Matthew means “gift of God” in Hebrew, and he was also called Levi in a few passages in the New Testament. We know that Matthew was one of the writers of the Synoptic Gospels that chronicled much of Jesus’ ministry but just like the other disciples, his name vanished quickly from most Biblical records after Jesus’ death. But thanks to his skills as a writer, the modern Christian can read about Jesus’ life, deeds, and death through the Gospel of Matthew with his unique perspective.
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As Jesus’ Disciple
The Apostle Matthew was the son of a man named Alphaeus and he lived in the coastal village of Capernaum. There were no records of his early life, but he introduced himself as a tax collector (publican) in his own book during the time of Herod Antipas (Matthew 9:9; 10:3). Since he worked as a tax collector, it was possible that Matthew was one of the wealthiest disciples of Jesus. He was also mentioned in Mark 3:18 and Luke 6:15. He was with the other disciples after Jesus’ resurrection in Acts 1:13.
One of the most remarkable stories about Matthew was his willingness to drop everything and follow the Lord after Jesus called him for his ministry. In addition, Matthew invited Jesus over to his house as a guest of honor in a banquet along with the other tax collectors and other sinners. The Pharisees met Matthew’s feast and Jesus’ choice to join the sinners with indignation to which the Lord replied that, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’ For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.” (Matthew 9:9-13)
After Jesus’ Death and Resurrection
Beyond the Book of Acts, there were no reliable sources for Matthew’s life after Jesus’ death and resurrection. Much of the events that were associated with Matthew post-Jesus came from tradition or records that could not be verified. Eusebius of Caesarea, in his book Church History, mentioned that he “first preached to the Hebrews” and then prepared to preach to “other people.” Clement of Alexandria also mentioned Matthew briefly in his books Paedagogus and Stromata. According to tradition, Matthew either died a natural death or that he traveled to Ethiopia where he was killed by King Hertacus. His feast day is celebrated every September 21st.
Picture By Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio – http://www.ibiblio.org/wm/paint/auth/caravaggio/matthew.jpg, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=136502
Clement of Alexandria. “Paedagogus.” Documenta Catholica Omnia. Accessed July 27, 2016. http://www.documentacatholicaomnia.eu/03d/0150-0207,_Clemens_Alexandrinus,_Paedagogus_[Schaff],_EN.pdf.
Clement of Alexandria. “THE STROMATA, OR MISCELLANIES.” Orthodox EBooks. Accessed July 27, 2016. http://www.orthodoxebooks.org/sites/default/files/pdfs/The Stromata – Clement of Alexandria.pdf.
Eusebius of Caesarea. “Church History.” Documenta Catholica Omnia. Accessed July 27, 2016. http://www.documentacatholicaomnia.eu/03d/0265-0339,_Eusebius_Caesariensis,_Church_History,_EN.pdf.