vendredi 21 septembre 2012

Saint MATTHIEU, APÔTRE


Saint Matthieu

Apôtre

(Ier siècle)

Saint Matthieu était probablement Galiléen de naissance. Il exerçait la profession de publicain ou de receveur des tributs pour les Romains, profession très odieuse parmi les Juifs. Son nom fut d'abord Lévi. Il était à son bureau, près du lac de Génésareth, où apparemment il recevait le droit de péage, lorsque Jésus-Christ l'aperçut et l'appela. Sa place était avantageuse; mais aucune considération ne l'arrêta, et il se mit aussitôt à la suite du Sauveur. Celui qui l'appelait par Sa parole le touchait en même temps par l'action intérieure de Sa grâce.

Lévi, appelé Matthieu après sa conversion, invita Jésus-Christ et Ses disciples à manger chez lui; il appela même au festin ses amis, espérant sans doute que les entretiens de Jésus les attireraient aussi à Lui. C'est à cette occasion que les Pharisiens dirent aux disciples du Sauveur: "Pourquoi votre Maître mange-t-Il avec les publicains et les pécheurs?" Et Jésus, entendant leurs murmures, répondit ces belles paroles: "Les médecins sont pour les malades et non pour ceux qui sont en bonne santé. Sachez-le donc bien, Je veux la miséricorde et non le sacrifice; car Je suis venu appeler, non les justes, mais les pécheurs."

Après l'Ascension, saint Matthieu convertit un grand nombre d'âmes en Judée; puis il alla prêcher en Orient, où il souffrit le martyre. Il est le premier qui ait écrit l'histoire de Notre-Seigneur et Sa doctrine, renfermées dans l'Évangile qui porte son nom. – On remarque, dans l'Évangile de saint Matthieu, qu'il se nomme le publicain, par humilité, aveu touchant, et qui nous montre bien le disciple fidèle de Celui qui a dit: "Apprenez de Moi que Je suis doux et humble de coeur." On croit qu'il évangélisa l'Éthiopie. Là, il se rendit populaire par un miracle: il fit le signe de la Croix sur deux dragons très redoutés, les rendit doux comme des agneaux et leur commanda de s'enfuir dans leurs repaires.

Ce fut le signal de la conversion d'un grand nombre. La résurrection du fils du roi, au nom de Jésus-Christ, produisit un effet plus grand encore et fut la cause de la conversion de la maison royale et de tout le pays. On attribue à saint Matthieu l'institution du premier couvent des vierges. C'est en défendant contre les atteintes d'un prince une vierge consacrée au Seigneur, que le saint Apôtre reçut le coup de la mort sur les marches de l'autel.

Abbé L. Jaud, Vie des Saints pour tous les jours de l'année, Tours, Mame, 1950

SOURCE : http://magnificat.ca/cal/fr/saints/saint_matthieu.html


Voir aussi : Saint Thomas d'Aquin. Catena Aurea. Explications sur L'Évangile de Saint Matthieu :
http://livres-mystiques.com/partieTEXTES/Stthomas/Aureamat/table.html


Matthieu est probablement d’origine juive, galiléen de naissance. Il exerce la profession de collecteur d’impôts (publicain) pour les romains à Capharnaüm. C’est un homme cultivé, de formation grecque (d’ où son nom Lévi). Le jour où Jésus, de passage devant son bureau de péage, lui demande de le suivre, il abandonne tout et devient un de ses disciples.

Evangile selon saint Luc V 27-29 : "Et après cela il sortit, et il remarqua un publicain du nom de Lévi, assis au bureau du péage, et il lui dit : Suis-moi. Et, quittant tout, se levant, il le suivait. Et Lévi lui fit une grande réception dans sa maison". 


Evangile selon saint Marc II 13-14 : "Et il sortit de nouveau le long de la mer. Et toute la foule venait vers lui, et il les enseignait. Et en passant, il vit Lévi, le fils d’Alphée, assis au bureau du péage. Et il lui dit : Suis-moi. Et se levant, il le suivit".

Sa profession aurait fait de lui un homme méprisé par les autres juifs : les percepteurs étaient de véritables oppresseurs au service des Romains et l’on savait qu’ils escroquaient les gens pour augmenter leurs revenus. Ils étaient exclus de la communauté religieuse, interdits de Temple et tout le monde les évitait.

Lévi, captivé par les propos de Jésus, le suivit, quittant sa fonction de publicain. Il devint l’un des 12 apôtres de Jésus et pris le nom de Matthieu. Afin de convaincre ses amis de partager ses nouvelles convictions, Matthieu les convia à prendre un repas chez lui, en compagnie de Jésus. et de ses disciples. Les Pharisiens en prirent ombrage car il était malvenu de déjeuner avec les publicains. Jésus leur répondit : "Les médecins sont pour les malades et non pour ceux qui sont en bonne santé. Sachez-le donc bien, je veux la miséricorde et non le sacrifice ; car je suis venu appeler, non les justes, mais les pécheurs."

L’Évangile de Matthieu est un récit lucide, qui semble avoir été écrit d’abord pour montrer que Jésus répond aux attentes messianiques juives, d’où son souci de bien établir sa généalogie. En 130, Papias montra que Matthieu écrivit d’abord en araméen, comme un Juif écrivant pour des lecteurs juifs. Cependant, les fragments les plus anciens sont en grec. Le style est concis et conventionnel, particulièrement adapté aux lectures publiques et à l’enseignement.

Alors que les trois autres évangélistes sont symbolisés par des animaux, Matthieu est représenté par un homme ailé en raison de son souci de l’humanité et particulièrement de la famille du Christ.

Après la Pentecôte, selon la tradition orale de l’Eglise, il passe un temps en Egypte, puis part en Ethiopie.

Arrivé à Naddaver, la capitale, il prêche et combat l’influence de deux mages, convertissant une partie du peuple désabusé.

Il devient populaire en opérant la résurrection du fils du roi, au nom de Jésus Christ.

Défendant une vierge consacrée au Seigneur contre l’avidité d’un prince, Matthieu s’attire la colère du nouveau roi Hirtiacus. Il est assassiné au cours d’une célébration à Naddaver.

Ses reliques auraient été transportées d’Éthiopie dans le Finistère, en Bretagne, d’où elles furent transférées à Salerne par Robert Guiscard. Quant à sa tête, quatre églises différentes en France prétendent la posséder.

L’évangile araméen de Matthieu parait avant l’an 50. Une traduction grecque circule déjà hors Palestine, étayée des autres synoptiques parus entre-temps.

D’où vient le nom de Matthieu ? Il s’agit d’un nom sémitique, Mattaï, signifiant « don de Dieu » (Théodore, Dieudonné). Certains pensent que ce surnom lui vient de Jésus. 

Saint patron des percepteurs, des comptables, des fiscalistes et des banquiers ; fêté le 21 septembre en Occident, le 16 novembre en Orient.




La tradition est unanime à reconnaître dans le publicain Matthieu (ou Lévi) l’auteur du premier évangile. Fête attestée au IXème siècle.

La messe du jour lit l’évangile de l’appel de St Matthieu dans son évangile. La messe de la Vigile (voir au 20/09, vigile supprimée en 1955) faisait lire l’appel de Lévi selon St Luc.

(Leçons des Matines)

AU DEUXIÈME NOCTURNE.

Quatrième leçon. L’apôtre et Évangéliste Matthieu, appelé aussi Lévi, était assis à son comptoir, lorsque le Christ lui fit entendre son appel. Il le suivit sans tarder et le reçut à sa table, lui et les autres disciples. Après la résurrection du Christ, avant de quitter la Judée pour la contrée qui lui était échue à évangéliser, il écrivit le premier, en hébreu, l’Évangile de Jésus-Christ, pour les Juifs convertis. Puis il partit pour l’Éthiopie, où il prêcha la bonne nouvelle, confirmant sa doctrine par de nombreux miracles.

