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RBL Review of an Edited Volume on 2 Peter

I contributed a chapter on whether or not 2 Peter had any literary contact with the Gospel of Mark (or the Synoptic Gospels more generally) and with the church traditions about Mark in an edited volume on 2 Peter entitled Der zweite Petrusbrief und das Neue Testament (WUNT 397; Mohr Siebeck, 2018). One of the editors summarized the contents of the volume on my blog here, here, and here. Anyways, it has just been reviewed for the Review of Biblical Literature and I will just quote the highlights:

The authors of these essays obviously do not agree with one another in every respect, though all seem to agree that 2 Peter is pseudepigraphical and was written in the second century. Half of the essays explore 2 Peter’s relationship to other early Christian writings and collectively argue for a rather conservative estimate of the literary relationships between 2 Peter and these other writings, finding such relationships only with the Gospel of Matthew and the letters of Paul… The remaining essays mainly discuss prominent issues in the interpretation of 2 Peter: the value of 2 Peter and its compatibility with the rest of the New Testament, the text and style of 2 Peter, and its use of biblical traditions…Taken together, these essays reflect and advance current scholarly discussion of 2 Peter very well. Many of the authors have also made other substantial contributions to recent literature on 2 Peter. All serious students of 2 Peter will want to consult this essay collection.


The Traditions about Matthew: A New Series

I have published on the early church traditions about the evangelist Mark as the interpreter of Peter and John as the beloved disciple who reclined next to Jesus at the Last Supper and published his Gospel in Ephesus. Eventually I would like to turn to the traditions about the evangelist Matthew, one of the twelve apostles who wrote his Gospel to a Jewish audience in their own language. Here are the three pieces of the puzzle that have to be resolved.

  • In Mark 2:14, Matthew 9:9, and Luke 5:27-28, Jesus called a tax collector to abandon his profession and follow him. However, in the Gospels of Mark and Luke the tax collector is named Levi, but in Matthew’s Gospel the tax collector is named Matthew.
  • The names of the twelve Apostles are listed in Mark 3:16-19, Matthew 10:2-4, Luke 6:14-16, and Acts 1:13, but Matthew 10:3 added the description “the tax collector” after the Apostle Matthew’s name.
  • The standard Gospel titles, and the early church traditions, unanimously ascribed the first canonical Gospel to Matthew. Moreover, they assumed that our Greek text was a translation of a Hebrew (or more likely Aramaic) original and some Patristic authorities identified this Semitic original with what they presumed to be the Gospel according to the Hebrews (e.g., Epiphanius, Jerome).

Update: here are all the posts that we have covered in this series, so that you can make your own judgment about the authorship of the first New Testament Gospel.

The Tax Collector Matthew: An Overview of the Theories

The Identities of Levi and Matthew in the Early Church

Did Matthew have Two Semitic Names?

“Matthew” as a Learning Disciple

Does Matthew 9:9 and 10:3 support a Pseudonymous Author?

Why was Levi’s Name not in the List of the Twelve Apostles?

A Vague Memory of Matthew as a Tax Collector?

James the Tax Collector?

The Case for Matthew’s Authorship

Did Matthew Rely on Peter’s Testimony?

Matthew’s Hebrew Style?

Matthew as the Author of a Lost Source?

Matthew’s References to Messianic Oracles about Jesus?

Matthew’s Literacy as a Tax Collector?

Matthew’s Knowledge of Money as a Tax-collector

The Authorship and Inspiration of Matthew’s Gospel

The Emergence of the Gospel Titles

Why was Matthew’s Name Attached to the Gospel according to the Hebrews

Studies on the Reception History of Matthew

Studies on the Reception History of Matthew

If you are interested in how Matthew’s text was interpreted and applied for the last two millennia of Christian history, here are a few resources that may be of interest:

Why was Matthew’s Name Attached to the Gospel according to the Hebrews?

