Gibbs, Jeffrey A. Matthew 1:1-11:1. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2006.
“Introduction: Matthew’s Audience” pp. 1-8
Gibbs affirms that Matthew’s Gospel was intended to address “a broad Christian audience of Jewish and Gentile worshiping communities in Syria and Palestine” (Gibbs 2006, 1). While Gibbs brings up the frequently asked question of Markan priority and of whether there is a “Matthewan community” that had particular needs, he quickly responds that those two ideas are really not necessary to understanding of the text. Further, as to the community, “some view the community’s needs as the reasons that elicited the traditions about the words and deeds of Jesus, traditions that the evangelist invented in order to speak to those needs” (Gibbs 2006, 2). However, Gibbs rejects this idea, affirming that the Gospel account accuraely records words and actions of Jesus.
Gibbs considers Richard Baukham’s work about the nature of the Gospels to be particularly enlightening. Gibbs reports that Baukham first considers the Gospel texts as literary biographies, therefore intended to circulate beyond narrow, particular communities. He further sees that the Gospels were written with an eye to preserving and transmitting the content through multiple generations, rather than as a literary item to be used and then abandoned (Gibbs 2006, 4). Finally, the Gospels do not appear to come from isolated communities which didn’t interact with one another. Rather, they seem to have a well connected network of different communities in mind (Gibbs 2006, 5).
The Gospels, further, do not seem to be overtly polemical in nature. Matthew certainly makes arguments for Jesus’ identity as the one who fulfills prophetic destiny. However, the text seems more to be an affirmation of Jesus’ words and deeds, to be received and reviewed by the community at worship (Gibbs 2006, 6). While we know relatively little about the actual practices of worship in the mid first century A.D., we have reason to believe that the Gospels were read in the community and that, as time went on, they may have been divided into smaller sections which then became associated with different parts of the calendar. There is considerable speculation about this idea. However, Gibbs is “certain that the Gospel of Matthew was read, over and over again, to baptized Christians who had gathered to hear God’s Word and to receive the Lord’s Supper” (Gibbs 2006, 8). It therefore gained a place in the liturgy of the community.