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The Bible contains two parts, which are the Old Testament, the so-called the Jewish Bible, and the New Testament. Though many different writers involved in writing the Bible, the two Testaments are not independent; they are cross-referenced to each other. Christians often treat the Old Testament not only as the historical documents or literatures of the Israelites, but also as an important element of the foundation of the New Testament, because the writers of the New Testament lay strong emphasis on the relationship of Jesus with the prophecies of the Old Testament, which includes "the birth of Jesus, the place of His birth, the flight into Egypt, the return to Nazareth, the role of John the Baptist in preparing Jesus for His public ministry," the crucifixion of Jesus, and the resurrection of Jesus.
The New Testament is a collection of different spiritual literary works, which includes the Gospels, a history of early church, the epistles of Paul, other epistles and apocalypse. Without deeply thinking or researching of the chronological order of the Gospels, a reader should not have problem to observe that the Gospels begin with the Gospel of Matthew, and to notice that there are many common areas, including content and literary characteristics, among the first three Gospels, the Gospel of Matthew, Mark, and Luke.
The reason that the Gospel of Matthew is in the first place among the four Gospels is due to the early church tradition that Matthew was the earliest one who recorded Lord’s word and Jesus stories. In the fifth century, Augustine of Hippo claimed that "the canonical order of the four Gospels was the chronological order." In the late-eighteenth century, J. J. Griesbach stated that The Gospel of Mark was a short version of the combination of the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke. In the nineteenth century, German scholars concluded that the Gospel of Matthew was preceded by the Gospel of Mark and Matthew used the Gospel of Mark as his primary source. No matter which theory that most New Testament scholars accept, Matthew did not simply copy sources from other Gospels, but also included his own ideas and quoted verses from the Old Testament. So the question of readers should rise is "How strong relationship did the Gospel of Matthew have with the Old Testament?" or "How accurately did Matthew use the Old Testament?
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Matthew was a social man, with high education, both in Greek and Hebrew, and also had a talent on literatures. He as a good social position, a publican, had been working hard on collecting revenues from a population for Roman Emperors, so he was rich but had been despised by his peoples, because of taking advantages from others. As a tax collector, “Matthew seemed the general Palestine public to be perpetually writing things down,” Levi was his name, of Mark 2:14 and Luke 5:27-29, before the time of his calling from Jesus, then, Matthew was his new name as a symbol of the change in the heart and life as a disciple. He is more as a gospel author than as a disciple in the view of Christians. After Jesus’ resurrection, Matthew started to preach to Hebrews, so he wrote God’s words in Aramaic for those believers who were Jewish origin. But when he got to the point of delivering Jesus’ teachings to others, he recorded the messages in Greek and gave it to those whom God led him to. The Gospel of Matthew primarily was for Jews, but Matthew also had a global vision from God for all origins in the world.
The biggest purpose of the Gospel of Matthew was to prove to Jews that Jesus is the Messiah whom they were waiting for, and He is the one who fulfilled Old Testament prophecies. In order to achieve this goal, Matthew tried to quote the scriptures from the Old Testament to support what he reported the events in Jesus’ life. So the study of the quotations from Old Testament is a fundamental technique to the understanding of God’s inspiration in the Gospel of Matthew. The Old Testament is not just the foundation of the Gospel of Matthew, but also is the backbone and the structure of it.
Before finishing the first two chapters of the Gospel of Matthew, readers will soon notice that there appears a common using when Matthew wanted to introduce the Old Testament to support Jesus’ story, which is “this happened to fulfill the words spoken by the prophet,” even though the citation is not always verbatim. This is so-called the “fulfillment formula” or “formula quotation,” which was a trend of Jewish-Christian collection. There are total eleven Old Testaments verses introduced with the “fulfillment formula” in the Gospel of Matthew, which are 1:22; 2:15, 17, 23; 4:14; 8:17; 12:17; 13:14, 35; 21:4; and 27:9.
Infancy Narrative (1:23; 2:15, 18, 23)
Matt. 1:23 is quoted from Isa. 7:14, which was the prophecy that Yahweh wanted to give a sign to king Ahaz through Isaiah and offered a salvation for the Israelites in the year 734 B.C. The phrase that Isaiah used in Hebrew is “the young woman pregnant and bearing”, which contains words of an adjective and a participle, and the verb of “shall call his name” is in a feminine form. The Greek word that Matthew used to translate “the young woman” is parqe,noj, “the virgin,” which limited the possibility of the fulfillment to the birth of Hezekiah, son of king Ahaz. Angel Gabriel spoke to Mary that recorded by Luke fits the verb form used in Hebrew. Matthew tried to convince the readers that Jesus being born of a virgin has a salvation plan to save his people and is the true Messianic king that fulfills Isaiah prophecy announced in several hundred years ago.
