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A testament could also be called a testimony. The Newer testimony of God for us continues the story of the older testimony of God for us. This is what we have with the Gospels. Much as the Torah, the first five books of Moses are the preeminent texts of the older testimony of God to us through the Jewish people. The Gospels are the preeminent texts of the newer testimony. This is where Jesus is revealed.

The Gospel of Matthew, the Good News that Matthew shares with us begins with something rather jarring to modern eyes: a genealogy of Jesus Christ from Abraham and David up until his birth. Matthew serves as a bridge from the prophets to the apostles. There is not a pre-birth narrative in Matthew, though the book contains some infant narratives not found elsewhere. The wise men come in Matthew. As well, there is a flight to Egypt that is not present elsewhere.

The twentieth century has been filled with theories about authorship of the Gospels and the order in which they were written. A prominent theory posits a document called Q which contains sayings found in Matthew and Luke but not in Mark. Mark is universally regarded as the earliest Gospel with various scholars speculating over the order of the other Gospels. Matthew, Mark, and Luke are known as the synoptic Gospels because they look at the life of Jesus in roughly comparable ways. The Gospels of John is held out as something different and is commonly thought to have been written later in the 1st Century.

Because it starts with the Genealogy, many scholars believe that Matthew was written for a Jewish audience. Like the rest of the New Testament, it is written in what is called Koiné Greek, or common Greek. That is, this is the Greek of the commoners not of the elites. If you remember the musical My Fair Lady, it is more the language of Eliza Doolittle than of Henry Higgins.

There is a power and directness in the original language. One of the struggles with translations like the King James that make the entire Bible sound beautiful and regal is that the original language is not regal at all. It is basic and direct. Some books (like Luke-Acts and Hebrews) use more formal language and syntax, but overall, the language of the newer testimony is not very high. It is to the point and to the point of the people. God is not here for the special but for us. God is with us no matter where we are.

Two of my guiding scriptures are found in the Gospel of Matthew: Matthew 5 and Matthew 25. These texts continue to challenge and reveal more of God’s love to me. As well, they convict me about how to serve and lead God’s people today. These are texts set apart. The more I return to them, the more I get out of them. The less I return to them, the less I really am myself.