My Most Recent Attempt to “Survey” Matthew


Asbury Seminary, as much as anything, is known for what they used to call “EB”: English Bible.  They now call it IBS: “Inductive Bible Studies” because for a season the Bible heads have won the curricular war to require Greek and Hebrew on a basic level of all students.  We’ll see how long this phase of Asbury’s curricular history wins.


Anyway, the entry level skill of EB is the “survey.”  By the way, I’ll continue to call it EB because those were the good old days even though many did the assignments in Greek and Hebrew anyway.  The world has IBS (even IWU—let’s get as many acronyms in here as we can).  But only Asbury had EB.


So here’s my most recent survey of Matthew, for the pleasure of all of you who have never experienced the joy of this Asbury rite of passage, that without which you cannot truly say you are an Asburian.


I have added a few notes in red to translate EBeeze for the uninitiated.




I.        Titles and Descriptive Sentences


Chapter 1: The Birth of the Messiah

This chapter has the genealogy and birth of Jesus.


Chapter 2: Herod, the Magi, and the King

The wise men come to Jesus but leave a different way, as Herod tries to kill Jesus.


Chapter 3: Baptism in the Jordan

This chapter tells us about John the Baptist's ministry and Jesus' baptism by him.


Chapter 4: Temptation

This chapter both tells us of Jesus' temptation by Satan and of the beginning of Jesus' ministry.


Chapter 5: Fulfilling the Law

Jesus contrasts his teaching with what his audience has heard from the ancients.


Chapter 6: What Kingdom Righteousness Looks Like

Jesus tells his audience how to practice their righteousness before God instead of people.


Chapter 7: Building on Rock

Jesus encourages his audience to bear the good fruit of righteousness.


Chapter 8: The Centurion's Faith

Among other stories, a centurion shows greater faith than Jesus has seen in Israel.


Chapter 9: Matthew's Calling

Among other stories, this chapter tells us about the calling of Matthew.


Chapter 10: The Mission Sermon

Jesus gives instructions to the disciples as they conduct their mission.


Chapter 11: Come to Me

John the Baptist sends his followers to ask Jesus if he is the one, and Jesus condemns the cities that have rejected his ministry.


Chapter 12: Conflicts with Pharisees

Jesus gets into conflicts with Pharisees throughout the chapter.


Chapter 13: The Parable Sermon

This chapter gives us several parables about the kingdom of the heavens.


Chapter 14: Jesus Feeds the 5000

This chapter tells of the beheading of John the Baptist as well as Jesus feeding the 5000 and walking on water.


Chapter 15: What is Clean?

This chapter has Jesus' teaching on what really makes something unclean, as well as the faith of the Canaanite woman and the feeding of the 4000.


Chapter 16: You are the Christ!

This chapter presents Peter's confession that Jesus is the Christ.


Chapter 17: The Transfiguration

Jesus is transfigured along with Moses and Elijah.


Chapter 18: The “Church” Sermon

This chapter tells us of the importance of protection, forgiveness, and discipline in the church.


Chapter 19: Jesus on Divorce

Along with the Rich Young Man, this chapter gives Matthew on divorce, and the beginning of the questions posed at Jesus.


Chapter 20: Parable of the Day Laborers

The chapter begins with this parable, but also has the mother of James and John and the two blind men.


Chapter 21: Palm Sunday

Jesus enters Jerusalem and then "cleanses" the temple.


Chapter 22: Jesus' Opponents Question Him

The Pharisees and Sadducees unsuccessfully try to trap or outwit Jesus with tricky questions.


Chapter 23: Woe to the Pharisees

Jesus sharply indicts the scribes and Pharisees for hypocrisy.


Chapter 24: The Eschatological Sermon

This sermon tells of the signs before the coming of the Son of man.


Chapter 25: The Sheep and the Goats

This chapter continues the sermon with parables on the importance of readiness.


Chapter 26: The Last Supper, Gethsemane, and Trial

This chapter tells us of the sequence of events that occurred leading up to the crucifixion.


Chapter 27: The Death of the Messiah

He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried.


Chapter 28: The Great Commission

Jesus rises from the dead, appears to his disciples, and commissions them to make disciples of all the nations.


I’ve added the sentences.  All we had to do was title them in the day.


II.      Literary Arrangement of Material
















The Preparation of the Gospel




The Proclamation of the Kingdom




The Climax of the Mission




The Origin of the Messiah




Preparation for Ministry










Jesus Preaches the Kingdom










Going to Jerusalem, Dying, Rising, and Commissioning



Fishing for Disciples



Who is Jesus?



