The thesis argues that the first evangelist structures his work as a Bioç or biography of Jesus, so as to encapsulate, in narrative form, the essence of his theological understanding of God's βασιλεìα as proclaimed and taught in the teaching and healing mission of Jesus. Evidence for this is found in the first evangelist's careful use of structural markers to divide his story of Jesus into significant thematic subsections in which he uses a series of βασιελìα logia at incisive points to highlight aspects of Jesus' teaching and healing mission. In this way, Matthew is able to portray Jesus, as God's promised Messiah, who instructs his disciples through discourse and narrative, hence in word and example, in the nature and demands of God's βασιλεìα.
In the course of the story, the reader learns from Matthew s use of the βασιλεìα logia that God's sovereignty is defined in terms of God's saving or liberating action on behalf of both the just and the unjust, but particularly those who suffer because of poverty, oppression, injustice or persecution. This gratuitous liberating action of God has been a reality in every era of history (chaps. 1-2) but finds its definitive expression m the teaching and healing mission of Jesus, God's promised Messiah and agent. Jesus, whom God's angel names "YHWH Saves" (1:21) and "God with us" (1:23), is anointed and commissioned by God's Spirit both to teach and proclaim the good news of the Kingdom of the Heavens and to call and train others to do likewise (4:17-22).
These disciples, while willingly accepting Jesus' call to become "fishers of people" only gradually and through revelation come to recognise Jesus as the Christ. It is only then that they are constituted as Jesus' έккλησία. To this έккλησία. Jesus gives not only the secrets (13:11) but also the keys of the Kingdom of the Heavens (16:16) and powers to bind and loose (16:18; 18:18). Such authority enables Jesus' disciples to become competent leaders who can both interpret God's will as expressed in the Law and establish halakhic regulations based on Jesus' teaching that ensure better practices of righteousness than those advocated by the scribes and the Pharisees (chaps. 5-7; 23). After Jesus' death and vindication, these disciples are commissioned to disciple the nations teaching them all that Jesus has taught them.
The thesis also argues that by structuring his Gospel as a story, Matthew ensures that as the Matthean Jesus, Messiah and agent of God, gives instruction to his disciples as characters in the Gospel story, he also instructs the readers of the text. Hence, Matthew's Gospel becomes a manual of instruction on the nature and demands of God's βασιλεìα. Its purpose is to ensure that not only the members of the Matthean community but all future disciples of Jesus are competently trained to carry out Jesus' commission: "Go therefore and disciple all the nations ... teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you" (28:19-20). In this way, the εύαγγέλιoυ of God's saving presence is proclaimed to all the nations until God's eschatological βασιλεìα is finally established.
The thesis concludes that Matthew uses βασιλεìα throughout the text to reveal his conviction that God's saving and liberating presence is a reality in every era and epoch of history. Not only does God take the initiative in calling men and women to repentance by liberating them from the oppressive forces of evil, injustice and oppression, but to those who respond in faith to Jesus' message, God calls them to become like Jesus agents or disciples of God's reign. This involves proclaiming and teaching the εύαγγελιoυ of God's βασιλεìα through lives based on imitating a righteousness similar to God's own righteousness which impartially bestows benefaction, mercy and compassion on the good and the bad, friend and foe alike (5:45).
Hence, the Gospel of Matthew, which has traditionally been called the Gospel of the Church (even though there are only two references to Jesus' έккλησία in the whole of the Gospel), would be better designated as the Gospel of God's βασιλεìα (over fifty references). Indeed, in the Matthean text the majority of theological motifs, including christology, ecclesiology, discipleship and Jesus' relationship to the Law are all defined and developed in terms of the major theological concern of his Gospel - the nature and demands of God's sovereign rule.