting thing about Matthew’s quotations from the OT is that he seems to have been doing his own translations directly from the Hebrew. Most New Testament quotations are from the Greek version of the OT, called the Septuagint. Matthew wrote in Greek, but his quotations differ slightly from the Septuagint. His facility in Hebrew shows that he was a well-educated person, because Hebrew was a dead language by Jesus’ time, used mostly by rabbis and scholars.

Matthew also emphasizes Jesus’ rightful position as the King of Israel. He introduces this theme right from the get-go by giving Jesus’ Davidic lineage. If you go to the trouble of comparing the genealogy in Matthew with the actual descent given in the OT, you will discover that occasionally Matthew has left out or double-counted an ancestor so that the lineage can be divided by 7 and 14. Seven is an important number in Jewish thinking, denoting perfection. Think “10” in the Olympics (or the movies). Matthew also gives us the names of five women in Jesus’ ancestry: Tamar, who posed as a prostitute; Rahab, who was a prostitute; Ruth, a foreigner; Bathsheba, an adulteress; and of course, Mary, of whom we know nothing but good. This doesn’t mean that the women were any worse than the men – one out of five is probably a better record than the kings of Judah had. Instead it shows both that women are important and that, no matter what you were, it’s what God makes out of you that counts.

Overview of Matthew, Day 4, Ch. 19 – 24
In spite of the obvious structure that Matthew imposes on his material (alternating action and discourses and groupings of three or seven), it is easy to see that Matthew followed Mark’s book very closely indeed when he wrote his own gospel. In many, many verses, Matthew uses Mark’s exact words. Matthew also incorporates a lot of material that isn’t in Mark, however. This material is primarily of two types. First, he uses his own eye-witness knowledge. He was, after all, a disciple of Jesus, who spent nearly three years traveling with him and learning from him. (There have been some modern arguments that someone other than Matthew the disciple wrote the book. Who? They don’t say. Remember the old joke: The Odyssey wasn’t written by Homer. It was written by another blind Greek of the same name.)

Second, Matthew uses a source called “Q,” a hypothetical document that no longer exists. “Q” stands for Quelle, German for “source.” Most NT scholars believe that this was a collection of the sayings of Jesus that has been lost. (Actually, Matthew is a strong candidate for the collector.) They believe this because Matthew and Luke apparently worked independently, but they have two things in common. Both follow Mark very closely, and both quote many identical sayings from Jesus that are not in Mark. Luke was not an eye-witness, as far as we know, so scholars conclude that both Luke and Matthew were using another written source document, Q.

Overview of Matthew, Day 5, Ch. 25 – 28
The book of Matthew has traditionally been attributed to the disciple Matthew, also known as Levi, since the second century. Matthew is one of an intermediate group of disciples about whom we know some, but not much. Before Jesus called him into the ministry, he was a tax collector. We would call him a collaborator and extortionist. Tax collecting was a sort of franchise operation. You paid a certain amount of money to the Romans for the privilege of collecting as much money as possible from your fellow Jews. Consequently tax collectors were disliked in Judea both for their politics and for their work ethic. Matthew apparently was successful in amassing some wealth, because immediately after Jesus called him, he threw a giant party to introduce all his tax-collector friends to Jesus (Matt. 9:9-10; Luke 5:27-32). He got the evangelical idea right away.

Copyright 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 by Regina L. Hunter.  All rights reserved.

Opinions expressed on this page are solely those of the author, Regina Hunter, and may or may not be shared by the sponsors or the Bible-study participants.  Thanks to the Holy Spirit for any useful ideas presented here, and thanks to all the readers for their support and enthusiasm.  All errors are, of course, the sole responsibility of the author.

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