St. Matthew, The Apostle & Evangelist

St. Matthew the Evangelist (“Gift of Yahweh”, Standard Hebrew and Septuagint Greek: Ματθαῖος Matthaios) was among the early followers and apostles of Jesus and one of the four Evangelists.

Matthew is a former tax collector from Capernaum, who was called into the circle of the Twelve by Jesus. He is also named among the number of the Twelve, but without identification of his background. He is often equated with the figure of Levi, son of Alpheus, also a tax collector.

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Matthew was a first century Galilean (presumably born in Galilee, which was not part of Judea or the Roman Iudaea province) and the son of Alpheus. During the Roman occupation (which began in 63 BC with the conquest of Pompey), Matthew collected taxes from the Hebrew people for Herod Antipas, the tetrarch of Galilee. His tax office was located in Capernaum. Jews who became rich in such a fashion were despised and considered outcasts. However, as a tax collector he would have been literate in Aramaic and Greek.

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”

When Matthew is mentioned in the New Testament, he is sometimes found paired with Thomas. The New Testament records that as a disciple, he followed Jesus, and was one of the witnesses of the Resurrection and the Ascension. Afterwards, the disciples withdrew to an upper room, (traditionally the Cenacle) in Jerusalem. The disciples remained in and about Jerusalem and proclaimed that Jesus was the promised Messiah.

Matthew, for 15 years, preached the Gospel in Hebrew to the Jewish community in Judea. Later in his ministry, he would travel to Gentile nations following Jesus’ Great Commission and spread the Gospel to the Ethiopians, Macedonians, Persians, and Parthians. The Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church each hold the tradition that Matthew died as a martyr.

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

Matthew is recognized as a saint in the Roman Catholic,Eastern Orthodox, Lutheran and Anglican Churches,. 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 relics are said to be preserved in the Salerno Cathedral in 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.

 

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