Historical Champions

Sunday School Materials

Previous blog posts have profiled Protestant and Catholic family Bibles which identified early publication dates for the Gospels, including a publication date for Matthew within a decade of the resurrection and ascension. My goal has been to demonstrate that at one time there was a general awareness, within the English speaking church, of this view that Matthew was published first and relatively early. This is not to say that everyone accepted this view, as there have long been those who argued that the earliest Gospels were published in the 60s or later, often claiming that Mark was first. Yet, it does demonstrate that it is only over the past hundred or so years that this modern academic (near) consensus has developed around the later dates. Nonetheless, even over the past century there yet remain a few theologians who continue to argue for earlier dates.

In this post I want to highlight another type of publication targeted at the Christian public, which likewise conveyed an early date for Matthew: Sunday-school and Bible class materials.

In 1831, Ichabod L. Skinner published in Washington D.C. a 280 page book, A Key to the Gospels: Being a Compendious Exposition of the Principal Things Contained in Them, Intended for Sunday-School Teachers, Bible Classes, and Families. The book contains endorsements from pastors from a number of Washington churches of various denominations, along with chaplains, and academics.

Among the many questions and answers were the following:


Q. Who was Matthew?

A. He was a Hebrew, son of Alpheus of Galilee, and Mary a kins-woman of our Lord’s mother; and born either at Nazareth, or Capernaum. He was an Apostle, as well as an Evangelist. In this respect, he is to be ranked with St. John. Mark and Luke were not Apostles.

Q. What was he before he was called to be an Apostle ?

A. He was a publican, or collector of taxes for the Romans, an office hateful to the Jews.

Q. Why did he write his Gospel ?

A. It is said he was entreated to do it by the converts, and by the other Apostles, who knew his competency for the undertaking, and who aided him with their prayers.

Q What is the date of it?

A. Commentators are not agreed as to its date; but the most probable date is about the year forty; six or eight years after the death of Christ.

Q, In what language was this Gospel written?

A. In the Greek language. Although it is thought by some that it was originally written in Hebrew ; an opinion not well sustained.


Q. What induced him to write his gospel?

A. It was written by the direction of Peter and under his eye, at the request of some of his converts who requested Mark to record what Peter had often preached to them. It was most probably written about the year forty-three; nine or ten years after the death of our Lord, and two or three years after the gospel of Matthew.

I. L. Skinner, A Key to the Gospels: Being a Compendious Exposition of the Principal Things Contained in Them, Intended for Sunday-School Teachers, Bible Classes, and Families (Washington, DC, 1831), 17–18, 69.

And here is a book from 1829 for Sunday-school teachers and families, which also reflects an early date for Matthew:

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