Like the authors of the other Gospels, the author wrote this book according to his own plans and aims, and from his own point of view, while at the same time borrowing from other sources. According to the Two-source hypothesis, which is the most commonly accepted solution to the synoptic problem, Matthew borrowed both from Mark and a hypothetical sayings collection, known by scholars as Q (an abbreviation for the German Quelle, meaning "source").
As to the time of its composition, there is little in the Gospel itself to indicate. Some conservative scholars argue that it was written before the destruction of Jerusalem (Matt. 24), probably between the years A.D. 60 and 65, but others would date it in the 70s, even as late as A.D. 85.
The cast of thought and the forms of expression employed by the writer show that this Gospel was written for Jewish Christians of Palestine. His great object is to prove that Jesus of Nazareth was the promised Messiah, and that in him the ancient prophecies had their fulfilment. The Gospel is full of allusions to those passages of the Old Testament in which Christ is predicted and foreshadowed. The one aim pervading the whole book is to show that Jesus is he "of whom Moses in the law and the prophets did write." This Gospel contains no fewer than sixty-five references to the Old Testament, forty-three of these being direct verbal citations, thus greatly outnumbering those found in the other Gospels. The main feature of this Gospel may be expressed in the motto, "I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil."
Critics charge that some of the passages in this book are anti-Semitic, and that these passages have shaped the way that many Christians viewed Jews, especially in the Middle Ages. A majority of the phrases spoken by Jesus in this gospel were worded against the major Jewish parties of the time, primarily citing them for hypocrisy and a misunderstanding of the Jewish religion.
As to the language in which this Gospel was written there is much controversy. Many hold, in accordance with old tradition, that it was originally written in Hebrew (i.e., the Aramaic or Syro-Chaldee dialect, then the vernacular of the inhabitants of Palestine), and afterwards translated into Greek, either by Matthew himself or by some person unknown. This theory, though earnestly maintained by able critics, we cannot see any ground for adopting. From the first this Gospel in Greek was received as of authority in the Church. There is nothing in it to show that it is a translation. Though Matthew wrote mainly for the Jews, yet they were everywhere familiar with the Greek language. The same reasons which would have suggested the necessity of a translation into Greek would have led the evangelist to write in Greek at first. It is confessed that this Gospel has never been found in any other form than that in which we now possess it.
The relation of the Gospels to each other is the subject of some debate. Most modern scholars believe that Matthew borrowed from Mark and Q, but some scholars believe that Matthew was written first and that Mark borrowed from Matthew. Another view was that Matthew was written first in Aramaic, but was translated after Mark into Greek, and the translator used phrases from Mark in it. In any case, out of a total of 1071 verses, Matthew has 387 in common with Mark and Luke, 130 with Mark, 184 with Luke; only 387 being peculiar to itself.
The book is divided into four parts: