- Author was familiar with 1st Jewish revolt in (66-70 CE - see Matthew 22:7)
- Author also very familiar with Judaism and the surrounding regions (knowledge of details in landscape is good)
- The gospel of Matthew text does not claim to be written by Matthew, one of the twelve disciples
- Names of gospels weren’t assigned until approximately the second century
- Likely written 80 CE - early 90’s CE - just at end of eye-witnesses’ lifespans
- Author writing in time where Christian/Gentile-Jewish relationships were strained from:
- 49 AD - Jews expelled from Rome
- 66 AD - Jews rebel against Rome in Jerusalem
- 70 AD - Rome destroys Jerusalem & its Jewish temple
- This environment contributed to some of the harsh language and rhetoric towards Jews found in its text
- Synagogues referred to as “their” synagogues
- Harsh language found in descriptions of Pharisees as children of hell, blind guides, blind fools, and whitewashed tombs (more harsh than earlier sources)
- Account of Jesus’ trial in Matthew has Jews claiming blood responsibility for Jesus’ crucifixion (27.24–25)
- Tragically, this harsh language towards Jews has been used by Christians at various points in history to promote forms of anti-semitism. Awareness of where this bias comes from in the text can help avoid and counter such interpretations.
- 46% shared between Mark & Luke (triple tradition)
- 24% shared just with Luke (double tradition)
- 20% unique to Matthew
- 10% shared just with Mark
- Used 90% of Mark (about 600 of Mark’s 678 verses) in the 1,071 verses of Matthew
- Quotes the Jewish Bible forty times with an explicit phrase such as “It is written” and another twenty-one times without such a phrase
- Draws extensively from Hebrew Bible
- Emphasis on fulfillment scriptures
- More of Matthew is dedicated to Jesus’ teachings than any other gospel
- Five-fold discourses - each ends with phrase “when Jesus had finished saying these things…” - note each also ends with reference to judgement
- Sermon on mount on God’s kingdom (Chs 5-7)
- Preaching of the Kingdom (Ch 10)
- The mysteries (Ch 13)
- Application to church (Ch 18)
- Last days and final judgement (Chs 24-25)
- Influenced by Greek form bios (“life”) - use events that reveal character of subject
The following are devotionals (spiritual interpretations/readings) on specific scriptures in the book of Matthew.
Name & Genealogy
- Matthew 1:1 - Jesus - “Jeshua” (“Yeshua”) abbr of “Joshua” meaning “The Lord (YHWH) is help (or salvation)”
- Messiah (Greek “Christos”) meaning “anointed one”
- Matthew 1:2-16 - Interestingly, Jesus’ genealogy is abnormal in Biblical genealogies in that it includes 1) women and 2) non-Jews
- E.g: Tamar, Rahab (Moabite), Ruth (Moabite), Mary
Escape to Egypt & return
Jesus presented as type of Moses:
- Matthew 2:15 - Fulfillment from Hosea 11:1 - similar to Israelites fleeing to/from Egypt
- Matthew 2:15 - Herod’s action similar to king of Egypt’s action (Exodus 1:16)
- Matthew 2:18 - Jeremiah 31:15 - Note, Rachael’s tomb was near Bethlehem
“But I say unto you …”
Starting in chapter 5 verse 21 the phrase “you have heard that it had been said” is repeatedly used with Jesus following it with the phrase ”But I say unto you …”. Jesus is explicitly citing these Deuteronomistic scripture which laid out the doctrine of “herem” (“utterly destory”) as a means of contrasting his new covenant with them:
"Judge not, that ye be not judged.” (Matt 7:1)
(from modern LDS scripture) “For if ye will not abide in my covenant ye are not worthy of me. Therefore, renounce war and proclaim peace…” (D&C 98:15-16)
Religious Practices - Alms, Prayer, and Fasting
Matthew 6:1-4: “do not your alms before men”
- v2 Hypocrites – (Greek ὑποκριτής - hupokrités) also means “an actor under an assumed character”
- v2 “They have their reward.”
- How can we respond in a Christlike way when we see this behavior in ourselves or in others?
- v3-4 - Jesus’ wisdom (serve w/o ulterior motives)
- Is it ever good to speak about service we have rendered? Why/why not?