Cinquième leçon. On doit citer en première ligne le miracle qu’il opéra en ressuscitant la fille du roi ; ce prodige convertit à la foi du Christ le roi, père de la jeune fille, la reine, et toute la contrée. A la mort du roi, Hirtacus, son successeur, voulut épouser la princesse Iphigénie, de race royale. Mais comme celle-ci avait voué à Dieu sa virginité, sur le conseil de Matthieu, et qu’elle persistait dans son pieux dessein, Hirtacus donna l’ordre de tuer l’Apôtre, tandis qu’il célébrait à l’autel les saints Mystères. La gloire du martyre couronna sa carrière apostolique, le onze des calendes d’octobre. Son corps fut transporté à Salerne, et déposé peu après, Grégoire VII étant souverain Pontife, dans l’église consacrée sous son vocable, et il y reçoit de la part de nombreux fidèles, un culte de pieuse vénération.

On lit pour 6ème Leçon, la 4ème Leçon du Commun.

AU TROISIÈME NOCTURNE.

Lecture du saint Évangile selon saint Matthieu.

En ce temps-là : Jésus vit un homme nommé Matthieu assis au bureau des impôts, et lui dit : Suis-moi. Et le reste.

Homélie de saint Jérôme, Prêtre.

Septième leçon. Les autres Évangélistes, par respect et honneur pour Matthieu, se sont abstenus de lui donner son nom populaire et ils l’ont appelé Lévi ; il eut en effet ces deux noms. Quant à lui, suivant ce que dit Salomon : « Le juste est le premier accusateur de lui-même ; » et : « Confesse tes péchés, afin d’être justifié, » il s’appelle Matthieu et se déclare publicain, pour montrer à ceux qui le liront que nul ne doit désespérer du salut, pourvu qu’il embrasse une vie meilleure, puisqu’on voit en sa personne un publicain tout à coup changé en Apôtre.

Huitième leçon. Porphyre et l’empereur Julien relèvent ici sous forme d’accusation, ou l’ignorance d’un historien inexact ou la folie de ceux qui suivirent immédiatement le Sauveur, comme s’ils avaient inconsidérément obéi à l’appel du premier venu ; tandis qu’au contraire, Jésus avait déjà opéré beaucoup de miracles et de grands prodiges, que les Apôtres avaient certainement vus avant de croire. D’ailleurs l’éclat et la majesté de la divinité cachée en lui reflétés jusque sur sa face, pouvaient dès le premier aspect, attirer à lui ceux qui le voyaient ; car si l’on dit que l’aimant et l’ambre ont la propriété d’attirer les anneaux de fer, les tiges de blé, les brins de paille, combien plus le Seigneur de toutes choses pouvait-il attirer à lui ceux qu’il appelait ?

Neuvième leçon. « Or il arriva que Jésus étant à table dans la maison, beaucoup de publicains et de pécheurs vinrent s’y asseoir avec lui. » Ils voient que ce publicain, passé d’un état de péché à une vie meilleure, avait été admis à la pénitence ; et c’est pour cela qu’eux-mêmes ne désespèrent pas de leur salut. Mais ce n’est pas en demeurant dans leurs mauvaises habitudes qu’ils viennent à Jésus, ainsi que les Pharisiens et les Scribes le disent avec murmure. C’est en faisant pénitence, comme le marque le Seigneur dans la réponse qui suit : « Je veux la miséricorde et non le sacrifice ; car je ne suis pas venu appeler les justes, mais les pécheurs. » Aussi le Seigneur allait-il aux repas des pécheurs, pour avoir l’occasion de les instruire et de servir à ceux qui l’invitaient, des aliments spirituels.

SOURCE : http://www.introibo.fr/21-09-St-Matthieu-apotre-et


L'évangile de Matthieu a-t-il un original hébreu ?

L'apôtre Matthieu ou Lévi ?

Appelé par Jésus (Mt 9, 9-10), Matthieu était percepteur des impôts à Capharnaüm, aux frontières du territoire de Hérode Antipas et de son frère Philippe.

Marc et Luc cependant l'appellent Lévi (Mc 2, 13-14; Lc 5, 27-28).

Le témoignage de Papias (vers l'an 130).

Papias fut évêque de Hiérapolis en Phrygie vers l'an 110, et il était un disciple personnel de l'apôtre Jean et un compagnon de Polycarpe[1].

L'œuvre de Papias est perdue, mais Eusèbe de Césarée nous apprend que Papias « ordonna des logia ». Le mot « logia » vient du mot « logos », mot, parole, sentence. Il s'agit d'un recueil de sentences. Et dans un autre passage, Eusèbe parle d'un Evangile de Matthieu, dans sa langue maternelle. Le pape commente cette tradition :

« La tradition de l'Eglise antique s'accorde de façon unanime à attribuer à Matthieu la paternité du premier Evangile. Cela est déjà le cas à partir de Papias, évêque de Hiérapolis en Phrygie, autour de l'an 130. Il écrit:

"Matthieu recueillit les paroles (du Seigneur) en langue hébraïque, et chacun les interpréta comme il le pouvait"

(in Eusèbe de Césarée, Hist. eccl. III, 39, 16).

L'historien Eusèbe ajoute cette information:

"Matthieu, qui avait tout d'abord prêché parmi les juifs, lorsqu'il décida de se rendre également auprès d'autres peuples, écrivit dans sa langue maternelle l'Evangile qu'il avait annoncé; il chercha ainsi à remplacer par un écrit, auprès de ceux dont il se séparait, ce que ces derniers perdaient avec son départ"

(Ibid., III, 24, 6).

Nous ne possédons plus l'Evangile écrit par Matthieu en hébreu ou en araméen, mais, dans l'Evangile grec que nous possédons, nous continuons à entendre encore, d'une certaine façon, la voix persuasive du publicain Matthieu qui, devenu Apôtre, continue à nous annoncer la miséricorde salvatrice de Dieu et écoutons ce message de saint Matthieu, méditons-le toujours à nouveau pour apprendre, nous aussi, à nous lever et à suivre Jésus de façon décidée. »

(Benoît XVI, audience du 30 août 2006).

Le témoignage de saint Irénée (vers l'an 180).

En pleine cohérence avec la tradition de Papias, vers la fin du II° siècle, saint Irénée écrit :

"Ainsi Matthieu publia-t-il chez les Hébreux, dans leur propre langue, une forme écrite d'Evangile, à l'époque où Pierre et Paul évangélisaient Rome et y fondaient l'Eglise"[2].

Hébreu ou araméen ?[3].

La première ébauche était-elle en hébreu, langue traditionnelle du peuple juif ? Ou en araméen (qui n'est pas un dialecte mais une langue tout aussi vénérable que l'hébreu), beaucoup plus répandu en Galilée et dans la plupart des villages juifs a 1° siècle de notre ère ? L'hébreu est possible et semble plus conforme aux indications de Papias et d'Irénée. Pourtant, il est courant dans les textes chrétiens rédigés en grec d'appeler « langue hébraïque » la langue des juifs, même lorsqu'il s'agit explicitement d'araméen. Il y en a trois exemples dans l'évangile de Jean (Jn 5,2 ; 19, 13.17). L'araméen est alors plus probable.

Matthieu : de qui parle-t-on ? [4]

Nous expliquons ailleurs que l'évangile de Matthieu fut achevé plus tard que celui de Marc.

Il faut donc accepter que son rédacteur final soit distinct de l'un des Douze. En effet, il est invraisemblable qu'un témoin oculaire prenne modèle sur un homme apostolique qui n'a pas été témoin oculaire (Marc).

Ce rédacteur final (que nous appelons Matthieu) s'est donc placé sous l'autorité apostolique de l'apôtre (Matthieu-Lévi) et il a écrit un évangile complet. Ce dédoublement des rôles peut expliquer que Matthieu soit appelé Lévi dans les autres évangiles (Mc 2, 13-14; Lc 5, 27-28).

Ce rédacteur final est très probablement judéo-chrétien, car il fait un bon usage de l'Ancien Testament, il connaît les légendes juives, il fait un parallèle entre Moïse et Jésus, etc... Et il aura très probablement utilisé le recueil de sentences dont parle Papias. Car nous n'avons aucune raison de disqualifier Papias.