Matt. 2:15 is quoted from Hos. 11:1. Hosea referred Israel to the God’s “son” as a “child” or “infant”, which is nh,pioj that Matthew translated in Greek, and that is the reason why Matthew related this verse to the infancy narrative. He tried to emphasize that Jesus is the true Israelite and had almost the same experience of old Israelites; furthermore, Jesus is “a second and a greater Moses.”
Jer. 31:15 that Matthew quoted in Matt.2:18 was not a prediction; Matthew used this to show readers a love from God for Israel. Matt. 2:23 is an unidentified quotation, which has no direct reference from the Old Testament to the verse of “He shall be called a Nazarene,” but Matthew seems to use the Hebrew term netser, which is the word for “branch,” to refer to Isa. 11:1 on supporting that Jesus is the Messiah.
Early Ministry of Jesus (4:15-16)
Matt. 4:15-16 is quoted from Isa. 9:1-2. Matthew attempted to present the transition of the ministry from John the Baptist to Jesus, and addressed the starting point of three and half years’ mission for Jesus. Matthew also pointed out that Jesus returned to Galilee from Nazarene, the place that he fled with his family at the end of infancy narrative, fulfills the Isaiah’s prophecy. In Matt. 9:1, Matthew mentioned that Jesus made his new home at the city of Capernaum, which is just by the Sea of Galilee. Matthew put the See of Galilee on the spot light here, because it was the heart of Israel, and he tried to remind the Israelites that God’s mission was first to Israel. But Galilee was also called “Galilee of the Gentiles,” so Matthew planned
to deliver the message that the great mission is for all nations.
Miracles of Healing (8:17; 12:18-21)
In Matt. 8:17 and 12:18-21, Matthews used the Isa. 53:4 and Isa. 42:1-3 correspondingly to prove that Jesus fulfills His role of the Servant of the Lord through the ministry by healing the human’s suffering cause by the devil, and has the great passion and love, not only for Jews but also for Gentiles. Israel is the servant in a temporary way, and the Messiah will be the only one that truly fulfills the full degree of the prophecy.
Controversy and the New Kingdom (13:14 & 35)
It is the first quotation that Matthew used on the opponents of Jesus rather than on Jesus Himself as the fulfillment from Isaiah’s prophecy. Matthew might want to show readers that Jesus spoke in parables not only to confirm His opponents that they could freely choose rebellion just as Isaiah had been sent to prophesy to reinforce his contemporary coldness, but also the rejection of Messiah as part of the ongoing fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy. This is the so-called developmental fulfillment, “which applies the principle of progressive fulfillment to a
single comprehensive or generalized prophecy.”
Passion Narrative (21:5)
The triumphal entry of Jesus that Matthew recorded when He enters into Jerusalem was based on the Zechariah prophecy in Zech. 9:9 with fulfilling the great rejoicing, but the ultimate fulfillment is the rejection and crucifixion of Jesus. The term “King” that Matthew used in Matt. 21:5 is to demonstrate to readers that Jesus, who is the Son of God and the Son of David, was not the king that Jewish people made Him, but He would like to follow Heavenly Father’s will and humbled Himself to die for all the people He loves.
Crucifixion of Jesus (27:9-10)
Matthew quoted the verses from Zech. 11:12-13 to support that Jesus was sold for thirty pieces of silver, but “it is wrongly attributed to Jeremiah.” But Matthew realized that the words in Zechariah and Jeremiah were in w typological sense, so the prophecy can be treated as fulfilled. This is the last fulfillment quotation in the Gospel of Matthew, and even though this is a heartbreaking moment, Matthew emphasized that it was till in God’s plan; even caused by the betrayal of Judas, but still in God’s hands.
When readers read through the Gospel of Matthew, it is a good time to reflect their thought by imaging a picture of a tax collector’s booth by the lakeside at Capernaum, where Matthew received Jesus’ call and totally changed his life started from that moment. Matthew who used to set money as the first priority in his life and to gain benefits by collecting it from others set his goal to preach God’s words and recorded Jesus’ story. Matthew no longer gained benefits from collecting money but winning souls for the Lord, and stored his treasure in the heaven. He was a man for books and records for his job before God’s calling, but was a secretary and recorder for Jesus Christ after. Although Matthew brought a new and deeper interpretation to those passages he quoted from Old Testament, his interpretation remained deeply faithful to the original purposes of the Old Testament authors. “How accurately did Matthew use the Old Testament?” is not the only question that Christians should concern about, but also “How accurately and faithfully can Christians apply God’s words into their daily life?”
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