Who Wrote the Gospel of Matthew?

If the accounts of Jesus’ life that we have were written by eyewitnesses, that would be considered good evidence for the reliability of their contents.  Most significantly, those portions that carry the most weight both historically and doctrinally in Christian faith–the death, deity and resurrection of Jesus.

Let’s turn our attention to Matthew’s Gospel and see if we have good reason to believe that the Gospel of Matthew was written by Matthew the tax collector and disciple of Jesus.

First, we will look at the internal evidence where we examine the gospel writer’s focus on currency terms and the special interest in the disciple Matthew portrayed in the book.  Next, we look at the external evidence for the testimony of other Church leaders on who they believed to be the author of that Gospel.

Knowledge and Interest in Currency Terms

  • Matthew is the only Gospel to mention gold, chrysos, 4 times1
  • This is something to expect from someone who works with money.
  • Matthew is the only gospel to mention the word argyros, which means silver.2
  • Only Gospel to mention tatanton which means talents, another form of currency: 13 times.3
  • The author of Matthew used the more precise term nomisma for the coin used in the dispute over tribute4 rather than Mark’s and Luke’s denarion in the same story.5
  • Only Gospel to mention didrachmon (a silver coin).6
  • Matthew is the only gospel to mention stater which means shekel, which is the standard coin.7
  • When Jesus was reciting the Lord’s Prayer: Matthew uses debts where the Lukan parallel has sins.8
  • Matthew uses trapezites for money broker or banker. Only Gospel writer to mention this word.9

Special Treatment of the Disciple Matthew

  • The calling of Matthew is less self-deprecating in Matthew’s Gospel. For example, in Luke’s account, it says that Matthew left everything and followed Jesus (5:28) while Matthew simply says that he got up and followed Jesus. If the first gospel were not by Matthew, one would be at a loss to explain why the author seemed to not be deprecating to Matthew in a subtle way.
  • Matthew 9:9 humanizes the individual by referring to him as “a man” rather than more formally referring to his ancestry10 or referring to his despised employment as a tax collector.11
  • Matthew 9:10 refers to “the house” rather than “his house”.12 “The house” is more natural coming from the house’s owner.
  • Matthew identifies himself as a tax collector in the roll call in Matthew’s gospel. (Matthew 10) Mark, and Luke don’t mention “tax collector” when describing Matthew in the roll call. (Mark 3 & Luke 6)

External Support

Papias of Asia Minor (60-130AD)

“So then Matthew composed the oracles in the Hebrew language, and each one interpreted them as he could.”13

Irenaeus of France (120–190 A.D.)

“Now the Gospels, in which Christ is enthroned, are like these…Matthew proclaims his human birth, saying, ‘The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, son of David, son of Abraham,’ and, ‘The birth of Jesus Christ was in this manner.’ For this Gospel is manlike, and so through the whole Gospel [Christ] appears as a man of a humble mind, and gentle.”14

“Matthew published his own Gospel among the Hebrews in their own tongue, when Peter and Paul were preaching the Gospel in Rome and founding the church there. After their departure, Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, himself handed down to us in writing the substance of Peter’s preaching. Luke, the follower of Paul, set down in a book the Gospel preached by his teacher. Then John, the disciple of the Lord, who also leaned on his breast, himself produced his Gospel while he was living at Ephesus in Asia.”15

Pantaenus (180 AD)

Eusebius tells of a missionary named Pantaenus, who traveled to India around 180 A.D.:

“…he there found his own arrival anticipated by some who there were acquainted with the gospel of Matthew, to whom Bartholomew, one of the apostles, had preached, and had left them the gospel of Matthew in the Hebrew, which was also preserved until this time.”16

Tertullian in Carthage (160-220 A.D.)

“The same authority of the apostolic churches will afford evidence to the other Gospels also, which we possess equally through their means, and according to their usage–I mean the Gospels of John and Matthew–whilst that which Mark published may be affirmed to be Peter’s whose interpreter Mark was. For even Luke’s form of the Gospel men usually ascribe to Paul. And it may well seem that the works which disciples publish belong to their masters.”17

Origen (185-254 A.D.)

“Among the four gospels… I have learned by tradition that first was written that according to Matthew, who was once a tax collector but afterwards an apostle of Jesus Christ, who published it for those who from Judaism came to believe, composed as it was in the Hebrew language.”18

Eusebius of Caesarea (260–339A.D.)

“Matthew, also having first proclaimed the gospel in Hebrew, when on the point of going also to other nations, committed it to writing in his native tongue, and thus supplied the want of his presence to them, by his writings.”19

End Notes:

  1. Matthew 2:11, 10:9, 23:16, 23:17.
  2.  Matthew 10:9.
  3. Matthew 18:24, 25:15, 25:16, 25:17, 25:20, 25:22, 25:28.
  4. Matthew 22:19.
  5. Mark 12:15 & Luke 20:24.
  6.  Matthew 17:24.
  7. Matthew 17:27.
  8. Matthew 6:12 and Luke 11:4.
  9. Matthew 25:27.
  10. Mark 2:14.
  11. Luke 5:27.
  12. Mark 2:15 & Luke 5:29.
  13. Cited by Eusebius, The Ecclesiastical History, 3.39.16 from Papias’ work, Exposition of the Oracles of the Lord, around 120 AD.
  14.  Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses, 3.11.8.
  15.  Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses, 3.3.4.
  16. Ecclesiastical History, Book 5, Chapter 10.3.
  17. Tertullian, Against Marcion, 4.5, 207 AD.
  18.  Origin, Commentary on Matthew, quoted in Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 6.25.4.
  19. Ecclesiastical History, Book 3, Chapter 24.6.

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