I received a copy of Craig A. Evans’ new commentary on the Gospel of Matthew in the mail yesterday. He sent it to me as a gift for doing some indexing for the book before print. It is part of the New Cambridge Bible Commentary series and it goes verse-by-verse through the entire Gospel. I go on vacation starting this Thursday and I intend to bring it along with me.
There are some interesting insights/statements from the very beginning of the commentary. While Evans doesn’t spent a lot of time arguing that the author was the Apostle Matthew he does summarize the discussion and concludes:
“There is nothing in the Gospel of Matthew that rules out the apostle Matthew as its author, and there is nothing in the life of the early church that compelled it to select the apostle Matthew.” (p. 4)
In other words, scholars should pause before quickly dismissing Matthew as the author since it would be odd to chose him randomly if the church was aiming to attribute an anonymous Gospel to one of the Apostles. As Evans writes, “Why not Peter or his brother Andrew, or one of the Zebedee brothers?” (p. 4)
What about the date of authorship? Evans notes that most seem to date it in the 70′s after the fall of the Temple and the city of Jerusalem. He has reservations about this since he notes that the destruction language has biblical precedent (e.g. 2 Kings 25.9; 2 Chronicles 36.19; Nehemiah 1.3; 2.3, 13, 17; 4.2; Isaiah 64.11; Jeremiah 21.10; 34.2). This leads him to mention the work of J.G. Crossley who dates the Gospel of Mark to the 40′s. He proposes that it is possible that the Evangelist used Mark since it may have been in circulation for about twenty years already. As a side note he mentions that the Book of Acts ends rather abruptly with the narrative coming “to an end no later that 62 A.D., before the death of James, the brother of the Lord.” (p. 5) Since Acts follows Luke this leads to the proposal that, “…we see reasonable arguments for the writing and circulation of all three Synoptic Gospels sometime prior to the war of 66-70 A.D.” This is quite the claim!
As I come across more points of interest I will share them. In the meantime, I found the idea that the Gospel of Matthew may be authored by the Apostle Matthew in the 60′s very intriguing. I would like to read Crossley’s work on Mark now.