Matthew the Apostle
Saint Matthew (c. 1611) by Peter Paul Rubens
Apostle, Evangelist, and Martyr
BornCapernaum,[1] Galilee, Roman Empire
Died1st century AD
Venerated in
  • 21 September (Western Christianity)
  • 22 October (Coptic Orthodox)
  • 16 November (Eastern Christianity)
PatronageAccountants; Salerno, Italy; bankers; Osorno, Chile; tax collectors; perfumers; civil servants[2]
Major worksGospel of Matthew

Matthew the Apostle (Saint Matthew)[a] is named in the New Testament as one of the twelve apostles of Jesus. According to Christian traditions, he was also one of the four Evangelists as author of the Gospel of Matthew, and thus is also known as Matthew the Evangelist.

The claim of his gospel authorship is rejected by most biblical scholars, though the "traditional authorship still has its defenders."[3] The New Testament records that as a disciple, he followed Jesus. Church Fathers, such as Irenaeus and Clement of Alexandria, claim that Matthew preached the gospel to the Jewish community in Judea before going to other countries.

In the New Testament

Matthew in a painted miniature from a volume of Armenian Gospels dated 1609, held by the Bodleian Library

Matthew is mentioned in Matthew 9:9[4] and Matthew 10:3[5] as a tax collector (in the NIV) who, while sitting at the "receipt of custom" in Capernaum, was called to follow Jesus.[6] He is also listed among the Twelve Disciples, but without identification of his background, in Mark 3:18, Luke 6:15 and Acts 1:13.[7] In passages parallel to Matthew 9:9, both Mark 2:14[8] and Luke 5:27[9] describe Jesus's calling of the tax collector Levi, the son of Alphaeus. However, they do not explicitly associate it with the name Matthew.


The New Testament records that as a disciple, Matthew followed Jesus. Afterward, the disciples withdrew to an upper room (Acts 1:10–14)[10] (traditionally the Cenacle) in Jerusalem.[11] The disciples remained in and about Jerusalem and proclaimed that Jesus was the promised Messiah.

In the Babylonian Talmud (Sanhedrin 43a), "Mattai" is one of five disciples of "Jeshu".[12]

Early Church Fathers such as Irenaeus (Against Heresies 3.1.1) and Clement of Alexandria say that Matthew preached the gospel to the Jewish community in Judea, before going to other countries. Ancient writers are not in agreement as to which other countries these are, but almost all sources mention Ethiopia.[11] The Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church each hold the tradition that Matthew died as a martyr and the Babylonian Talmud appears to report his execution in Sanhedrin 43a.[13][14]

According to Church tradition, while preaching in Ethiopia, Matthew converted, and then consecrated to God, Ephigenia of Ethiopia, the virgin daughter of King Egippus.[15] When King Hirtacus succeeded Egippus, he asked the apostle if he could persuade Ephigenia to marry him. Matthew thus invited King Hirtacus to liturgy the following Sunday, where he rebuked him for lusting after the girl, as she was a nun and therefore was the bride of Christ. The enraged King thus ordered his bodyguard to kill Matthew who stood at the altar, making him a martyr.[16]

The Gospel of Matthew

Main article: Gospel of Matthew

See also: Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew

Saint Matthew and the Angel (1661) by Rembrandt

Early Church tradition holds that the Gospel of Matthew was written by the apostle Matthew. This tradition is first attested, among the extant writings of the first and second centuries, with the early Christian bishop Papias of Hierapolis (c. AD 60–163),[17] who is cited by the Church historian Eusebius (AD 260–340), as follows: "Matthew collected the oracles [in Greek, logia: sayings of or about Jesus] in the Hebrew language [Hebraïdi dialektōi], and each one interpreted [hērmēneusen – perhaps 'translated'] them as best he could."[18][b][19] Likewise, early Christian theologian Origen (c. 184c. 253) indicates that the first gospel was written by Matthew,[20][21] and that his gospel was composed in Hebrew near Jerusalem for Hebrew Christians and translated into Greek. The Hebrew original was kept at the Library of Caesarea. Sometime in the late fourth or early fifth century the Nazarene Community transcribed a copy for Jerome,[22] which he used in his work.[23] This Gospel was called the Gospel according to the Hebrews[24] or sometimes the Gospel of the Apostles[25][26] and it was once believed that it was the original to the 'Greek Matthew' found in the Bible.[27] However, this has been challenged by modern biblical scholars such as Bart D. Ehrman and James R. Edwards.[28][29][c][30][31]

