In a previous post I dealt very briefly with the question of whether the author of the Gospel of Matthew was Jewish. I want to say a few more things about the issue, although I’m not planning on providing anything like an exhaustive treatment. It’s a complicated issue. At the end of the day, my view is that we simply don’t know.
In this post I want to say something about what we know about the identity of the author more generally. We call this author “Matthew” because that is the name traditionally associated with the Gospel. The Gospel is called “According to Matthew” in all of the surviving manuscripts that have a title (i.e., all the manuscripts that still have their first page.) It is never called anything else – although the *form* of the ascription to Matthew differs in different manuscripts: e.g., is it entitled “According to Matthew” or “The Gospel according to Matthew” or “The Holy Gospel according to Matthew,” or something else? But in all the ascriptions, the person named is always Matthew. It’s never Bartholomew or Nathaniel or some other person.
There are several points to make about the fact that the manuscripts all assign the book to “Matthew.” The first and possibly most important is that these manuscripts are all very long after the book was written and placed in circulation. The first complete copies of Matthew – which contain the titles – are from the middle of the fourth century – some 300 years after the book was written, by whoever wrote it, and placed in circulation. By that time, everyone on the planet who had an opinion about the book believed that it was written by Matthew. So I’m not sure the titles in the manuscripts help us much in knowing who actually was the author.
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