Matthew, also called Levi, was one of the 12 Apostles of Jesus Christ and the author of the gospel that bears his name. He was a tax collector before following Jesus.
Mat 9:9: As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.
Mat 10:3: Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus;
Mar 3:18: Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Cananaean,
Luk 6:15: and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon who was called the Zealot,
Mar 2:14: And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.
Luk 5:27: After this he went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth. And he said to him, “Follow me.”
Luk 5:29: And Levi made him a great feast in his house, and there was a large company of tax collectors and others reclining at table with them.
- According to Gesenius, the names Matthaeus and Matthias are both contractions of Maittathias (מִתַּתְיָה, “gift of Jehovah;” Θεόδωρος, θεόδοτος ), a common Jewish name after the exile.
- In the Mark 3:18 and Luke 6:15, Matthew is coupled with Thomas, which has given rise to the not altogether unfounded conjecture that Matthew was the twin brother of Thomas.
- Matthew’s special occupation was probably the collection of dues and customs from persons and goods crossing the Lake of Gennesareth.
- The publicans farmed the Roman taxes. In later times, they were usually Roman knights, and nobility. They employed inferior officers, natives of the province where the taxes were collected, called properly portitores, to which class Matthew no doubt belonged.
- These underlings were notorious for confiscatory exactions everywhere, but to the Jews they were especially odious, for they were the visible proof of the degraded state of their nation. As a rule, none but the lowest would accept such an unpopular office, and thus the class became more worthy of the hatred with which in any case the Jews would have regarded it.
- According to an account which occurs in Clemens Alexandrinus (Stroml. 6:15), after the resurrection of Jesus, Matthew remained in Jerusalem about fifteen years. This agrees with the statement in Eusebius (Hist. Eccles. 3:24), that Matthew preached to his own nation before he went to foreign countries.
- Rufinus (Hist. Ecclesiastes 10:9) and Socrates (Hist. Eccles. 1:19) state that afterwards Matthew went into Ethiopia (Meroe); but Ambrose says that God opened to him the country of the Persians. There also he probably preached specially to the Jews.
- According to Heracleon (about 150 AD) and Clemens Alexandrinus (Stronz. 4:9), Matthew was one of those apostles who did not suffer martyrdom, which Clement, Origen, and Tertullian seem to accept. The tradition that Matthew died a martyr came in afterwards (Niceph. II.E. 2:41).
From: Holman Bible Dictionary
- Matthew’s office was located on the main highway that ran from Damascus, down the Jordan Valley to Capernaum, then westward to Acre to join the coastal road to Egypt or southward to Jerusalem.
- His duty was to collect “toll” or “transport” taxes from both local merchants and farmers carrying their goods to market as well as distant caravans passing through Galilee.
- He was an employee of Herod Antipas.
- Matthew knew the value of goods of all description: wool, flax, linen, pottery, brass, silver, gold, barley, wheat, olives, figs, wheat. He knew the value of local and foreign monetary systems.
- He spoke the local Aramaic language as well as Greek.
- Because Matthew had leased his “toll” collecting privileges by paying the annual fee in advance, he was subjected to the criticism of collecting more than enough, growing wealthy on his “profit.” Thus he was hated by his fellow Jews.
- Matthew is the same person as Levi, a tax collector (Mark 2:14 ; Luke 5:27), and thus the son of Alphaeus.
- James (the less) the son of Alphaeus is also listed among the Apostles (Mark 3:18; Matthew 10:3; Luke 6:15; Acts 1:13). This indicates that both Matthew and his (half) brother were in close association with Jesus.
- Mary, the mother of James, keeps the vigil at the foot of the cross with Mary, the mother of Jesus (Matthew 27:55-56; Mark 15:40). If the James mentioned here is the same as the son of Alphaeus, then we have a larger family closely associated with the family of Jesus.
- Later legendary accounts tell of Matthew’s travel to Ethiopia where he became associated with Candace, identified with the eunuch of Acts 8:27. The legends tell us of Matthew’s martydom in that country.
- Mark calls him “the son of Alpheus” (Mark 2:14 ), although this cannot have been the Alpheus who was the father of James the Less; for if this James and Matthew had been brothers this fact would doubtless have been mentioned, as is the case with Peter and Andrew, and also with James and John, the sons of Zebedee.
- Tradition states that he preached for 15 years in Palestine and that after this he went to foreign nations, the Ethiopians, Macedonians, Syrians, Persians, Parthians and Medea being mentioned.
- He is said to have died a natural death either in Ethiopia or in Macedonia.
- The stories of the Roman Catholic church that he died the death of a martyr on September 21 and of the Greek church that this occurred on November 10 are without any historical basis. Clement of Alexandria (Strom ., iv. 9) gives the explicit denial of Heracleon that Matthew suffered martyrdom.
- Matthew was a son of Alphaeus. It is generally supposed that Jacobus, or James, the son of Alphaeus, was a son of Mary, the wife of Cleophas, who was a sister of the mother of Jesus. If this opinion is correct, Matthew was one of the relations of Jesus.
- Matthew was a portitor, or inferior collector of customs at Capernaum, on the Sea of Galilee. He was not a publicanus, or general farmer of customs. We may suppose either that he held his appointment at the port of Capernaum, or that he collected the customs on the high road to Damascus, which went through what is now called Khan Minyeh, which place, as Robinson has shown, is the ancient Capernaum. Thus we see that Matthew belonged to the lower class of people.