The Evangelist Matthew, Byzantium, XIV century. Location: Greece, Athos, Hilandar monastery

Most modern scholars hold that the Gospel of Matthew was written anonymously, and not by Matthew.[32][3] The author is not named within the text, and scholars have proposed that the superscription "according to Matthew" was added sometime in the second century.[33][34]

Non-canonical or apocryphal gospels

Saint Matthew (1713–1715) by Camillo Rusconi, Archbasilica of St. John Lateran in Rome

In the 3rd century, Jewish–Christian gospels attributed to Matthew were used by Jewish–Christian groups such as the Nazarenes and Ebionites. Fragments of these gospels survive in quotations by Jerome, Epiphanius and others. Most academic study follows the distinction of Gospel of the Nazarenes (36 fragments), Gospel of the Ebionites (7 fragments), and Gospel of the Hebrews (7 fragments) found in Schneemelcher's New Testament Apocrypha. Critical commentators generally regard these texts as having been composed in Greek and related to Greek Matthew.[35] A minority of commentators consider them to be fragments of a lost Aramaic- or Hebrew-language original.

The Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew is a 7th-century compilation of three other texts: the Gospel of James, the Flight into Egypt, and the Infancy Gospel of Thomas.

Jerome relates that Matthew was supposed by the Nazarenes to have composed their Gospel of the Hebrews,[23] though Irenaeus and Epiphanius of Salamis consider this simply a revised version of the canonical Gospel. This Gospel has been partially preserved in the writings of the Church Fathers, said to have been written by Matthew.[30] Epiphanius does not make his own the claim about a Gospel of the Hebrews written by Matthew, a claim that he merely attributes to the heretical Ebionites.[31]

Matthew the Apostle, detail of the mosaic in the Basilica of San Vitale, Ravenna, 6th century


Matthew is recognized as a saint in the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Lutheran[36] and Anglican churches (see St. Matthew's Church). His feast day is celebrated on 21 September in the West and 16 November in the East. (Those churches which follow the traditional Julian calendar would keep the day on 29 November of the modern Gregorian calendar, being 16 November in the Julian calendar.) He is also commemorated by the Orthodox, together with the other Apostles, on 30 June (13 July), the Synaxis of the Holy Apostles. His tomb is located in the crypt of Salerno Cathedral in southern Italy. Matthew is remembered in the Church of England with a Festival on 21 September.[37]

Like the other evangelists, Matthew is often depicted in Christian art with one of the four living creatures of Revelation 4:7.[38] The one that accompanies him is in the form of a winged man. The three paintings of Matthew by Caravaggio in the church of San Luigi dei Francesi in Rome, where he is depicted as called by Christ from his profession as a tax gatherer, are among the landmarks of Western art.

In Islam

The Quran speaks of Jesus' disciples but does not mention their names, instead referring to them as "helpers to the work of Allah".[39] Muslim exegesis and Quran commentary, however, name them and include Matthew amongst the disciples.[40] Muslim exegesis preserves the tradition that Matthew and Andrew were the two disciples who went to Ethiopia to preach the message of God.

In architecture

The Basilica of Annunciation in Nazareth houses a capital that depicts Matthew the Apostle and his story regarding King Eglypus of Aethiopia and his sons. It shows how Matthew is leading them away from the demon in the far corner of the capital. The biblical story tells of Matthew converting the king and his sons to Christianity. Not only does this capital depict an act carried out by Matthew in the Bible, it foreshadows Matthew being a martyr. When Matthew the Apostle was murdered, he then became a martyr for the Christian religion as being killed for his faith and teachings given the demon in the corner of the capitol. The iconography of this capital helps understand the religion of the time period since it was just coming into Christendom. This shows the cross between Ethiopia and Nazareth as these are where the capitals are today.[2][41][37][42][43][44]

