Month 9:20, Week 3:5 (Chamshee/Teruah), Year:Day 5940:256 AM|
2Exodus 3/40, Yovel - Year 50/50
Gregorian Calendar: Monday 19 December 2016
Matthew & His Gospel
A Vision and Some Observations
Leadup to the Vision
Today I want to share with you a vision I saw of the apostle Matthew (Mattityahu) and author of the Gospel Matthew. This was an unsolicited vision, as nearly all are, and therefore entirely unexpected, nor do I yet know Yahweh's purpose in giving it to me. The background was two nights ago, I had retired to bed and grabbed a copy of a New King James Version New Testament, which I don't often read, as I felt I wanted a change in version for a quick time of devotion just before I went to sleep. I had intended to pick out a passage at random but as I lay down, book in hand, I sensed the Ruach (Spirit) leading me to read up some background on the translation itself (about which I wrote yesterday). So I quickly skimmed over this material and then started reading from the beginning of the Gospel of Matthew, which as you know begins with a short genealogy of Yah'shua (Jesus), something I'd normally skip over as genealogy is not something I would select in search of some spiritual tidbit. I had read no more than the first five or six verses when the vision suddenly opened before me. More of that in a moment.
The Story of Levi the Tax Collector
Some background information on the apostle himself might here be helpful for some of you. Matthew ben Alphaeus was one of Yah'shua's (Jesus') original talmidim (disciples) and is named in all the lists of the Twelve Apostles (Mt.10:3; Mk.3:18; Lk.6:15; Ac.1:13). His birth name was Levi (Lewi) (Mk.2:15; Lk.5:27) and became a tax collector serving the Roman occupation administration in the Capernaum region. No doubt his position would have been very lucrative as he would have had occasion to collect not only from local farmers and craftsmen as they brought their wares to market, but also from the many caravans which often passed through the area carrying goods between Egypt and the Orient. To give you an idea of how wealthy he had actually been, we are told that in response to Yah'shua's (Jesus') invitation to follow Him that he "left everything" (Lk.5:28, NIV). That tells you volumes as to what sort of a man of emunah (faith) he was.
Matthew's Gospel Witten in Hebrew for Hebrews
Papias tells us that Matthew wrote the Besorah (Gospel) that bears his name in Hebrew (which has since been confirmed by scholarship) as he had a Hebrew audience in mind.
VISION OF THE APOSTLE MATTHEW
Now to the vision which, as I said, literally thrust itself on me, taking me by surprise, as I started reading the geneaology. There, before my eyes, was Matthew, sitting at a plain, short bench at a very ordinary slatted wooden table writing on a large, opened roll of parchment. He was quite a large man, well built, stocky, with a jet black head of rather scruffy hair which I could see was naturally curly. He wore a simple peasant's cloak that had clearly been white once but was now yellowed with age. He was bowed down looking at the parchment on which he was writing, and concentrating hard. He was right-handed. I cannot be sure exactly what writing instrument he was using but it could have been a quill. He was sitting in a small house or hut whose walls had clearly been covered with earthen plaster that had been smoothed over. From my vantage point I could not see anything else in the house. Immediately behind him, and slightly to his left, was a window - to be exact, an opening, revealing that the wall was quite thick, perhaps up to a foot or 30 centimeters. Likewise there was a door, that is to say, an opening, as I could see no door, slightly to the right of him. Outside was blazing hot and very bright indeed, so that the little room was well lit. The door and window areas were not exactly rectangular or square, respectively, as the corners were arched and smooth. The vision lasted about 5 seconds and then closed as suddenly as it has opened.
To this day I must admit I am mystified by visions. Some of them make sense immediately, some are harder to fathom. At times the gift of seership can be very frustrating indeed because you are always aware that visions can have at least three different sources:
Those Who Seek to Discredit the Bible
- 1. The Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit);
- 2. The Enemy; and
- 3. The power of imagination.