A number of Patristic and Medieval sources make references to the so-called “Gospel according to the Hebrews”. While there are some scholars who continue to argue for the Patristic view that a single Jewish Gospel was a significant source for the early Jesus tradition (e.g., Pritz, Beatrice, Edwards, Sloan), the majority position is that there were at least three different Gospels that the church authorities mistakenly lumped together (e.g., Vielhauer, Strecker, Klijn, Klauck, Frey). The three reconstructed Gospels are an eclectic Greek text cited by the Alexandrian Fathers (i.e. the Gospel according to the Hebrews), a Greek harmony of the Synoptic Gospels cited by the fourth century Epiphanius of Salamis (i.e. the Gospel according to the Ebionites), and an Aramaic Gospel that Jerome (mistakenly?) thought to resemble Matthew’s Gospel (i.e. the Gospel according to the Nazoraeans). The last approach that I support accepts the existence of the first two reconstructed Gospels, but denies the existence of the so-called Gospel according to the Nazoraeans by proposing that Jerome just knew an Aramaic translation of Matthew’s Gospel circulating among Christians known as the Nazoraeans and confused it with the source cited by earlier Greek Christian commentators as the Gospel according to the Hebrews (Mimouni, Luomanen, Gregory, myself).

The next question is how the evangelist Matthew ever became associated with these Jewish Gospels. I believe that this happened over stages:

  1.  Papias’s tradition that Matthew compiled the oracles in the “Hebrew language” before they were translated into Greek hugely influenced the subsequent Patristic tradition (cf. Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 3.39.16). For instance, Irenaeus, the late second century bishop of Lyon, repeated Papias’s statement about Matthew’s original language and supposes that this Gospel was popular among a Jewish Christian sect known as the Ebionites (Against Heresies 3.1.1; 3.11.7), though he does not explain how they could both value this Gospel and deny its account of the virginal conception of Christ (1.26.2; 3.21.1; 5.1.3). Pantaenus, the head of an Alexandrian Christian catechetical school in the late second century CE, reported that the Apostle Bartholomew left a copy of Matthew’s Gospel in the Hebrew language in India (cf. Hist. Eccl. 5.10.3).
  2.  The earliest citations of the “Gospel according to the Hebrews” by the Alexandrian scholars Clement (Stromata, Origen (Commentary on John 2.12; Homily on Jeremiah 15.4), and Didymus (Commentary on the Psalms) do not attribute the “Gospel according to the Hebrews” to Matthew.
  3. The fourth-century historian Eusebius clearly distinguishes Matthew’s Gospel from the “Gospel according to the Hebrews.” The latter is a “disputed” book, neither canonical nor heretical (Eccl. Hist. 3.25.5), and Eusebius corrects Irenaeus in noting that the Ebionites’ preference was for the “Gospel according to the Hebrews” (3.27.4). Eusebius also identifies Papias’s oral tradition about the woman accused of many sins as deriving from the “Gospel according to the Hebrews” (3.39.17; cf. Didymus, Commentary on Ecclesiastes 223.6–13).
  4. The fourth-century heresiologist Epiphanius accused the Ebionites of possessing a corrupted version of Matthew’s Gospel in Hebrew (Panarion 30.13.2), but a close look at the fragments from the text that he was citing show that he was actually quoting a Greek Gospel (cf. the Greek word play in 30.13.4-5) that harmonized the Synoptic Gospels. Epiphanius also notes that the more orthodox Jewish-Christian Nazoraeans had a Hebrew text of the Gospel of Matthew (29.9.4), which may either be an inference from Papias about the original Semitic language of Matthew’s Gospel or may be related to the next point.
  5. Jerome boasts that he had translated the “Gospel according to the Hebrews”, a text that many ascribed to Matthew, was used by the Nazoraeans, and was housed in the library of Caesarea (Dialogues against the Pelagians 3.2). Either Jerome had access to a distinctive Gospel that modern scholars dub the “Gospel according to the Nazoraeans” (i.e. three-Gospel-hypothesis) or to the Nazoraeans’ Semitic translation of Matthew’s text (two-Gospel-hypothesis), along with other Jewish traditions, and he confused it with the “Gospel according to the Hebrews” that he knew from other church authorities and hoped to locate in the library of Caesarea.

