Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

Matthew the Evangelist

Matthew the Evangelist is traditionally believed to be the author of the Gospel of Matthew. He was the son of Alphaeus, and was a publican or tax-collector at Capernaum. On one occasion Jesus, coming up from the side of the lake, passed the custom-house where Matthew was seated, and said to him, "Follow me." Matthew arose and followed him, and became his disciple (Matthew 9:9).

He is called Levi in Luke (5:27). Although Mark calls him Matthew in his list of the apostles, when recounting the story how the publican is called to be a disciple, he calls him Levi (2:14). Some explain this discrepency by saying he formerly was known as Levi, but then he changed it, possibly in grateful memory of his call, to Matthew. The same day on which Jesus called him he made a "great feast" (Luke 5:29), a farewell feast, to which he invited Jesus and his disciples, and probably also many of his old associates. The last notice of him in the New Testament is in Acts 1:13. He is one of the few disciples mentioned by name in the apocryphal Gospel of Thomas, suggesting he was of more importance in the early church than surviving evidence indicates. The time and manner of his death are unknown.

Some traditions say that Matthew was martyred in Ethiopia, others say that he was martyred in Hierapolis of Parthia. According to Epiphanius, Bishop of Cyprus, Matthew the Evangelist was martyred in Hierapolis, and the Matthew who replaced Judas Iscariot among the twelve apostles is the one who died in Ethiopia.

He is recognized as a saint in both the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches. The Eastern Orthodox celebrate his feast day on November 16.

Like the other 3 Evangelists, Matthew is often depicted in Christian art. His particular attribute is a winged man, a reference to the angel who is supposed to have dictated to him as he wrote. The three paintings of his life by Michelangelo Merisi (Caravaggio) in the church of San Luigi Dei Francesci in Rome are among the landmarks of Western art.

See also: