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In the closing stages of writing my latest book, The Resurrection: A Critical Examination of the Easter Story [UK] (please grab yourself a copy!), I had a few test readers. One was David Austin, down in Australia, who has provided a few guest articles for your delectation. Here is another one – thanks muchly to him (as I am insanely busy researching the hell out of the Pentateuch):

Matthew’s Bloopers

Matthew’s Gospel is the Gospel with the most references to the Hebrew Bible (Christian “Old Testament”, “OT” ). He does this in an attempt to prove that Jesus is a fulfilment of prophecies in the OT, and thus was the Jewish Messiah (or “Christ”).

Unfortunately for Matthew, many times he misreads the OT, or takes the quote out of context, so this tends to make his so-called “proofs” underwhelming. To illustrate this, I have noted some of his most egregious errors.

  1. Jesus’s genealogy – Matthew 1:1-17 lists out Joseph’s lineage, passing through King David (to show Davidic descent), but, strangely omits three names compared with 1 Chronicles Ch 1-3. Also, his list passes through Jeconiah, but according to Jeremiah 22:28-30, no descendent of Jeconiah will sit on the throne of David. To make matters worse, Matthew lists Jacob as Joseph’s father, whereas Luke names Joseph’s father as Heli.

 In any event, if Joseph is not the biological father of Jesus, this whole genealogy is moot.

  1. Jesus’s birth – In Matthew 1:22-23 he states22 All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:23 “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.”

He is misquoting and taking out of context Isaiah 7:10 onwards, regarding a prophesied sign. The context of the section is that, King Ahaz (ruled 732-716 BCE) is facing a possible invasion by two armies, and the prophet Isaiah tells him that a “young woman” (not “virgin”, a mistranslation stemming from the Septuagint – a Greek translation of the OT) will give birth, and before the child reaches the age of reason, his problem will be solved. This prophecy has no relevance to a future “messiah”.

There are many other problems with Matthew’s nativity narrative, too numerous to list here. It is also completely contradicted by Luke’s nativity story. For more information on this topic, I recommend you purchase Jonathan MS Pearce’s book “The Nativity; A Critical Examination” [UK].

  1. Jesus of Nazareth – In Matthew 2:23 he has Jesus, after his birth, dwelling in Nazareth. He says this is to fulfil a prophecy “he shall be called a Nazarene”. Unfortunately, there is no such prophecy in the OT, and the city of Nazareth is not mentioned in any contemporary documents.
  2. Jesus’s triumphal entrance to Jerusalem – In Matthew 21:1-7, he misunderstands Zechariah 9:9, and has Jesus ride into Jerusalem on two donkeys, whilst the original text is describing just one.
  3. The “wrong” Zechariah – In Matthew 23:35, Jesus charges that the Jews were responsible for all murders from Abel to Zechariah, son of Barachiah. There are two problems here:- Firstly, there was no Jewish nation when Abel was murdered (by his brother Cain). The Jewish nation began with Abraham (20 generations after Adam).

Secondly, the Zechariah referred to in this verse was actually the son of Jehoiada, not Barachiah (Barachiah’s son was the prophet Zechariah).

  1. The wrong prophet – In Matthew 27:9, he is linking the purchase of the “Field of Blood” with the prophet Jeremiah, but the actual prophet should have been Zechariah.

In addition to all these misquotes and misattributions, Matthew also seems to make a chronological error, as detailed below:-

Matthew has Jesus and family flee to Egypt to escape the wrath of Herod the Great who supposedly had all the babies under 2 years old in Bethlehem and surroundings slaughtered (No historical record of this horrendous event has ever been found). Herod died in 4 BCE which would put Jesus’s birth at around 6 BCE (Conflicting with Luke, which puts the birth around 6 CE – 12 years later). Then Jesus’s family is told, in a dream, that Herod the Great had died, so it was safe to return to Israel. Then they were told that, control of Judea had passed to Herod’s son Herod Archelaus, who was almost as bad as his father, so they are told to go to Galilee which was then under the control of Herod Antipas. Now, Herod Archelaus was deposed in 6 CE, so this move to Galilee could not have happened after 6 CE. Thus, Jesus would have been between 6 and 12 years old when the family settled in Nazareth.

Here is where it gets interesting – Matthew 3:1, which follows on immediately after Jesus’s family settles in Nazareth, states “In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea”.

We know, from Luke, that John the Baptist was a contemporary of Jesus, and probably not more than six months older than Jesus. Taking Matthew 3:1 literally puts John the Baptist starting his ministry when he was also between 6 and 12 years old. This makes no sense, as we know Jesus and John the Baptist started their ministries when they were both aged around 30. Surely, “In those days” cannot be referring to a time 18 to 24 years in the future. This seems like a chronological error on the part of Matthew, or, as some have suggested, Chapter 3 was the original beginning of Matthew’s Gospel (similar to Mark’s Gospel), and the two Chapters of the Nativity story were added later, and the discrepancy overlooked.

All this, and much more not listed here, would indicate that Matthew was not “divinely inspired” when he wrote his Gospel. The human origin of Matthew’s Gospel shines through, in all his misquotes, misattributions, not to mention his wildly unbelievable events that he includes in his narrative (eg Dead saints rising from their graves, and seen by many marching through Jerusalem).

Given all this “fiction” in Matthew’s Gospel, can we take anything he writes as “Gospel truth”? I, for one, say “No!!”


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A TIPPLING PHILOSOPHER Jonathan MS Pearce is a philosopher, author, columnist, and public speaker with an interest in writing about almost anything, from skepticism to science, politics, and morality,...