NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY
by Dr. Robert R. Seyda
GOSPEL OF MATTHEW
NOTE: In Jewish writings, we find an interesting post-resurrection incident where disciples of Jesus were called in for interrogation to see if they too should suffer the same fate of crucifixion. While we recognize the name of Matthew, the others are not mentioned in Scripture. This could be due to their being part of the 72 that Jesus sent out on a mission.1 This may also have taken place between the resurrection and ascension of our Lord. It reads as follows:
“Our Rabbis taught: Yeshua had five disciples, Matthai, Nakai, Nezer, Buni and Todah. When Matthai was brought [before the court] he [the interrogator] said to them [the judges], ‘Shall Matthai be executed? Is it not written, “Matthai when shall I come and appear before God?”’2 Thereupon they retorted; ‘Yes, Matthai shall be executed, since it is written, “When Matthai when shall he die and his name perish.”’3 When Nakai was brought in he said to them, ‘Shall Nakai be executed? It is not written, “Naki [the innocent] and the righteous slay thou not?”’4 ‘Yes,’ was the answer, ‘Nakai shall be executed since it is written, “In secret places does Naki [the innocent slay.”’5 When Nezer was brought in, he said, ‘Shall Nezer be executed? Is it not written, “And Nezer [a twig] shall grow forth out of his roots.”’6 ‘Yes,’ they said, ‘Nezer shall be executed since it is written, “But thou are cast forth away from thy grave like Nezer [an abhorred offshoot].”’7 When Buni was brought in, he said, ‘Shall Buni be executed? Is it not written, “Beni [my son], my first born?”’8 ‘Yes,’ they said, ‘Buni shall be executed, since it is written, “Behold I will slay thy first born.”’9 And when Todah was brought in, he said to them; ‘Shall Todah be executed? Is it not written, “A psalm for Today [thanksgiving]?”’10 ‘Yes,’ they answered, ‘Todah shall be executed since it is written, “Whoso offers the sacrifice of Todah [thanksgiving] honors me”11. 12
We find in the Babylonian Talmud, the name Nakdimon ben Gurion appears some twelve times.13 A British scholar believes that this could be the Nicodemus who came to see Jesus.14 There is much dispute over the other names, and how they apply to the twelve disciples we know from Scripture. Also, these may have been names of those disciples not counted with the twelve. In any case, we do know that most of them suffered martyrdom to the glory of God!
Also, in a Jewish chronicle that covers the period of 586 BC to 70 AD in Jewish history, there is this testimony of Jesus from a Jewish scholar: “There was at that time one Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a Man, for He was a worker of wonderful works, and a teacher of such men as gladly did hear the truth; and had many disciples, both of the Jews, and also of the Gentiles. This man was Christ, who, after He was accused by the chief Rulers of our Nation, and condemned by Pilate to be crucified, was nevertheless much beloved by them, who loved Him even from the beginning. To these He appeared the third day alive, according as the Prophets by Divine inspiration had told before, as well of this, as also of many other things, which should be done by Him. And even to this day the Christian sect, which took their name from Him, continues.”15
Their mission is simple, teach others everything they learned from Him. But He is not sending them out unaccompanied. He tells them in an unequivocal manner that He will go with them on every day in every way. It is also permissible to highlight the fact that Jesus said I am with you. This is the same promise that Moses received, “God said, ‘You can do it because I will be with you. This will be the proof that the I AM is sending you’.”16 And the same assurance was given to Joshua, “Just as I was with Moses, I will be with you. No one will be able to stop you all your life. I will not abandon you. I will never leave you.”17 Later on, the musical family of Korah expressed the same confidence, “The Lord All-Powerful is with us. The God of Jacob is our place of safety.”18 And the same promise came to God’s people through the prophet Isaiah, “Don’t worry—I with you. Don’t be afraid—I am your God. I will make you strong and help you. I will support you with my right hand that brings victory.”19
The Aramaic Version ends the Gospel of Matthew with, “Amen,” as does the 1550 Stephanus Greek New Testament Text. However, Luther’s German Bible does not add the “Amen.” And the 1940 version of the Bulgarian Bible, puts the “Amen” in brackets. So it appears that where “Amen” does appear in the text, it was the blessing and confirmation pronounced by the scribe or copier. In any case, we all can say “Amen” to the wonderful Gospel that Matthew shares with us. Of course, the greatest witness to His being alive and in existence as the Son of God, the Messiah, and Redeemer, is that He lives in the hearts of millions who revere and worship Him as their Lord and Savior.
Deeply did He love us, so that we could love Him. Willingly did He suffer for us, so that by His wounds we are healed. Unselfishly did He die for us, so that we can be freed from sin’s slavery. Victoriously did He rise from death to life again, so that we can have eternal life. Urgently did He ascend to His Father in heaven, so that the Holy Spirit could come to spread the Good News throughout the world. Patiently has He waited for all, who will, to come to Him for salvation, so that no one will be lost and die without hope. And suddenly will He return to gather us to Himself so we can be where He is for eternity. No one like Him was ever born on earth before, and no one like Him has ever existed on earth since He left. That’s why we can say with certainly, His is the greatest life ever lived.
To all my dedicated readers and students. While there were never any plans to issues tests or quizzes on our study of Matthew, your input and comments are very valuable. Therefore, I ask you to seriously consider helping me to improve this study by offering your thoughts on the follow questions:
What are some of the things you learned about Jesus and His teachings that you did not know before?
Do you feel that you have now become more educated about the life and ministry of Jesus, and has it strengthened your faith in Him?
What suggestions do you have that would help me make this commentary clearer, easier to read, and more understandable for the average Bible reader?
Thank you from the bottom of my heart,
Dr. Robert R Seyda
1 See Luke 10:1
2 Psalm 42:3
5 Psalm 10:8
6 Isaiah 11:1
7 Ibid. 14:19
8 Exodus 4:22
9 Ibid. 4:23
10 Psalm 100:1
11 Ibid. 50:23
12 Babylonian Talmud, Seder Nezikin, Masekhet Sanhedrin, folio 43a
13 Ibid., Seder Mo’ed, Masekhet Ta’anith, folio 19b-20a
14 Robert Travers Herford, Christianity in the Talmud and Midrash, Williams & Norgate, London, 1903, pp. 93-94
15 Sefer Yosippon, trans. from the Hebrew by Peter Morvvyng, 1558, pp. 88-89
16 Exodus 3:12
17 Joshua 1:5
18 Psalm 46:7, 11
19 Isaiah 41:10