Who is Matthew?
, derived from the same word as MATTHI'AS, Acts 1:23, Acts 11:26 (gift of God), apostle, and author of the first canonical Gospel. His original name was Levi, Mark 2:14; Luke 5:27, 1 Chr 2:29, which, like that of Simon and of Saul, was changed on his being called to the apostleship. He was a publican or tax-gatherer near the Sea of Galilee, on the route between Damascus and the Phoenician seaports, and was called by our Lord immediately from the toll-booth. This avocation was regarded by the Jews with contempt, but it doubtless gave him an extensive knowledge of human nature, and accurate business habits, which tended to fit him for his great work as an evangelist The N.T. is silent in regard to his special labors, but he was among those who met in the upper room at Jerusalem after the ascension of our Lord. Acts 1:13. The tradition of his martyrdom in Ethiopia is legendary. The Gospel according to Matthew was probably written in Palestine, and certainly for Jewish Christians. It presents Christ as the last and greatest Lawgiver and Prophet, as the Fulfiller of the 0.T., as the Messiah and King of the true people of Israel. Its arrangement is not strictly chronological, but topical, grouping together the works and sayings of Christ according to their similarity. Though a simple narrative in its form, and not proposing any definite design on the part of the author, it is in fact an historical proof that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah. The frequent references to the fulfilment of O.T. prophecy suggest this purpose. While it is not certain that it was the first in time, it deserves the first place in the N.T., forming, as it does, the best link between the O. and the N.T., between the Law and the Gospel. It occupies the same position in the canon of the N.T. as the Pentateuch in that of the O.T., giving us, in the Sermon on the Mount, a counterpart of the legislation from Mount Sinai, the fundamental law of the Christian Church. The genealogy, the revelation to Joseph, the visit of the Magi, peculiar to this Gospel, all combine to make the impression, as one begins to read, that here is the fulfilment, not the abolition, of the old dispensation; and this impression is deepened by the Sermon on the Mount, the parables of the kingdom of heaven, the discourse against the Pharisees, and the repeated citations from the O.T. prophecies which are declared to be fulfilled in Christ. With respect to the language in which this Gospel first was written, two different views have been set forth: 1. That it was originally composed in Hebrew -- i.e., Syro-Chaldaic, or Western Aramaic, the dialect spoken in Palestine by the Jewish Christians; 2. That it was written in Greek, as we now possess it. The testimony of the early Church unanimously favors the first view. Those Fathers who assert that Matthew wrote in Hebrew also assert that his work was translated into Greek, and unhesitatingly employ the present Greek Gospel as a faithful representative of the apostolic production. If we accept a Hebrew original, then we must also conclude that when the necessity for a Greek version became obvious, Matthew himself made, or caused to be made, the present Greek Gospel. Of this there is no positive and direct proof, but it accords with the testimony of the Fathers and accounts for the double assignment of dates which we find, and also for the universal acceptance of our Gospel. On the other side, it has been urged in favor of a Greek original or of the original character of our Gospel, not only that the testimony of the Fathers is insufficient, unsatisfactory, and at times confused, but that the evidence from the Gospel itself is abundantly conclusive on this point. The theory of a version by Matthew himself will account for the early citation of the present Greek text, but not so readily for certain facts in the Gospel itself. It agrees most exactly with the other two synoptists, Mark and Luke, in the discourses, especially those of our Lord, and differs from them most in the narrative portions. And further, where citations from the O.T. occur in the discourses, they are usually from the Septuagint, while those in the narrative appear to be independent translations from the Hebrew, It is argued that a mere translator could not have done this, but an independent writer, using the Greek tongue and wishing to conform his narrative to the oral teaching of the apostles, might have used for the quotations the well-known Greek O.T. used by his colleagues. The whole question is an open one, and it is to be hoped that some future archaeological discoveries will settle it. The drift of scholarly opinion, however, is toward the acceptance of a Greek original. In any case, there is no reason for doubting the genuineness of the canonical Gospel. With regard to the time when it was written there is great uncertainty. Evidently, Jerusalem had not been destroyed, but its destruction is foretold, Matt 24, in a manner that is only explicable on the assumption of its being still a future event to the writer. On the other hand, it is evident that some time had elapsed since the events it records had occurred. Matt 27:7-8; Matt 28:15. Some of the ancients give the eighth year after the Ascension as the date, others the fifteenth. If there was an original Hebrew Gospel, the earlier date belongs to it; but we would place our present Gospel between 60 and 66 - a period during which both Mark and Luke probably wrote their Gospels.