Saint Matthew: Apostle and Evangelist

September 21, 2019

The name of Matthew in Hebrew means the gift of Yahweh.

St. Matthew, author of the first gospel, is one of the twelve apostles. Son of Alpheus, he was called by the name of Levi at the time of his vocation.

He seems to have come from Capernaum where he was a publican, in charge of collecting taxes. As such, he managed the custom house, which served to collect both gate duties and tolls between the states of the King Herod Antipas and his brother, the tetrarch Philippe.

The saint soberly recounted the story of his vocation: “And when Jesus passed on from thence, he saw a man sitting in the custom house, named Matthew; and he saith to him: Follow me. And he rose up and followed him” (Mt 9:9).

To the title of Apostle, St. Matthew adds that of evangelist. He wrote his account in Aramaic, but it was his Greek translation that was most widely disseminated. The Church holds the Greek writing of St. Matthew as the canonical text as the divinely inspired first Gospel. 

In 954, the body of St. Matthew was found in Velia, not far from the Gulf of Policastro. It was transferred to the cathedral of Salerno, where remains today.

At the beginning of the seventeenth century, the painter Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio—known as Caravaggio—immortalized St. Matthew’s life in a famous triptych situated in the Contarelli Chapel in the Church of St. Louis of the French, in Rome.