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The Oxford Bible Commentary Line-by-line commentary for the New Revised Standard Version Bible.



Although there are aspects of a theology in Matthew they do not present themselves as a coherent or abstract edifice; there is no systematically developed body of thought. Despite the book's theocentricity, a theology of Matthew, in our sense of the term, is not really possible. Like the rabbinic corpus Matthew contains much implicit theology but is primarily concerned not with correctness of belief but with obedience.


Matthew did not offer a theological system as an expression of his faith in Jesus. Rather he drew upon and applied texts he had reflected upon—the OT, Mark, Q, M. As pastor he was above all an exegete and commentator. That is, he was primarily concerned to pass on the traditions handed to him. His gospel is less a statement of personal opinions than the expression of a traditional faith. He told a story more than he authored it, or rather he retold his community's story to which he added commentary.


Matthew's genius was not that of theological invention. He was not a Paul or an Origen. To judge from his gospel the evangelist's religious convictions were traditional. Along with all the NT authors his God was the God of the OT, that is, the God of Israel. In other words his theology, in the proper sense of that word, was Jewish theology, as transmitted to him by his Jewish education and the church. There was also nothing much original about his Christology. All the Christological titles found in his gospel appear in other early Christian texts; and even his story of a virgin birth has its parallel in Luke. Matthew also contributed nothing new to soteriology. The gospel says only that Jesus gave his life as a ransom for many and saved his people from their sins—convictions common enough in primitive Christianity.


One could, if the non-Markan material in 16:13–20 were thought redactional, make a case for a novel contribution to ecclesiology. But here the evidence again points to tradition. It is the same with Matthew's Deuteronomistic view of history and his eschatology. The former reminds one of Q, and regarding the latter, while certain themes receive special accent, one can easily find parallels to every strand of Matthean eschatology—to Matthew's hope for a near end, to his realized eschatology, and to his use of apocalyptic expectation to tender encouragement, offer paraenesis, and explicate Christology. Also in Matthew's moral teaching we find, first of all, tradition. The demand to love, the call to non-retaliation, and the imperative to imitate Christ were standard in the early church.


Even with regard to the law Matthew was no innovator. In some ways indeed he was on this matter at one with Paul: Gentiles did not have to become Jews in order to be saved; that is, they did not have to become circumcised