Ceci dit, n'y a-t-il pas eu un évangile hébreu complet ? [5]

Irénée parle bien d'un évangile. Dans l'antiquité, il est légitime de penser qu'il y avait un évangile juif, probablement araméen, utilisé par les chrétiens palestiniens.

Mais il n'a pas été retrouvé.

• Les quelques citations chez les pères de l'Eglise.

Saint Jérôme affirmait l'avoir traduit en grec. Pourtant quand on les compare à l'évangile canonique de Matthieu, les quelques passages conservés dans les citations des pères de l'Eglise semblent être des ajouts secondaires ou des interpolations.

• Les versions médiévales.

Il existe des versions médiévales hébraïques de Matthieu et la plupart des spécialistes considèrent qu'il s'agit des rétroversions du grec du Matthieu canonique, souvent destinées au débat entre chrétiens et juifs.

Certains affirment cependant que ces textes peuvent conduire à l'original hébreu de Matthieu[7].

• D'autres pensent pouvoir reconstruire l'original hébreu ou araméen sous-jacent à tout ou partie du texte grec du Matthieu canonique.

La grande majorité des exégètes, toutefois, soutient que l'évangile que nous connaissons sous le nom de Matthieu fut originellement composé en grec (puisque par exemple il corrige le style de Marc et se livre à des jeux de mots grecs).

Conclusion.

L'Eglise croit que l'Esprit Saint a guidé tout le processus de la rédaction de la Bible et ne dévalue pas l'influence des apôtres.

Benoît XVI, dans la catéchèse sur Matthieu, rapporte la tradition de Papias sur l'évangile en langue hébraïque attribué à Matthieu, mais il ajoute que nous n'en avons plus la trace. Il se garde bien d'attribuer directement à Matthieu l'évangile canonique (grec) que nous possédons, il dit simplement que « nous continuons à entendre, d'une certaine façon, la voix persuasive du publicain Matthieu ».

La tradition de Papias, reprise par saint Irénée, avait l'intention de montrer comme plausible et authentique l'origine apostolique de ce qui avait été écrit en bel ordre dans « l'évangile selon Matthieu ».[7]

Benoît XVI ne s'en éloigne nullement. Mais il autorise aussi les recherches récentes qui pensent que notre évangile de Matthieu ne soit pas une traduction et qu'il ait eu aussi une source « Q », en grec, commune avec Luc.
_____________________________________

[1] IRENEE, Contre les hérésies, V, 33, 4. ; EUSEBES, Histoire eccl., III, 39, 1

[2] IRENEE, Contre les hérésies, III, 1, 1

[3] Michel QUESNEL, Histoire des Evangiles, Cerf, Paris 1987, p. 56.

[4] Cf. R. E. Brown, Que sait-on du Nouveau Testament ? Bayard, Paris 2000, p. 252-253

[5] Cf. R. E. Brown, Que sait-on du Nouveau Testament ? Bayard, Paris 2000, p. 250-252

[6] Auteurs récents ayant travaillé ce thème : Cl. Tresmontrant ; O. Grelot ; G.E. Howard ; G.A.Mercer.

[7] SEGALLA G., Evangelo e vangeli, EDB, Bologna 1993, pp. 116-117.

________________________________________

Françoise Breynaert

SOURCE : http://www.mariedenazareth.com/6733.0.html?&L=0


BENOÎT XVI

AUDIENCE GÉNÉRALE

Mercredi 30 août 2006
 
Matthieu

Chers frères et soeurs,

En poursuivant la série de portraits des douze Apôtres, que nous avons commencée il y a quelques semaines, nous nous arrêtons aujourd'hui sur Matthieu. En vérité, décrire entièrement sa figure est presque impossible, car les informations qui le concernent sont peu nombreuses et fragmentaires. Cependant, ce que nous pouvons faire n'est pas tant de retracer sa biographie, mais plutôt d'en établir le profil que l'Evangile nous transmet.

Pour commencer, il est toujours présent dans les listes des Douze choisis par Jésus (cf. Mt 10, 3; Mc 3, 18; Lc 6, 15; Ac 1, 13). Son nom juif signifie "don de Dieu". Le premier Evangile canonique, qui porte son nom, nous le présente dans la liste des Douze avec une qualification bien précise:  "le publicain" (Mt 10, 3). De cette façon, il est identifié avec l'homme assis à son bureau de publicain, que Jésus appelle à sa suite:  "Jésus, sortant de Capharnaüm, vit un homme, du nom de Matthieu, assis à son bureau de publicain. Il lui dit:  "Suis-moi". L'homme se leva et le suivit" (Mt 9, 9). Marc (cf. 2, 13-17) et Luc (cf. 5, 27-30) racontent eux aussi l'appel de l'homme assis à son bureau de publicain, mais ils l'appellent "Levi". Pour imaginer la scène décrite dans Mt 9, 9, il suffit de se rappeler le magnifique tableau du Caravage, conservé ici, à Rome, dans l'église Saint-Louis-des-Français. Dans les Evangiles, un détail biographique supplémentaire apparaît:  dans le passage qui précède immédiatement le récit de l'appel, nous est rapporté un miracle accompli par Jésus à Capharnaüm (cf. Mt 9, 1-8; Mc 2, 1-12) et l'on mentionne la proximité de la mer de Galilée, c'est-à-dire du Lac de Tibériade (cf. Mc 2, 13-14). On peut déduire de cela que Matthieu exerçait la fonction de percepteur à Capharnaüm, ville située précisément "au bord du lac" (Mt 4, 13), où Jésus était un hôte permanent dans la maison de Pierre.

Sur la base de ces simples constatations, qui apparaissent dans l'Evangile, nous pouvons effectuer deux réflexions. La première est que Jésus accueille dans le groupe de ses proches un homme qui, selon les conceptions en vigueur à l'époque en Israël, était considéré comme un pécheur public. En effet, Matthieu manipulait non seulement de l'argent considéré impur en raison de sa provenance de personnes étrangères au peuple de Dieu, mais il collaborait également avec une autorité étrangère odieusement avide, dont les impôts pouvaient également être déterminés de manière arbitraire. C'est pour ces motifs que, plus d'une fois, les Evangiles parlent à la fois de "publicains et pécheurs" (Mt 9, 10; Lc 15, 1), de "publicains et de prostituées" (Mt 21, 31). En outre, ils voient chez les publicains un exemple de mesquinerie (cf. Mt 5, 46:  ils aiment seulement ceux qui les aiment) et ils mentionnent l'un d'eux, Zachée, comme le "chef des collecteurs d'impôts et [...] quelqu'un de riche" (Lc 19, 2), alors que l'opinion populaire les associait aux "voleurs, injustes, adultères" (Lc 18, 11). Sur la base de ces éléments, un premier fait saute aux yeux:  Jésus n'exclut personne de son amitié. Au contraire, alors qu'il se trouve à table dans la maison de Matthieu-Levi, en réponse à ceux qui trouvaient scandaleux le fait qu'il fréquentât des compagnies peu recommandables, il prononce cette déclaration importante:  "Ce ne sont pas les gens bien portants qui ont besoin du médecin, mais les malades. Je suis venu appeler non pas les justes, mais les pécheurs" (Mc 2, 17).

