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by Joseph Sutcliffe
THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO ST. MATTHEW.
MATTHEW the Evangelist was a native of Galilee, and by profession a publican. He is called by St. Mark 2:14, Levi of Alpheus, that is, son of Alpheus, or of Cleophas. If so he was a relative of Christ, and must have had, as Dr. Lightfoot infers, three brothers among the twelve apostles; James, the less; Judas, called Lebbeus and Thaddeus, and Simon the Canaanite. As the Jews had many names, this is a point not clearly proved. It is not doubted but he was a hearer of John the baptist, as indeed were most of the apostles. He entered on his ministerial course by the sacrifice of his worldly profession, at the call of the Saviour. Papias, a hearer of John the evangelist, and a companion of Polycarp, says that Matthew “wrote his gospel in the Hebrew tongue, which every one interpreted as he was able,” by preaching and by expounding on his book. This testimony appears to be correct, for he never cites the version of the LXX, but takes all his quotations from the Hebrew text. But by the Hebrew we must understand, the same as is meant by St. Luke, who says, that when Paul spake in the Hebrew tongue, “they kept silence the more.” Be that as it might, he wrote for the use of the Hebrews converted to Christ, while St. Luke wrote for the Hellenists and Gentiles. Eusebius has collected the testimonies of Irenæus concerning the divine scriptures, book 5. chap. 8. Of St. Matthew’s gospel he says, it was published among the Hebrews, then called by the jews Nazarenes, while Peter and Paul were preaching the gospel at Rome, and founding the church in that city. There must however be a slight inaccuracy of the dates, for Matthew’s gospel was in the hands of the jews prior to St. Paul’s preaching at Rome. But as there is no dispute concerning the testimonies of Papias, Irenæus, and others; and as all agree with Origen, who says on tradition, that the four gospels were received without dispute by the whole church under heaven, we need add only, according to the testimony of Clemens of Alexandria, Strom. lib. 4., that St. Matthew was the only apostle that escaped martyrdom. Some say, that in obedience to the Lord, who had said, Acts 1:8, “Ye shall be witnesses unto me in the uttermost parts of the earth,” he travelled as far as Ethiopia, where he died at an advanced age.
the Second Week of Advent