Matthew, Mattathias, sometimes known as Levi, was a Roman tax collector. He entered Jesus’s ministry at Capernaum while at the receipt of the customer, a booth in which one collects taxes. He was literate in both Greek and Aramaic. He was also a Jew and went by the name of Levi because of his lineage to the tribe of Levi. Levi may have been his name before he was known as Matthew or Mattathias. Some traditions hold that his name was given by Jesus, other traditions hold he changed the name himself. His name means “Gift of God”, which is fitting because he was the first gospel writer.
As a tax collector he most likely used unfair practices such as extortion. This was common in Rome because of the tax system. One would bid on an area to tax if they won the bid on the area then it was there’s to tax. Tax were not standardize but rather whatever the tax collector said it was. Because of this tax collector’s were considered unclean by the religious elite. They were not allowed entry into the temple.
His conversion happened after Jesus agreed to have a meal with him. In fact he was so thrilled by it he had a feast, or dinner party. No doubt this would tarnish Jesus’s image however, Jesus did not care. Furthermore, because of this kind gesture from Jesus, Matthew repented. He would become one of Jesus four closest friends and eventually would carry the word on.
His knowledge of both Greek and Aramaic and most likely Hebrew as well made him a powerful man. He was also skilled at taking shorthand. No doubt he would use this to construct his gospel. Matthew would leave behind his wealth, and position as a tax collector. Most likely he spent much of that wealth in his ministry.
The focus of Matthew’s gospel was to present Jesus as Messiah, and his genealogy from Abraham shows the legal right according to Hebrew tradition to claim such a title. His writings showed that Jesus was indeed the Lion of Judea. He focused on what Jesus said rather than what he did. In doing so this is one of the better gospels to find quotes from Jesus. It is quite clear that the gospel is written for the Jew.
We can learn many things from Matthew. His faith in Christ was so great that he would leave behind everything and ultimately meet a martyrs end according to tradition. His word will forever be remembered.