I received a copy of Craig A. Evans’ new commentary on the Gospel of Matthew in the mail yesterday. He sent it to me as a gift for doing some indexing for the book before print. It is part of the New Cambridge Bible Commentary series and it goes verse-by-verse through the entire Gospel. I go on vacation starting this Thursday and I intend to bring it along with me.
There are some interesting insights/statements from the very beginning of the commentary. While Evans doesn’t spent a lot of time arguing that the author was the Apostle Matthew he does summarize the discussion and concludes:
“There is nothing in the Gospel of Matthew that rules out the apostle Matthew as its author, and there is nothing in the life of the early church that compelled it to select the apostle Matthew.” (p. 4)
In other words, scholars should pause before quickly dismissing Matthew as the author since it would be odd to chose him randomly if the church was aiming to attribute an anonymous Gospel to one of the Apostles. As Evans writes, “Why not Peter or his brother Andrew, or one of the Zebedee brothers?” (p. 4)
What about the date of authorship? Evans notes that most seem to date it in the 70’s after the fall of the Temple and the city of Jerusalem. He has reservations about this since he notes that the destruction language has biblical precedent (e.g. 2 Kings 25.9; 2 Chronicles 36.19; Nehemiah 1.3; 2.3, 13, 17; 4.2; Isaiah 64.11; Jeremiah 21.10; 34.2). This leads him to mention the work of J.G. Crossley who dates the Gospel of Mark to the 40’s. He proposes that it is possible that the Evangelist used Mark since it may have been in circulation for about twenty years already. As a side note he mentions that the Book of Acts ends rather abruptly with the narrative coming “to an end no later that 62 A.D., before the death of James, the brother of the Lord.” (p. 5) Since Acts follows Luke this leads to the proposal that, “…we see reasonable arguments for the writing and circulation of all three Synoptic Gospels sometime prior to the war of 66-70 A.D.” This is quite the claim!
As I come across more points of interest I will share them. In the meantime, I found the idea that the Gospel of Matthew may be authored by the Apostle Matthew in the 60’s very intriguing. I would like to read Crossley’s work on Mark now.
How does one go about indexing for a scholar such as Evans? I would gladly do such work in exchange for books!
Evans has become a mentor to me in recent months. He has been helping me prepare for doctoral work and he may have a role in supervising a potential dissertation as a outside reader. This has allowed me to have some opportunity to see some of the “ins-and-outs” of various processes like the compilation of a book. I did indexing for the Genesis volume of the Brill FIOTL series that he edited as well. It is fun to get a peak at these books before they are made public!
Not asking tongue-in-cheek, but does it actually matter if Matthew wrote Matthew (Mark wrote Mark) etc?
It depends on who is asking and why.
The ‘why’ is easy – IF the authorship of each Gospel is generally considered tradition, asking why it matters is a matter of gauging the authority of tradition.
The ‘who’ is less easy – I admit, it doesn’t matter a whole lot to me who was the secondary author in the book of Matthew, since I’m primarily (and personally) interested in the primary author (Holy Ghost). However, I concede there are legitimate reasons for scholars and/or theologians to ask – so for the sake of argument let’s say:
“Does it matter who wrote the Gospel of Matthew from the perspective of an academic or a theologian beyond mere historical curiosity?”
I think there are some things that could be better supported for an academic/theologian if say the Apostle Matthew wrote the Gospel. It would lend more credence to the idea that these events were witnessed by an eyewitness rather than merely evolving oral traditions. It could date the records closer to the events. It could reshape how we think of who and what the text addressed. So forth and so on.
We don’t know why Matthew was chosen over Thaddeus, but not knowing isn’t much of an affirmative argument.
There are a lot of traditions about the lives and travels of the apostles that almost certainly are legendary. And there are many, many books attributed to apostles that are certain to have been written well after they died.
Jesus’ group of 12 apostles almost certainly weren’t capable of authoring a gospel in Greek. And one would think that a biography written by a personal friend/companion of the subject would contain some personal elements, unlike Matthew,parts of which seems to be copied from other sources.
Not to mention all the things like the part where the author of Matthew has Jesus entering Jerusalem riding two donkeys at the same time because he misread a passage from the Hebrew bible. Someone who was an eyewitness could scarcely make such a mistake.
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