"Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you," Jesus teaches His followers in the Gospel of Matthew.
The Gospel of Matthew is the first book of the New Testament. Like the other canonical gospels, it tells the story of Jesus' ministry, and has been a staple of Christian faith for almost 2000 years, offering spiritual encouragement and inspiring verses for Christians to center their life around. Taking a close look at this gospel, it is possible to make good guesses about who wrote it, what sort of audience it was written for, and what sorts of messages it attempted to pass along.
It is a consensus among scholars, Church historians and secular historians alike, that the author of Matthew relied heavily on the Gospel of Mark. He also seems to have highlighted Jewish elements within the text, such as an emphasis on the Law (with Jesus saying that he has not come to abolish the Law), poetic parallelism, symbolic numbers, and genealogy. The Gospel of Matthew begins with a genealogy of Jesus, which serves to link him all the way back to Abraham, further emphasizing his Israelite roots.
It was tradition within the early Church to attribute the authorship of the Gospel of Matthew to Matthew the tax collector and disciple of Jesus. For this reason, the date of composition was placed in the 50s or 60s CE, 20-30 years after Jesus' death. However, later scholarship pointed out that this gospel could have been written no earlier than the 70s, as the author was aware of the destruction of Jerusalem that took place at that time. Likewise, the Gospel of Matthew prominently features a group known as the Pharisees, who did not come to power until much later in the first century.
The date of authorship is now placed at around 80 to 90 CE, with some even suggesting that it was written early in the second century. The author is unknown, but is thought to have been a multilingual, educated Israelite man with extensive knowledge of Israelite tradition. The most likely place of writing is considered to be Antioch in Syria, though this is an issue of much debate.
The Gospel of Matthew roughly follows the structure of Mark, but adds the birth story of Jesus at the beginning. It portrays an anti-Roman position, though it is subtle in its political arguments. Also, despite emphasizing strict morality and the Law of the scriptures, this gospel seems to be opposed to the religious establishment. The Gospel of Matthew portrays Jesus as a compassionate healer and a teacher in the same tradition of Moses.
"Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you," Jesus teaches His followers in the Gospel of Matthew. The author makes it clear that Jesus had come to usher in a religion of peace, one that He intended His disciples to deliver to the whole world following His crucifixion. The Gospel of Matthew leaves no doubt as to whether Jesus was the Son of God, the long-awaited Messiah who, in His death and resurrection, fulfilled Old Testament prophecy and ushered in a new world.