We began the New Testament today. Many may have breathed a sigh of relief, but hopefully you learned more about God's grace and character, as well as the history of Israel through the Old Testament in the last 23 days.
We read Matthew 1 - Mark 5 today. The recap will focus on Matthew.
Matthew is the first book in the Gospels of the New Testament, and was written between 50-100 A.D., though is most commonly dated to around 50-55 A.D. The dating of Matthew relies heavily on the dating of Mark, as Matthew provides clear indications of borrowing up to 90% of the material in Mark (Luke up to 60%).
The word gospel is derived from "gōd-spell," an Old English word that meant "good news." Matthew is one of the Canonical Gospels, which includes Mark, Luke, and John as well. There are many similarities between the Gospels, especially Matthew, Mark, and Luke, which are all three considered synoptic gospels (synoptic meaning "read together"). Outside of the Canonical Gospels, there are other extra-biblical apocryphal gospels written. These books are non-canonical because the founding fathers did not accept them as the inerrant word of God. For more on the Canonization of the Bible, read The Canon Debate (found here) by Lee McDonald or The Origin of the Bible (found here) by F. F. Bruce. There are other great books to refer to as well, and volumes of written Encyclopedias available.
Other gospels found outside the Bible are the Jewish-Christian gospels, including the Gospel of Ebionites, the Gospel of the Hebrews, and the Gospel of the Nazarenes. Likewise, a gospel accredited to St. Thomas can be found. There is a gospel of Peter, which is widely accepted as legendary, and was written in the 2nd century with docetic doctrinal influences. There is a gospel of Judas, which is controversial and, like the gospel of Peter, shows signs of inauthentic relational aspects of Jesus. Along with these few, there are several Islamic views of Jesus, there exists the Diatessaron, a harmonization of the Gospels as written by Tatian around 175 A.D., and more. While these documents can be read, and even enjoyed, they are not the word of God, and should not be weighted more heavily than the word of God. In the books provided above, there are intentional reasons behind why these books (and others, including the Apocrypha), were not included in the Biblical Canon. For more questions on this, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The book of Matthew is written by Matthew (also named Levi in Mark 2:14 and Luke 5:27). He was likely a Jewish Christian, indicated by the extensive use of Old Testament scriptures (62 references) and his lack of explanation behind the lifestyle and law of the Jews. If the audience was Jewish, there would be no need to explain the Jewish lifestyle, as they would already be well aware. Further, the use of the Old Testament was to show the flow of the Messianic prophecies in Jesus Christ, and to prove the divinity and fulfillment of the Law in Jesus.
Along with the heavy use of Old Testament scriptures, the word "kingdom" is used 52 times (in the ESV), as Matthew records Jesus' deliberate and consistent teaching on the Kingdom of God. Aside from the major theme of the Kingdom of Heaven, there are other topics including the Jews' (especially Pharisees and Sadducees) confict with Jesus' teachings and Jesus as the fulfillment of the Law, which Jesus clarifies as distinctly different than the abolishment of the Law (Matthew 5:17), a commonly confused concept in the first century (and now).
There are divided sections in the book of Matthew that can help in deciphering the intended meaning behind the flow of the book.
1. Prologue (1:1-2:23)
2. Body (3:1-28:15)
A. The Sermon on the Mount (5:1-7:29)
B. The Apostles Commissioned (10:1-42)
C. The Kingdom Parables (13:1-52)
D. Kingdom Fellowship/Relationships (18:1-35)
E. Olivet Discourse (at the Mount of Olives) (24:1-25:26)
3. Epilogue (28:16-20)
There are many similarities between each subsection in the body, including a familiar statement at the end of each along the lines of "When Jesus had finished saying these things..." Taking a month or two to study the Sermon on the Mount can and will change your life and your perspective, and focusing on the Kingdom as much as Jesus did will increase your faith and boost your hope in God.
Tomorrow, we read Mark and Luke 1-15. The recap will focus on Mark and Luke tomorrow, then John and Acts the day following. However, I may decide last minute to pair Luke and Acts into one day, and spend a separate day entirely on John, which may prove helpful in presenting the themes and structure of the three books. Luke and Acts were originally one book, and are both authored by Luke.
Are these summaries helpful? If so, please share them with your friends, and come back for the next six days as we finish reading the Bible.