Matthew the Evangelist & Apostle

Saint Matthew (Levi) of Capernaum, the Apostle; Matthew the Evangelist, and Levi, son of Alphaeus or Matthew the Publican, the Tax Collector

Icon of Matthew the Apostle and Evangelist

Matthew was a Galilean, who worked as a tax collector for the local Roman Tax Farmer (an imperial contractor) who taxed Judea. As a publican (a Roman civil servant), he was almost certainly literate in Aramaic and in Greek. Matthew was one of the twelve apostles chosen and invested (ordained, see Mark 3:14) by Jesus and one of the four evangelists (i.e., writers of the Gospel, along with Mark, Luke and John). He was the author of the Gospel of Matthew (dated between A.D. 40 and A.D.67), the arguably first of the so called synoptic gospels (the other two synoptic gospels are the gospels of Mark and Luke).

Papyrus 64 a fragment of the Gospel of Matthew. This fragment is dated to c. A.D. 80

Matthew was a “publican” (a government contractor, e.g. a tax collector). After Matthew was chosen as a disciple he invite everyone to his house for a feast . On seeing this the scribes and pharisees criticized Jesus for “eating with tax collectors and sinners”.
This prompted Jesus to answer, “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Mark 2:17, Luke 5:32)

Matthew was a direct eye witness to the events described in his gospel and to both the resurrection of Christ and to the ascension of Christ. Early Church fathers such as Irenæus of Lugdunum (in his Against Heresies, see A.D. 180) and Clement of Alexandria (see A.D. 189) and report that Matthew preached the Gospel to the Jewish community in Judea, before going to other countries.

The orthodox oral tradition states that starting around 44 A.D. the Holy Apostle brought the Gospel of Christ to Syria, Media (the mountainous country of the north eastern region of modern-day Iraq), Parthia (the farm lands of the central Tigris-Euphrates region modern-day Iraq), Persia (modern-day Iran), and he finishing his preaching in Ethiopia (in north eastern Africa) with a martyr’s death. He founded the Church in the region of modern-day Ethiopia and he built a temple in the city of Mirmena, (in Ethiopia) and he seated his companion Platon as bishop of that region.

Early Christian illustrations of the four evangelists depict them as “the four living creatures” which are around the throne of God in Heaven (see Ezekiel 1:2-10 and Revelations 4:7-9). Saint Matthew is symbolize him as a winged man or angel, (with Mark, who is shown as a winged lion, Luke who is shown as a winged ox or bull, and John who is shown as an eagle).