Matthew the Apostle,[a] also known as Saint Matthew and as Levi, was, according to the New Testament, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus. According to Christian traditions, he was also one of the four Evangelists and thus is also known as Matthew the Evangelist, a claim rejected by the majority of modern biblical scholars.
The New Testament records that as a disciple, he followed Jesus, and was one of the witnesses of the Ascension of Jesus. Later Church fathers such as Irenaeus and Clement of Alexandria claim that Matthew preached the Gospel to the Jewish community in Judea, before going to other countries.
In the New Testament
Matthew in a painted miniature from a volume of Armenian Gospels dated 1609, held by the Bodleian Library
Among the early followers and apostles of Jesus, Matthew is mentioned in Matthew 9:9 and Matthew 10:3 as a publican (KJV) or tax collector (NIV) who, while sitting at the "receipt of custom" in Capernaum, was called to follow Jesus.[Matthew 9:9][Mark 2:15–17][Luke 5:29] He is also listed among the twelve, but without identification of his background, in Mark 3:18, Luke 6:15 and Acts 1:13. In passages parallel to Matthew 9:9, both Mark 2:14 and Luke 5:27 describe Jesus' calling of the tax collector Levi, the son of Alphaeus, but Mark and Luke never explicitly equate this Levi with the Matthew named as one of the twelve.
According to the Gospels, Matthew was a 1st-century Galilean (presumably born in Galilee, which was not part of Judea or the Roman Iudaea province), the son of Alphaeus. As a tax collector, he would have been literate in Aramaic and Greek. His fellow Jews would have despised him for what was seen as collaborating with the Roman occupation force.
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][Luke 5:32]
The New Testament records that as a disciple, he followed Jesus, and was one of the witnesses of the Ascension of Jesus. Afterwards, the disciples withdrew to an upper room (Acts 1:10–14)(traditionally the Cenacle) in Jerusalem. The disciples remained in and about Jerusalem and proclaimed that Jesus was the promised Messiah.
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 in agreement as to which these other countries are. The Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church each hold the tradition that Matthew died as a martyr, although this was rejected by Heracleon, a Gnostic Christian viewed as a heretic, as early as the second century.
The Gospel of Matthew is anonymous: the author is not named within the text, and the superscription "according to Matthew" was added some time in the second century. The tradition that the author was the disciple Matthew begins with the early Christian bishop Papias of Hierapolis (c. AD 60–163), who is cited by the Church historian Eusebius (AD 260–340), as follows: "Matthew collected the oracles (logia: sayings of or about Jesus) in the Hebrew language (Hebraïdi dialektōi), and each one interpreted (hērmēneusen – perhaps "translated") them as best he could."[b]
On the surface, this has been taken to imply that Matthew's Gospel itself was written in Hebrew or Aramaic by the apostle Matthew and later translated into Greek, but nowhere does the author claim to have been an eyewitness to events, and Matthew's Greek "reveals none of the telltale marks of a translation". Scholars have put forward several theories to explain Papias: perhaps Matthew wrote two gospels, one, now lost, in Hebrew, the other our Greek version; or perhaps the logia was a collection of sayings rather than the gospel; or by dialektōi Papias may have meant that Matthew wrote in the Jewish style rather than in the Hebrew language. The consensus is that Papias does not describe the Gospel of Matthew as we know it, and it is generally accepted that Matthew was written in Greek, not in Aramaic or Hebrew.
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. 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 which he used in his work. Matthew's Gospel was called the Gospel according to the Hebrews or sometimes the Gospel of the Apostles and it was once believed that it was the original to the Greek Matthew found in the Bible. However, this has been challenged by modern biblical scholars such as Bart Ehrman and James R. Edwards. See also the two-source hypothesis
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 tax gatherer, are among the landmarks of Western art.
The Quran speaks of Jesus' disciples but does not mention their names, instead referring to them as "helpers to the work of Allah". Muslim exegesis and Qur'an commentary, however, name them and include Matthew amongst the disciples. Muslim exegesis preserves the tradition that Matthew and Andrew were the two disciples who went to Ethiopia (not the African country, but a region called 'Ethiopia' south of the Caspian Sea) to preach the message of God.
Base of a pillar at Sacred Heart Church, Puducherry, India
^Eusebius, "History of the Church" 3.39.14–17, c. 325 CE, Greek text 16: "ταῦτα μὲν οὖν ἱστόρηται τῷ Παπίᾳ περὶ τοῦ Μάρκου· περὶ δὲ τοῦ Ματθαῖου ταῦτ’ εἴρηται· Ματθαῖος μὲν οὖν Ἑβραΐδι διαλέκτῳ τὰ λόγια συνετάξατο, ἡρμήνευσεν δ’ αὐτὰ ὡς ἧν δυνατὸς ἕκαστος. Various English translations published, standard reference translation by Philip Schaff at CCEL: "[C]oncerning Matthew he [Papias] writes as follows: 'So then(963) Matthew wrote the oracles in the Hebrew language, and every one interpreted them as he was able.'(964)" Online version includes footnotes 963 and 964 by Schaff. Irenaeus of Lyons (died c. 202 CE) makes a similar comment, possibly also drawing on Papias, in his Against Heresies, Book III, Chapter 1, "Matthew also issued a written Gospel among the Hebrews in their own dialect"
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