("the gift of Jehovah"), contracted from Mattathias. The evangelist and apostle. Son of Alphaeus (not the father of James the Less, for Matthew and James are never coupled as brothers). Mark (Mark 2:14, compare Mark 3:18) and Luke (Luke 5:27, compare with Luke 6:15) veil his former less honorable occupation of a publican under his original name Levi; but Matthew himself gives it, and humbly puts himself after Thomas, an undesigned mark of genuineness; whereas Mark (Mark 3:18) and Luke (Luke 6:15) put Matthew before Thomas in the list of apostles. (See PUBLICAN.) As subordinate to the head farmers of the Roman revenues he collected dues at Capernaum on the sea of Galilee, the route by which traffic passed between Damascus and the Phoenician seaports. But Matthew is not ashamed to own his identity with "the publican" in order to magnify Christ's grace (Matthew 9:9), and in his catalogue of the apostles (Matthew 10:3).
Christ called him at "the receipt of custom," and he immediately obeyed the call. Desiring to draw others of his occupation with him to the Savior he made in His honor a great feast (Matthew 9:9-13; Luke 5:29; Mark 2:14). "Many publicans and sinners" thus had the opportunity of hearing the word; and the murmuring of the Pharisee, and the reply of our Lord "they that be whole need not a physician but they that are sick ... I am not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance," imply that his effort was crowned with success. With the undesigned propriety which marks genuineness Matthew talks of Jesus' sitting down in "the house" without telling whose house it was, whereas Mark mentions it as Levi's. He was among those who met in the upper room at Jerusalem after our Lord's ascension (Acts 1:13). Eustathius (H. E. iii. 24) says that after our Lord's ascension Matthew preached in Judaea and then in foreign nations (Ethiopia, according to Socrates Scholasticus, H. E. i. 19).