La bonne annonce de l'Evangile consiste précisément en cela:  dans l'offrande de la grâce de Dieu au pécheur! Ailleurs, dans la célèbre parabole du pharisien et du publicain montés au Temple pour prier, Jésus indique même un publicain anonyme comme exemple appréciable d'humble confiance dans la miséricorde divine:  alors que le pharisien se vante de sa propre perfection morale, "le publicain... n'osait même pas lever les yeux vers le ciel, mais il se frappait la poitrine en disant:  "Mon Dieu, prends pitié du pécheur que je suis!"". Et Jésus commente:  "Quand ce dernier rentra chez lui, c'est lui, je vous le déclare, qui était devenu juste. Qui s'élève sera abaissé; qui s'abaisse sera élevé" (Lc 18, 13-14). Dans la figure de Matthieu, les Evangiles nous proposent donc un véritable paradoxe:  celui qui est apparemment le plus éloigné de la sainteté peut même devenir un modèle d'accueil de la miséricorde de Dieu et en laisser entrevoir les merveilleux effets dans sa propre existence. A ce propos, saint Jean Chrysostome formule une remarque significative:  il observe que c'est seulement dans le récit de certains appels qu'est mentionné le travail que les appelés effectuaient. Pierre, André, Jacques et Jean sont appelés alors qu'ils pêchent, Matthieu précisément alors qu'il lève l'impôt. Il s'agit de fonctions peu importantes - commente Jean Chrysostome - "car il n'y a rien de plus détestable que le percepteur d'impôt et rien de plus commun que la pêche" (In Matth. Hom.:  PL 57, 363). L'appel de Jésus parvient donc également à des personnes de basse extraction sociale, alors qu'elles effectuent un travail ordinaire.

Une autre réflexion, qui apparaît dans le récit évangélique, est que Matthieu répond immédiatement à l'appel de Jésus:  "il se leva et le suivit". La concision de la phrase met clairement en évidence la rapidité de Matthieu à répondre à l'appel. Cela signifiait pour lui l'abandon de toute chose, en particulier de ce qui lui garantissait une source de revenus sûrs, même si souvent injuste et peu honorable. De toute évidence, Matthieu comprit qu'être proche de Jésus ne lui permettait pas de poursuivre des activités désapprouvées par Dieu. On peut facilement appliquer cela au présent:  aujourd'hui aussi, il n'est pas admissible de rester attachés à des choses incompatibles avec la "sequela" de Jésus, comme c'est le cas des richesses malhonnêtes. A un moment, Il dit sans détour:  "Si tu veux être parfait, va, vends ce que tu possèdes, donne-le aux pauvres, et tu auras un trésor dans les cieux. Puis viens, suis-moi" (Mt 19, 21). C'est précisément ce que fit Matthieu:  il se leva et le suivit! Dans cette action de "se lever", il est légitime de lire le détachement d'une situation de péché et, en même temps, l'adhésion consciente à une nouvelle existence, honnête, dans la communion avec Jésus.

Rappelons enfin que la tradition de l'Eglise antique s'accorde de façon unanime à attribuer à Matthieu la paternité du premier Evangile. Cela est déjà le cas à partir de Papia, Evêque de Hiérapolis en Phrygie, autour de l'an 130. Il écrit:  "Matthieu recueillit les paroles (du Seigneur) en langue hébraïque, et chacun les interpréta comme il le pouvait" (in Eusèbe de Césarée, Hist. eccl. III, 39, 16). L'historien Eusèbe ajoute cette information:  "Matthieu, qui avait tout  d'abord prêché parmi les juifs, lorsqu'il décida de se rendre également auprès d'autres peuples, écrivit dans sa langue maternelle l'Evangile qu'il avait annoncé; il chercha ainsi à remplacer par un écrit, auprès de ceux dont il se séparait, ce que ces derniers perdaient avec son départ" (Ibid., III, 24, 6). Nous ne possédons plus l'Evangile écrit par Matthieu en hébreu ou en araméen, mais, dans l'Evangile grec que nous possédons, nous continuons à entendre encore, d'une certaine façon, la voix persuasive du publicain Matthieu qui, devenu Apôtre, continue à nous annoncer la miséricorde salvatrice de Dieu et écoutons ce message de saint Matthieu, méditons-le toujours à nouveau pour apprendre nous aussi à nous lever et à suivre Jésus de façon décidée.

* * *

Je salue cordialement les pèlerins francophones présents ce matin, en particulier les séminaristes de l’archidiocèse de Lyon, accompagnés par le Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, ainsi que le pèlerinage œcuménique d’Athènes. Puisse la figure de l’Apôtre Matthieu vous inviter à devenir toujours plus des témoins de la miséricorde du Seigneur, en vous donnant tout entiers pour son service et pour celui de vos frères !

© Copyright 2006 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana




SAINT MATHIEU, APÔTRE

Saint Mathieu eut deux noms, Mathieu et Lévi. Mathieu veut dire don hâtif, ou bien donneur de conseil. Ou Mathieu vient de magnus, grand, et Theos, Dieu, comme si on disait grand à Dieu, ou bien de main et de Theos, main de Dieu. En effet il fut un don hâtif puisque sa conversion fut prompte. Il donna des conseils par ses prédications salutaires. II fut grand devant Dieu par la perfection de sa vie, et il fut la main dont Dieu se servit pour écrire son Evangile. Lévi veut dire, enlevé, mis, ajouté, apposé. Il fut enlevé à son bureau d'impôts, mis au nombre des apôtres, ajouté à la société des Evangélistes, et apposé au catalogue des martyrs.

Saint Mathieu, apôtre, prêchait. en Ethiopie (Honorius d'Autun.) dans une ville nommée Nadaber, où il trouva deux mages Zaroïs et Arphaxus qui ensorcelaient les hommes par de tels artifices que tous ceux qu'ils voulaient paraissaient avoir perdu la santé avec l’usage de leurs membres. Ce qui enfla tellement leur orgueil qu'ils se faisaient adorer comme des dieux par les hommes. L'apôtre Mathieu étant entré dans cette ville où il reçut l’hospitalité de l’eunuque de la reine de Candace baptisé par Philippe (Actes, vin), découvrait si adroitement les prestiges de ces mages qu'il changeait eu bien le mal qu'ils faisaient aux hommes. Or, l’eunuque, ayant demandé à saint Mathieu comment il se faisait qu'il parlât et comprit tant de langages différents, Mathieu lui exposa qu'après la descente du Saint-Esprit, il s'était trouvé posséder la science de toutes les langues, afin que, comme ceux qui avaient essayé par orgueil d'élever une tour jusqu'au ciel, s'étaient vus forces d'interrompre leurs travaux par la confusion des langues, de même les apôtres, par la connaissance de tous les idiomes, construisissent, non plus avec des pierres, mais avec des vertus, une tour au moyen de laquelle tous ceux qui croiraient pussent monter au ciel. Alors quelqu'un vint annoncer l’arrivée des deux mages accompagnés de dragons qui, en vomissant un feu de soufre par la gueule et par les naseaux, tuaient, tous les hommes. L'apôtre, se munissant du signe de la croix, alla avec assurance vers eux. Les dragons ne l’eurent pas plutôt aperçu qu'ils vinrent à l’instant s'endormir à ses pieds. Alors saint Mathieu dit aux mages : « Où donc est votre art ? Eveillez-les, si vous pouvez : quant à moi, si je n'avais prié le Seigneur, j'aurais de suite tourné contre vous ce que vous aviez la pensée de me faire. » Or, comme le peuple s'était rassemblé, Mathieu commanda de par le nom de J.-C. aux dragons de s'éloigner, et ils s'en allèrent de suite sans nuire à personne. Ensuite saint Mathieu commença à adresser un grand discours au peuple sur la gloire da paradis terrestre, avançant qu'il était plus élevé que toutes les montagnes et voisin du ciel, qu'il n'Y avait là ni épines ni ronces, que les lys ni les roses ne s'y flétrissaient, que la vieillesse n'y existait pas, mais que les hommes y restaient constamment jeunes, que les concerts des anges s'y faisaient entendre, et que quand on appelait les oiseaux, ils obéissaient tout de suite. Il ajouta que l’homme avait été chassé de ce paradis terrestre, mais que par la naissance de J.-C. il avait été rappelé au Paradis du ciel. Pendant qu'il parlait au peuple, tout à coup s'éleva mi grand tumulte ; car l’on pleurait la mort du fils du roi. Comme les magiciens ne pouvaient le ressusciter, ils persuadaient au roi qu'il avait été enlevé en la compagnie des dieux et qu'il fallait en conséquence lui élever une statue et un temple. Mais l’eunuque, dont il a été parlé plus haut, fit garder les magiciens et manda l’apôtre qui, après avoir fait une prière, ressuscita à l’instant le jeune homme (Bréviaire.). Alors le roi, qui se nommait Egippus, ayant vu cela, envoya publier dans toutes ses provinces : « Venez voir un Dieu caché sous les traits d'un homme. » On vint donc avec des couronnes d'or et différentes victimes dans l’intention d'offrir des sacrifices à Mathieu, mais celui-ci les en empêcha en disant : « O hommes, que faites-vous? Je ne suis pas un Dieu, je suis seulement le serviteur de N.-S. J.-C. » Alors avec l’argent et l’or qu'ils avaient apportés avec eux, ces gens bâtirent, par l’ordre de l’apôtre, une grande église qu'ils terminèrent en trente jours; et dans laquelle saint Mathieu siégea trente-trois ans; il convertit l’Egypte toute entière; le roi Egippus, avec sa femme et tout le peuple, se fit baptiser. Iphigénie, la fille du roi, qui avait été consacrée à Dieu, fut mise à la tête de plus de deux cents vierges.

