Study Guide

Gospel of Matthew Introduction

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Gospel of Matthew Introduction

Well, hello. Welcome to the New Testament.

Our name is Shmoop and we'll be your NT tour guide. Our first stop is a little book called The Gospel According to Matthew. It's one of the four volumes in the New Testament that tells Jesus's life story. From cradle to grave—and beyond—Matthew's got you covered for all your Jesus-related needs.

Sure, Matthew is the first gospel, but that doesn't mean that it was written first. Actually, scholars are pretty sure that honor goes to Mark, who appears second among the four gospels. Sorry, Mark. But you know what Jesus says: the first shall be, well, not quite first.

So why does Matthew get the top spot? Maybe because his take on Jesus functions as a nice little bridge between the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament. See, Matthew is easily the most Jewish of the gospels. He and his community come from a Jewish background, so he's big into a Jesus who quotes the Hebrew Bible, debates Torah with other Jews, and fulfills all kinds of Jewish prophecy (like a little one about a messiah descended from King David).

Not only is Matthew looking to his Jewish past; he's also focused on the future. Specifically, the future of the up-and-coming church. And Matthew's got loads of thoughts about how to get this thing started. Need a rock to build your church on? That Peter sure looks like a sturdy guy. Wondering if you should forgive a fellow believer up to seven times? Try aiming a little higher, slacker.

Now join us as we venture into the life of Jesus. We promise it will be fun. And painless, too. Just keep your arms and legs inside the Bible at all times. Thank you for choosing Shmoop for all your literary analysis needs.

What is Gospel of Matthew About and Why Should I Care?

Remember Professor Lupin? Or Professor X? Oh!—how about Mr. Keating?

Well, imagine all those awesome teachers rolled into one. Got it? Okay. Now imagine a teacher a thousand times better than that. Good. Now, you're starting to get close to Jesus. Seriously, this guy was good. If there were a Teacher of the Millennium award, he'd win it. Both times.

Whatever you believe about Jesus's divinity, it's hard to deny that the man knew how to hold a room (or a mountain for that matter). You'd never catch people dozing off in his class or doodling in the margins of their notebooks. How did he do it? Well, he was a master storyteller. He made parables into an artform and he mesmerized people with his moral teachings. Not to mention he really knew his way around a metaphor.

When Jesus spoke, people listened. And, as it often goes, the students didn't always like what they heard. There were plenty of people in the back of class whispering and throwing spitballs: in this case, the Pharisees. Like a lot of naysayers throughout history, they didn't appreciate some of the things their teacher had to say. Specifically, the things he had to say about how they would not be joining him in the kingdom of heaven.

In the end, the Pharisees got their way. But Jesus's legacy lived on. His students continued with his work. They taught, even when he wasn't there to guide them. And they made it their mission for everyone in the world to hear his words. They pretty much did everything except stand on their desks and announce, "O, Captain! My Captain!"

Professor Lupin might have inspired his students to be brave, and Mr. Keating might have challenged them to dig deep, but Jesus's teachings inspired billions and billions of people around the world to believe he was God.

So yeah. If that doesn't earn him an apple on his desk, we don't know what will.

Gospel of Matthew Resources


Who Really Killed Jesus?
Talk about a loaded question. Read (or watch) as some pretty brainy religion scholars discuss the trouble with blaming Jews for killing Jesus.

Historical Documents

Nerding Out, Ancient Style
Want to read up on all early Christian texts, not just the stuff in the Bible? We thought so. See you next Thursday when you're done.

Vatican Shout-Out
Pope John Paul II cited the parable of the workers in the vineyard to support his message of the vocation of lay people. Warning: it's pretty long with a sprinkling of big words.

Movies and TV

Jesus in a Superman t-shirt and suspenders? Yes, please.

Even More Singing Jesus
Andrew Lloyd Webber gives a special shout-out to Matthew in his rock opera. How? Well, in this musical interpretation, Judas commits suicide—an act only found in Matthew.

Blood and Gore (and Subtitles, Too!)
The Passion of the Christ definitely isn't for the faint of heart.


The Digital Story of the Nativity
What would Jesus's birth been like if everyone had email, Facebook, and Google Maps? If it's anything like this video—absolutely adorable.

Blessed Are Those Who Quote the Beatitudes
Look at modern TV, quoting Jesus.

Jesus According to Bach
This is what happens when a musical genius composes an oratorio based on Matthew 26-27.


Mapping Matthew
Here's what Israel looked like in the 1st century. Just to give you an idea of what we're dealing with.

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