St Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist

Ephesians 4:1-7,11-13; Psalm 18(19):2-5; Matthew 9:9-13

It is remarkable how few facts are known about Mathew! He was born in Capernaum, and was working as a tax-collector when Jesus called him. He wrote his gospel in Aramaic, and is said to have preached in the East.

He has however left us with a rich book, his Gospel, which written in Jesus's own tongue, has something immediately compelling about it. For example he makes good use of imagery - 'cunning as snakes' and 'harmless as doves' are phrases in widespread use to this day. Internal references to other events suggest that the text was written after Marks Gospel, and that has been dated with some certainty to AD 65. If Matthew was a young man when Jesus calls him and that same Matthew is the author, then Matthew was writing in his own late middle age. But a tax collector is perhaps more likely to have been a mature man and so the text was written in Matthews old age. It may well then have been scribed for him by another. Whoever did write it had access to first hand knowledge of Jesus.

St Ignatius of Antioch knew Matthews Gospel referring to it in his own work, dated at 108AD. This is why it is considered likely the Gospel of Matthew was written in Antioch, where there was a thriving early christian community made up mainly of converted Jews. The text makes frequent reference to the earlier covenants, and is clearly written by a Jew, for the Jews. It is easy to imagine a group of these people listening to Matthew, one of the few people alive to have met Jesus, as he told the remarkable story of his personal conversion, while a scribe made hasty notes in a corner to be later turned into the words we have in the Gospel.

Posted in Daily Reflection.