Après quoi Hirtacus succéda au roi ; il s'éprit d'Iphigénie et promit à l’apôtre la moitié de son royaume s'il la faisait consentir à accepter sa main. L'apôtre lui dit de venir le dimanche à l’église comme son prédécesseur, pour entendre, en présence d'Iphigénie et des autres vierges, quels avantages procurent les mariages légitimes. Le roi s'empressa de venir avec joie, dans la pensée que l’apôtre voudrait conseiller le mariage à Iphigénie. Quand les vierges et tout le peuple furent assemblés, saint Mathieu parla longtemps des avantages du mariage et mérita les éloges du roi, qui croyait que l’apôtre parlait ainsi afin d'engager la vierge à se marier. Ensuite, ayant demandé qu'on fit silence, il reprit son discours en disant « Puisque le mariage est une bonne chose, quand on en conserve inviolablement les promesses, sachez-le bien, sous qui êtes ici présents, que si un esclave avait la présomption d'enlever l’épouse du roi, non seulement il encourrait la colère du prince, mais, il mériterait encore la mort, non parce qu'il serait convaincu de s'être marié, mais parce qu'en prenant l’épouse de son seigneur, il aurait outragé son prince dans sa femme. Il en serait de même de vous, ô roi; vous savez qu'Iphigénie est devenue l’épouse du roi éternel, et qu'elle est consacrée par le voile sacré; comment donc pourrez-vous prendre l’épouse de plus puissant que vous et vous unir à elle par le mariage ? » Quand le roi eut entendu cela, il se retira furieux de colère (Bréviaire.). Mais l’apôtre intrépide et constant exhorta tout le monde à la patience et à la constance; ensuite il bénit Iphigénie, qui, tremblante de peur, s'était jetée à genoux devant lui avec les autres vierges. Or, quand la messe solennelle fut achevée, le roi envoya. un bourreau qui tua Mathieu en prières debout devant l’autel et les bras étendus vers le ciel. Le bourreau le frappa par derrière et en fit ainsi un martyr. A cette nouvelle, le peuple courut, au palais du roi pour y mettre le feu, et ce fut à peine si les prêtres et les diacres purent le contenir; puis on célébra avec joie le martyre de l’apôtre. Or, comme le roi ne pouvait par aucun moyen faire changer Iphigénie de résolution, malgré les instances des dames qui lui furent envoyées, et celles des magiciens, il fit entourer sa demeure tout entière d'un feu immense afin de la brûler avec les autres vierges. Mais l’apôtre leur apparut, et il repoussa l’incendie de leur maison. Ce feu en jaillissant se jeta sur le palais du roi qu'il consuma en entier; le roi seul parvint avec peine à s'échapper avec son fils unique. Aussitôt après ce fils fut saisi par le démon, et courut au tombeau de l’apôtre en confessant les crimes de son père, qui lui-même fut attaqué d'une lèpre affreuse ; et comme il ne put être guéri, il se tua de sa propre main en se perçant avec une épée. Alors le peuple établit roi le frère d'Iphigénie qui avait été baptisé par l’apôtre. Il régna soixante-dix ans, et après s'être substitué son fils, il procura de l’accroissement au culte chrétien, et remplit toute la province de l’Ethiopie d'églises en l’honneur de J.-C. Pour Zaroës et Arphaxat, dès le jour ou l’apôtre ressuscita le fils du roi, ils s'enfuirent en Perse; mais saint Simon et saint Jude les y vainquirent.

Dans saint Mathieu, il faut considérer quatre vertus : 1° La promptitude de son obéissance : car à l’instant où J.-C. l’appela, il quitta immédiatement son bureau, et sans craindre ses maîtres, il laissa les états d'impôts inachevés pour s'attacher entièrement à J.-C. Cette promptitude dans son obéissance a donné à quelques-uns l’occasion de tomber en erreur, selon que le rapporte saint Jérôme dans son commentaire sur cet endroit de l’Evangile : « Porphyre, dit-il, et l’empereur Julien accusent l’historien de mensonge et de maladresse, comme aussi il taxe de folie la conduite de ceux qui se mirent aussitôt à la suite du Sauveur, comme ils auraient fait à l’égard de n'importe quel homme qu'ils auraient suivi sans motifs. J.-C. opéra auparavant de si grands prodiges et de si grands miracles qu'il n'y a pas de doute que les apôtres ne les aient vus avant de croire. Certainement l’éclat même et la majesté de la puissance divine qui était cachée, et qui brillait sur sa face humaine, pouvait au premier aspect attirer à soi ceux qui le voyaient. Car si on attribue à l’aimant la force d'attirer des anneaux et de la paille, à combien plus forte raison le maître de toutes les créatures pouvait-il attirer à soi ceux qu'il voulait. » 2° Considérons ses largesses et sa libéralité, puisqu'il donna de suite au Sauveur un grand repas dans sa maison. Or, ce repas ne fut pas grand par cela seul qu'il fut splendide, mais il le fut : a) par la résolution qui lui fit recevoir J.-C. avec grande affection et désir; b) par le mystère dont il fut la signification; mystère que la glose sur saint Luc explique en disant : « Celui qui reçoit J.-C. dans l’intérieur de sa maison est rempli d'un torrent de délices et de volupté » ; c) par les instructions que J.-C. ne cessa d'y adresser comme, par exemple : « Je veux la miséricorde et non le sacrifice » et encore : « Ce ne sont pas ceux qui se portent bien qui ont besoin de médecins; » d) par la qualité des invités, qui furent de grands personnages, comme J.-C. et ses disciples. 3° Son humilité qui parut en deux circonstances : la première en ce qu'il avoua être un publicain. Les autres évangélistes, dit là glose, par un sentiment de pudeur, et par respect pour saint Matthieu, ne lui donnent pas son nom ordinaire. Mais, d'après ce qui est écrit du Juste, qu'il est son propre accusateur, il se nomme lui-même Mathieu et publicain, pour montrer à celui qui se convertit qu'il ne doit jamais désespérer de son salut, car de publicain il fut fait de suite apôtre et évangéliste. La seconde, en ce qu'il supporta avec patience les injures qui lui furent adressées. En effet quand les pharisiens murmuraient de ce que J.-C. eût été loger chez un pécheur, il aurait pu à bon droit leur répondre et leur dire : « C'est vous plutôt: qui êtes des misérables et des pécheurs puisque vous refusez les secours du médecin en vous croyant justes : mais moi je ne puis plus être désormais appelé pécheur, quand j'ai recours au médecin du salut et que je lui découvre mes plaies. »