I can truthfully say I have experienced all three in my life. Satan will always try to pervert a gift, and particularly ones like seership and prophecy because of the importance that many believers attach to them. I cannot say that what I saw was a 'message' for anyone other than myself though I received no 'restraining order' from the Ruach (Spirit) not to share it with the public as I am doing now. It is, I must admit, reassuring to every now and then be reminded that the Besorah (Gospel) we preach was first revealed to flesh-and-blood human beings and to know they were no works of fiction by later writers. People - especially liberals and atheists - do, of course, have all sorts of doubts about the historicity of the Bible and do their utmost to discredit it. They have as many theories as to Bible orgins as there are these investigators themselves.
One thing that did interest me is that Matthew apparently had no access to other documents other than the one he was writing himself. Maybe that was part of the message to me. Liberals and unbelievers, as you know, believe that the synoptic writers (Matthew, Mark and Luke) all 'borrowed' from one another, or from an unnamed common source of sayings. The 'consensus' of these scholars today (known as the 'Two Source Hypothesis') is that Marks's Gospel was used as a source by Matthew and Luke. Additionally, they claim, Matthew and Luke had access to an imaginary source called 'Q' (from the German, Quelle, meaning 'source'), though nobody knows what the precise nature of 'Q' is. These scholars all deny revelation and invoke purely human processes. Other scholars, following the minor position, deny that there was even a 'Q' and still hold with J.J.Griesbach's hypothesis that Mark's Gospel was written last, not first, and used Matthew and Luke as sources.
The Diversity of the Gospels
It is of interest to know why certain Gospel writers wrote down some events but not others. One thing I have never believed (which I suppose makes me 'neo-orthodox') is that the Gospel accounts were dictated word-for-word by the Ruach (Spirit) from beginning to end. My own belief, based on comparing the gospel accounts, is that the writers remembered what they did and the Ruach (Spirit) ensured there were no factual or doctrinal errors in their recollection. The apostles must have recounted the events of their shared experience to each other frequently, and as we all know, witnesses in any court case remember events slightly differently because of the way we are impacted differently by what we see. They were no different. On the other hand, the same sermon may have been repeated many times but spoken differently at different places, so the apostles may have been recording variations from different occasions:
John's Gospel as a Separate Category of Revelation
"When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed sown along the path" (Matt.13:19, NIV).
"The farmer sows the word. Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them" (Mark 4:14-16, NIV).
The important thing is that any narrative must be selective - it would have been impossible to write down everything Yah'shua (Jesus) said, as John admitted (Jn.21:25). Luke includes far more material than Matthew and Mark, and John inserts a lot of material that none of the others have. The material in John's 7th-10th chapters, for example, is completely absent from the other writers' accounts. One could argue that the other apostles weren't there during the events and discussions recorded though as these were public it is unlikely, as the 12 moved around together for the most part. John also records material from events and conversations he and all the other chief talmidim (disciples) were not present at so either these accounts must have been obtained from others (like Nicodemus in the Sandehrin trial) or directly by revelation...or both.
We may never know why the apostles included or excluded certain events and sermons. About all we know for certain is none of what they did record is contradicted by what the other apostles' wrote. There is harmony of the Gospels.
Human Writings Like My Own
As a writer I often write about the same subject many times. Each time it is usually with a particular person, persons or general audience in mind. I may remember details of events or experiences later that I forgot earlier, or vice versa, and each time I write I interpret in the light of subsequent experience and accumulated knowledge so that it comes out a little differently - it is more polished and is coloured by a wider context of life and living. How much of this is directed by the Ruach (Spirit) and how much by the flesh is hard always to know, especially as I can look back on earlier writings and find errors that need correcting because of the further light and emet (truth) I have since received. However, no such error is permitted in Scripture-writing as this is in an entirely different category to the writings of believers like myself.
