Already in the time of Yeshua, the Torah had already been translated into Aramaic and in Greek Septuagint, the form of ancient Greek used in the translations of biblical texts and thus, by then, the Torah was no longer the ‘secret book of the Jews’.
It is generally accepted that Matthew’s gospel, as well as some of the subsequent ones were originally written in Hebrew because of the numerous references made to the Torah and the Books of the Prophets, but in regards to who was Matthew-the-man, he may simply have been like a modern-day obsessive collector of all sound bytes attributed to his hero – in this case, Yeshua, the already-crucified teacher.
Having said that, in regards to the authorship of this gospel, the jury is still undecided as to whether the various sections of manuscripts were written by the one anonymous ‘Matthew’ or whether they were written collaboratively over a period of time by equally anonymous persons.
The most important shrine that has linked the Jewish people to their god, from centuries before Yeshua through the various diasporas and to this day, is the Temple which stood in various states of repair and war-torn disrepair on Temple Mount from 957 BC to 70 AD.
Jewish King Herod the Great is remembered as The Builder because of the innovative architecture he commissioned throughout the land. It is in the temple known, post renovation, as the second Temple, Herod’s temple, that Yeshua had many loud quarrels, both with priests and temple-goers, over a number of his grievances.
Under Roman rule, the Jews had retained their autonomy in regards to matters of religion.
Religion [and politicised religion] were everything in these ancient times and the Jewish community in Yeshua’s lifetime was led by three main sects:
The perushim (known as the Pharisees in the New Testament) held the reins of local political leadership. They rejected what aspects of Greek philosophy had fate acting as the controlling agent of human destiny. Instead, they expounded free will and that, as such, our daily deeds affected our destiny, here, now, and in the afterlife. Rewards and punishments in the next world were part and parcel of their belief system but with a resurrection after the death of the body. They also believed in the eventual arrival of a messiah, a special being, but one of flesh and bone. According to their belief, the long awaited Messiah would be a political leader who would free the People of Israel from foreign rule and who would lead them according to the Law of God. The Perushim led a modest lifestyle and their doctrines are the ones followed today by Orthodox Jews.
The Zadokim (Zadokites/Sadducees in the New Testament) were wealthy, powerful. Many were arrogant. and many abused the power they had over ‘commoners’. Their area of control spread over all aspects of the religion including Temple life. Their belief system was aligned with the Greek philosophy of the times and thus, they did not believe in resurrection. They directed everything from the daily rites to daily blessings. They arbitrated in matters of interpretation of the Torah and the Books of the Prophets. They were essential to the sacrifices of animals according to the strict and humane rules of Kosher slaughtering and they organized the religious festivals and the management of pilgrims.
It is from the Zadokim group that came most of the temple priests. By ancient decree most came from the Kohanim lineage and that was certainly true of the High Priest. They were extremely zealous. Unlike resident monks, these priests often lived in other towns away from Jerusalem. It is also from their ranks that judges were chosen for the Sanhedrin (the court system) and, by the time of the second Temple, the Sanhedrin was legislating on all matters of religious and political life – a coming together of power that was later not to play out in Yeshua’s favor.