4° L'honneur que reçoit dans l’église son évangile qui se lit plus souvent que celui des autres évangélistes comme les psaumes de David et les épîtres de saint Paul, qu'on lit plus fréquemment que les autres livres de la sainte Ecriture. En voici la raison : Selon saint Jacques, il y a trois sortes de péchés, savoir: l’orgueil, la luxure et l’avarice. Saul, ainsi appelé de Saül le plus orgueilleux des rois, commit le péché d'orgueil quand il persécuta l’église au delà de toute mesure. David se livra au péché de luxure en commettant un adultère et en faisant tuer par suite de ce premier crime Urie le plus fidèle de ses soldats. Mathieu commit le péché, d'avarice, eu se livrant à des gains honteux, car il était douanier. La douane, dit Isidore, est un lieu sur un port de mer où sont reçues les marchandises des vaisseaux et les gages des matelots. Telos, en grec, dit Bède, veut dire impôt. Or, bien que Saul, David et Mathieu eussent été pécheurs, cependant leur pénitence fut si agréable que non seulement (85) le Seigneur leur pardonna leurs fautes, mais qu'il les combla de toutes sortes de bienfaits : car dit plus cruel persécuteur, il fit le plus fidèle prédicateur; d'un adultère et d'un homicide il fit un prophète et un psalmiste; d'un homme avide de richesses et d'un avare, il fit un apôtre et un évangéliste. C'est pour cela que les paroles de ces trois personnages se lisent si fréquemment : afin que personne ne désespère de son pardon, s'il veut se convertir, eu considérant la grandeur de la race dans ceux qui ont été de si grands coupables. D'après saint Ambroise, dans la conversion de saint Mathieu il y a certaines particularités à considérer du côté du médecin, du côté de l’infirme qui est guéri, et du côté de la manière de guérir. Dans le médecin il y a eu trois qualités, savoir : la sagesse qui connut, le mal dans sa racine, la bonté qui employa les remèdes, et la puissance qui changea saint. Mathieu si subitement. Saint Ambroise parle ainsi de ces trois qualités dans la personne de saint Mathieu lui-même : « Celui-là peut enlever la douleur de mon cœur et la pâleur de mon âme qui connaît ce qui est caché. » Voici ce qui a rapport à la sagesse. « J'ai trouvé le médecin qui habite les cieux et qui sème les remèdes, sur la terre. » Ceci se rapporte à la bonté. « Celui-là seul peut guérir mes blessures qui ne s'en connaît pas. » Ceci s'applique à la puissance. Or, dans cet infirme qui est guéri, c'est-à-dire dans saint Mathieu, il y a trois circonstances à considérer; toujours d'après saint Ambroise. Il se dépouilla parfaitement de la maladie, il resta agréable à celui qui le guérissait, et quand il eut reçu la santé, toujours il se conserva intact. C'est ce qui lui fait dire : « Déjà je ne suis plus ce publicain, je ne suis plus Lévi, je me suis dépouillé de Lévi, quand j'ai eu revêtu J.-C. », ce qui se rapporte à la première considération. « Je hais ma race, je change de vie, je marche seulement à votre suite, mon Seigneur Jésus, vous qui guérissez mes plaies. » Ceci, a trait à la deuxième considération. «Quel est celui qui me séparera de la charité de Dieu, laquelle réside en moi? Sera-ce la tribulation, la détresse, la faim? » C'est ce qui s'applique à la troisième. D'après saint Ambroise le mode de guérison fut triple : 1° J.-C. le lia avec des chaînes ; 2° il le cautérisa; 3° il le débarrassa de toutes ses pourritures. Ce qui fait dire à saint Ambroise dans la personne de saint Mathieu : « J'ai été lié avec les clous de la croix et dans les douces entraves de la charité ; enlevez, ô Jésus! la pourriture de mes péchés tandis que vous me tenez enchaîné dans les liens de la charité ; tranchez tout ce que vous trouverez de vicieux. » Premier mode. « Votre commandement, sera pour moi un caustique que je tiendrai sur moi, et si le caustique de votre commandement brûle, toutefois il ne brûle que les pourritures de la chair; de peur, que la contagion ne se glisse comme un virus ; et quand bien même le médicament tourmenterait, il ne laisse pas d'enlever l’ulcère. » Deuxième mode. « Venez de. suite, Seigneur, tranchez les passions cachées et profondes. Ouvrez vite la blessure, de peur que le mal ne s'aggrave; purifiez tout ce qui est fétide dans un bain salutaire. » Troisième mode. — L'évangile de, saint Mathieu fut trouvé écrit de sa main l’an du Seigneur 500, avec les os de saint Barnabé. Cet apôtre portait cet évangile avec lui et le posait sur les infirmes qui tous étaient guéris, tant par la foi de Barnabé que par les mérites de Mathieu.

La Légende dorée de Jacques de Voragine nouvellement traduite en français avec introduction, notices, notes et recherches sur les sources par l'abbé J.-B. M. Roze, chanoine honoraire de la Cathédrale d'Amiens, Édouard Rouveyre, éditeur, 76, rue de Seine, 76, Paris mdccccii

SOURCE : http://www.abbaye-saint-benoit.ch/voragine/tome03/141.htm

Saint Matthieu

Un des apôtres du Christ, martyr (1er s.)

A Capharnaüm, il y avait un poste de douane. Le fonctionnaire qui tenait ce poste s'appelait Lévi ou Matthieu. Il était fils d'Alphée. Un matin, Jésus l'appelle, Matthieu laisse ses registres et suit Jésus. (Marc 2, 14 - Luc 5, 27

A quelle attente secrète répond-il ainsi? En tout cas, il explose de joie, suit Jésus, l'invite à dîner, invite ses amis. Le fonctionnaire méticuleux devient missionnaire et, choisi comme apôtre, il sera aussi le premier évangéliste(*), relevant méticuleusement les paroles et les actions de Jésus. Ce publicain, méprisé par les scribes, est pourtant le plus juif des quatre évangélistes: 130 citations de l'Ancien Testament. Par la suite, la Tradition lui fait évangéliser l'Éthiopie.



Des internautes nous signalent:

- "St Matthieu est le patron des agents des douanes, et à cette occasion dans certaines directions les remises de la médaille des Douane aux agents a lieu le 21/09."

- "En Basse Sambre, région de l'Arrondissement judiciaire de Namur (Belgique), les professionnels de la comptabilité et de la fiscalité organisent le quatrième vendredi de septembre un banquet pour la fête de la saint Matthieu."

Au 21 septembre, au martyrologe romain, fête de saint Matthieu, Apôtre et Évangéliste. surnommé Lévi, appelé par Jésus à le suivre, il abandonna son métier de publicain ou collecteur d’impôts et, choisi dans le groupe des Douze, il écrivit son Évangile, où il montre que Jésus, le Christ, fils de David, fils d’Abraham, a porté à son terme l’ancienne Alliance.


Martyrologe romain

SOURCE : http://nominis.cef.fr/contenus/saint/1066/Saint-Matthieu.html


St. Matthew



The name Matthew is derived from the Hebrew Mattija, being shortened to Mattai in post-Biblical Hebrew. In Greek it is sometimes spelled Maththaios, BD, and sometimes Matthaios, CEKL, but grammarians do not agree as to which of the two spellings is the original.

Matthew is spoken of five times in the New Testament; first in Matthew 9:9, when called by Jesus to follow Him, and then four times in the list of the Apostles, where he is mentioned in the seventh (Luke 6:15, and Mark 3:18), and again in the eighth place (Matthew 10:3, and Acts 1:13). The man designated in Matthew 9:9, as "sitting in the custom house", and "named Matthew" is the same as Levi, recorded in Mark 2:14, and Luke 5:27, as "sitting at the receipt of custom". The account in the three Synoptics is identical, the vocation of Matthew-Levi being alluded to in the same terms. Hence Levi was the original name of the man who was subsequently called Matthew; the Maththaios legomenos of Matthew 9:9, would indicate this.

The fact of one man having two names is of frequent occurrence among the Jews. It is true that the same person usually bears a Hebrew name such as "Shaoul" and a Greek name, Paulos. However, we have also examples of individuals with two Hebrew names as, for instance, Joseph-Caiaphas, Simon-Cephas, etc. It is probable that Mattija, "gift of Iaveh", was the name conferred upon the tax-gatherer by Jesus Christ when He called him to the Apostolate, and by it he was thenceforth known among his Christian brethren, Levi being his original name.

