Introduction to the New Testament – The Three Synoptic Gospels -Lecture 2.1

The Three Synoptic Gospels

The first three Gospels are called the Synoptic which means a seeing together because they take a common view of the life and ministry of Christ when compared to the very different treatment in the Fourth Gospel.

The Synoptic narrate largely the same things but with some differences. For example, Matthew and Luke tell of the birth and childhood of Jesus. Matthew and Mark dwell on the Galilean ministry. Luke deals with the Perean ministry.

John deals with the Judean ministry, he omits most of the Galilean ministry and records visits Jesus made to Jerusalem, but these were omitted by the other writers. The writers of the Synoptic omit the Judean ministry, taking account only of the last week which is covered by all four writers.

The last week occupies one third of the Gospels of Matthew and Mark; approximately a quarter of the Gospel of Luke and approximately a half of the Gospel of John. In fact John devotes seven chapters, or one third of his book, to the crucifixion, that is from sunrise to sunset.

Mathew has 28 chapters, Mark 16, Luke 24 and John 21.

THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO MATTHEW

The special emphasis of Matthew is that Jesus is the Messiah foretold by Old Testament prophets. He repeatedly quotes from the Old Testament.

This Gospel is called the Gospel of the Kingdom because of its frequent use of the term Kingdom of Heaven.

Authorship

Papias left it on record that Matthew composed the logia (collection of words and sayings of Jesus) in the Hebrew tongue, and everyone interpreted as he was able.

In the New Testament, Logia usually means Gospel (Romans 3:2; Hebrews 5:12).

Most of the early Church Fathers, including Irenaeus and Origen, regarded Matthew as the author. They believed that Matthew may have written his Gospel twice – first in Hebrew (Aramaic) and secondly in Greek.

Some Theologians believe that Matthew copied from Marks Gospel, but this claim has not been substantiated. Why would Matthew copy from someone who was not an eye witness to Jesus and His work?

Matthew the Man


We know very little of about Matthew who was also called Levi. He is mentioned in the list of the twelve disciples (Matthew 10:3, Mark 3:18; Luke 6:15 and Acts 1:13)

The only other mention is his call to follow Jesus (Matthew 9:9-12; mark 2:14-17 and Luke 5:27-32). The only word that Matthew wrote about himself is that he was a publican (collector of taxes for the Romans) (Matthew 9:9) Publicans were extortionists and were generally despised.

Luke tells us that Matthew made a great feat for Jesus and forsook everything to follow Jesus. He lost sight of himself utterly in adoration of his new Master.

Date

Irenaeus believed that Matthew wrote while Peter and Paul preached in Rome and before Mark wrote (AD50-60)

Jerome, one of the Latin Fathers, believed that Matthew was first to write a Gospel. However, some modern scholars believe this writing to be an earlier collection of sayings rather than the Gospel.

The Ecclesia 9Matthew 16:18): This is used only in this Gospel and some suggest it indicates a date after AD70 and after Mark. Some use the word to suggest that the early Christians used the term and claimed that Christ said it. They suggest a date AD 80-100.

Purpose

i) Matthew wrote to trace the fulfilment of the Old Testament prophecies (Mat 1:22-23, 2:17-18). He wrote to prove to the Jews that Jesus of Nazareth is the fulfilment of the Messianic prophecies. Thus Matthew 2:15 is a fulfilment of Hosea 11:1 (other references 16:16; 27:54)
ii) Matthew also traces the historical validity of the history and lineage (genealogy) of David to Christ (Mat 1:1-17). He links David’s kingship to Christ so that Jesus is often referred to as the Son of David. (Mat 1:20; 9:28; 12:23

Fulfilment of Christ’s ministry as the Old Testament Messiah

Teaching

There are large blocks of teaching followed by narratives (story telling)

Chapters 1-4 Birth, baptism, temptation and beginning of Christ’s ministry

Chapters 5-7 Sermon on the Mount – these sermons were preached at one time but over a period of time

Chapter 13 Parables
Audience
The audience were probably Palestinian Jews.

Why Palestinian Jews?

a) There is an emphasis on the supremacy of the Old Testament Law (Chapter 5:18) this law taken deeper and more fully by the new law brought by Christ (Chapter 5:7)
b) Statements are aimed solely at the Jews (Chapter 15:24)
c) the disciples were encouraged to pay taxes to the temple and continue Jewish customs (Chapter 5:23; 17:24)
d) Frequent appearance of Old Testament prophets (Chapter 8:4-8; 17:27-50).

Matters Peculiar to Matthew

There is a large amount of material in Matthew which is not found in the other Gospels.

Narratives
The narratives that belong only to Matthew are chiefly those connected with our Lord’s birth

The visit of the wise men Chapter 2:1-12
Massacre at Bethlehem Chapter 2:16-18
Flight into Egypt Chapter 2:13-21

Teachings
There are ten parables which are not found in the other Gospels

The Tares Chapter 13:24-46
The Hidden Treasure Chapter 13:44
The Pearl of Great Price Chapter 13:45-46
The Drag Net Chapter 13:47-50
The Unmerciful Servant Chapter 18:23-35
The Labourers in the Vineyard Chapter 20:1-16
The Two Sons Chapter 21:28-32
The Marriage Feast Chapter 22:1-14
The Ten Virgins Chapter 25:1-13
The Talents Chapter 25:14-30

Miracles
Three miracles find a place in Matthew’s account:

The Cure of Two Blind Men Chapter 9:27-31
The Dumb Demonic Healed Chapter 9:32-33
The Coin in the Fish’s Mouth Chapter 17:24-27

Outline
The contents of the Gospel may be outlined in the following way:

The birth and infancy of Christ Chapter 1:1-2, 23
Preparation for ministry Chapter 3:1-4, 11
Beginning of His ministry Chapter 4:12-25
Sermon on the Mount Chapters 5 -7
Ministry at Capernaum and by the Lake Chapter 8:1-15, 20
Retirement at Capernaum and by the Lake Chapter 15:21-28, 35
East of Jordan Chapters 19-20
Last days in Jerusalem Chapters 21-25
Passion, Death and Resurrection Chapters 26-28

It may be noted in connection with this outline that Matthew handles his materials in subordination to his method of grouping the sayings of our Lord. Thus, five main sections can be discovered each ending with the equivalent phrase: ‘And when Jesus had ended these sayings… These dividing marks appear at Matthew 7:28; 11:1; 13:53; 19:1 and 26:1

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