Matthew 6:5-8: Principles on prayer
- v5 - “Hypocrites” again - praying to get honors
- v5 - “They have their reward” again
- v5 - “standing” ritual times (morning/noon/evening) praying facing temple (1 Kings 8:35-48)
- v6 - Interesting to think about how our ability to have gratitude will affect our ability to see how God rewards us “openly”
- v7 - Warning again “vain repetition” - looking at how this is translated into different versions of the Bible
- NRSV: “heap up empty phrases”
- Greek: βαττολογέω (bat-tol-og-eh’-o) “chatter, long-winded, empty words, stammer, repeat”
- v8 - “your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.”
- A question naturally arises from this: Why pray then? What is the purpose of prayer?
- One perspective is that our prayers are for us to tune into what God’s will is, to find charitable ways to act, and to seek positive meaning in our experiences.
Matthew 6:9-13 - Lord’s prayer
Compare with Luke 11:2-4
9 Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
10 Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts (“sins” in Luke), as we forgive our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
(Last part of v13 here likely added later influenced by 1 Chronicles 29:11-13)
2 Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth.
3 Give us day by day our daily bread.
4 And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.
Matthew 6:16-18 - Fasting
- v16 - hypocrites & “have their reward”
- v17 - placing oil on head was part of day-to-day hygiene (no major meaning: mundane)
- Point here is to not make a huge deal of it (which distracts from the personal meaning)
- v18 - God who will “reward thee openly”
Living in the World
After topics on religious practices, the text then has several sections on various aspects about how to carry faith in the world.
Matthew 6:19-21 - treasure & worship
- v19 - “Lay up” - Greek (θησαυρίζω - thé-saur-izó) “heap up, store up: to accumulate” (similar - thesaurus, which comes from same Greek root meaning “storehouse”)
- v21 - “where your treasure is, there will your heart be also”
- Word worship: worth-ship - “acknowledgement of worth”
- Our worship is how to identify and “store up” what we treasure
- A great LDS hymn here is Hymn 223 “Have I Done Any Good?” which has this line in the chorus: “wake up and do something more than dream of your mansion above.”
Matthew 6:22-24 - light of the eye & two masters
- v22 - Single – Greek (ἁπλοῦς - haplous) literally means “without folds” - meaning “single (undivided) focus, without a (secret) double agenda”
- v23 - “evil” here (Greek, πονηρός - ponéros) can also be translated to “diseased or unhealthy” when describing something physical
- Darkness/disease of eye (think: cataracts) will occlude light’s entrance into it (making eye’s dark)
- v24 - Mammon: a Greek (μαμωνᾶς - mamónas) transliteration of Semitic term for “the treasure a person trusts in” - treasure and worship here
Matthew 6:25-34 - “take no thought”
- The phrase “take no thought” What do you think is meant by the idea of “take no thought”?
- Adam Miller, in his book ‘Letters to a Young Mormon’, gives some wisdom on what it might mean to let go of controlling everything around us and to turn things over to God:
“Like everyone, you have a story you want your life to tell. You have your own way of doing things and your own way of thinking about things… Like most people, you’ll lavish attention on this story until, almost unwittingly, it becomes your blue-print for how things ought to be. As you persist in measuring life against it, this Franken-bible of the self will become a substitute for God, an idol. This is sin. And this idolatrous story is all the more ironic when, as a true believer, you religiously assign God a starring role in your story as the one who, with some cajoling and obedience, can make things go the way you’ve plotted. But faith isn’t about getting God to play a more and more central part in your story. Faith is about sacrificing your story on his altar.”
Matthew 7:1-5 - “judge not” & mote/beam
- Greek word(s) (κρίνω/κρίμα - krinó/krima) does mean “judge” but it is esp. used in an official, final, legal manner (as in a court of law).
- There’s a finality to it. Perhaps another translation is “condemn” which has the same notion of finality in it.
- From this perspective, yes, we shouldn’t “condemn” anyone (including ourselves) because only Christ has the power of the final judgement over the hearts of men. And I understand that to also include my own heart.
- Sometimes we can be our own worst judge: “I’m not”… “I’ll never”… “I can’t”… etc. Christ seeks to take that burden from us as well.
