Levi, called Matthew, was a disciple of Jesus and the writer of the first gospel. He was the son of Alpheus. Matthew published his gospel among the Hebrews in their own language while Peter and Paul were preaching and founding the church in Rome. The book was called in the original the "Logia" and written primarily for disciples of Jewish birth, more particularly for residents of Palestine and intended for Jewish readers and has a Jewish tone about it. Matthew was originally named Levi, Jesus changed his name to Matthew, which means in Hebrew 'the gift of Yahweh.' He was a native of Galilee and engaged in the town of Capernaum as a publican or tax-gatherer for Herod Antipas. He was sitting at the receipt of customs when Jesus, passing by, looked on him and said "follow me." Overjoyed he threw Jesus a banquet to which were invited many publicans friends of Matthew. For 15 years he preached the gospel to the Hebrews, and that, just before he went to other countries, he gave the Hebrews his gospel written in the mother tongue, Aramaic, the language that Jesus spoke. This Aramaic original was afterwards translated into Greek by an unknown author.

Papias: Matthew transcribed in Hebrew the Logia (Greek-collection) apparently an early Aramaic collection of the sayings of Christ. The Hebrew is believed by many to have been written about 38. Traditional date is 37 AD. Apostle Matthew aided his memory by writing down Jesus' sayings in Aramaic. The Aramaic original was composed around then or later and the Greek gospel about 60. Many copies of Matthew's collection were quickly made and distributed among the churches in Palestine. Translations into the Greek were also widely circulated. Papias says that Matthew "put together the oracles of the Lord in the Hebrew language, and each one interpreted them as best he could." Not our present gospel of Matthew, but the collection of sayings. This first collection to appear was called "Matthew's Sayings of Jesus". Then Mark's gospel came, then the gospel of Matthew, combining both.

As far as we know, Matthew was an honest man but as a tax collector, he was in a profession that was notorious for attracting thieves. As long as the taxes came in, the govenment didn't ask questions as how the taxes were raised. As a collector, any rate could be charged so overcharging was the general rule, pay the government and pocket the profit. The tax-collector, extortioner turned civil servant, was the most hated man in the land. Matthew was the only disciple called publican. He collected the money for Herod at Capernaum. It was his job to tax the people and goods crossing the Sea of Galilee or passing along the great Damascus Road which ran by the shore. If a Jew could scarcely persuade himself that it was right to pay taxes, how much more heinous a crime must it have been in his eyes to collect them. If a publican was hated, how still more intense must have been the disgust entertained against a publican who was also Jewish? Matthew would not have been able to serve as a judge or witness in court. His whole family would have been viewed as outcast and disgraced. The Jews had a proverb "Take not a wife out of the family where there is a publican, for they are all publicans."

Matthew was a man who as a tax-collector was making money. This would be called an honorable profession in todays greedy market economy. Jesus looked beyond the reputation of Matthew and recognized his potential. When Jesus said "follow me," Matthew left all his interests and relations to become our Lord's disciple and to embrace a spiritual commerce. He who called him outwardly by His word at the same time moved him inwardly by the invisible instinct of His grace. Jesus rejected the dignified scribe and accepted the despised and hated tax-gatherer. Matthew invited Jesus for dinner at his home. It was at his "great banquet" that his enemies accused Jesus of eating with publicans and sinners. Jesus justified His presence at the dinner with a medical example, "it is not the healthy who needs a doctor, but the sick." Matthew was a personal companion of Jesus through most of Jesus' public ministry.

His business as a tax-collector accustomed him to keeping records. Matthew stresses that Jesus is the fulfillment of Israelite hopes for a deliverer, the one who brings salvation and the perfecting of the Jewish Law. Matthew's gospel was almost certainly written in some city where the constituency of the Christian community was largely Jewish - perhaps Antioch in Syria. Some scholars conjecture that Antioch in Syria was the center of the Matthean church." Old Testament fulfilled prophecies are prominent, he shuns the name of God, saying 'kingdom of heaven.' In the Greek, Matthew's gospel had an immeasurable wider field of influence and could reach out to a non-Jewish audience as well.

After the ascension, he is believed to have preached the gospel in Africa, to the south of the Caspian sea, Persia, the kingdom of the Parthians, Macedonia and Syria. He was martyred while preaching in Ethiopia at Naddaber.
[12, 289, 301, 308, 309, 312, 315, 319, 324, 330, 331, 338, 343, 355, 373, 380, 402, 415, Luke: 5, Mark: 2]

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