Finishing up in Galilee



Testing and Rejection



Passion, Triumph, and Commission


The explanation is also something I have added mainly for teaching purposes.


Explanation: Matthew twice marks major transitions by the phrase “From then on, Jesus began…” (4:17; 16:21).  These “clues” to its structure fit well with the narrative progression I have indicated above.  The first four chapters deal with the preparatory events leading up to Jesus’ mission.  The central chapters provide the bulk of Jesus’ earthly proclamation as a part of his mission.  But the climax of Jesus’ mission is found in the events that culminate first in Jesus’ resurrection and finally in his great commission of the disciples.


A secondary “structure” to the gospel has to do with the way Matthew has apparently drawn on sources in the creation of the narrative.  Apparently, he has started with Mark, added material both in preparation and subsequence to Mark, and then inserted or expanded the material in the middle.  We can identify these points of insertion/expansion by the recurring phrase “And it came to pass when Jesus finished…” (7:28; 11:1; 13:53; 19:1; 26:1).  These parallel comments provide a kind of secondary structure to Matthew that especially comes into play in the subsections of the book.



III.    Structural Relationships and Dominant Themes

  1. Major Relationships between Units
  1. Particularization of 1:1 in the remainder of the gospel, including the recurring theme of Jesus’ identity as “Christ,” “Son of David,” and “Son of Abraham”

Some would consider 1:1 the introduction merely to the first section, taking “book of the beginning” merely in reference to the first major unit (1:1-4:16).  This is certainly possible.  In my current attempt to survey Matthew, however, I am taking as an introduction to the whole gospel.  If this move is correct, then Matthew sees the whole gospel simply as the beginning of the Messiah’s work, but not the end of it, which presumably is a matter of the eschaton.


EB identifies a number of potential logical relationships between units of material.  I myself have started separating these into two categories, relationships between major units and relationships that run throughout the whole book.  Here we are trying to capture the “big picture” of Matthew, not look for tiny, unrelated patterns here and there.


Particularization here is when a general statement plays itself out in what follows.  Recurrence is another way things can relate to each other.


I might also add that most EB teachers put the final section, that I put below, under each relationship they identify.  I have sometimes separated them out so that students don’t miss the forest for the trees.


  1. Preparation

The best way to describe the way in which the first unit (1:2-4:16) relates to the remainder of the gospel is in terms of preparation.  The various events and prefatory remarks prepare us for who Jesus will be and what he will proclaim and do.


  1. Recurrence of Particularization

In at least 4:17 and 16:21 (and possibly 1:1), an introductory statement is then particularized in the rest of that unit.  In 4:17 it is the proclamation of the kingdom that occurs in the rest of the unit.  In 16:21 it is the look toward Jesus’ impending suffering and victorious resurrection.  While these are separate particularizations, they seem significant enough in Matthew’s overall literary plan to mention them in a survey of Matthew as a whole.


  1. Turning Point (Pivot, Cruciality)

When we ask what relationship might exist between the second and third major units (which are large enough together to pass the 51% rule), turning point comes to mind.  While conflict has been steadily increasing in the second section, a definite change takes place after Peter confesses Jesus as the Christ.  Before this event, Jesus has not spoken explicitly of his approaching death.  Afterward, he speaks repeatedly of it.  We thus have the two elements of a turning point: significant contrast between before and after with a cause at work.


  1. (Recurring?) Climax

If we ask how the final section of the gospel relates to the rest of the book, climax immediately comes to mind.  The resurrection is climactic, yet the closing scene with the Great Commission is even more climactic.  At these points the story reaches its greatest height.


Dr. Bauer would say that this climax comes with inclusio, since the idea of “God with us” appears both at the beginning (1:23) and end (28:20) of the gospel.


Dr. Bauer is the currently reigning EB Jedi Knight and used to be nicknamed “EB” by the main philosophy professor in the day.  He is Elisha and holds the EB mantel of Bob Traina, who was truly the Elijah of “methodical Bible study” at Asbury.



  1. Major Relationships Across Units
  1. Recurring Substantiation of Jesus’ Identity as Son of David, particularly by the fulfillment of Scripture

If the identity of Jesus is particularized from 1:1 throughout the gospel as a whole, then this identity is also substantiated by various things.  The centurion by the cross, for example, realizes that Jesus is the Son of God because of the events surrounding Jesus’ death (Matt. 27:54).  One of the main ways that Matthew substantiates who Jesus is comes from his recurring use of Scripture: “This happened that it might fulfill that which was spoken by the prophet…”


Substantiation is when the cause or basis for something is given (“because…” “for…”)


  1. As a part of his identity as Christ and Son of David, Jesus recurringly proclaims the near arrival of the kingdom of the heavens, the fulfillment of what has previously been anticipated.

We might relate this as of a piece with the fulfillment theme mentioned above.  Events not only substantiate who Jesus is; they not only fulfill Scriptural prophecy; but the entire series of events taking place are the coming to fulfillment of God’s overall plan for history.


  1. As part of the arriving kingdom, Matthew gives us the generalization of Jesus’ mission, not in a literary sense, but in the sense that Matthew leads us from Jesus’ very particular mission to Jews while on earth (e.g., Matt. 10:5) to the worldwide mission of the Great Commission (28:19-20).  There is an implicit turning point in relation to this generalization at the point of Christ’s resurrection.


  1. Recurring Contrast between Jesus and others, particularly his recurring conflict with religious leaders, which climaxes in his crucifixion

The gospel presents increasing conflict between Jesus and those who oppose him and his message.  The conflict increases in the middle section of Matthew and finally reaches a climax in the crucifixion.


  1. Recurring emphasis on the importance of true righteousness in contrast to hypocritical righteousness or unrighteousness.

Related to the contrast between Jesus and the religious leaders is a recurring contrast between their righteousness and the righteousness that God requires.  But this contrast not only relates to Jesus vis-à-vis the Jewish leaders, the parable of the wedding banquet pictures a Gentile of the church who is inappropriately clothed, and the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats and the Weeds imply the same about everyone in the judgment.


  1. There is a contrasting effect (causation) in accordance with whatever type of righteousness one follows.  This effect will reach its climax on the Day of Judgment, when the sheep will go to reward and the goats will go to hell fire (another recurring theme—Matthew is the most apocalyptic gospel)



IV.   Strategic Areas and Questions

1A. Particularization of 1:1 in Matthew

Strategic Area: 1:1


A strategic area for EB is a place to dig in next to begin interpreting the gospel.  The idea is that you have found the most important patterns in your survey.  By identifying strategic areas that relate to each pattern, you identify the most important places to go next to understand Matthew as a whole.



Definitional: Is 1:1 really particularized in the whole gospel or in a smaller unit like 1:2-4:16 or even 1:2-17?  What is a Messiah?  What is a Son of David?  What is a Son of Abraham?


Definitional questions get all the players on the table.


Rational: Why does Matthew introduce the gospel in this way?  On what basis is Jesus the Messiah, Son of David, and Son of Abraham?


These are why questions.


Modal: How is this verse particularized in the remainder of the gospel?  In what way is the identity expressed in this verse found in the rest of the gospel?


These are how questions.


Implicational: What are the implications of the answers to these questions for the original meaning of Matthew?  What implications does this general statement have for Matthew’s understanding of who Jesus is?


2A. Preparation of 1:2-4:16

Strategic Areas: 1:21, 23; 2:6; 3:2, 11-12; 4:19


Definitional: What elements in this section prepare for the remainder of the gospel? 

Rational: Why does Matthew lay the groundwork for the gospel in this way?  Why does he specifically choose these elements and not others?

Modal: In what way does the material of these chapters lay the groundwork for the remainder of the gospel?  In what way does the genealogy prepare for the gospel?  In what way does the birth story prepare for the gospel?  In what way does John’s baptism prepare for the gospel?  In what way does Jesus’ temptation prepare for the gospel?

Implicational: What are the implications of the answers to these questions for the original meaning of Matthew?  What are the implications of these preparations for Matthew’s understanding of Jesus’ mission and identity?


3A. Recurrence of Particularization (4:17; 16:21)

Strategic Areas: 4:17; 16:21


Definitional: What elements of these general statements play themselves out in the rest of the sections?  What does it mean to repent?  What is the kingdom of heaven?  What does it mean to say it has come near?

Rational: Why does Matthew introduce these sections in this way?  Why has the kingdom come near?  Why does one need to repent in the light of the approaching kingdom? Why did Jesus decide to proclaim his death from this point on?

Modal: How are these two verses particularized in the remainder of their respective sections? How do these two programmatic verses relate to each other?  How has the kingdom come near?  How does one repent?

Implicational: What are the implications of the answers to these questions for the original meaning of Matthew?


4A. Turning Point

Strategic Area: 16:16-19, 21


Definitional: What changes before and after?  What causes the change?

Rational: Why does the direction of the story change here?  Why does Peter’s acknowledgement of Jesus as Messiah change the direction of the story?

Modal: How does Peter’s acknowledgement of Jesus as Messiah change the direction of the plot?  How does the direction of the plot change?