- Matthew 11:29-30 - “take my yoke upon you… my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
- Mote - dried stalk/twig/chaff
- Beam - pretty close to our notion of a 2×4 piece of wood
Matthew 7:7-11 – ask and it shall be given / good gift
- Starting in verse 7 (through 23) these are likely from the Q source.
- From Chieko Okazaki’s book “Lighten Up!” (Deseret Book 1993, p205):
“Maybe you should talk to the Relief Society president if you find yourself coming to Relief Society week after week and feeling no relief—instead, just more burdens. Jesus had situations like this in mind, I think, when he said, “What man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? “ (Matthew 7:9-10.) Let me phrase it like this: “What Relief Society president is there among you, who, if a sister ask for comfort, will give her a lecture? Or, if she ask for more spiritually nourishing lessons, will give her guilt instead?”
Matthew 7:12 – golden rule
It’s important to note that while a good general moral code, the Golden Rule is a common theme that predates Jesus and is found through many different religious traditions.
Matthew 7:13-14 - strait and narrow
- A strait connects two larger bodies of water
- We must leave one body in order to enter into and pass through the strait to get to the other body
- Imagery of World and Kingdom
- Being born again like passing from one environment to another
Matthew 7:15-23 - False Prophets, know them by their fruits (not just religious deeds)
- Fruits of the spirit Galatians 5:19-24
◦ 19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,
◦ 20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,
◦ 21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
◦ 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
◦ 23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
◦ 24 And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.
- Dieter F. Uchtdorf from talk, given to Salt Lake City Inner City Mission (December 4, 2015), titled “The Pattern, the Path, and the Promise”:
“we will not succeed if we only go through the motions of religiosity. We could cover the earth with members of the Church, put a meetinghouse on every corner, dot the land with temples, fill the earth with copies of the Book of Mormon, send missionaries to every country, and say millions of prayers. But if we neglect to grasp the core of the gospel message and fail to help those who suffer or turn away those who mourn, and if we do not remember to be charitable, we “are as [waste], which the refiners do cast out.”
“To put it simply, having charity and caring for one another is not simply a good idea. It is not simply one more item in a seemingly infinite list of things we ought to consider doing. It is at the core of the gospel—an indispensable, essential, foundational element. Without this transformational work of caring for our fellowmen, the Church is but a facade of the organization God intends for His people. Without charity and compassion we are a mere shadow of who we are meant to be—both as individuals and as a Church. Without charity and compassion, we are neglecting our heritage and endangering our promise as children of God. No matter the outward appearance of our righteousness, if we look the other way when others are suffering, we cannot be justified.”
- The question then is: How can we judge the words of prophets? Is that even righteous to do?
- For detailed treatment, see 14 Keys to Sustaining Prophets, Breaking the Fourth Wall of Revelation, and Quotes on Authority
- At a high-level:
- Jesus tells us to “hang all the law and the prophets” on the two great commandments: love God and love thy neighbor(Matthew 22:37-40).
- Paul warned that prophecy, without charity, will fail(1 Corinthians 13:8).
- Moroni said anything that inspires us to do good and believe in Christ comes from Christ (Moroni 7:14-16).
- Joseph Smith taught about the limits of priesthood authority(D&C 121:36-37, 41-42).
- John said that we must overcome fear and put love first as God has (1 John 4:18-19).
- Words/works worthy of God will pass these tests
Matthew 7:24-28 - Wise man and foolish man
- See Luke 6:48 additional phrase about how the wise man “digged deep”
- Helaman 5:12 scripture identifying Jesus as foundation
- 12 And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.
- Helaman 5:12 scripture identifying Jesus as foundation
- Same Greek word for “founded” (θεμελιόω - themelioó) used in Matthew 7:25 “it was founded upon a rock” and Ephesians 3:17 “That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love”
- See also 3 Nephi 11:39-40 where Jesus gives command to build on foundation but with a warning to not confuse what we’ve built with the foundation He has provided
- 39 Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine (see faith, repentance, baptism, Spirit), and whoso buildeth upon this buildeth upon my rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against them.
- 40 And whoso shall declare more or less than this, and establish it for my doctrine, the same cometh of evil, and is not built upon my rock; but he buildeth upon a sandy foundation, and the gates of hell stand open to receive such when the floods come and the winds beat upon them.
- It is good for us to build things like church on Jesus’ foundation, but we should remember that the church is not the gospel but instead is what we seek to have constructed on it