Saint Matthew, one of the twelve apostles, and author of the first Gospel. The New Testament tells us little of his personal history. He was a son of Alpheus, and a receiver of customs at the lake of Tiberias. Jesus, while passing one day, said to him: "Follow me;" and Matthew at once obeyed. Most exegetical writers assume that the publican Levi, whose call to the discipleship is recorded by Mark and Luke, is the same person as Matthew: but among the opponents of this view are Ori-gen, Grotius, Michaelis, and Ewald. After the ascension of Christ, Matthew was at Jerusalem, with the other apostles. Then history loses sight of him. Tradition relates that he preached the gospel for 15 years in Jerusalem, and then turned to other nations. Among these are mentioned the Ethiopians, Macedonians, Syrians, Persians, Parthians, and Medea. He is said to have been burned alive in Arabia Felix; and according to Baronius, his body was brought to Palermo in 954. The Roman Catholic church keeps his festival on Sept 21, the Greek on Nav. 16. - The Gospel of Matthew, according to the unanimous tradition of the ancient church, was composed in Hebrew, or rather the Syro-Chaldaic idiom spoken at that time in Palestine. Following Erasmus, many eminent Protestant theologians, as Calvin, Be-za, Lightfoot, Credner, De Wette, Ewald. liar-less, Bleek, Schenkel, Keim, and Volkmar, and among Roman Catholics Hug, have contested the correctness of this tradition, and advocated the originality of the Greek text; but the opposite theory has also found defenders, prominent among whom are Meyer and Lange. A considerable number of distinguished theologians, as Lachmann, Credner, Ewald, Reuss, Meyer, Bleek, Bunsen, Schenkel, Keim, and generally all the theologians of the Tubingen school, infer from a passage of the early ec-clesiastical writer Papias, that Matthew himself compiled only a summary of the sermons and sayings of Christ, which was put into historical form by another writer.
But weighty authorities have since shown that this passage of Papias admits of another interpretation. The Gospel was undoubtedly written for Christians of Jewish descent in Palestine. With respect to its date ecclesiastical traditions vary from A. D. 41 to 67; a majority of modern writers seem to agree in fixing it between 60 and 67. The chief aim of this Gospel is evidently to prove the Messianic character of Jesus. For its relation to the Gospels of Mark and Luke, see Mark; for collective commentaries on all the four, or the first three Gospels, see Luke. - See Sieffert, Ueber die Echtheit und den Ursprung des ersten canonisclien Evange-liium (1832); Schneckenburger, Ueber den Ursprung des ersten Evangelii (1834); Schott, Ueber die Authenticitat des canonischen Exan-geliums nach Matthdus benannt (1837); Kern, Ueber den Ursprung des Evangeliums Matthai ( 1837); and Holtzmann, Die synoptischenEoan-gelien (1863).