In biblical studies it is often important, when exegeting a New Testament passage, to first determine whether the passage includes any Old Testament citations or allusions, and if so, then to understand the broader context of the OT passage, as the NT author may have the broader themes of the OT passage in view. Beale and Carson's Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament provides a valuable treatment of these intertextual relationships. Also refer to Ian Turner's JETS article (Sep 2018) on what he calls "Broad Reference." But where is the similar Commentary on the New Testament Use of the New Testament?

In the debate over when Matthew was written, there is often little consideration for how the proposed date(s) of the Gospel might have a meaningful impact on how we exegete other portions of the New Testament. Some scholars/bloggers confidently assert that dates don't matter, but this is often in the context of whether or not Matthew is trustworthy. But if Matthew was written for Jewish Christians within the first decade of the church, then would this not influence how we understand subsequent NT writings?

Thus my question: How would an early Matthew, written before Paul's writings, change our understanding of Paul's writings?

For example, would we then more confidently understand the "scripture" references in the Pastorals as being inclusive of Matthew? Or, recognizing the connections between 1 Timothy 1:15 and Matthew 9:13, and Paul's self-condemnation as a sinner (akin to Matthew; Matt. 9:11), would we understand Paul to be drawing parallels with Matthew's calling (Matt. 9:9)? I could offer further examples (see my book), but am interested in what intertextual connections others have observed.

  • Welcome to the group Dan Moore. Your question is rich with possibilities. It is probably over-broad to yield good results here, however. I don't suggest changing it necessarily, since some brave soul may attempt an answer. What I do suggest is that you create a new question or two that focuses on a particular issue E.G. "What would an early date of Matthew imply about... (add specific verses and issues) Commented Apr 17 at 18:49
  • Thanks @Dan Fefferman. Am getting up to speed here.
    – Dan Moore
    Commented Apr 18 at 15:25

1 Answer 1


Certainly full books could be written on this question!

As @DanFefferman has noted, on this site it may be more fruitful to focus a single question on a single passage (and you could of course ask multiple such questions); for purposes of this post I'll offer a brief picture observation, and share a few thoughts on some of the specific verses cited in the OP.


Big picture

If Matthew pre-dates Paul's writings (I believe it does, my video series Who When and Why - The Writing of the Gospels contains a number of supporting arguments), Paul's method becomes much more clear.

First, the Gospel of Luke fits in a clear historical setting - it's the Gentile-adapted version (for the Pauline mission) of the Gospel of Matthew. Paul went to the synagogues and reasoned from the scriptures that Jesus was the Messiah (see Acts 17:2-3). The Gospel of Matthew would have been his primary initial text, wherein Matthew repeatedly invokes the Hebrew scriptures to show how Jesus fulfilled Messianic prophecy. In Acts 17, Paul is presenting the case for Jesus just as Matthew has done. However, when Paul turns from teaching the Jews of a city to teaching the Gentiles, this method is less effective--this experience on his first mission would provide the use-case and impetus to commission a document that looks like the Gospel of Luke.

Second, it becomes all the more obvious that the epistles of Paul are not Christianity 101 texts. They are written to people who are already familiar with a basic biography of Jesus (courtesy of Matthew and later Luke), and are what we would call "occasional documents". Paul didn't write his epistles to introduce Christianity to his audience, nor to offer a comprehensive overview of Christ's teachings; he wrote to address the needs of the occasion: specific questions or disputations that had arisen. This would permanently impair the skeptical argument that ideas found in the Gospels but not in Paul must be late, unreliable embellishments to the Christian message. Paul had read plenty of things in the Gospel of Matthew that he didn't include in his epistles because they simply weren't directly applicable to the controversy the epistle was written to address.

When Matthew takes its rightful place as the primary text of the Christian movement, it is clear that Paul is building on core teachings his audience already learned from Matthew (e.g. especially compare the eschatology in 1 Thessalonians to that of Matthew 24).


A few specific examples

  • Matthew 9:13 & 1 Timothy 1:15 - yes, this appears to be a direct allusion by Paul to the Gospel of Matthew, which would call to the audience's mind the very hopeful message in Matthew 9 that this Gospel message is for the lost, such as those Paul has just described in verses 9 and 10, and perhaps also prompt recollection of Jesus' teachings about the Law in the Sermon on the Mount.
  • 2 Timothy 3:15 - is this a reference to the Gospel of Matthew? I doubt it. Timothy is a grown man who has been with Paul in the ministry for more than a decade when 2 Timothy is written, and he appears to have been a grown man when he & Paul met circa AD 49 (see Acts 16:1-3). Paul is referring to holy scriptures that Timothy has known since he was a child. Thus, anything written in recent years probably would not be the referent of "scripture" in this passage. The scriptures Timothy had as a child would presumably be the Greek Septuagint.
  • With regard to 2 Timothy 3:15, I think that Swinson ("What is Scripture? Paul's Use of Graphē in the Letters to Timothy") has made a good argument that the "sacred writings" (hiera grammata) which Timothy grew up on refer to OT writings (presumably the LXX, as you indicate), but that in 3:16, the "All Scripture" (pasa graphē) reference is intended to be inclusive of subsequent NT writings. Accordingly, if Matthew was published within 5–10 years of the resurrection, then Timothy would also be well acquainted with such, perhaps even during his teen years, before encountering Paul.
    – Dan Moore
    Commented Apr 18 at 15:49

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