The Gospel of Matthew–Structure

Posted: August 30, 2013 in Uncategorized

imagesIt would seem that The Gospel of Matthew is a book written with a Jewish audience in mind.  I say that because of at least two reasons. First, the book begins with a forty-two person genealogy that traces Jesus to Abraham. It was Abraham who stood as the father of the Jewish people. Any Jew reading this genealogical introduction would immediately be struck by its significance. Second, the Old Testament (OT) is referenced numerous times throughout the book. As early as 1:22 we find that at least part of what Matthew was recording is meant to communicate that an OT idea was being fulfilled (1:22, πληρωθῇ). With so much OT reference in Matthew, it suggests that the author assumed some level of OT familiarity among his readers. A Jewish audience would make the most sense.

So this Gospel account, most likely written having a Jewish audience in mind, begins our English New Testaments (NT). In the next few days I hope to have finished reading through the book. Then I hope to offer a 300 word (or less) summation of the book. To summarize the book I want to first try and detect an overarching structure that will allow me to see the flow of thought. The flow of thought will in turn (I hope) allow me to craft a careful summary of Matthew’s Gospel.

As I continue to read Matthew and think through structural issues I am inclined to read what others have written about the structural makeup of the book. As I looked up (via Google) what has been written I came across a short work by Fred Sanders. The article is linked HERE. Also, a summary of the points Sanders makes is below. I offer these things for anyone who would like to understand The Gospel of Matthew to a greater degree.

A Summary of Sanders:

The Gospel According to Matthew is intricately structured. A simple outline can capture the basic shape of the book well enough to assist a good reading, but a little more attention shows that this book has several layers of order, all helpful. Consider some of the layers of organization in Matthew, starting with the simplest and moving to the most complex.”

Sanders then offers the following “layers”:

1. Chronological

2. Geographical

3. Discourses

4. Structural Marker Formulas

5. Thematic or Topical Structure

6. Recapitulating the History of Israel

7. Miscellaneous

These seven “layers” raise interesting questions and have piqued my interest. I hope they do the same for you!


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