Implicational: What are the implications of the answers to these questions for the original meaning of Matthew?


5A. Recurrence of Climax

Strategic Areas: 28:5-7, 16-20


Definitional: What elements reach a height of intensity at the end of the gospel?  What does Matthew mean by “God with us”?

Rational: Why does Matthew climax his gospel with the resurrection and Great Commission?  Why does Matthew bracket the gospel with this inclusio?

Modal: How does the resurrection and Great Commission climax the gospel?  How does each part of the inclusio relate to the other?

Implicational: What are the implications of the answers to these questions for the original meaning of Matthew?  What is the implication of the inclusio for the Christology and soteriology of Matthew?


1B. Recurring Substantiation of Jesus’ Identity

Strategic Areas: many possible; e.g., 1:22-23; 12:17-21; 14:25-33; 16:16


Definitional: What is Jesus’ identity?  What does it mean for that which is spoken by the prophet to be fulfilled?  What aspects of Jesus’ identity does Matthew substantiate?

Rational: Why does Matthew substantiate Jesus’ identity in the ways he does?  Why does he use Scripture to fulfill Jesus’ identity?

Modal: How does Matthew substantiate Jesus’ identity?  How do various events in Jesus’ life fulfill the Jewish Scriptures?

Implicational: What are the implications of the answers to these questions for the original meaning of Matthew?


2B. Recurring Proclamation of the Kingdom, particularly as Fulfillment

Strategic Areas: many possible; e.g., 4:17; 13:31-32, 47-50; 18:2-4


Definitional: What is the kingdom of heaven in Matthew?  What does it mean to say it has come near?  When will it be here fully?

Rational: Why has the kingdom of heaven come near?  Why isn’t it here yet in Matthew?  Why does Matthew emphasize the kingdom of heaven?

Modal: In what way is the kingdom something that Scripture has expected or anticipated?  How has the kingdom of heaven come near?  How will it arrive completely?

Implicational: What are the implications of the answers to these questions for the original meaning of Matthew?


3B. Generalization of Scope of Mission

Strategic Areas: e.g., 8:5-13; 10:5-7; 22:8-10; 28:19-20


Definitional: What is a Jew?  What is a Gentile?  What is a Samaritan?  What causes the shift in direction?

Rational: Why does Jesus restrict his earthly mission to Jews?  Why does he then expand it to the whole world?  Why does the resurrection change the focus of Jesus’ mission?

Modal: How does the scope of Jesus’ mission expand in the course of Matthew’s gospel?  How does the resurrection change the scope of Jesus’ mission?

Implicational: What are the implications of the answers to these questions for the original meaning of Matthew?


4B. Recurring Contrast between Jesus and Opponents

Strategic Area: e.g., 12:24, 38; 13:53-58; 16:1-4; 26:1-5, 63-66


Definitional: Who is Jesus? Who are those who contrast with Jesus? Who are the religious leaders?  Who are the crowds?  Who are the disciples? 

Rational: Why does Matthew contrast the religious leaders with Jesus?  Why does Matthew occasionally contrast others with Jesus?  Why does Jesus contrast with these individuals? Why does this conflict increase as the gospel progresses?

Modal: How do the religious leaders contrast with Jesus?  In what ways do the crowds and disciples sometimes contrast with Jesus?  How does this conflict increase and climax in Matthew?

Implicational: What are the implications of the answers to these questions for the original meaning of Matthew?


5B. Recurring Contrast between Kingdom and Inappropriate Righteousness

Strategic Area: e.g., 5:17-20; 13:36-43; 25:31-46


Definitional: What is righteousness?  What kind of righteousness is appropriate and what kind is inappropriate for the kingdom? 

Rational: Why does the kingdom demand a certain kind of righteousness?  Why are some behaviors appropriate and others inappropriate?

Modal: How do these two claims to righteousness contrast with each other?

Implicational: What are the implications of the answers to these questions for the original meaning of Matthew? 


6B. Contrasting Causation from Each Righteousness, Climaxing in Judgment

Strategic Areas: e.g., 13:36-43; 12:38-45; 25:31-46


Definitional: What is the effect of each type of righteousness?  What is the climactic effect?  What is Gehenna?

Rational: Why does each type of righteousness have each kind of consequence?  Why do the consequences climax in a judgment?  Why does Matthew have so many images of hell fire and judgment?

Modal: How does the judgment take place in Matthew?  How is that the climax of the effects of varying righteousness?  How does Matthew portray each of the final destinies?

Implicational: What are the implications of the answers to these questions for the original meaning of Matthew?