Matthew, the son of Alpheus (Mark 2:14) was a Galilean, although Eusebius informs us that he was a Syrian. As tax-gatherer at Capharnaum, he collected custom duties for Herod Antipas, and, although a Jew, was despised by the Pharisees, who hated all publicans. When summoned by Jesus, Matthew arose and followed Him and tendered Him a feast in his house, where tax-gatherers and sinners sat at table with Christ and His disciples. This drew forth a protest from the Pharisees whom Jesus rebuked in these consoling words: "I came not to call the just, but sinners".

No further allusion is made to Matthew in the Gospels, except in the list of the Apostles. As a disciple and an Apostle he thenceforth followed Christ, accompanying Him up to the time of His Passion and, in Galilee, was one of the witnesses of His Resurrection. He was also amongst the Apostles who were present at the Ascension, and afterwards withdrew to an upper chamber, in Jerusalem, praying in union with Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and with his brethren (Acts 1:10 and 1:14).

Of Matthew's subsequent career we have only inaccurate or legendary data. St. Irenæus tells us that Matthew preached the Gospel among the Hebrews, St. Clement of Alexandria claiming that he did this for fifteen years, and Eusebius maintains that, before going into other countries, he gave them his Gospel in the mother tongue. Ancient writers are not as one as to the countries evangelized by Matthew, but almost all mention Ethiopia to the south of the Caspian Sea (not Ethiopia in Africa), and some Persia and the kingdom of the Parthians, Macedonia, and Syria.

According to Heracleon, who is quoted by Clement of Alexandria, Matthew did not die a martyr, but this opinion conflicts with all other ancient testimony. Let us add, however, that the account of his martyrdom in the apocryphal Greek writings entitled "Martyrium S. Matthæi in Ponto" and published by Bonnet, "Acta apostolorum apocrypha" (Leipzig, 1898), is absolutely devoid of historic value. Lipsius holds that this "Martyrium S. Matthæi", which contains traces of Gnosticism, must have been published in the third century.

There is a disagreement as to the place of St. Matthew's martyrdom and the kind of torture inflicted on him, therefore it is not known whether he was burned, stoned, or beheaded. The Roman Martyrology simply says: "S. Matthæi, qui in Æthiopia prædicans martyrium passus est".

Various writings that are now considered apocryphal, have been attributed to St. Matthew. In the "Evangelia apocrypha" (Leipzig, 1876), Tischendorf reproduced a Latin document entitled: "De Ortu beatæ Mariæ et infantia Salvatoris", supposedly written in Hebrew by St. Matthew the Evangelist, and translated into Latin by Jerome, the priest. It is an abridged adaptation of the "Protoevangelium" of St. James, which was a Greek apocryphal of the second century. This pseudo-Matthew dates from the middle or the end of the sixth century.

The Latin Church celebrates the feast of St. Matthew on 21 September, and the Greek Church on 16 November. St. Matthew is represented under the symbol of a winged man, carrying in his hand a lance as a characteristic emblem.


Jacquier, Jacque Eugène. "St. Matthew." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 10. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911.21 Sept. 2015 http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/10056b.htm


Gospel of St. Matthew

Canonicity

The earliest Christian communities looked upon the books of the Old Testament as Sacred Scripture, and read them at their religious assemblies. That the Gospels, which contained the words of Christ and the narrative of His life, soon enjoyed the same authority as the Old Testament, is made clear by Hegesippus (Eusebius, Church History IV.22.3), who tells us that in every city the Christians were faithful to the teachings of the law, the prophets, and the Lord. A book was acknowledged as canonical when the Church regarded it as Apostolic, and had it read at her assemblies. Hence, to establish the canonicity of the Gospel according to St. Matthew, we must investigate primitive Christian tradition for the use that was made of this document, and for indications proving that it was regarded as Scripture in the same manner as the Books of the Old Testament.

The first traces that we find of it are not indubitable, because post-Apostolic writers quoted the texts with a certain freedom, and principally because it is difficult to say whether the passages thus quoted were taken from oral tradition or from a written Gospel. The first Christian document whose date can be fixed with comparative certainty (95-98), is the Epistle of St. Clement to the Corinthians. It contains sayings of the Lord which closely resemble those recorded in the First Gospel (Clement, 16:17 = Matthew 11:29; Clem., 24:5 = Matthew 13:3), but it is possible that they are derived from Apostolic preaching, as, in chapter xiii, 2, we find a mixture of sentences from Matthew, Luke, and an unknown source. Again, we note a similar commingling of Evangelical texts elsewhere in the same Epistle of Clement, in the Doctrine of the Twelve Apostles, in the Epistle of Polycarp, and in Clement of Alexandria. Whether these these texts were thus combined in oral tradition or emanated from a collection of Christ's utterances, we are unable to say.
  • The Epistles of St. Ignatius (martyred 110-17) contain no literal quotation from the Holy Books; nevertheless, St. Ignatius borrowed expressions and some sentences from Matthew ("Ad Polyc.", 2:2 = Matthew 10:16; "Ephesians", 14:2 = Matthew 12:33, etc.). In his "Epistle to the Philadelphians" (v, 12), he speaks of the Gospel in which he takes refuge as in the Flesh of Jesus; consequently, he had an evangelical collection which he regarded as Sacred Writ, and we cannot doubt that the Gospel of St. Matthew formed part of it.
  • In the Epistle of Polycarp (110-17), we find various passages from St. Matthew quoted literally (12:3 = Matthew 5:44; 7:2 = Matthew 26:41, etc.).
  • The Doctrine of the Twelve Apostles (Didache) contains sixty-six passages that recall the Gospel of Matthew; some of them are literal quotations (8:2 = Matthew 6:7-13; 7:1 = Matthew 28:19; 11:7 = Matthew 12:31, etc.).
  • In the so-called Epistle of Barnabas (117-30), we find a passage from St. Matthew (xxii, 14), introduced by the scriptural formula, os gegraptai, which proves that the author considered the Gospel of Matthew equal in point of authority to the writings of the Old Testament.
  • The "Shepherd of Hermas" has several passages which bear close resemblance to passages of Matthew, but not a single literal quotation from it.
  • In his "Dialogue" (xcix, 8), St. Justin quotes, almost literally, the prayer of Christ in the Garden of Olives, in Matthew 26:39-40.
  • A great number of passages in the writings of St. Justin recall the Gospel of Matthew, and prove that he ranked it among the Memoirs of the Apostles which, he said, were called Gospels (I Apol., lxvi), were read in the services of the Church (ibid., i), and were consequently regarded as Scripture.
  • In his Plea for the Christians 12.11, Athenagoras (177) quotes almost literally sentences taken from the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:44).
  • Theophilus of Antioch (Ad Autol., III, xiii-xiv) quotes a passage from Matthew (v, 28, 32), and, according to St. Jerome (In Matt. Prol.), wrote a commentary on the Gospel of St. Matthew.
  • We find in the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs--drawn up, according to some critics, about the middle of the second century--numerous passages that closely resemble the Gospel of Matthew (Test. Gad, 5:3; 6:6; 5:7 = Matthew 18:15, 35; Test. Joshua 1:5, 6 = Matthew 25:35-36, etc.), but Dr. Charles maintains that the Testaments were written in Hebrew in the first century before Jesus Christ, and translated into Greek towards the middle of the same century. In this event, the Gospel of Matthew would depend upon the Testaments and not the Testaments upon the Gospel. The question is not yet settled, but it seems to us that there is a greater probability that the Testaments, at least in their Greek version, are of later date than the Gospel of Matthew, they certainly received numerous Christian additions.
  • The Greek text of the Clementine Homilies contains some quotations from Matthew (Hom. 3:52 = Matthew 15:13); in Hom. xviii, 15, the quotation from Matthew 13:35, is literal.
  • Passages which suggest the Gospel of Matthew might be quoted from heretical writings of the second century and from apocryphal gospels--the Gospel of Peter, the Protoevangelium of James, etc., in which the narratives, to a considerable extent, are derived from the Gospel of Matthew.
  • Tatian incorporated the Gospel of Matthew in his "Diatesseron"; we shall quote below the testimonies of Papias and St. Irenæus. For the latter, the Gospel of Matthew, from which he quotes numerous passages, was one of the four that constituted the quadriform Gospel dominated by a single spirit.
  • Tertullian (Adv. Marc., IV, ii) asserts, that the "Instrumentum evangelicum" was composed by the Apostles, and mentions Matthew as the author of a Gospel (De carne Christi, xii).
  • Clement of Alexandria (Stromata III.13) speaks of the four Gospels that have been transmitted, and quotes over three hundred passages from the Gospel of Matthew, which he introduces by the formula, en de to kata Matthaion euaggelio or by phesin ho kurios.
It is unnecessary to pursue our inquiry further. About the middle of the third century, the Gospel of Matthew was received by the whole Christian Church as a Divinely inspired document, and consequently as canonical. The testimony of Origen ("In Matt.", quoted by Eusebius, Church History III.25.4), of Eusebius (op. cit., III, xxiv, 5; xxv, 1), and of St. Jerome ("De Viris Ill.", iii, "Prolog. in Matt.,") are explicit in this respect. It might be added that this Gospel is found in the most ancient versions: Old Latin, Syriac, and Egyptian. Finally, it stands at the head of the Books of the New Testament in the Canon of the Council of Laodicea (363) and in that of St. Athanasius (326-73), and very probably it was in the last part of the Muratorian Canon. Furthermore, the canonicity of the Gospel of St. Matthew is accepted by the entire Christian world.

