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There's many allusions to the teaching of Paul as recorded in his first letter to the Corinthians in the gospel of Matthew. There's a passage in the sermon on the mount which seems to come from the letter and the eucharist formula seems have been lifted straight from Paul. Is it possible that Matthew was written in Corinth by a believer who was just putting the words of Paul into the mouth of Jesus as a way of preserving the teaching of Paul and honouring him?

Example:

If I have all faith, so as to remove mountains . . . (1 Cor 13:2)

If you have faith . . . you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. (Matt 17:20)

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    As worded now, the question is too vague to answer. It would benefit from the inclusion of explicit quotations of the relevant scriptures, paired together so that they are easy to compare. Commented Jun 26, 2023 at 19:22
  • I agree there are no passages to compare. At face value the letter to the Corinthians is very different to the gospel of Matthew, but a comparison of passage is required before what is an "off-the-wall" conclusion can be reached.
    – M__
    Commented Jun 26, 2023 at 20:56
  • Some examples: If I have all faith, so as to remove mountains . . . 1 Cor 13:2 If you have faith . . . you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Matt 17:20 If I give away all my possessions . . .l Cor 13:3 If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give [the money] to the poor. Matt 19:21 Do I make my plans according to ordinary human standards, ready to say “Yes, yes” and “No, no” at the same time? 2 Cor 1:17 Let your word be ‘Yes, Yes’ or ‘No, No’; anything more than this comes from the evil one. [OR evil] Matt 5:37 Commented Jun 27, 2023 at 1:25
  • Re vote to close, I edited the question to add specific passages and keep it in scope for the site Commented Jun 27, 2023 at 2:25

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All of the early historical evidence points in the opposite direction -- that if there was dependence by one document upon the other, it is 1 Corinthians that is quoting Matthew.

Eusebius recorded:

For Matthew, who had at first preached to the Hebrews, when he was about to go to other peoples, committed his Gospel to writing in his native tongue, and thus compensated those whom he was obliged to leave for the loss of his presence. (*Ecclesiastical History 3.24.5)

This is consistent with the records of Papias, Irenaeus, Pantaneus, Clement of Alexandria, and Origen--all major scholars of their time.

In his chronology, Eusebius reported that the Gospel of Matthew was published 12 years after Easter. Even allowing for some approximation, this is well before the composition of 1 Corinthians in AD 54 or 55.

My own work on the Synoptic Gospels corroborates the essential conclusion established by Eusebius: the Gospel of Matthew was treated as the primary source by the early church because it was the primary source of the early Christian movement.

I suggest Paul's epistles (especially 1 Thessalonians) show familiarity with the concepts & wording of the Gospel of Matthew for the very simple reason that Paul was familiar with the Gospel of Matthew.


But wasn't Mark first?? Please see this post on the site, critiquing the arguments for Markan Priority, and showing each of the major arguments for Markan Priority to be circular, reversible, or both.

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  • May I suggest that Eusebius didn't know where the gospel came from. We see a certain modus operandi in the production of the Acts of Paul and Thecla, that is writing a story to preserve the teaching of Paul for "love of Paul." Hence Matthew was written by a devotee of Paul. This must have happened after AD70 because of the post-eventum prediction of the destruction of the Jewish temple in Matthew 24. Commented Jun 27, 2023 at 6:49
  • @PaulGeorge dating the Synoptics post-70 based on the Olivet Discourse is a circular argument. See further discussion on dating here, especially section 8, addressing the Olivet discourse. Commented Jun 27, 2023 at 11:46
  • The OP asks "it is possible" that Matthew quotes Corinthians. The fact that the Church Father thought otherwise does not negate this possibility. Commented Jun 27, 2023 at 19:55
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    "But wasn't Mark first?" — For me, the simplest argument is based on the idea that Matthew was written for the Jews, Mark for the Romans, and Luke for the Greeks. If that is true (the details and presentation make it seem so), then Matthew would be the obvious choice for first written. The Church spread throughout the empire by converting within the Jewish community first, and only after the congregations were large enough did they evangelize to the Romans and Greeks. A gospel for the Jews to read was far more urgent than one for the Greeks or Romans, and hence Matthew's was needed first. Commented Jun 28, 2023 at 3:27
  • @RayButterworth fully agree. In fact I once made a video on that very subject. Commented Jun 28, 2023 at 3:33
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Your original question doesn't list examples; however, in a follow-up post you did cite a few in the comments section. So this post is going to interact (at least in part) with the few examples you listed:

  • 1 Cor. 13:2 & Matt. 17:20
  • 1 Cor. 13:3 & Matt. 19:21
  • 2 Cor. 1:17 & Matt. 5:37

It should be pointed out that some of the references you are making are from the same context. For example, in the first two sets of passages, you cite 1 Cor. 13:2, but then in the second set of passages you cite 1 Cor. 13:3. Since they are drawing from the same Pauline letter (even the very same chapter), I will respond to those two sets of texts succinctly in this way:

You draw a connection between 1 Cor. 13:3 and Matt. 19:21, suggesting that Matthew may be placing Paul’s words onto the lips of Jesus.

But pay attention to Paul's words in 1 Cor. 13:3. The devil is in the details,

καὶ ἐὰν ψωμίσω πάντα τὰ ὑπάρχοντά μου καὶ ἐὰν παραδῶ τὸ σῶμά μου ἵνα καυθήσομαι ἀγάπην δὲ μὴ ἔχω οὐδὲν ὠφελοῦμαι

And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing. (1 Cor. 13:3, NASB95)

To the careful reader, the verbal affinities should be quite striking.

