The divine nature of Jesus was a major issue for the Matthaean community, the crucial element separating the early Christians from their Jewish neighbors; while Mark begins with Jesus' baptism and temptations, Matthew goes back to Jesus' origins, showing him as the Son of God from his birth, the fulfillment of Old Testament messianic prophecies. The title Son of David identifies Jesus as the healing and miracle-working Messiah of Israel (it is used exclusively in relation to miracles), sent to Israel alone. As Son of Man he will return to judge the world, an expectation which his disciples recognise but of which his enemies are unaware. As Son of God he is God revealing himself through his son, and Jesus proving his sonship through his obedience and example.
The gospel reflects the struggles and conflicts between the evangelist's community and the other Jews, particularly with its sharp criticism of the scribes and Pharisees. Prior to the Crucifixion the Jews are called Israelites, the honorific title of God's chosen people; after it, they are called "Ioudaioi", Jews, a sign that through their rejection of the Christ the "Kingdom of Heaven" has been taken away from them and given instead to the church.
The oldest relatively complete manuscripts of the Bible are the Codex Vaticanus and the Codex Sinaiticus, which date from the 4th century. Besides these, there exist manuscript fragments ranging from a few verses to whole chapters. 104 and 67 are notable fragments of Matthew. These are copies of copies. In the process of recopying, variations slipped in, different regional manuscript traditions emerged, and corrections and adjustments were made. Modern textual scholars collate all major surviving manuscripts, as well as citations in the works of the Church Fathers, in order to produce a text which most likely approximates to the lost autographs.
The anonymous author of Matthew was probably a male Jew, standing on the margin between traditional and non-traditional Jewish values, and familiar with technical legal aspects of scripture being debated in his time. The majority of modern scholars believe that Mark was the first gospel to be composed and that Matthew (who includes some 600 of Mark's 661 verses) and Luke both drew upon it as a major source for their works. The author of Matthew did not, however, simply copy Mark, but used it as a base, emphasising Jesus' place in the Jewish tradition and including other details not covered in Mark. An additional 220 (approximately) verses, shared by Matthew and Luke but not found in Mark, from a second source, a hypothetical collection of sayings to which scholars give the name "Quelle" ("source" in the German language), or the Q source. This view, known as the Two-source hypothesis (Mark and Q), allows for a further body of tradition known as "Special Matthew", or the M source, meaning material unique to Matthew; this may represent a separate source, or it may come from the author's church, or he may have composed these verses himself. The author also had the Greek scriptures at his disposal, both as book-scrolls (Greek translations of Isaiah, the Psalms etc.) and in the form of "testimony collections" (collections of excerpts), and, if Papias is correct, probably oral stories of his community. These sources were predominantly in Greek, but mostly not from any known version of the Septuagint; although a few scholars hold that some of them may have been Greek translations of older Hebrew or Aramaic sources. The tradition that the author was Matthew the Apostle begins with Papias of Hierapolis (c. AD 100–140), an early bishop and Apostolic Father.
The majority view among scholars is that Matthew was a product of the last quarter of the 1st century. This makes it a work of the second generation of Christians, for whom the defining event was the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple by the Romans in AD 70 in the course of the First Jewish–Roman War (AD 66–73); from this point on, what had begun with Jesus of Nazareth as a Jewish messianic movement became an increasingly Gentile phenomenon evolving in time into a separate religion. The Christian community to which Matthew belonged, like many 1st-century Christians, was still part of the larger Jewish community: hence the designation Jewish Christian to describe them. The relationship of Matthew to this wider world of Judaism remains a subject of study and contention, the principal question being to what extent, if any, Matthew's community had cut itself off from its Jewish roots. Certainly there was conflict between Matthew's group and other Jewish groups, and it is generally agreed that the root of the conflict was the Matthew community's belief in Jesus as the Messiah and authoritative interpreter of the law, as one risen from the dead and uniquely endowed with divine authority.