15 million Ukrainian are displaced by Russia's war.
Millions miss a meal or two each day.
Help us change that! Click to donate today!

Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature


Additional Links

(Ματθαῖος v. r. Μαθθαῖος ), one of the apostles and evangelists. In the following account of him and his Gospel we have endeavored to collect and arrange all that is definitely known on the subject.

I. His Name. According to Gesenius, the names Matthaeus and Matthias are both contractions of Maittathias (מִתַּתְיָה, "gift of Jehovah;" Θεόδωρος, θεόδοτος ), a common Jewish name after the exile. (See MATTITHIAH).

Matthew had also the name of Levi (Mark 2:14; Luke 5:27). In the catalogues Mark 3:18; Luke 6:15 -he is coupled with Thomas, which has given rise to the not altogether unfounded conjecture that Matthew was the twin brother of Thomas ( תְּאוֹם a twin), whose real name, according to Eusebius, H. E. 1:13, was Judas, and that they were both "brethren of our Lord" (Donaldson, Jashar, p. 10; comp. Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3). This last supposition would account for Matthew's immediate obedience to the call of Christ, but is hardly consistent with the indefiniteness of the words with which he is introduced- ἄνθρωπον Ματθ . λεγόμ . (Matthew 9:9); τελώνην ὀνόματι Λευϊ v ν (Luke v. 27) or the unbelief of our Lord's brothers (John 7:5). Heracleon, as quoted by Clem. Alex (Strom. 4:11), mentions Levi as well as Matthew among the early teachers who did not suffer martyrdom. Origen also (Contr. Cels. 1, sec. 62 [48]) speaks of Λεβὴς τελώνης ἀκολουθήσας τῷ Ι᾿ησὂυ, together with "Matthew the publican;" but the names Λεβής and Δευϊ v ς are by no means identical, and there is a hesitation about his language which shows that even then the tradition was hardly trustworthy. The attempt of Theod. Hase (Bibl. Brem. v. 475) to identify Levi with the apostle Lebbseus is an example of misapplied ingenuity which deserves little attention (comp. Wolf. Cur. ad Marc. 2:14).

The distinction between Levi and Matthew has, however, been maintained by Grotius (though he acknowledges that the voice of antiquity is against him, "et sane congruunt circumstantiae"), Michaelis, De Wette, Sieffert, Ewald, etc. But it is in the highest degree improbable that two publicans should have been called by Christ in the same words, at the same place, and with the same attendant circumstances and consequences; and that, while one became an apostle, the other dropped entirely out of memory. Still less can we acquiesce in the hypothesis of Sieffert (Urspir. d. erst. Kanon. Ev. p. 59) and Ewald (Drei Erst. Ev. p. 344: Christus, p. 289, 321) that the name "Matthew" is due to the Greek editor of Matthew's Gospel, who substituted it by an error in the narrative of the call of Levi. On the other hand, their identity was assumed by Eusebius and Jerome, and most ancient writers, and has been accepted by the soundest commentators (Tischendorf, Meyer, Neander, Lardner, Ellicott, etc.). The double name only supplies a difficulty to those who are resolved to find such everywhere in the Gospel narrative. It is analogous to what we find in the case of Simon Peter, John Mark, Paul, Jude, etc., which may all admit of the same explanation, and be regarded as indicating a crisis in the spiritual life of the individual, and his passing into new external relations. He was no longer לֵוַי but מִתִּי , not Levi but Theodore one who might well deem both himself and all his future life a veritable "gift of God" (Ellicott, Hist. Lect. p. 172; compare Meyer, Comment. 1:2; Winer, R. W. B. s.v. Matthiius, Name). See Michaelis. Einleit. 2:934; Kraft, Observ. sacr. v. 3; Bid, in the Bibl. Brenl. 6:1038; Heumann, Erklar. d. N.T. 1:538; Frisch, Diss. de Levi c. Matth. non confundendo (Leips. 1746); Thiers, Krit. Comment. 1:90; Sieffert, Urspir. d. Kanon. Evang. p. 54. (See NAME).

