Author, Date, and Recipients
Matthew was probably written in the late 50s or early 60s A.D. Matthew (also called Levi), the former tax collector who became Jesus’ disciple, is the author. The original audience may have been the church in Antioch of Syria. Its members included Jewish and Gentile Christians.
Matthew tells the story of Jesus of Nazareth, the long-expected Messiah who brought the kingdom of God to earth.
Matthew writes his Gospel to demonstrate that Jesus is the Messiah, that he has the right to the throne of David as Israel’s true King, and that he is the ultimate fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham that his descendants would be a blessing to all the world (1:1; Gen. 12:1–3). Matthew seeks to encourage Jewish Christians (and all future disciples) to stand strong despite opposition. They should feel secure in the knowledge of their citizenship in God’s kingdom. Matthew shows that Gentiles also can find salvation through Jesus the Messiah.
The events in the book of Matthew take place almost entirely within the vicinity of Palestine, an area extending roughly from Caesarea Philippi in the north to Beersheba in the south. During this time it was ruled by the Roman Empire. The opening chapters describe events surrounding Jesus’ birth in Judea, where Herod had been appointed king by the Romans.
The closing chapters end with Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension during the rule of Pontius Pilate and the tetrarchs Antipas and Philip.