Author: Matthew the son of Alphaeus was sometimes called by his surname, Levi (Mark 2:14; Luke 5:27). He lived in Capernaum and was a publican, or tax collector. Matthew was one of the Lord’s original Twelve Apostles and therefore was an eyewitness to many of the things he described (see Matthew 9:9). Matthew was well-versed in the Old Testament and made many references to Old Testament passages in his Gospel. As a publican, he needed to communicate with both Jews and Romans and would have spoken both Aramaic and Greek. One evidence that Matthew spoke Greek is his use of Greek names, such as “Esaias” for Isaiah (Matthew 12:17), “Jonas” for Jonah (Matthew 12:39–40), “Elias” for Elijah (Matthew 17:3), and even “Jesus” for Jeshua, the Aramaic form of the Lord’s name.
Audience: Matthew’s Gospel was likely directed to the Jews. Matthew assumed his audience was already familiar with Jewish traditions and customs. He frequently quoted Old Testament sources in an effort to help Jews recognize the promised Messiah. He emphasized the Savior’s Davidic lineage and arranged the material so the Jews could see a reflection of their history in the life of Jesus Christ.
Historical Background: At the time of the events described by Matthew, the Jews sought deliverance from Roman oppression. Many Jews saw Jesus as their deliverer until they realized He would not deliver them from the Romans.
Unique Features: Since Matthew wrote to a Jewish audience, he frequently recorded events and principles in his testimony that would appeal to them. He gave special emphasis to Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah that were fulfilled in the life of Jesus Christ (see Bible Dictionary, “Gospels,” 683). Some of these prophecies are that Christ would be born of a virgin (see Matthew 1:21–23; Isaiah 7:14), that He would be born in Bethlehem (see Matthew 2:6; Micah 5:2), and that He would flee to Egypt with His family (see Matthew 2:15; Hosea 11:1). Matthew is the only one of the Gospel writers to include the visit of the wise men to the Christ child and the star appearing in the east (see Matthew 2:1–12), the killing of the children in Bethlehem (see Matthew 2:16), several of the Savior’s parables (see Matthew 13:24–30, 36–52), the most complete record of the Sermon on the Mount (see Matthew 5–7), and the fact that “many bodies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves after his resurrection” (Matthew 27:52–53).
Theme: Matthew testified that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah prophesied of in the Old Testament (see Bible Dictionary, “Matthew,” 729).