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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

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Matthew (2)
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(Ματθαῖος Textus Receptus , Μαθθαῖος Lach., Tisch., WH [Note: H Westcott-Hort’s Greek Testament.] )

The person bearing this name in the NT is represented as one of the twelve apostles who before his call by Christ had been engaged as a publican or custom-house officer in Capernaum. He is also called Levi (Mark 2:14, Luke 5:29), and many have supposed that he received the name Matthew after his call by Jesus, just as Simon became Peter. On the other hand, it seems to have been common in Galilee for a man to possess two names-a Greek and an Aramaic (cf. Edersheim, LT [Note: T Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah (Edersheim).] 4, 1887, i. 514). In the various lists of the apostles, Matthew’s name occurs seventh in Mark 3:18 and Luke 6:15 and eighth in Matthew 10:3 and Acts 1:13. All the Synoptists narrate the story of the call of Matthew from his tax-gatherer’s booth and the subsequent feast in his house which aroused the wrath of the Pharisees and led Jesus to defend Himself by the declaration: ‘They that are whole have no need of a physician, but they that are sick. I came not to call the righteous but sinners’ (Matthew 9:9-13, Mark 2:14-17, Luke 5:27-32). As a publican Matthew was employed collecting the toll at Capernaum on the highway between Damascus and the Mediterranean, and was no doubt in the service of Herod the Tetrarch.

Matthew is called the ‘son of Alphaeus’ (Mark 2:14), and the question has arisen whether he is to be regarded as the brother of James the son of Alphaeus (Matthew 10:3, Mark 3:18, Luke 6:15, Acts 1:13). In the four lists of apostles, while Matthew and James occur in the same group of four, the two are not placed alongside one another as is usual with the other pairs of brothers in the apostolic band. Again, if we identify Clopas of John 19:25 with Alphaeus of the Synoptists (Aram. Chalphai; cf. 1 Maccabees 11:30), and consequently assume that James the Less of Mark 15:40 is the son of Alphaeus, it is extremely unlikely that Matthew’s name would be omitted in Mark 15:40 if he were one of the sons of Mary and the brother of James, Joses, and Salome. On the whole, it is almost certain that the two apostles were not related.

In the story of the Apostolic Church as we find it in the NT the name of Matthew occurs only once, viz. in the list of apostles in Acts 1:13. Probably he became a preacher to the lost sheep of the house of Israel and for the most part confined his labours to the land of Palestine. His name became associated with the First Gospel either because he was supposed to be the author or because he was the author of one of the sources on which the work was based. Eusebius makes three interesting statements regarding Matthew. He says (Historia Ecclesiastica (Eusebius, etc.) iii. 24): ‘Matthew and John are the only two apostles who have left us recorded comments, and even they, tradition says, undertook it from necessity. Matthew, having first proclaimed the gospel in Hebrew, when on the point of going also to other nations, committed it to writing in his native tongue, and thus supplied the want of his presence to them by his writings.’ Again we find in Historia Ecclesiastica (Eusebius, etc.) iii. 39 the famous statement of Papias quoted by Eusebius, ‘Matthew composed his logia in the Hebrew tongue, and everyone translated as he was able.’ We also find in Eusebius’ review of the canon of Scripture the statement: ‘The first (Gospel) is written according to Matthew, the same that was once a publican but afterwards an apostle of Jesus Christ, who, having published it for the Jewish converts, wrote it in the Hebrew’ (Historia Ecclesiastica (Eusebius, etc.) vi. 25). These varied quotations associate Matthew with a Hebrew Gospel or collection of the Sayings of Jesus which in some way or other is connected with or incorporated in our First Gospel. Probably Matthew the ex-publican and apostle did form such a collection of the Sayings of our Lord which were wrought into a connected narrative of the Life of Christ by the First Evangelist, a Palestinian Jew of the 1st century. But for full discussion see article ‘Matthew, Gospel of,’ in Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols) and Dict. of Christ and the Gospels . Unfortunately, Eusebius does not tell us what the ‘other nations’ were to whom Matthew proclaimed the gospel, and we have no certain knowledge of his subsequent missionary labours.

W. F. Boyd.

Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Matthew'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​hdn/​m/matthew.html. 1906-1918.
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