The Disciples: Matthew Levi

Matthew once again is a disciple we do not know much about.  Many scholars believe he is also the tax collector Levi and as with Simon Peter and Judas Thaddeus, his name is interchangeable.

The name Matthew means gift of God, while Levi means joined and attached.

“And as Jesus passed forth from thence, he saw a man, named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he saith unto him, Follow me. And he arose, and followed him.”  {Matthew 9:9}

Matthew accounts of his own calling {if he is the author of the gospel bearing his name}. The receipt of custom is a toll road where taxes would be collected. Matthew confirms in the next chapter his trade, “Matthew the publican.”  {Matthew 10:3}

The book of Mark, refers to Levi being called by Jesus.  Knowing he is a disciple and tax collect, Bible scholars believe this refers to the disciple known as Matthew.

“As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him.”  {Mark 2:14}

Jesus called Matthew the tax collector

We know from Mark, he is the son of Alphaeus.  We are also told James the less was the son of Alphaeus, although a brother is not listed for either man.

Biblical scholars believe Matthew was born in or around Galilee and would have been fluent in both Aramiac and Greek.

Luke gives us even more information, stating Levi then took Jesus to his home where he threw him a great feast and there with many other tax collectors who sat down with them.

“And after these things he went forth, and saw a publican, named Levi, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he said unto him, Follow me. And he left all, rose up, and followed him. And Levi made him a great feast in his own house: and there was a great company of publicans and of others that sat down with them.”  {Luke 5:27-29}

Tax collectors were despised by the Jews for their greed and corruption, as well as for collaborating with the Romans occupying the area at the time.

The Pharisees criticized Jesus for eating with the tax collectors to which he answered, I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”  {Mark 2:17, Luke 5:32}

Luke 6:15, Mark 2:18 and Acts 1:13 all list Matthew in the list of the disciples of Jesus.  I find it very curious that Mark and Luke would interchange the names, calling him Levi at one point and Matthew at another. The one thing we know for sure is both of these men were tax collectors.

As an eyewitness, Matthew would be eyewitness to Jesus miracles and ministry, as well as his crucifixion, resurrection, transfiguration and the Holy Spirit descending on the Upper Room.

So what happened to Matthew?

Church tradition states he preached in Judea, before going to other countries.  It is believed he went to Persia and Ethiopia, but this is not known for sure. He is believed to have died as a martyr, who was stabbed to death. 

The book of Matthew is anonymous, and it was the Bishop Papias of Hierapolis {100-140 CE} who cited Matthew as the author of the gospel bearing his name.

He has a crypt in the Salerno Cathedral in Southern Italy. He is the patron saint of tax collectors and accountants.

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