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When the Gospel writers Mark and Luke give the list of the twelve apostles, they name Matthew but do not record his occupation (Mark 3:18; Luke 6:15). When they mention the tax collector who responded to Jesus’ call and invited his fellow tax collectors to a feast to meet Jesus, they call him not Matthew, but Levi, which was his other name (Mark 2:14-17; Luke 5:27-32). It seems as if, to be kind to Matthew, they deliberately avoid mentioning that he was once a tax collector. Jews in general despised those of their people who collected taxes on behalf of Rome. They regarded them as dishonest and unpatriotic people who had lost their self-respect (see TAX COLLECTOR).

Matthew’s response to the call of Jesus changed his attitude to life completely. This is seen in the Gospel traditionally associated with Matthew. The book itself does not state whether Matthew was the person who actually wrote it, but there is good evidence to suggest that, no matter who wrote it, it came from material that Matthew had prepared. And far from hiding the fact that he was once a tax collector, Matthew states it clearly. He uses the name Matthew, not Levi, in his account of Jesus’ call (Matthew 9:9-13), and in his list of the twelve apostles he states his previous occupation (Matthew 10:3). The book reflects a tax collector’s gratitude to Jesus for calling such a person to be an apostle. (See also MATTHEW, GOSPEL OF.)

At the time he first met Jesus, Matthew lived and worked in Capernaum on the shore of the Sea of Galilee (Mark 2:1; Mark 2:13-14). He had a good income (Matthew 9:9) and owned a house large enough to accommodate a good number of people (Luke 5:29). But he left all this to join Jesus in the urgent and risky business of spreading the good news of the kingdom of God (Matthew 10:5-23). Though the Bible gives no details of Matthew’s later activities, he was involved in the establishment of the church after Jesus’ resurrection (Acts 1:13).

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These files are public domain.
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Bibliography Information
Fleming, Don. Entry for 'Matthew'. Bridgeway Bible Dictionary. 2004.

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