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Matthew the Apostle

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Matthew the Apostle

Matthew the Apostle
St. Matthew by Frans Hals
Personal details
Birth name Levi[1]
Died near Hierapolis or Ethiopia
Residence Capernaum[1]
Parents Alphaeus (father)[1]

Matthew the Apostle (Hebrew: מַתִּתְיָהוּMattityahu or מתי Mattay, "Gift of YHVH"; Greek: Ματθαῖος Matthaios; also known as Saint Matthew) was, according to the Bible, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus and, according to Christian tradition, one of the four Evangelists.

In the Bible

Among the early followers and apostles of Jesus, Matthew is mentioned in Matthew 9:9 and Matthew 10:3 as a publican who sat at the "receipt of custom" in Capernaum who was called into the ministry of the twelve by Jesus.[2] He is also named among the twelve, but without identification of his background, in Mark 3:18, Luke 6:15 and Acts 1:13. He is also called Levi, son of Alpheus, in Mk 2:14 and Lk 5:27. He may have collected taxes from the Hebrew people for Herod Antipas.[3][4][5]

Early life

Matthew was a 1st-century Galilean (presumably born in Galilee, which was not part of Judea or the Roman Iudaea province), the son of Alpheus.[6] As a tax collector he would have been literate in Aramaic and Greek.[3][7][5][8] After his call, Matthew invited Jesus home for a feast. On seeing this, the Scribes and the Pharisees criticized Jesus for eating with tax collectors and sinners. This prompted Jesus to answer, "I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." (Mark 2:17)


The New Testament records that as a disciple, he followed Jesus, and was one of the witnesses of the Resurrection and the Ascension of Jesus. Afterwards, the disciples withdrew to an upper room (Acts 1:10-14)[9] (traditionally the Cenacle) in Jerusalem.[6] The disciples remained in and about Jerusalem and proclaimed that Jesus was the promised Messiah.

In the Babylonian Talmud (Sanhedrin 43a) "Mattai" is one of five disciples of "Jeshu."[10]

Later Church fathers such as Irenaeus (Against Heresies 3.1.1) and Clement of Alexandria claim that Matthew preached the Gospel to the Jewish community in Judea, before going to other countries. Ancient writers are not agreed as to what these other countries are.[6] The Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church each hold the tradition that Matthew died as a martyr,[11][12] although this was rejected by Heracleon as early as the second century.[5]

Matthew's Gospel

Although the first of the Synoptic Gospels is technically anonymous,[13] traditionally the Gospel of Matthew was held to be written by the apostle.[14] As a government official in Capernaum, in "Galilee of the Gentiles", a tax-collector would probably have been literate in both Greek and Aramaic.[15] Greek was the language used in the market-place.[16] Some early church fathers recorded that Matthew originally wrote in "Hebrew", but still regarded the Greek text as canonical.[17][18]

Many scholars today, such as Raymond E. Brown, believe that "canonical Matt[hew] was originally written in Greek by a non-eyewitness whose name is unknown to us and who depended on sources like Mark and Q",[19] a theory known as Markan priority. However, some scholars, notably Craig Blomberg, disagree variously on these points.[20][21][22] The more traditional interpretation of the Synoptic Gospels posits a Matthean priority, most notably in the Augustinian hypothesis after one of the earliest and most notable proponents Augustine of Hippo. This position once held with veritable consensus in the Medieval church has since waned, but still has several proponents. The tradition placing the composition of Matthew's Gospel "fifteen" years after the ascension is very late Nicephorus Callisti (14th Century) and the Paschal Chronicle (17th Century).[23]

Non-canonical or Apocryphal Gospels

The statue of St. Matthew at the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran in the Vatican by Camillo Rusconi

In the 3rd century Jewish-Christian Gospels attributed to Matthew were used by Jewish-Christian groups such as the Nazarenes and Ebionites. Fragments of these gospels survive in quotations by Jerome, Epiphanius and others. Most academic study follows the distinction of Gospel of the Nazarenes (26 fragments), Gospel of the Ebionites (7 fragments), and Gospel of the Hebrews (7 fragments) found in Schneemelcher's New Testament Apocrypha. Critical commentators generally regard these texts as having been composed in Greek and related to Greek Matthew.[24] A minority of commentators consider them to be fragments of a lost Aramaic or Hebrew language original.

The Infancy Gospel of Matthew is a 7th-century compilation of three other texts: the Protevangelium of James, the Flight into Egypt and the Infancy Gospel of Thomas.

