The popularity of the Gospel of Matthew both in contemporary times and the infancy years of the church makes it rather odd that the author is one whom we have little information of. Sean McDowell observes that a unique feature of Matthew’s call was that his conversion requires a greater deal of faith than the fishermen predecessors. He wrote, “While fishermen could quite easily go back to their fishing business, Matthew gave up a high paying job. After all, who would hire a former tax collector?” [1]

Mark’s Gospel which referred to Matthew as the “Levi the son of Alphaeus” makes it likely that  he and James the less are blood brothers.[2] Clement of Alexandria wrote that Matthew was a vegetarian [3] Moreover, being a tax collector makes it highly likely that Matthew is well capable of conversing with Aramaic and Greek. Thus, it is not far fetched to consider Matthew as sufficiently literate. [4] Herbert Lockyer further observes that Matthew likely is a man of “considerable financial means” given that soon after his conversion, he invited Jesus to his house for a feast along with other tax collectors and sinners (Mark 2:15). [5]

Michael Wilkins pointed out that majority of scholars rejects Matthew as the author of the first Gospel given that it so closely follow Markan material.[6] I tend to disagree given that writings from the church fathers Papias, Irenaeus, and Eusebius are unanimous in Matthean authorship. If Papias truly had contact with John as noted by Irenaeus, it certainly makes it more probable than not that Papias’ testimony is reliable.[7] Moreover, both Irenaeus and Origen believed that Matthew was written before Mark.[8]

Eusebius wrote that Matthew ministered to the Hebrews.[9] However, additional details of this, as well as his future ministries are divergent. Jerome believed Matthew was in Judea.[10] Socrates reported that Matthew went to Ethiopia while others believed him going elsewhere. [11] One thing worth noting is that the church fathers Papias, Irenaeus, Hippolytus, Origen, and Eusebius all claim that Matthew wrote his Gospel in Hebrew.

Matthew’s manner of death however, is highly uncertain. Isidore reported that Matthew died by natural cause.[12] Other medieval sources reported that Matthew was martyred in Persia. Another document, the Martyrdom of Matthew, records that Matthew died in the city of Myrna by fire.[13] Other traditions recorded him of dying by stab wound or beheading. In any event, the differing accounts of his death are all unanimous in that there was no record of Matthew denying his allegiance to Christ.[14]

 

[1] McDowell, Sean. The Fate of the Apostles: Examining the Martyrdom Accounts of the Closest Followers of Jesus. Chapter 9, The Martyrdom of Matthew. Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2015. 223.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Clement of Alexandria. Paedagogus 2.1.

[4] McDowell, 224.

[5] Lockyer, Herbert. All the Apostles of the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI:Zondervan, 1972. 121-22.

[6] Wilkins, Michael. The Holman Apologetics Commentary of the Bible. Apologetics Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew. Nashville, TN:Broadman & Holman. 2013. 10.

[7] Irenaeus. Against Heresies 5.33.4.

[8] Ibid., 3.1.1 and Origen. Commentary on Matthew 1.1.

[9] Eusebius. Ecclesiastical History 3.24.6.

[10] Jerome. On Illustrious Men 3.1.

[11] Socrates. The Ecclesiastical History 1.19.

[12] McDowell, 227.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid., 263.

 

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