Identify the Jewish features of the Gospel of Matthew and describe how this Gospel is structured. How does one prove this Gospel was written from a Jewish perspective and to a Jewish audience?
Both the structure and the features of the book of Matthew speak to the intended audience of the book. The book of Matthew is structured in such a way that he is able to easily insert discourses into the narratives that he may have received from Mark’s writing, which numerically coincides with the number of books in the Pentateuch. In addition to evidence from the structure of the book of Matthew, evidence for Jewish writing and influence can be found in the features, as well.
Much of the narratives of Matthew can be found in Mark, which is consistent with the theory that Matthew’s writings were influenced by Mark, and that he may have drawn from the writings of Mark. However, even if this theory holds true, Matthew still adds his own personal style signature to his writing by adding five discourses, or lengthy sermons of Jesus, to his writing. These discourses are intermingled within the narratives of the life of Jesus, and can be seen throughout the book. Each one of these discourses concludes with the phrase “And it came to pass when Jesus had finished.”
Interestingly, these five discourses parallel the five books of Moses, called the Pentateuch. It is thought that Matthew takes extra steps in his attempt to draw this parallel by omitting the story of the Widow’s Mite, and by merging the denunciation of the Scribes and Pharisees and the Olivet Discourse into a single discourse unit. Although we can never be certain of the accuracy of this theory, it seems likely within the broad culmination of other evidentiary facts.
Matthew must have thought that linking Jesus to Jewish ancestry was imperative. Yet again he compares Jesus with Moses. Matthew borrows phrases from the story of Moses (such as in Matthew 2:13, where Matthew uses the word ‘flee’). Matthew also gives an account of Jesus using a quotation from the Pentateuch in His Sermon on the Mount.
Other features indicative of a writing to a Jewish audience are the large number of references to the Old Testament (about seventy six times), and the use of the phrase “that it might be fulfilled” (used about twelve times). This term made reference to Old Testament passages that Jesus had already fulfilled or that he would fulfill in the future. Matthew also begins his Gospel by tracing the lineage of Jesus back to Abraham, the father of the Judaic faith.
Although evidence for a Jewish author (and a Jewish audience) can be seen just from a glimpse into Matthew, more and more evidence to the same surfaces as a deeper investigation into this Gospel occurs. From the corresponding numberings with the Pentateuch to Old Testament quotations, the trademark of a Jewish author is embellished with this writing. Using such terms as “that it might be fulfilled” in reference to Old Testament scriptures only magnifies the accuracy of ‘Matthew the Jew, writing to the Jews.’
Now Jesus stood before the governor. And the governor asked Him, saying, “Are You the King of the
Jews?” So Jesus said to him, “It is as you say.” Matthew 27:11