Origen said the first Gospel was written by Matthew.[25] This Gospel was composed in Hebrew near Jerusalem for Hebrew Christians and translated into Greek, but the Greek copy was lost. The Hebrew original was kept at the Library of Caesarea. The Nazarene Community transcribed a copy for Jerome[26] which he used in his work.[27] Matthew's Gospel was called the Gospel according to the Hebrews[28] or sometimes the Gospel of the Apostles[29] and it was once believed that it was the original to the Greek Matthew found in the Bible.[30] However, this has been challenged by modern biblical scholars such as Bart Ehrman and James R. Edwards.[31][32][33]

Jerome relates that Matthew was supposed by the Nazarenes to have composed their Gospel of the Hebrews[34] though Irenaeus and Epiphanius of Salamis consider this simply a revised version canonical Gospel. This Gospel has been partially preserved in the writings of the Church Fathers, said to have been written by Matthew.[32] Epiphanius does not make his own the claim about a Gospel of the Hebrews written by Matthew, a claim that he merely attributes to the heretical Ebionites.[33]


Saint Matthew the Apostle
Apostle, Evangelist, Martyr
Honored in
Eastern Orthodox Church
Lutheran Church
Oriental Orthodoxy
Protestant Churches
Roman Catholic Church
Major shrine Salerno, Italy
Feast 21 September (Western Christianity)
22nd October (Coptic Orthodox)
16 November (Eastern Christianity)
Attributes Angel
Patronage Accountants; Salerno, Italy; bankers; tax collectors; perfumers; civil servants[35]

Matthew is recognized as a saint in the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Lutheran[36] and Anglican churches. (See St. Matthew's Church.) His feast day is celebrated on 21 September in the West and 16 November in the East. (For those churches which follow the traditional Julian Calendar, 16 November currently falls on 29 November of the modern Gregorian Calendar). He is also commemorated by the Orthodox, together with the other Apostles, on 30 June (13 July), the Synaxis of the Holy Apostles. His tomb is located in the crypt of Salerno Cathedral in southern Italy.

Like the other evangelists, Matthew is often depicted in Christian art with one of the four living creatures of Revelation 4:7. The one that accompanies him is in the form of a winged man. The three paintings of Matthew by Caravaggio in the church of San Luigi dei Francesi in Rome, where he is depicted as called by Christ from his profession as gatherer, are among the landmarks of Western art.

In Islam

The Quran speaks of Jesus's disciples but does not mention their names, instead referring to them as "helpers to the work of God".[37] Muslim exegesis and Qur'an commentary, however, names them and includes Matthew amongst the disciples.[38] Muslim exegesis preserves the tradition that Matthew, with Andrew, were the two disciples who went to Ethiopia to preach the message of God.


