Feast Day : September 21 (in the West), November 16 (in Greece)
Patronage: accountants; bankers; bookkeepers; customs officers; financial officers; guards; money managers; security forces; security guards; stock brokers; tax collectors
Name meaning: Gift of God
Also known as: Apostle of Ethiopia; Levi; Matthias of Jerusalem
Matthew was born in Capernaum on Lake Genesareth (the Sea of Galilee), the son of Alphaeus (Alpheus). He was named Levi, or perhaps Levi Matthew, although it is more probable that Jesus conferred the name Matthew on him when he called him to join his apostolate. At the time of his call, Matthew was working as a Roman tax collector, a job regarded by his fellow Jews as selling out to the enemy. He hosted a feast for Jesus and the other disciples to which he also invited other tax collectors. When this drew criticism from the Pharisees, Jesus replied: “I came not to call only the just, but sinners also.” Apart from his inclusion in the lists of apostles, the Bible contains little further mention of Matthew, although according to St. Peter he was with the group the entire time. He was a witness to the Resurrection, and, after the Ascension, he was selected by lot to replace Judas Iscariot. Accounts of Matthew’s later life are conflicting. Ancient sources agree that he spent some time preaching among the Hebrews, but differ in the amount of time. There is agreement that he later left Palestine, but not as to where he went. By tradition, he evangelized in Ethiopia to the south of the Caspian Sea (not the Ethiopia in Africa), hence his title as the Apostle of Ethiopia. However, he may also have preached in Persia, Macedonia and Syria. Matthew was the author of the First Gospel of the New Testament, a work intended to convince Jewish readers that their anticipated Messiah had indeed arrived in the person of Jesus Christ. Other writings, now considered apocryphal, are also attributed to him. There is no certainty about how, when or where Matthew died, but he is widely (though not universally) believed to have been martyred. By tradition, he was tortured before death, though there is no agree- ment about whether he was burned, stoned or beheaded. The places most often given for his martyrdom are Colchis and Jerusalem. The date is sometimes given as ca. 120, but this seems much too late to be accurate. Relics alleged to be his were removed from Colchis by Empress St. Helena and are now venerated at St. Matthias’s abbey in Trier, Germany. In art, Matthew is represented as an elderly apostle or winged man holding or being pierced with an axe (German images), lance (Italian images), halberd, scimitar or sword.