II. Scripture Statements respecting him. His father's name was Alphaeus (Mark 2:14), probably different from the father of James the son of Mary, the wife of Cleophas, who was a "sistef" of the mother of Jesus (John 19:25). (See ALPHAEUS). His call to be an apostle (A.D. 27) is related by all three evangelists in the same words, except that Matthew 9:9 gives the usual name, and Mark 2:14 and Luke 5:27 that of Levi. Matthew's special occupation was probably the collection of dues and customs from persons and goods crossing the Lake of Gennesareth. It was while he was actually engaged in his duties, καθημένον ἐπὶ τὸ τελώνιον, that he received the call, which he obeyed without delay. Our Lord was then invited by him to a "great feast" (Luke 5:29), to which perhaps, as Neander has suggested (Life of Christ, p. 230, Bohn; comp. Blunt, Undes. Coincid. p. 257), by way of farewell, his old associates, ὄχλος τελώνων πολύς, were summoned. The publicans, properly so called (publicani), were persons who farmed the Roman taxes, and they were usually, in later times, Roman knights, and persons of wealth and credit. They employed under them inferior officers, natives of the province where the taxes were collected, called properly portitores, to which class Matthew no doubt belonged. These latter were notorious for impudent exactions everywhere (Plautus, Menoech. 1:2, 5; Cic. ad Quint. Fir. 1:1; Plut. De Curios. p. 518 e); but to the Jews they were especially odious, for they were the very spot where the Roman chain galled them, the visible proof of the degraded state of their nation. As a rule, none but the lowest would accept such an unpopular office, and thus the class became more worthy of the hatred with which in any case the Jews would have regarded it. The readiness, however, with which Matthew obeyed the call of Jesus seems to show that his heart was still open to religious impressions. We find in Luke 6:13, that when Jesus, before delivering the Sermon on the Mount, selected twelve disciples, who were to form the circle of his more intimate associates, Matthew was one of them. On a subsequent occasion (Luke v. 29), Matthew gave the parting entertainment to his friends. After this event he is mentioned only in Acts 1:13. A.D. 29.

III. Traditionary Notices. According to a statement in Clemens Alexandrinus (Paedagog. 2:1), Matthew abstained from animal food. Hence some writers have rather hastily concluded that he belonged to the sect of the Essenes. It is true that the Essenes practiced abstinence in a high degree, but it is not true that they rejected animal food altogether. Admitting the account in Clemens Alexandrinus to be correct, it proves only a certain ascetic strictness, of which there occur vestiges in the habits of other Jews (comp. Josephus, Life, 2 and 3). Some interpreters find also in Romans 14 an allusion to Jews of ascetic principles. According to another account, which is as old as the first century, and which occurs in the Κήρυγμα Πέτρου in Clemens Alexandrinus (Stroml. 6:15), Matthew, after the death of Jesus, remained about fifteen years in Jerusalem. This agrees with the statement in Eusebius (Hist. Eccles. 3:24), that Matthew preached to his own nation before he went to foreign countries. Rufinus (Hist. Ecclesiastes 10:9) and Socrates (Hist. Eccles. 1:19) state that he afterwards went into Ethiopia (Meroe); but Ambrose says that God opened to him the country of the Persians (In Psalms 45); Isidore, the Macedonians (Isidore Hisp. De Sanct. 77); and others the Parthians, the Medes, the Persians of the Euphrates (comp. Florini Exercit. hist. phil. p. 23; Credner, Einl. ins N.T. I, 1:58). There also he probably preached specially to the Jews. See Abdiae, Histor. Apost. 7, in Fabricii Cod. apocrs. 1:636; Perionii Vit. Apost. p. 114; comp. Martyrol. Roma. Sept. 21. According to Heracleon (about A.D. 150) and Clemens Alexandrinus (Stronz. 4:9), Matthew was one of those apostles who did not suffer martyrdom, which Clement, Origen, and Tertullian seem to accept: the tradition that he died a martyr, be it true or false, came in afterwards (Niceph. II.E. 2:41). Tischendorf has published the apocryphal "Acts and Martyrdom of Matthew" (Acta Apocrypha, Lips. 1841). (See ACTS, SPURIOUS).

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.

Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Matthew'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

Search for…
Enter query in the box below:
Choose a letter to browse:
Prev Entry
Next Entry
Matthew (2)