Biography of St. Matthew
The Feast of St. Matthew is September 21st. The symbols of St. Matthew are the sword, the means of his martyrdom, and the money bag, for his work as a tax collector. Our church community's logo, shown on the right side of the above masthead, incorporates both symbols with three money bags and three sword-like cruciforms. The portrayal of these two symbols in groups of three suggests the Holy Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The color green has traditionally signified everlasting, the triumph of life over death and hope. Our logo appears on many of our Web pages, written communications and church banners.
Scholars, using sources other than the Bible, (primarily Papias, Bishop of Hieropolis in Asia Minor, circa 60-130 A.D., and Eusebius, Bishop of Caesarea, the "Father of Church History," circa 260-340 A.D.) have produced writings from which the following biography of St. Matthew is composed.
Levi (Matthew) was born and raised a Jew by his father Alphaeus at his home in Capernaum. He was trained to collect taxes in the form of personal dues or customs on goods. As such he gained knowledge of languages (particularly Aramaic, Greek and Hebrew), and calculation. Inasmuch as his work was in the service of the Roman government, and in view of the abuses and corruption to which the system led, tax collectors were the object of widespread hatred. His post was at Capernaum where he collected from those crossing the Sea ofGalilee, as well as those traveling the Mediterranean-Damascus Road, which ran along the shore.
Jesus called Matthew from his tax booth and feasted at his house, indicating that Matthew was a man of some wealth. Matthew followed Jesus for the rest of his ministry and was with the disciples after the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus.
According to Papias, Matthew made a collection of Jesus' sayings in Hebrew. He traditionally is held to be the author of the first of the Gospels.
When the ancient world was divided among the disciples for the spreading of the Gospel, Matthew was given Ethiopia, which was the region west and south of the Euphrates River.
Roman martyrology, the official record of martyrs for the Roman Catholic Church, holds that Matthew was martyred "in Ethiopia."
Matthew 9:9 As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, "Follow me." And he got up and followed him.
Matthew 10:3 ...and Matthew the tax collector...
Mark 2:13-15 Jesus went out again beside the sea; the whole crowd gathered around him, and he taught them. As he was walking along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, "Follow me." And he got up and followed him. And as he sat at dinner in Levi's house, many tax collectors and sinners were also sitting with Jesus and his disciples - for there were many who followed him.
Luke 5: 27-29 After this he went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, "Follow me." And he got up, left everything and followed him. Then Levi gave a great banquet for him in his own house; and there was a large crowd of tax collectors and others sitting at the table with them.
Acts 1: 12-13 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the Mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day's journey away. When they had entered, they went up to the room upstairs where they were staying, Peter, and John, and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James.
Prepared by congregation member J. B. Jackson, September 22, 1996.
Image credit: Inspiration of St. Matthew; Caravaggio, Michelangelo Meris; 1602; Oil on canvas, 9' 8 1/2" x 6' 2 1/2"; Contarelli Chapel, Church of San Luigi dei Francesi, Rome