Friday, December 20, 2019

The Strength Of The Evidence For Matthew's Authorship

If the gospel attributed to Matthew was written by him, then that's a good line of evidence for the historicity of what he reports about Jesus' childhood. Matthew's gospel and other early sources (e.g., Acts 1:13-14) put the apostle in contact with people who knew a lot about Jesus' background, such as Jesus himself, his mother, his brothers, and the people of Nazareth. But even conservative scholars don't say much about the evidence for Matthean authorship of the gospel, and the few arguments they bring forward don't get developed much. Here's a collection of articles on the evidence for Matthew's authorship.


  1. The following comment involves esoteric speculation rather than my usual pseudo-scholarly argumentation.

    We know the author of the Gospel of Matthew employed esoteric gematria in his genealogy of Jesus. That's consistent with Matthew being a Levite [Mark 2:14]. Of all the tribes, Levites would more likely have special or intensified training concerning the Torah and learning in general above the ordinary members of the other tribes. Theirs would be the especially lettered tribe. That's even if any particular male Levite wasn't on the path to becoming a rabbi. For all we know, Matthew was, but forsook the rabbinate because the prospects of pay weren't that good. And so, he chose to become a tax collector [possibly to the shame of his rabbi father].

    I don't know whether God has encoded Equidistant Letter Sequences (i.e. "The Bible Codes"/ELS) or other types of codes into Scripture or not. If He has, it's probably much deeper and more holographically complex than what has allegedly been found so far, and which may only be scratching the surface.

    But I've always wondered if some of the HUMAN authors of Scripture may have encoded some codes or messages into their texts. Maybe even to identify who they were. All scholars acknowledge that psalms 111, 112 and 119 employ acrostics.

    I'm reminded of the ending climax of the movie The Ghost Writer
    [spoiler alert!]

    Even if most cases of ELS are completely bogus, I suspect that some are real and intentionally placed there by the human authors. For example, how YHVH is ingeniously encoded in Esther which conspicuously doesn't use the tetragrammaton at the surface level of the plain text. If any books of the New Testament have hidden codes, it'll likely be ones that are heavily Jewish, or symbolic, or apocalyptic (e.g. Matthew and Revelation).


    1. The problem of course is that hidden codes, as opposed to open/obvious/plain codes, can easily be destroyed through errors in the copying process. The fact that the early Greek uncial manuscripts of the New Testament didn't have spaces increased incidents of scribal error. However, there are ways authors can try to get around the inevitable degradation of information which increase the likelihood that their essential messages are preserved. For example, built in redundancies, or repetition, or ordering of stories [ET CETERA]. Here's a hypothetical example. Matthew 13 is a thematic chapter. It collects in one section parables about the Kingdom which are scattered in Mark and Luke. The order of the parables could be randomized. There's no intrinsic reason for them to be ordered the way they are. What if the first letter of key words in each parable spelled something in Greek? Words like sower/seed, weeds, mustard seed, hidden treasure, pearl, net, treasures.

      The very ending of that grouping of Kingdom parables states:

      And he said to them, "Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house, who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old."- Matt. 13:52

      That could be an invitation for us to find his encrypted messages/codes.

      If I were Matthew and wanted to leave a hidden message in the text I would do it in one or more of the following places. In the genealogy where I've already clearly used gematria; in the Sermon on the Mount; in the Kingdom parables of Matthew 13; in the Seven Woes to the Scribes and Pharisees in chapter 23. If I wanted to identify myself, I might hide my name in the very passage where all the apostles are listed in Matthew 10. Or in chapter 9 where Matthew's calling is recorded. Or where tax collectors are mentioned.

      It's unfortunate, though understandable, that out of professional pride scholars aren't willing to entertain radical, fringe or esoteric pursuits. In one sense that's a good thing, in order to maintain credibility. In another sense, it's bad because real insights might be missed due to prejudiced operating assumptions. I'm reminded of how for years, because of their naturalistic assumptions about evolution, many scientists assumed a priori that most of DNA was non-coding. Assuming there was no intelligent design involved in its sequencing. Then later on the prediction of Intelligent Design proponents that we'd eventually discover in the future that much of "Junk DNA" is coding would be proven correct. Something similar might be going on with the text of Scripture. It's unfortunate that real scholars avoid these type of esoteric pursuits since they have special skills that could crack open these type of codes and messages. Skills that others who are willing to investigate radical theories don't have. That's why sometimes it is mavericks who dabble in various [often seemingly unrelated] fields of interest who make breakthrough discoveries.

    2. The ironic thing is that those who do search for esoteric codes in Scripture and claim to constantly find alleged hidden messages, because they are often non-scholarly, might actually find Matthew's self-identification in his own Gospel, if they only knew that the scholarly community question Matthean authorship. Not being scholars themselves (and often fundamentalistic), such gnosis hunters already accept by faith Matthean authorship. And so don't think to look for Matthew's John Hancock/Hancode signature.