The Infuence of the Gospel of Saint Matthew on Christian Literature before Saint Irenaeus, 3 volumes
By Édouard Massaux, translated by Norman J. Belval and Suzanne Hecht,
edited and with an introduction and addenda by Arthur J. Bellinzoni
The question of the Gospel of Matthew on second century Christian literature is central to an understanding of the development of the church’s fourfold Gospel canon. Such a study is also closely related to a study of early church history and the history of early Christian theology.
The use of first-century Christian writings in second-century Christian literature is, of course, not identical to the question of the canon or the canonical status of individual books. The development of the New Testament canon was a long and protracted process that extended into the fifth century. However, the period leading up to Irenaeus was clearly the most critical in establishing the core of the New Testament canon, in particular the emergence of the quadriform gospel, thirteen letters of Paul, the Acts of the Apostles, and 1 Peter, and 1 John. By the beginning of the third century, twenty of the twenty-seven books of the New Testament canon were widely cited by many of the church fathers alongside the already canonical Old Testament.
The history of the New Testament canon involves much more than an examination of the citation of individual books. Yet a study of the citation of individual documents is a useful place to begin any study of the history of the canon.
Édouard Massaux’s The Influence of the Gospel of Matthew on Christian Literature before Saint Irenaeus first appeared in French in 1950 and was reprinted with additional bibliographical entries in 1986. In this monumental book, Massaux identifies the Gospel of Matthew as the New Testament book that most influenced early Christian literature.
Not all scholars agree with Massaux’s contention that the Gospel of Matthew was both known and used by the end of the first or the early part of the second century, and with increasing frequency as time has passed. Nevertheless, Massaux’s volume is still seminal to the question, and no other study has attempted to cover so much material so thoroughly.
Massaux’s original volume did not provide translations of those Greek passages in the Apostolic Fathers in which literary dependence is either doubtful or to be dismissed. To make this English edition of Massaux’s work more useful, Arthur Bellinzoni has provided English translations for all of these passages.
Bellinzoni has also provided, at the end of each chapter, an addendum listing those passages in the Apostolic Fathers that are judged to contain citations of allusions to the Gospel of Matthew according to Helmut Köster (Synoptische Überlieferung bei den apostolischern Vätern), Wolf-Dieter Köhler (Die Rezeption des Mattäusevangeliums in der Zeit vor Irenäus), and Biblia Patristica. These addenda make this English edition more useful to the contemporary study of the subject than Massaux’s original French.
Massaux’s study is divided into three books, which are published in English in three volumes.
Book 2: The Later Christian Writings contains Massaux’s study of 2 Clement, Polycarp, Apocalypses, Non-Canonical Gospels, the Agrapha, and Some Gnostic Writings.