Bible Preservation and Serpents in Eden
Now I personally believe - and I freely admit that this is, in the final analysis, a question of pure emunah (faith) - that the Bible is inspired and that Yahweh has ensured its preservation over the Millennia...certainly not in the over simplistic way that some fundamentalist Evaangelicals like the KJV-Onlyers believe, but preserved nevertheless. (I take this topic up in King James-Only: Revisiting a Biblical Version Issue). That doesn't mean that snakes don't occasionally get in. The first Paradise, Eden, had its serpent, for a purpose, and various canons of Scripture have, at sundry times, included poisonous works that are the creation of carnally-inspired men. (I believe one such serpent, the Book of Esther is still in our Protestant canons, to test the discernment of believers - for more on that, see Origin of the Canon: 1. The Tanakh (Old Testament)).
The Justification of Faith
Over the years things I have accepted on emunah (faith) have proved, by the accumulated evidence, to be true, so that my emunah (faith) became justified and transformed into sure knowledge. The evidence for biblical inspiration is actually overwhelming. Remember also that not every apostle was necessarily a witness to everything they wrote. The Gospel of John, which is quite unlike the Synoptic Gospels, does not follow the chronology of the Synoptists and adds material not found in the latter, as I said. But then it was written for an entirely different audience, believed by many to have been Gnostics, and using an entirely different literary device. It is, in many ways, a category of its own, like the Johannine writings in general.
The Liberal-Humanistic Challenge
As you may possible have discerned, I am aware of the way both liberal and conservative scholars think since I have studied both. The former make the assumption that there is no such thing as inspiration and revelation, and the latter that there is. There are not many who are neutral because I am not sure this is actually possible. We can take models and test them. In any event, serious Bible students ought to get a copy of a book that lists the four gospels in parallel . The different content of the Gospels does raise important questions which liberals in particular will use as leverage to try and convince conservatives that the Bible is not inspired. Being prepared to deal with these kinds of people may be important in the ministry of some of you though in my experience you find a mountain of intellectual pride to overcome because of an unwillingness to be taught with most liberals scholars.
Why Was the Vision Given?
The only reason I bring all of this up is because I am still wondering why Yahweh showed me this vision. We can only guess at how the Gospels were actually assembled. I assume that what I was seeing was Matthew writing out the genealogy, though I don't actually know that was the part of his Gospel he was working on as I didn't see what he had written and probably wouldn't have understood it anyway.
The Origin of the Book of Genesis
The Judahites of that time had astonishing recall, trained as they were from a young age to commit large amounts of information to memory. It is assumed, though again we don't actually know, that Moses drew from an oral tradition which had been passed down from generation to generation in the writing of Genesis. It is unlikely (though who knows?) that he had access to some ancient bona fide scripture from patriarchal times. One thing I am sure about is that Genesis is accurate .
The Bible is Inspired
Either way, the shere statistical impossibility of the Bible being the exclusive product of man, when you come to consider the prophecies alone, demonstrates to me that divine inspiration is at work on a massive scale. That does not mean that, over the aeons, scribes and others have not inserted bits and pieces here and there, for we absolutely know they have, but by careful, thorough manuscript comparison it is usually easy enough to spot these and parenthesise them as commentary or attempts to subvert the emet (truth).
I am taking this vision as a witness that Matthew recorded his Gospel by inspiration, without access to external written sources, using the knowledge and experience he had, and with a Hebrew audience in mind. All written revelation is clearly marked by the character of the author, as we would expect, showing that the writer has to be a willing vessel and cooperate with the work of the Ruach (Spirit) in his task. Having four Gospels is also a wonderful way to corroborate the witnesses, their differences actually confirming that no conspiracy was at work. What they wrote is both human and divine, like Yah'shua (Jesus) himself. I hope you will find this encouraging.
 There are many, depending which version you prefer to use. I have a couple, a more modern one which uses the KJV, and an older one (with lots of space for making notes, including the valuable notes of two previous owners) that uses the Revised Version (RV), namely, Sir W.J.Herschel, The Four Gospels in Parallel (SPCK, London: 1929). You will find there are small variations in the actual harmonising depending who's doing it
 See, for example, Dr. William ('Bill') Cooper, The Authenticity of the Book of Genesis: A Study in Three Parts (Creation Science Movement: 2011)