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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible

Matthias

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MATTHIAS (‘gift of Jehovah’). The disciple who was nominated against Joseph Barsabbas (see Joseph [in NT], No. 6) and chosen to fill the place of Judas. Of his antecedents the NT records nothing beyond the fact that he had been a disciple from the beginning of the Lord’s ministry; and of his subsequent career it tells nothing whatsoever.

Tradition is more lavish of information. Matthias, it is said, had been one of the Seventy (cf. Luke 10:1 ), and he justified his election by evangelizing the savages of Ethiopia and writing two books a Gospel and a work entitled ‘Traditions’ ( Paradoseis ). From the latter Clement of Alexandria quotes two sayings: (1) ‘Wonder at the things before you’ (‘making this,’ he explains, ‘the first step to the knowledge beyond.’ Cf. Plato’s doctrine that wonder is the beginning of philosophy); (2) ‘If an elect man’s neighbour sin, the elect man has sinned.

It is thought by some that the election of Matthias was a blunder, due to the impetuosity of St. Peter; and there is reason for the opinion. (1) It was a hasty step. It was taken during the season when the disciples were waiting, according to the Lord’s command (Acts 1:4 ), for ‘the promise of the Father,’ the Baptism of the Spirit. (2) The method was objectionable. ( a ) The qualification required in the new Apostle was not a spiritual one: he must be a man who had been with Jesus all along. It was his lack of this qualification that made the Jewish Christians deny St. Paul’s Apostleship. ( b ) They prayed for guidance, and then, instead of trusting to Divine direction, they had recourse to the superstitious practice of casting lots a practice nowhere else observed in the Apostolic Church. Had they waited until they were endued with power from on high, they would have acted otherwise. As a matter of fact the election of Matthias was set aside by God. The true successor to the vacant office was St. Paul.

David Smith.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Matthias'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hdb/m/matthias.html. 1909.

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