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Matthew


Saint Matthew was one of the twelve disciples of Jesus Christ as well as one of the four Evangelists. The name Matthew, math'u, is a contraction of Mattahias, a gift of Jehovah. Matthew was a son of a certain Alpheus, and surnamed Levi (Mark 2:14; Luke 5:27). He resided at Capernaum and was a publican. The major employment in Capernaum center on the Lake of Gennesaret as its fisheries supplied the main source of income and its surface was busy with navigation and traffic. The Romans established a customhouse at Capernaum at which Matthew worked as a tax collector. The publicans proper were usually Romans of rank and wealth, who generally hired resident deputies, called portitors, to actually collect the taxes. Matthew belonged to this class.

While thus occupied, Jesus called Matthew saying, "Fellow me." It is assumed that Matthew already knew Jesus since he promptly left his occupation and followed him (Mathew 9:9). Shortly afterwards Matthew gave a large feast at his house in honor of Jesus (Luke 5:29) and perhaps to say farewell to friends and associates (Matthew 9:10). As observed there were many publicans and sinners attending the feast. Following this instance there is no further mentioning of him except in the catalogues of the apostles (Luke 6:15), and his presence in the upper room after Jesus ascension into heaven (Acts 1:13). In art St. Matthew is depicted with a sword, a money bag, or a carpenter's square. His feast Day in the East is November 16, in the West September 21.

Matthew is the first book of the New Testament, its subject is outlined in the first verse: "(it is) the book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham" (Matthew 1:1). The introduction connects Jesus Christ to two of the most important Old Testament covenants: the Davidic covenant (2 Samuel 7:8-16) and the Abrahamic Covenant (Genesis 15:18). Included in the description of the life of Jesus are the events of his infancy (1-2), the preaching of John the Baptist (3:5-12), Jesus' baptism and temptation (3:13-4:17), Jesus' mission in Galilee (4:18-15:20), his various works and the confession of messiahship to Peter (15:21-18:35), his journey to Jerusalem (19-20), death and resurrection (21-28).

Many Christians believe with conviction that this book, or gospel, was written by the apostle Matthew while critics claim that the author of the book used the Book of Mark and a lost source Q to complete the book. If the critics contentions are correct, then the ascription to the disciple Matthew in untenable. The gospel, however, is notable for its deliberate approach toward assimilating Jesus' teaching to that of the rabbis; this and other Jewish coloring suggests its origin in a Jewish Christian Church. The destruction of the Temple in 70 AD is possibly assumed in verse 22:7, otherwise the book's writing can possibly be place between 65 and 100. A.G.H.


Sources:

Unger, Merrill F., Unger's Bible Dictionary, Chicago, Moody Press, 1966, pp. 705-706
Bowker, John, The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions, New York, Oxford University Press, 1997, pp. 627-628