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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Matthew (2)

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MATTHEW (Μαθθαῖος, Lachm., Tisch., WH [Note: H Westcott and Hort’s text.] ; Ματθαῖος, Textus Receptus ) is to be identified with Levi, son of Alphaeus, since the Synoptists agree in their description of the feast associated with the publican who is named Levi in Mk. (Mark 2:14) and Lk. (Luke 5:29), and Matthew in Mt. (Matthew 9:9).* [Note: Levi’s father was not the father of James the Little (cf. Zahn, Einleitung, ii. 263).] Levi, according to the analogy of Simon and Peter, may have been the original name and Matthew the acquired; though, according to Edersheim (Life and Times, i. 514), it was common in Galilee for a man to have two names, one strictly Jewish and the other Galilaean. Matthew was chosen one of the Twelve, and is placed seventh in the lists in Mk. and Lk., and eighth in those in Mt. and Acts. When called to be a disciple, he was sitting at a toll-house, his place of business. Along the north end of the Sea of Galilee there was a road leading from Damascus to Acre on the Mediterranean, and on that road a customs-office marked the boundary between the territories of Philip the tetrarch and Herod Antipas. Matthew’s occupation was the examination of goods which passed along the road, and the levying of the toll (cf. Hausrath, NT Times, ii. 179). The work of a publican excited the scorn so often shown beyond the limits of Israel to fiscal officers; and when he was a Jew, as was Matthew, he was condemned for impurity by the Pharisees. A Jew serving on a great highway was prevented from fulfilling requirements of the Law, and was compelled to violate the Sabbath law, which the Gentiles, who conveyed their goods, did not observe. Schürer makes the statement that the customs raised in Capernaum in the time of Christ went into the treasury of Herod Antipas, while in Judaea they were taken for the Imperial fiscus (HJP [Note: JP History of the Jewish People.] i. ii. 68). Matthew was thus not a collector under one of the companies that farmed the taxes in the Empire, but was in the service of Herod. Yet the fact that he belonged to the publican class, among whom were Jews who outraged patriotism by gathering tribute for Caesar, subjected him to the scorn of the Pharisees and their party (cf. Edersheim, Life and Times, i. 515); and his occupation itself associated him with men who, everywhere in the Empire, were despised for extortion and fraud, and were execrated (cf. Cic. de Offic. i. 42; Lucian, Menipp. 11). Even Jesus Himself named the publicans with harlots (Matthew 21:31). See Publican, and Sea of Galilee, § vi.

Before the call of Matthew, Jesus had resided at Capernaum, had left it, and had gone back to it (Mark 1:21; Mark 1:38; Mark 2:1); and it is safe to conclude that Matthew, a dweller in or near the city, had heard the fame of Jesus, and perhaps he may have been among those who sought Him (Mark 1:37). Jesus, too, may have noticed the publican, and the fact may have led to the call. According to the narrative of that call, which is almost identical in the Synoptics, Jesus said to him, ‘Follow me,’ and he arose and followed Him (Matthew 9:9). After the call and the answer there was a feast, probably to celebrate the new departure in the life of the publican, at which Jesus met him and his friends.

Certain critics (cf. Keim, Jesus of Nazara, iii. 268 n. [Note: note.] ) take the words καὶ ἑγένετο αὐτοῦ ἀνακειμένου ἐν τῇ οἰκία (Matthew 9:10) as indicating that the house was that of Jesus; but they can bear this interpretation only if taken in connexion with the preceding words, καὶ ἀναστὰς ἠκολούθησεν αὐτῷ. It is, however, not necessary to establish this connexion, as the writer may simply have made a sudden transition to a paragraph beginning καὶ ἐγένετο. If, on the other hand, the connexion must be made, then it is possible to take the narrative as recording that Matthew rose and followed Jesus to the house which belonged to Jesus. Mk. does not indicate the ownership of the house, while Lk. says distinctly that it was Levi’s. If we accept the description of Mk. or Lk., we need not conclude that the feast followed immediately after the call, since it may have taken place just before the assembling of the Twelve (Mark 3:14, Luke 6:13), in the period between that event and the calling of the individual disciples.

At the feast were Jesus and His disciples, and at the table with them were many publicans and sinners. These disciples were also many in number (Mark 2:15), and they must therefore have included others beyond the individuals who had been specially called. The sinners mentioned along with the publicans at the feast were those who violated the Law, or did not try to keep its innumerable commands as set forth by the scribes or interpreted by the Pharisees. Certain scribes and Pharisees had been spectators of the feast, and they asked the disciples concerning Jesus’ eating and drinking with sinners; and Jesus Himself, answering them, declared that He had not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. The call of Matthew and the feast with publicans and sinners were the comment of Jesus on Pharisaic separatism; but the action itself did not prevent the separatism which showed itself in the primitive Church, and which involved the rebuke of Peter by Paul.

Beyond the call and the inclusion of the name in the list of the Twelve, there is no mention of Matthew in the NT. On the question of the authorship of the First Gospel, see following article.

Literature.—Expos. Times, viii. [1897] 529; Expos. i. i. [1875] 36, iii. ix. [1889] 445, v. viii. [1898] 37; Keble, Chr. Year, ‘S. Matthew the Apostle’; W. B. Carpenter, The Son of Man, p. 141; J. D. Jones, The Glorious Company of the Apostles, p. 150.

John Herkless.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Matthew (2)'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. 1906-1918.

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