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The Gospel of Matthew is the first book in the New Testament. Most likely composed between 80 and 90 AD, it tells the story of how Jesus sent his disciples to preach the gospel to the world. Much of it is based on edited passages from the Gospel of Mark, although it adds a considerable quantity of new sections to the content. As a consequence, the Gospel of Mark has been considered a summarization of Matthew for a long time, which explains its position as the second Gospel.
Edits to Mark 6:45-52
Mark 6:45-52 is the story of the “stilling of the storm,” in which the disciples, riding a boat against a headwind, encounter Jesus, who is walking on water. After the Messiah convinces his followers that he is not a ghost, the storm calms, and he gets into the boat. Matthew elaborates on the story, describing it in detail and adding an entirely new element.
In Matthew’s version of the story, contained in passages 14:22-33, the boat is struggling against a storm while far from land, which is a highly threatening situation for the disciples. Also, after the disciples are convinced that the Jesus they are seeing is the real one, Peter asks him for permission to join him on the water. Jesus agrees, and Peter attempts to step out onto the water, only to become frightened and sink into the water. Jesus then saves Peter, admonishes him for lacking faith, and they both enter the boat, after which the storm ceases. The story ends with the disciples worshiping Jesus as the Son of God.
Dale suggests that Matthew intended to create an allegory for the religious organization he supported (106). His church would experience turbulent times, but those who had strong faith would be able to survive and carry the teachings into the future, even if the church itself was destroyed. As long as they worshipped Jesus, they would find salvation, and the story serves to illustrate that concept.
Edits to Mark 9:2-10
Mark 9:2-10 describes Jesus’s visit to the top of a mountain, where he met Moses and Elijah. He took Peter, James, and John with him, and as he was talking with the prophets, God told the three disciples that Jesus was his Son. As the group left the place and descended the mountain, Jesus ordered his disciples not to tell anyone of the event until he rose from the dead.
Matthew’s version of the passage is contained in verses 17:1-13 and adds more symbolism to the scene. According to Allison, Jesus is established as the new Moses, and the criticism that Elijah has not yet come is rejected, as Jesus explains that he has come as John the Baptist (56-57). Matthew likely edited the passage to make it have a stronger theological basis in the argument about whether Jesus truly is the Messiah and to refute one common argument for why he could not be the one.
Matthew’s edits to the Gospel of Mark appear to have two primary purposes. The first is to address the needs of his church, and the second is to make the contents more convincing and difficult to refute. Matthew’s goal was to create an improved version of the gospel that would be more effective at converting non-believers and promote faith within the church itself. These requirements are the reason why he expanded on Mark’s stories and added new meanings and happenings to them.
Allison, Dale C. “Matthew.” The Gospel, edited by John Muddiman and John Barton, OUP Oxford, 2010, pp. 55–58.
Dale, Martin. New Testament History and Literature. Yale University Press, 2012.