(mat' thew) Personal name meaning “the gift of Yahweh.” A tax
collector Jesus called to be an apostle (Matthew 9:9; Matthew 10:3).
See Apostle; Disciples. Matthew's office was located on the main
highway that ran from Damascus, down the Jordan Valley to Capernaum,
then westward to Acre to join the coastal road to Egypt or southward
to Jerusalem. His duty was to collect “toll” or “transport” taxes
from both local merchants and farmers carrying their goods to market
as well as distant caravans passing through Galilee. He was an
employee of Herod Antipas. See Tax Collector. Matthew knew the value
of goods of all description: wool, flax, linen, pottery, brass,
silver, gold, barley, wheat, olives, figs, wheat. He knew the value
of local and foreign monetary systems. He spoke the local Aramaic
language as well as Greek. Because Matthew had leased his “toll”
collecting privileges by paying the annual fee in advance, he was
subjected to the criticism of collecting more than enough, growing
wealthy on his “profit.” Thus he was hated by his fellow Jews.
Matthew is the same person as Levi, a tax collector (Mark 2:14; Luke
5:27), and thus the son of Alphaeus. James the son of Alphaeus is
also listed among the Apostles (Mark 3:18; Matthew 10:3; Luke 6:15;
Acts 1:13). This indicates that both Matthew and his (half) brother
were in close association with Jesus. Mary, the mother of James,
keeps the vigil at the foot of the cross with Mary, the mother of
Jesus (Matthew 27:55-56; Mark 15:40). If the James mentioned here is
the same as the son of Alphaeus, then we have a larger family
closely associated with the family of Jesus.
Later legendary accounts tell of Matthew's travel to Ethiopia
where he became associated with Candace, identified with the eunuch
of Acts 8:27. The legends tell us of Matthew's martydom in that
Why did Jesus call Matthew? Because Matthew had the gifts to be
trained as a disciple to share with others, could keep meticulous
records, and was a potential recorder/author of the Gospel. From
earliest times Christians affirmed that Matthew wrote the Gospel
that bears his name. See Matthew, the Gospel of.