Composition and setting
, fragment of a flyleaf with the title of the Gospel of Matthew, ευαγγελιον κ̣ατ̣α μαθ᾽θαιον (euangelion kata Maththaion). Dated to late 2nd or early 3rd century, it is the earliest manuscript title for Matthew
The oldest relatively complete manuscripts of the
Bible are the
Codex Vaticanus and the
Codex Sinaiticus, which date from the 4th century. Besides these, there exist manuscript fragments ranging from a few verses to whole chapters.
67 are notable fragments of Matthew. These are copies of copies. In the process of recopying, variations slipped in, different regional
manuscript traditions emerged, and
corrections and adjustments were made. Modern
collate all major surviving manuscripts, as well as citations in the works of the
Church Fathers, in order to produce a text which most likely approximates to the lost autographs.
The Evangelist Matthew Inspired by an Angel
The Gospel of Matthew is anonymous: the author is not named within the text, and the superscription "according to Matthew" was added some time in the 2nd century.
 The tradition that the author was
Matthew the Apostle begins with
Papias of Hierapolis (c. AD 100–140), an early
Apostolic Father, who is cited by the
Eusebius (AD 260–340), as follows: "Matthew collected the oracles [
logia: sayings of or about Jesus] in the
Hebrew language [Hebraïdi dialektōi], and each one interpreted [hērmēneusen—perhaps 'translated'] them as best he could."
On the surface this could imply that Matthew's gospel itself was written in Hebrew or
Aramaic by the apostle Matthew and later translated into
Greek, but nowhere does the author claim to have been an eyewitness to events, and Matthew's Greek "reveals none of the telltale marks of a translation." Scholars have put forward several theories to explain Papias: perhaps Matthew wrote two gospels, one, now lost, in Hebrew, the other the surviving Greek version; or perhaps the logia were a collection of sayings rather than the gospel; or by dialektōi Papias may have meant that Matthew wrote in the Jewish style rather than in the Hebrew language. The consensus is that Papias does not describe the Gospel of Matthew as we know it, and it is generally accepted that Matthew was written in Greek, not in Aramaic or Hebrew.
The majority view of modern scholars is that Mark was the
first gospel to be composed and that Matthew (who includes some 600 of Mark's 661 verses) and Luke both drew upon it as a major source for their works. The author of Matthew did not, however, simply copy Mark, but used it as a base, emphasising Jesus' place in the Jewish tradition and including other details not covered in Mark. An additional 220 (approximately) verses, shared by Matthew and Luke but not found in Mark, from a second source, a hypothetical collection of sayings to which scholars give the name "Quelle" ("source" in the German language), or the
Q source. This view, known as the
Two-source hypothesis (Mark and Q), allows for a further body of tradition known as "Special Matthew", or the
M source, meaning material unique to Matthew; this may represent a separate source, or it may come from the author's church, or he may have composed these verses himself. The author also had the Greek scriptures at his disposal, both as book-scrolls (Greek translations of
Psalms etc.) and in the form of "testimony collections" (collections of excerpts), and, if Papias is correct, probably oral stories of his community. These sources were predominantly in Greek,
 but mostly not from any known version of the
Septuagint; although a few scholars hold that some of them may have been Greek translations of older Hebrew or Aramaic sources.
Setting and date
The majority view among scholars is that Matthew was a product of the last quarter of the 1st century.
[Notes 3] This makes it a work of the second generation of Christians, for whom the defining event was the destruction of Jerusalem and the
Temple by the Romans in AD 70 in the course of the
First Jewish–Roman War (AD 66–73); from this point on, what had begun with
Jesus of Nazareth as a Jewish
messianic movement became an increasingly Gentile phenomenon evolving in time into a separate religion. The Christian community to which Matthew belonged, like many 1st-century Christians, were still part of the larger Jewish community: hence the designation
Jewish Christian to describe them. The relationship of Matthew to this wider world of Judaism remains a subject of study and contention, the principal question being to what extent, if any, Matthew's community had cut itself off from its Jewish roots. Certainly there was conflict between Matthew's group and other Jewish groups, and it is generally agreed that the root of the conflict was the Matthew community's belief in Jesus as the Messiah and authoritative interpreter of the law, as one risen from the dead and uniquely endowed with divine authority.
The author of Matthew wrote for a community of Greek-speaking Jewish Christians located probably in Syria (Antioch, the largest city in Roman Syria and the third-largest in the empire, is often mentioned).
 Unlike Mark, he never bothers to explain Jewish customs, since his intended audience was a Jewish one; unlike Luke, who traces Jesus' ancestry back to Adam, father of the human race, he traces it only to Abraham, father of the Jews; of his three presumed sources only "M", the material from his own community, refers to a "church" (ecclesia), an organised group with rules for keeping order; and the content of "M" suggests that this community was strict in keeping the Jewish law, holding that they must exceed the scribes and the Pharisees in "righteousness" (adherence to Jewish law). Writing from within a Jewish-Christian community growing increasingly distant from other Jews and becoming increasingly Gentile in its membership and outlook, Matthew put down in his gospel his vision "of an assembly or church in which both Jew and Gentile would flourish together".