Who is St. Matthew?

St. Matthew was one of the twelve Apostles and the traditional author of the first Gospel of the New Testament. The son of Alpheus, he was presumably born in Galilee. Matthew collected taxes from the Hebrew people for Herod Antipas, a position that while lucrative would have made him unpopular and an outcast among the Jewish people. This would, however, meant that he was likely literate in Aramaic and Greek.

Jesus called Matthew (also identified as Levi in the Gospels of Mark and Luke) from the customs post in Capernaum, near present day Almagor, where he was collecting taxes. His apostolic mission was at first restricted to Palestine and while little is known about his later life some traditions indicate that he travelled to Ethiopia, still others state that he was in Parthia and Persia. Whether he died a martyr or from natural causes is not known.

Matthew is, of course, attributed with authorship of the first gospel of the New Testament. Modern scholars however contest this traditional viewpoint. Outside the New Testament, a passage from the Apostolic Father Hierapolis preserved by Bishop Eusebius of Caesarea states, "So then Matthew composed the Oracles in the Hebrew language, and each one interpreted them as he could."

The Gospel According to Matthew was written for a Jewish-Christian community, most likely in greater Syria. He presents Jewish custom without explaining it and he traces Jesus' lineage back to Abraham the father of the Jews rather than Adam as does Luke.

Early on, the four Evangelists were associated with the four living creatures around the throne of God referenced in Ezekiel 14, and Revelation 4. Matthew has traditionally been associated with the human/angelic figure; Mark the Lion; Luke the Ox/Bull; John the Eagle. This is reflected in art in churches and cathedrals throughout the world. The origins of these associations are not clear. It seems that, for some, the connection is based on how each Gospel starts. Matthew begins with the genealogy of Jesus Christ from Abraham to Joseph, the husband of Mary. Matthew 1:1-8. Perhaps this is why he is associated with the humanity of Jesus.

His Feast day is September 21.