Life of Matthew
We don't know anything about Matthew's life before he became a disciple (student) of Jesus Christ, except that his father's name was Alphaeus and that his original name was possibly Levi. From the Gospels, it seems that a few of the original disciples underwent a name change after joining Jesus (remember that Simon becomes Peter). In the same way, Levi becomes Matthew, derived from the Hebrew for ''Gift of Yahweh''.
Matthew is an interesting figure to theologians and historians because he was not a beloved person. In fact, he was likely hated…passionately. You see, Matthew was a publican. At the surface, this translates to tax collector (which alone may give people enough reason to hate him), but don't forget who the Hebrew people were paying taxes to. The Hebrews lived under the control of the Roman Empire. So, Matthew wasn't just a tax collector, he was a Jewish agent of the Romans.
Hebrews of the time deeply distrusted any of their own who worked to maintain the Roman Empire, and most were seen as greedy, selfish, and traitorous. In fact, there are accounts that Hebrews did not allow Jewish publicans to marry Jewish women or even worship in the synagogue.
For Matthew, this changed when Jesus crossed his path and said ''Follow me''. That's it. According to his gospel, Matthew heard these words and dropped everything. He paid back all those he had cheated, renounced his worldly possessions and committed himself to following his new teacher. This did cause many of the Jewish leaders to raise their eyebrows. They were already suspicious of Jesus, but now he was consorting with the lowest of Hebrew society.
After the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, Matthew was amongst those chosen to go out and spread the word of Christ (called apostles). He spent his time mostly in Palestine, where he helped plant new congregations and spread Christ's teachings. It was here that he is said to have written his account of Jesus' life in the Book of Matthew, sometime between 41 and 50 CE. Scholars disagree as to whether the text was originally written in his native Aramaic (in order to encourage people of the region to accept it) or in Greek (the language of scholars, intellectuals and the literate in general).
After writing his Gospel, Matthew set out to continue spreading the message. He is believed to have traveled to Syria, Media, Persia, Parthia and even Ethiopia. Many Christian churches in Ethiopia claim Matthew as the ultimate founder of their congregations. In the end, we don't actually know what happened to Matthew. He managed to get off of the Roman's radar, which may have been a conscious action considering the increased persecution of the times. Some claim that he died a martyr in Ethiopia, but these accounts are accepted as apocryphal. We may never know exactly how or where Matthew died. What we do know is that he ended up being one of the most published authors in all of history.
The Gospel of Matthew is one of the most widely read of the Christian Bible. It is believed to have been written by Matthew, one of the original twelve disciples and apostles of Jesus Christ. Before being called to follow Christ, Matthew was a publican, a tax collector for the Roman Empire. Thus, he was greatly distrusted by his fellow Hebrews. Christ calling him was seen as a sign of the ultimate redemptive power of grace and God's forgiveness.
After the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ, Matthew wrote his gospel sometime between 40-51 CE and traveled across the eastern Mediterranean. Some sources claim that he died a martyr in Ethiopia, but this is not agreed on by the entire Christian Church. Regardless of where he died, Matthew's writings would spread across the world, becoming one of the most influential books in human history.