Tuesday, October 16, 2012 4:48 AM

A Real World Matthew

Tuesday, October 16, 2012 4:48 AM
Tuesday, October 16, 2012 4:48 AM

Needless to say, this is a reconstruction which operates within a strictly historical framework, where Matthew is allowed to write his own Gospel and where the Sermon on the Mount really did take place. But it is a reconstruction, not a deconstruction, and if we cannot prove the circumstantial ingredients with mathematical precision, neither should we fall into the trap of naivety which imprisons all those who do not want to accept that Levi-Matthew, Jesus, and the Jews in the region of Capernaum were real people in a real world. A Matthew who took shorthand was part of a society which did exist.

Jesus, the wandering preacher, went up on a mountainside ‘when he saw the crowds’ who ‘followed him from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judaea and the region across the Jordan’ (Matthew 5:1, 4:25). The place was not far from Capernaum (Matthew 8:5). In the vicinity, Matthew had his customs and tax office—the harbor installations where the office would have been situated, 800 meters long, were identified by archaeologists several years ago. The news that Jesus, the famous preacher, was walking up the mountain nearby, apparently ready to teach the masses, would have reached him soon enough.

He could have taken the afternoon off and followed him up the hill, where he then sat with the others in the semicircle of the natural theatre described above in Chapter 2. After a short while, he could have begun to take shorthand notes. Jesus, center stage, noticed the person in the audience who was taking these notes, and, at the end of the session, made his enquiries. A couple of days later, Matthew reread his notes. He understands the uniqueness of the message. When Jesus passes by and says, ‘Follow me!’ he is ready, gets up and follows him (Matthew 9:9)…taking his shorthand notes of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount with him, he records further speeches. They form the nucleus of his own Gospel and explain what Papias, the Bishop of Hierapolis, meant when he stated c. ad 110 that Matthew wrote down the sayings of Jesus in Aramaic, and that everyone translated them as best he could.[1]



[1] Thiede, C. P. (2004). The cosmopolitan world of Jesus : New findings from archaeology (122). London: SPCK.

« back