Update: see my engagement with Jeremiah Coogan’s thesis about the relationship between the canonical Gospel of Matthew and the “apocryphal” Gospel according to the Hebrews here. If you are interested further in these later Jewish Christian Gospels, here is a brief bibliography for you to research further:

  • Beatrice, Pier Franco. “The ‘Gospel according to the Hebrews’ in the Apostolic Fathers” Novum Testamentum 48.2 (2006), 180-181.
  • Coogan, Jeremiah. “The Ways that Parted in the Library: The Gospels according to Matthew and according to the Hebrews in Late Ancient Heresiology.” JEH 73 (2022), 1–18.
  • Edwards, James R. The Hebrew Gospel and the Development of the Synoptic Tradition. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2009.
  • Ehrman, Bart D. and Plese, Zlatko. The Apocryphal Gospels: Texts and Translations. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.
  • Evans, Craig. “The Jewish Christian Gospel Tradition” in Jewish Believers in Jesus: The Early Centuries. Edited by Oskar Skarsaune and Reider Hvalvik. Peabody: Hendrikson, 2007.
  • Frey, Jörg. “Die Fragmente judenchristlicher Evangelien” in Antike christliche Apokryphen in deutscher Übersetzung. I. Band: Evangelien und Verwandtes. Teilband 1. Edited by Christoph Markschies and Jens Schroter. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2012.
  • Gregory, Andrew. The Gospel According to the Hebrews and the Gospel of the Ebionites. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017.
  • Gregory, Andrew. “Jewish Christian Gospels” in The Non-Canonical Gospels, 54-67. Edited by Paul Foster. London: T&T Clark, 2008.
  • Gregory, Andrew. “Hindrance or Help: Does the Modern Category of ‘Jewish-Christian Gospel’ Distort our Understanding of the Texts to which it Refers?” Journal for the Study of the New Testament 28 (2006): 387-413.
  • Klijn, A. F. J. Jewish-Christian Gospel Tradition. Leiden: Brill, 1992.
  • Klauck, Hans Josef. Apocryphal Gospels: An Introduction. Translated by Brian McNeil. London: T&T Clark, 2003.
  • Kok, Michael J. “Did Papias of Hierapolis Use the Gospel according to the Hebrews as a Source?” Journal of Early Christian Studies 25.1 (2017): 29-53.
  • Luomanen, Petri. Recovering Jewish-Christian Sects and Gospels. Leiden: Brill, 2012.
  • Mimouni, Simon Claude. Early Judaeo-Christianity: Historical Essays. Translated by Robyn Fréchet. Leuven: Peeters, 2012.
  • Nicholson, Edward B. The Gospel according to the Hebrews: Its Fragments Translated and Annotated with a Critical Analysis of the External and Internal Evidence Relating to It. London: C. Kegan Paul, 1879.
  • Perkins, Pheme. “Jewish-Christian Gospels: Primitive Tradition Imagined.” In The Apocryphal Gospels within the Context of Early Christian Theology. Edited by Jens Schröter. BETL 260. Leuven: Peeters, 2013, 197-247.
  • Pritz, Ray A. Nazarene Jewish Christianity: From the End of the New Testament Period until its Disappearance in the Fourth Century. Jerusalem: Magnes, 1988.
  • Sloan, David B. “What if the Gospel According to the Hebrews was Q.” Online: http://reconstructingq.com/gospel-of-the-hebrews.pdf.
  • Vielhauer, Philipp and Strecker, Georg. “Jewish Christian Gospels” in New Testament Apocrypha I: Gospels and Related Writings, 560-660. Edited by Wilhelm Schneemelcher. Translated by R. McL. Wilson. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1991.

The Emergence of the Gospel Titles

Since we have been looking at the case for and against the traditional authorship of the Gospel of Matthew, I want to note that the manuscript evidence for the titles of the Gospels has been reviewed in Simon Gathercole, “The Titles of the Gospels in the Earliest New Testament Manuscripts” ZNW 104 (2013): 33-76; “The Earliest Manuscript Title of Matthew’s Gospel (BnF Suppl. gr. 1120 ii 3/p4” Novum Testamentum 54.3 (2012): 209-235. There is a great deal of debate about whether the standard title “Gospel according to [named evangelist]” were attached to the New Testament Gospels at an earlier or later point of time, but I have defended the position that the titles originated when the four Gospels were gathered together into an authoritative collection in the latter half of the second century in my article  “Justin Martyr and the Authorship of Luke’s Gospel” Journal of Greco-Roman Christianity and Judaism 18 (2022): 9-36. I will have an even more extensive discussion in a chapter of my book on the authorship traditions about the Evangelist Matthew.

