Matthew’s gospel is something of an enigma for a 21st century reader. It is full of events and quotations that seem forced and unlikely.
Matthew often misappropriates Old Testament quotations. For example, he says that Jesus’ escape to Egypt to avoid Herod fulfilled Hosea’s “prophecy” I have called my son out of Egypt (Matthew 2:14-15; Hos 11:1). Yet the verse in Hosea is not about Jesus, or even a prophecy. It refers to Israel’s exodus from Egypt. At best, Matthew is drawing a historical parallel. Then Matthew claims that the murder of the children of Bethelem fulfilled a prophecy of Jeremiah (Matthew 2:16-18; Jeremiah 31:15). But any reasonable reading of Jeremiah involves mourning over the exile, not predicting a future mass murder.
Then there are some odd events in Matthew’s gospel, that don’t appear in the other gospels. For example, he is the only one to mention “many holy people” rising from the dead during an earthquake at the time of Jesus’ death, but not appearing in public until after Jesus’ resurrection (Matthew 27:51-53). This seems highly unlikely in the absence of any other historical or textual record.
Some of these odd features of Matthew can be explained once we realise what he is attempting to do. Matthew wants to present Jesus as the prophet like Moses:
The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you — from your fellow Israelites; you must listen to him. (Deuteronomy 18:15) (more…)