In fiction


See also



  1. ^ Biblical Hebrew: מַתִּתְיָהוּ, romanized: Mattityahu, shortened to מַתִּי, Matti (whence Arabic: مَتَّى, romanizedMattā), meaning 'Gift of YHWH'; Imperial Aramaic: ܡܰܬ݁ܰܝ, romanized: Mattai; Koinē Greek: Μαθθαῖος, romanized: Maththaîos, or Ματθαῖος, Matthaîos; Coptic: ⲙⲁⲧⲑⲉⲟⲥ, romanized: Mattheos; Latin: Matthaeus
  2. ^ Eusebius, "History of the Church" 3.39.14–17, c. 325 CE, Greek text 16: "ταῦτα μὲν οὖν ἱστόρηται τῷ Παπίᾳ περὶ τοῦ Μάρκου· περὶ δὲ τοῦ Ματθαῖου ταῦτ' εἴρηται· Ματθαῖος μὲν οὖν Ἑβραΐδι διαλέκτῳ τὰ λόγια συνετάξατο, ἡρμήνευσεν δ' αὐτὰ ὡς ἧν δυνατὸς ἕκαστος. Various English translations published, standard reference translation by Philip Schaff at CCEL: "[C]oncerning Matthew he [Papias] writes as follows: 'So then(963) Matthew wrote the oracles in the Hebrew language, and every one interpreted them as he was able.'(964)" Online version includes footnotes 963 and 964 by Schaff.
    Irenaeus of Lyons (died c. 202 CE) makes a similar comment, possibly also drawing on Papias, in his Against Heresies, Book III, Chapter 1, "Matthew also issued a written Gospel among the Hebrews in their own dialect"
  3. ^ See also the two-source hypothesis.


  1. ^ Easton 1897.
  2. ^ a b "Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle, Washington, D.C". 21 September 2013. Retrieved 10 July 2014.
  3. ^ a b Allison 2010, p. 27.
  4. ^ Matthew 9:9
  5. ^ Matthew 10:3
  6. ^ Matthew 9:9,Mark 2:15–17, Luke 5:29
  7. ^ Mark 3:18, Luke 6:15 and Acts 1:13.
  8. ^ Mark 2:14
  9. ^ Luke 5:27
  10. ^ Freedman 2001, p. 130–133, 201.
  11. ^ a b Jacquier 1911.
  12. ^ Schneemelcher 2003, p. 17.
  13. ^ Lardner 1838, p. 299.
  14. ^ Bock 2002, p. 164.
  15. ^ The Golden Legend of Jacobus de Voragine, translated and adapted by Ryan, Granger and Helmut Ripperger. (Arno Press: Longmans, Green & Co) 1941. pp. 561–566.
  16. ^ The Autonomous Orthodox Metropolia of Western Europe and the Americas (ROCOR). St. Hilarion Calendar of Saints for the year of our Lord 2004. St. Hilarion Press (Austin, TX). p. 70.
  17. ^ Martin 2012.
  18. ^ Turner 2008, p. 15–16.
  19. ^ Bingham 1998, p. 64.
  20. ^ Edwards 2009, p. 18.
  21. ^ Repschinski 2000, p. 14.
  22. ^ Nicholson 1879, p. 82.
  23. ^ a b Saint Jerome 2000, p. 10.
  24. ^ Hultgren & Haggmark 1996, p. 122.
  25. ^ Nicholson 1879, p. 26.
  26. ^ Dods 1858, p. iv.
  27. ^ Harrison 1964, p. 152.
  28. ^ Edwards 2009, p. 245.
  29. ^ Ehrman 1999, p. 43.
  30. ^ a b Mills & Wilson 2003, p. 942.
  31. ^ a b Epiphanius of Salamis 1987, p. 129.
  32. ^ Muddiman & Barton 2010, p. 27.
  33. ^ Harrington 1991, p. 8.
  34. ^ Nolland 2005, p. 16.
  35. ^ Vielhauer & Strecker 2003, p. 542.
  36. ^ ELCA 2006, p. 57.
  37. ^ a b "The Calendar". The Church of England. Retrieved 27 March 2021.
  38. ^ Revelation 4:7
  39. ^ Quran 3:49-53
  40. ^ Noegel & Wheeler 2003, p. 86.
  41. ^ "Saint Matthew". Franciscan Media. Retrieved 21 September 2020.
  42. ^ Nees, Lawrence; Boehm, Barbara Drake; Holcolmb, Melanie (2018). "Pleasurable Perplexity: Reflecting the Holy City". The Jewish Quarterly Review. 108 (4): 551–561. ISSN 0021-6682. JSTOR 90025854.
  43. ^ Jasmine A. L. Kilburn. 2003. "The Contrasted `Other' in the Old English Apocryphal Acts of Matthew, Simon and Jude." Neophilologus 87 (1) (01): 137–151.
  44. ^ Naomi, Simhony. 2020. "The Central Synagogue of Nazareth Illit and its Architectural Dialogue with Nazareth's Basilica of the Annunciation." Humanities & Social Sciences Communications 7 (1) (12).


Further reading


Matthew the Apostle Calling of MatthewLife of Jesus: Ministry Events Preceded byHometown Rejection of Jesus,"Physician, heal thyself" New TestamentEvents Succeeded byNew Wine into Old Wineskins