The Authorship and the Inspiration of Matthew’s Gospel

Over the last few months, I have tried to post on all of the main arguments for and against the traditional authorship of the first New Testament Gospel. Do you believe that it was written by the former tax-collector and Apostle Matthew? I want to conclude on the theological note that, whatever conclusion you may reach, this does not have any bearing on the belief in the divine inspiration of the Gospel text or its value in shaping Christian beliefs and practices in light of the ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Thus, I want to close by highlighting the admirable caution of a few of the more conservative commentators on this question:

“This is an important corrective to that sort of conservative apologetic which appears to hang the weight of its argument for the veracity of the gospels on the defense of their traditional authorship. Theologically, a belief in the divine inspiration of Scripture does not depend on our knowledge of the authors or the process of composition, helpful as this may be for the interpretation of the text.” (R. T. France, Matthew: Evangelist and Teacher [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1989], 79.

“None of the arguments for Matthew’s authorship are conclusive. Thus we cannot be entirely certain who the author of the first gospel is. But there are solid reasons in support of the early church’s unanimous ascription of this book to the apostle Matthew, and on close inspection the objections do not appear substantial. Though Matthew’s authorship remains the most defensible position, very little in this commentary depends on it.” (D. A. Carson, Matthew [The Expositor’s Bible Commentary; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995], 19.

“I am therefore presently inclined to accept the possibility of Matthean authorship on some level, although with admitted uncertainty. Perhaps the most probable scenario that incorporates the best of all the currently available evidence is the presence of at least a significant deposit of Matthean tradition in this Gospel, edited by the sort of Matthean school scholars have often suggested (though I believe the final product is the work of a single scholar, not a ‘committee’). Yet the discussion of this Gospel’s authorship ultimately involves neither the authority nor accuracy of the Gospel, because it does not name its author (the titles were added to all four Gospels later). Thus even most of the more conservative scholarly commentators, while varying in their views of Matthean authorship or influence, acknowledge that the matter is uncertain.” (Craig S. Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2009], 40)


Matthew’s Knowledge of Money as a Tax-Collector?

Over the course of this series, I have been posting on the arguments for and against the traditional authorship of Matthew’s Gospel. I came across the following argument in a handful of commentaries, but Leon Morris has a helpful summary in The Gospel According to Matthew (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans; Leicester: IVP, 1992, 14n.46):

 That the author of this Gospel was a tax collector is perhaps supported by his interest in money. He uses the general word for money, nomisma, and the words for ‘gold’ 5 times, ‘silver’ ten times (two words), and ‘talent’ 14 times, a total of 29, whereas Mark refers to ‘silver’ once and Luke has it 4 times; they have none of the other words for big currency. Matthew also has references to coins such as the assarion, the chalkos, the denarius, the didrachma, the kodrantes, and the stater. Mark and Luke mention some of these coins, but not as many as Matthew

Morris’s point can be found earlier in the article by Werner G. Marx entitled “Money Matters in Matthew.” Bibliotheca Sacra 136.542 (1979): 109–28. Do you find the arguments about the evangelist’s literacy in the previous post and knowledge about money in this post as tipping the scales towards the traditional authorship of Matthew the tax collector?

Matthew’s Literacy as a Tax Collector?

In defending the traditional authorship of the first canonical Gospel, many scholars will appeal to Matthew’s occupation as a tax collector as showing that he had the training in literacy to compose the Gospel. Here are two examples.

In Robert Gundry’s The Use of the Old Testament in St. Matthew’s Gospel: With Special Reference to the Messianic Hope (Leiden: Brill, 1975), Gundry writes the following about the evangelist Matthew on page 183:

As an ex-publican, whose employment and post near Capernaum on the Great West Road would have required and given a good command of Greek and instilled the habit of jotting down information, and perhaps as a Levite, whose background would have given him acquaintance with the OT in its Semitic as well as Greek forms, Mt the Apostle was admirably fitted for such a function among the unlettered disciples.

Gundy defends his position that both Matthew’s notes were one of the sources of the entire Synoptic tradition and that Matthew was the author of the canonical Gospel as follows:

  • Notebooks were common in the Graeco-Roman world and pupils took notes of their teacher’s lectures, which then circulated in the school without the name of the lecturer attached and could be drawn on as the basis for a publication (cf. F. G. Kenyon, W. Bousset; p. 182).
  • According to G. Milligan and B. Gerhardsson, writing shorthand may have been introduced as early as the fourth century BCE and was current at the time of Jesus. Shorthand can be observed in the Oxyrhynchus papyri (p. 182).
  • Based on the work of B. Gerhardsson, the Rabbis used techniques to aid memorization and their traditions were recorded in shorthand notes (p. 182). Gundry differs from Gerhardsson in emphasizing note-taking more than memorization (p. 182-83n.6).
  • The evangelist Matthew was following both Peter’s recollections in Mark’s text and his own previous notes underlying the Synoptic tradition (p. 184).
  • He supports Josef Kürzinger’s reinterpretation of Papias’s tradition about Matthew’s “Hebrew” rhetorical form of argumentation (p. 185).

This argument has been forcefully restated by B. Ward Power’s The Progressive Publication of Matthew: An Explanation of the Writing of the Synoptic Gospels (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2010). In addition to defending a version of the Griesbach hypothesis (i.e. Mark’s use of Matthew and Luke) and the authorship and early dates of the Synoptic Gospels, Powers reviews the scholarship on ancient note-taking (pp. 29-31) and makes the following bold statement about the evangelist Matthew on page 29 (emphasis original):

To have this evidence about the apostle Matthew- his background, training, and employment in the Roman administration; his response to the call to follow Jesus; his appointment to the role and responsibility of apostle – and to believe that he would not write down what Jesus was doing and teaching requires a far bigger leap of faith than believing that he did. It would be psychologically impossible that such a man as Matthew, trained and experienced in writing records and reports – he was a Roman official and such work was requisite for him since it went with the job – would not have recorded things Jesus said. He had the ability, the means, the opportunity, the motivation, and he wouldn’t have done it? Impossible!

Matthew’s References to Messianic Oracles about Jesus?

In the last post, we looked at the definition of logia (“oracles”) and whether these divine utterances should be restricted to Jesus’s sayings or broadened to cover both Jesus’s words and deeds. There is one more interpretation of Ecclesiastical History 3.39.16 that posits Papias was referring to a source that collected messianic testimonia or proof-texts from the Hebrew Bible to prove that Jesus was the Messiah and which was utilized by the author of the Gospel of Matthew. Indeed, Matthew distinctively cites a number of scriptural prooftexts introduced with a formula about the fulfilment of the prophets (1:22–23; 2:15, 17–18, 23; 4:14–16; 8:17; 12:17–21; 13:14–15, 35; 21:4–5; 26:54, 56; 27:9–10). These oracles had been translated from the “Hebrew language” when they were written in the Hebrew Bible into Greek. J. Rendel Harris, on the other hand, believed that he had discovered Matthew’s lost testimony book in a sixteenth-century manuscript found at the monastery of Iveron at Mount Athos. The details of this proposal can be found in the following:

  • Burkitt, F. Crawford .The Gospel History and Its Transmission (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1911), 127.
  • Carlson, Stephen. Papias of Hierapolis Exposition of Dominical Oracles: The Fragments, Testimonia, and Reception of a
    Second Century Commentator. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2021, 38-39.
  • Harris, J. Rendel and Burch, Vacher. Testimonies. 2 Volumes. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1920, 1.118-322.1-11.
  • Grant, F. C. The Gospels: Their Origins and Growth. New York: Harper, 1957, 65, 144

Is it more likely that Papias was referring to scriptural prophecies pointing to Jesus, or a collection of prophecies recording in a testimony book, rather than oral or written sources about Jesus? When Papias refers to the “oracles of the Lord” in the extract on Mark, is he thinking about the smaller number of scriptural prooftexts that Mark wrote down compared to Matthew or about the oral traditions about Jesus’s sayings and deeds that were incorporated in Mark’s narrative? Is the main focus of Papias’s five volume work the oracles in the Jewish Scriptures and their fulfilment in the stories about Jesus and his disciples?