See also


  1. ^ a b c  
  2. ^ Matthew 9:9 Mark 2:15-17 Luke 5:29
  3. ^ a b Werner G. Marx, Money Matters in Matthew, Bibliotheca Sacra 136:542 (April–June 1979):148- 57
  4. ^ "Encyclopædia Britannica: Saint Matthew the Evangelist". Retrieved 2013-09-03. 
  5. ^ a b c James Orr, ed. (1915). "The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: Matthew". Retrieved 2010-02-22. 
  6. ^ a b c  
  7. ^ Catherine Hezser (2001), Jewish Literacy in Roman Palestine, Mohr Siebeck, p. 172,  
    • The Cambridge history of Judaism: 2 p192 ed. William David Davies, Louis Finkelstein "We are now touching upon that milieu in which Greek language and civilization were readily accepted in order to ... A great number of tax receipts on ostraca mainly from the 2nd century BCE show how Jews, Egyptians and Greeks.. "
  8. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica. "Encyclopædia Britannica: Saint Matthew the Evangelist". Retrieved 2010-02-22. 
  9. ^ Anchor Bible Reference Library, Doubleday, 2001 pp. 130-133, 201
  10. ^ Wilhelm Schneemelcher New Testament Apocrypha: Writings Relating to the Apostles revised edition translated R. McL. Wilson - 2003 Page 17 "in the Babylonian Talmud five disciples of Jesus are mentioned by name: 'Matthai, Nagai, Nezer, Buni, Thoda' (Sanhedrin 43a)."
  11. ^ Nathaniel Lardner, Andrew Kippis (1838), 3.24.6"Church History"Eusebius, , The Works of Nathaniel Lardner, Volume 5 (W. Ball): 299, retrieved 2010-02-22 
  12. ^ Darrell L. Bock -Studying the Historical Jesus: A Guide to Sources and Methods - Page 164 2002 "The early church tradition is consistent in claiming that Matthew wrote his Gospel in Hebrew for the Jews (Irenaeus, Against Heresies 3.1.1)."
  13. ^ Holman Concise Bible Commentary ed. David S. Dockery -2011 p402 "Strictly speaking, the Gospel of Matthew is anonymous. The titles of the Gospels were not added until the 2nd century. But early church tradition unanimously ascribes this Gospel to Matthew."
  14. ^ D. R. W. Wood, New Bible Dictionary, InterVarsity Press, 1996. p 739.
  15. ^ Mark A. Chancey Greco-Roman culture and the Galilee of Jesus 2005 p162 "After Galilee was put under direct Roman administration in 44 CE, there would have been greater impetus for members of the upper class who wanted to ... It is easy to demonstrate that Greek was the language of the governmental sphere."
  16. ^ W. S. Vorster, J. Eugene Botha Speaking of Jesus: essays on biblical language, gospel narrative 1999 p295 "During that period Sepphoris was the administrative centre in Galilee. In 63 BCE Pompey's legions captured Jerusalem ... still spoken by most Jews, and Hebrew was probably still in use, Greek was the language used in the market-place."
  17. ^ Eugène-Jacques Jacquier (1847-1932) Catholic Encyclopedia 1911 Gospel of Matthew "The fact that the Fathers and all ecclesiastical writers, and even the Church itself from the very beginning, have used as canonical the Greek text of the Gospel known as St. Matthew's, not even excepting those who have expressly handed down that the Apostle Matthew wrote in his native tongue, proves for certain that this very Greek Gospel is identical in substance with the Gospel written by the same Apostle in his native language."
  18. ^ It is reported by Eusebius of Caesarea that Pantaenus found Christian communities in India using the Gospel of Matthew written in "Hebrew letters"
  19. ^ Brown, Raymond E., Introduction to the New Testament, Anchor Bible, 1997, p.210–211.
  20. ^ Howard Clark Kee (1997), p. 448
  21. ^ D. R. W. Wood, New Bible Dictionary (InterVarsity Press, 1996), 739.
  22. ^ Strobel, Lee. ”The Case for Christ”. 1998, citing Craig Blomberg
  23. ^ Nathaniel Lardner, Andrew Kippis (1838), The Works of Nathaniel Lardner, Volume 5, W. Ball, pp. 298–302 
  24. ^ Vielhauer NTA1
  25. ^ Edwards, James R. (2009). The Hebrew Gospel and the Development of the Synoptic Tradition. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. p. 18.  
  26. ^ Edward Williams B. Nicholson, ed. (1979). The Gospel according to the Hebrews, its fragments tr. and annotated, with a critical analysis of the evidence relating to it, by E.B. Nicholson. [With] Corrections and suppl. notes. p. 82. 
  27. ^ Saint Jerome (2000). Thomas P. Halton, ed. On Illustrious Men (The Fathers of the Church, Volume 100). CUA Press. p. 10.  
  28. ^ Arland J. Hultgren; Steven A. Haggmark (1996). The Earliest Christian Heretics: Readings from Their Opponents. Fortress Press. p. 122.  
  29. ^ Edward Williams B. Nicholson, ed. (1979). The Gospel according to the Hebrews, its fragments tr. and annotated, with a critical analysis of the evidence relating to it, by E.B. Nicholson. [With] Corrections and suppl. notes. p. 26. 
    • John Bovee Dods (1858). Gibson Smith, ed. The Gospel of Jesus. G. Smith. p. iv. 
  30. ^ Harrison, Everett Falconer (1964). Introduction to the New Testament. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. p. 152.  
  31. ^ Edwards, James R. The Hebrew Gospel & the Development of the Synoptic Tradition, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co, 2009. ISBN 978-0802862341, pp 245-258
    • Ehrman, Bart, Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium, Oxford University Press, 1999, ISBN 978-0199839438, p. 43
    • See also the two-source hypothesis
  32. ^ a b Watson E. Mills, Richard F. Wilson and Roger Aubrey Bullard, Mercer Commentary on the New Testament, Mercer University Press, ISBN 978-0865548640, 2003, p.942
  33. ^ a b Saint Epiphanius (Bishop of Constantia in Cyprus) (1987). Frank Williams, ed. The Panarion of Ephiphanius of Salamis: Book I (sects 1-46). BRILL. p. 129.  
  34. ^ Jerome and the Early Church Fathers
  35. ^ "Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle, Washington, D.C". 2013-09-21. Retrieved 2014-07-10. 
  36. ^ Evangelical Lutheran Church in America: Lesser Festivals, Commemorations, and Occasions, Evangelical Lutheran Worship, page 57. Augsburg Fortress.
  37. ^ Quran 3:49–53
  38. ^ Historical Dictionary of Prophets In Islam And Judaism, Brandon M. Wheeler, Disciples of Christ: "Muslim exegesis identifies the disciples as Peter, Andrew, Matthew, Thomas, Philip, John, James, Bartholomew, and Simon"

External links

  • St Matthew the Apostle from The Golden Legend
  • Apostle and Evangelist Matthew Orthodox icon and synaxarion
  • Benedict XVI, "Matthew", General audience, 30 August 2006
Calling of Matthew
Life of Jesus: Ministry Events
Preceded by
Hometown Rejection of Jesus,
"Physician, heal thyself"
   New Testament   

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