(Matʹthew) [probably a shortened form of the Heb. Mattithiah, meaning “Gift of Jehovah”].

A Jew, otherwise known as Levi, who became an apostle of Jesus Christ and the writer of the Gospel bearing his name. He was the son of a certain Alphaeus and was a tax collector before becoming one of Jesus’ disciples. (Mt 10:3; Mr 2:14; see TAX COLLECTOR.) The Scriptures do not reveal whether Levi also had the name Matthew before becoming a disciple of Jesus, received it at that time, or was given that name by Jesus when he was appointed as an apostle.

It appears that early in his Galilean ministry (30 or early 31 C.E.) Jesus Christ called Matthew from the tax office in or near Capernaum. (Mt 9:1, 9; Mr 2:1, 13, 14) ‘Leaving everything behind, Matthew rose up and went following Jesus.’ (Lu 5:27, 28) Perhaps to celebrate the receiving of his call to follow Christ, Matthew “spread a big reception feast,” attended by Jesus and his disciples as well as many tax collectors and sinners. This disturbed the Pharisees and the scribes, causing them to murmur about Christ’s eating and drinking with tax collectors and sinners.—Lu 5:29, 30; Mt 9:10, 11; Mr 2:15, 16.

Later, after the Passover of 31 C.E., Jesus selected the 12 apostles, and Matthew was one of them. (Mr 3:13-19; Lu 6:12-16) Though the Bible makes various references to the apostles as a group, it does not mention Matthew by name again until after Christ’s ascension to heaven. Matthew saw the resurrected Jesus Christ (1Co 15:3-6), received parting instructions from him, and saw him ascend to heaven. After this he and the other apostles returned to Jerusalem. The apostles were staying in an upper chamber there, and Matthew is specifically named as being among them, so he must have been one of the some 120 disciples who received the holy spirit on the day of Pentecost 33 C.E.—Ac 1:4-15; 2:1-4.