The Greek term ὑπάρχοντά (“possessions”) is routinely found in Paul, particularly in contexts where Christ is the prototype (i.e., Phil. 2:6). It is my proposal that rather than Paul being the “prototype” to the Matthean account (Matt. 19:21), it is Christ who is the “prototype” that lays behind the Pauline account (1 Cor. 13:3). Thus, your argument is quite lopsided, backwards even!

τοῦτο φρονεῖτε ἐν ὑμῖν ὃ καὶ ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ ὃς ἐν μορφῇ θεοῦ ὑπάρχων οὐχ ἁρπαγμὸν ἡγήσατο τὸ εἶναι ἴσα θεῷ ἀλλὰ ἑαυτὸν ἐκένωσεν μορφὴν δούλου λαβών ἐν ὁμοιώματι ἀνθρώπων γενόμενος

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be exploited, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men. (Phil. 2:5-7)

In Phil. 2:5, we are called to, “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus.” Thus, when Paul pens the words in 1 Cor. 13:3, it is Phil. 2:5-6 that is on his conscience. So impacted by “the Christ-event” (the incarnation), that Paul was moved to imitate Christ in every way. Christ “emptied” Himself of His former glory and riches by “taking the form of a servant, and being made in the likeness of men” (Phil. 2:7),

γινώσκετε γὰρ τὴν χάριν τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ ὅτι δι᾽ ὑμᾶς ἐπτώχευσεν πλούσιος ὤν ἵνα ὑμεῖς τῇ ἐκείνου πτωχείᾳ πλουτήσητε

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich. (2 Cor. 8:9, NASB95)

Not only does Paul allude to Phil. 2:5-6 in 1 Cor. 13:3, but also in 2 Cor. 8:9. All three texts closely correspond. And what's rather interesting, is you actually allude to 2 Cor. in another one of the examples you cited (namely, 2 Cor 1:17), yet missed the connections!

In addition to what I've stated above, Paul was a Jew familiar with his OT (Prov. 28:27, Deut. 15:7-8, Isaiah 58:7), and followed apostolic tradition (Gal. 2:9-10), which was taught by Christ and passed down through the apostles (Lk. 12:33, Lk. 18:18-23, Mk. 10:17-31). Christ's teachings were passed down through tradition, probably being recited on the Lord's day, and most certainly was widely circulated among the Christian community, hence the reason we find it in multiple gospel accounts.

Thus, in every way, Christ is the archetype for Paul.

This provides just one (very good) reason that the first two (sub)sets of texts that you cited do not work. Further, just as a cursory level observation to the first set of texts (1 Cor. 13:2 and Matt. 17:20), it may be that this could be understood as a common Jewish axiom or form of expression, cf. Matt. 17:20, 21:21, Lk. 17:6, Mk. 9:21-23, 11:22-25.

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  • Paul says in Galatians 1:11-12, "For I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel that was proclaimed by me is not of human origin, for I did not receive it from a human source, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ." So, the chain of teaching is Christ ->Paul->everyone else. To know the teaching of the Messiah you had to go through PAUL. So clearly in order to record the teaching of the Christ in a narrative form you had to record the teaching of Paul. Paul was the alleged intermediary (and in fact the source, because there was no Jesus.) Commented Jun 28, 2023 at 0:53
  • It is quite within the realm of possibility that the author of Matthew had other sources at his disposal besides the canonical letters of Paul, namely lecture notes, sermon notes etc that he made while listening to Paul preach, or possibly Paul's notes themselves. See Epictetus for a similar transmission of ideas. So, we would not necessarily get direct quotations from the letters but rather allusions or paraphrases which is in fact what we find. Commented Jun 28, 2023 at 1:04
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The long version of the OP question asks: "Is it possible that Matthew was written in Corinth by a believer who was just putting the words of Paul into the mouth of Jesus as a way of preserving the teaching of Paul and honouring him?" If Matthew was written by the apostle of that name, then no. Since we don't have contemporary manuscripts, the original title of the Gospel relies on later traditions, so I would answer "yes" to "possible" but "no" to "likely."

A more plausible scenario would be that Pauline influence in Matthew is due to Paul's letters having circulated prior to Matthew's writing. If we assume Markan priority, the author, like Luke, was looking for authentic sayings of Jesus to supplement Mark's narrative. Paul's letters were one such source. This idea also holds even if Matthew was the first Gospel written, unless one believes that it was written prior to Corinthians.

The relationship of Paul to Matthew is a thorny question. Paul consistently argues against the Law as a means to achieve eternal life. But Matthew presents Jesus as a special sort of "teacher of the Law" who says that eternal life is achieved by keeping certain commandments. In the Sermon on the Mount (5:20), Jesus instructs his disciples to be more strict about about this than the Pharisees. ("Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the kingdom of heaven.") And in chapter 19, we are told:

16 Now someone approached him and said, “Teacher, what good must I do to gain eternal life?” 17 He answered him, “Why do you ask me about the good? There is only One who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” 18 The man asked him, “Which ones?” And Jesus replied, “ ‘You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; 19 honor your father and your mother’; and ‘you shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”

Paul taught that eternal life is achieved not by the works of the law but by faith in Christ's atoning death and resurrection. Thus, while it may be theoretically possible that the author of Matthew's Gospel wanted to honor Paul by including some of Paul's quotations of Jesus, it is not likely. The inclusion of these quotes probably represents the author's need for quotations of Jesus' sayings, rather than a desire to give Paul honor.

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