Authenticity of the First Gospel

The question of authenticity assumes an altogether special aspect in regard to the First Gospel. The early Christian writers assert that St. Matthew wrote a Gospel in Hebrew; this Hebrew Gospel has, however, entirely disappeared, and the Gospel which we have, and from which ecclesiastical writers borrow quotations as coming from the Gospel of Matthew, is in Greek. What connection is there between this Hebrew Gospel and this Greek Gospel, both of which tradition ascribes to St. Matthew? Such is the problem that presents itself for solution. Let us first examine the facts.

Testimony of Tradition

According to Eusebius (Church History III.39.16), Papias said that Matthew collected (synetaxato; or, according to two manuscripts, synegraphato, composed) ta logia (the oracles or maxims of Jesus) in the Hebrew (Aramaic) language, and that each one translated them as best he could.

Three questions arise in regard to this testimony of Papias on Matthew: (1) What does the word logia signify? Does it mean only detached sentences or sentences incorporated in a narrative, that is to say, a Gospel such as that of St. Matthew? Among classical writers, logion, the diminutive of logos, signifies the "answer of oracles", a "prophecy"; in the Septuagint and in Philo, "oracles of God" (ta deka logia, the Ten Commandments). It sometimes has a broader meaning and seems to include both facts and sayings. In the New Testament the signification of the word logion is doubtful, and if, strictly speaking, it may be claimed to indicate teachings and narratives, the meaning "oracles" is the more natural. However, writers contemporary with Papias--e.g. St. Clement of Rome (Ad Cor., liii), St. Irenæus (Against Heresies I.8.2), Clement of Alexandria (Stromata I) and Origen (De Principiis IV.11)--have used it to designate facts and sayings. The work of Papias was entitled "Exposition of the Oracles" [logion] of the Lord", and it also contained narratives (Eusebius, Church History III.39.9). On the other hand, speaking of the Gospel of Mark, Papias says that this Evangelist wrote all that Christ had said and done, but adds that he established no connection between the Lord's sayings (suntaxin ton kuriakon logion). We may believe that here logion comprises all that Christ said and did. Nevertheless, it would seem that, if the two passages on Mark and Matthew followed each other in Papias as in Eusebius, the author intended to emphasize a difference between them, by implying that Mark recorded the Lord's words and deeds and Matthew chronicled His discourses. The question is still unsolved; it is, however, possible that, in Papias, the term logia means deeds and teachings.

(2) Second, does Papias refer to oral or written translations of Matthew, when he says that each one translated the sayings "as best he could"? As there is nowhere any allusion to numerous Greek translations of the Logia of Matthew, it is probable that Papias speaks here of the oral translations made at Christian meetings, similar to the extemporaneous translations of the Old Testament made in the synagogues. This would explain why Papias mentions that each one (each reader) translated "as best he could".

(3) Finally, were the Logia of Matthew and the Gospel to which ecclesiastical writers refer written in Hebrew or Aramaic? Both hypotheses are held. Papias says that Matthew wrote the Logia in the Hebrew (Hebraidi) language; St. Irenæus and Eusebius maintain that he wrote his gospel for the Hebrews in their national language, and the same assertion is found in several writers. Matthew would, therefore, seem to have written in modernized Hebrew, the language then used by the scribes for teaching. But, in the time of Christ, the national language of the Jews was Aramaic, and when, in the New Testament, there is mention of the Hebrew language (Hebrais dialektos), it is Aramaic that is implied. Hence, the aforesaid writers may allude to the Aramaic and not to the Hebrew. Besides, as they assert, the Apostle Matthew wrote his Gospel to help popular teaching. To be understood by his readers who spoke Aramaic, he would have had to reproduce the original catechesis in this language, and it cannot be imagined why, or for whom, he should have taken the trouble to write it in Hebrew, when it would have had to be translated thence into Aramaic for use in religious services. Moreover, Eusebius (Church History III.24.6) tells us that the Gospel of Matthew was a reproduction of his preaching, and this we know, was in Aramaic. An investigation of the Semitic idioms observed in the Gospel does not permit us to conclude as to whether the original was in Hebrew or Aramaic, as the two languages are so closely related. Besides, it must be borne in mind that the greater part of these Semitisms simply reproduce colloquial Greek and are not of Hebrew or Aramaic origin. However, we believe the second hypothesis to be the more probable, viz., that Matthew wrote his Gospel in Aramaic.

Let us now recall the testimony of the other ecclesiastical writers on the Gospel of St. Matthew. St. Irenæus (Adv. Haer., III, i, 2) affirms that Matthew published among the Hebrews a Gospel which he wrote in their own language. Eusebius (Church History V.10.3) says that, in India, Pantænus found the Gospel according to St. Matthew written in the Hebrew language, the Apostle Bartholomew having left it there. Again, in Church History VI.25.3-4, Eusebius tells us that Origen, in his first book on the Gospel of St. Matthew, states that he has learned from tradition that the First Gospel was written by Matthew, who, having composed it in Hebrew, published it for the converts from Judaism. According to Eusebius (Church History III.24.6), Matthew preached first to the Hebrews and, when obliged to go to other countries, gave them his Gospel written in his native tongue. St. Jerome has repeatedly declared that Matthew wrote his Gospel in Hebrew ("Ad Damasum", xx; "Ad Hedib.", iv), but says that it is not known with certainty who translated it into Greek. St. Cyril of Jerusalem, St. Gregory of Nazianzus, St. Epiphanius, St. John Chrysostom, St. Augustine, etc., and all the commentators of the Middle Ages repeat that Matthew wrote his Gospel in Hebrew. Erasmus was the first to express doubts on this subject: "It does not seem probable to me that Matthew wrote in Hebrew, since no one testifies that he has seen any trace of such a volume." This is not accurate, as St. Jerome uses Matthew's Hebrew text several times to solve difficulties of interpretation, which proves that he had it at hand. Pantænus also had it, as, according to St. Jerome ("De Viris Ill.", xxxvi), he brought it back to Alexandria. However, the testimony of Pantænus is only second-hand, and that of Jerome remains rather ambiguous, since in neither case is it positively known that the writer did not mistake the Gospel according to the Hebrews (written of course in Hebrew) for the Hebrew Gospel of St. Matthew. However all ecclesiastical writers assert that Matthew wrote his Gospel in Hebrew, and, by quoting the Greek Gospel and ascribing it to Matthew, thereby affirm it to be a translation of the Hebrew Gospel.




Examination of the Greek Gospel of St. Matthew

Our chief object is to ascertain whether the characteristics of the Greek Gospel indicate that it is a translation from the Aramaic, or that it is an original document; but, that we may not have to revert to the peculiarities of the Gospel of Matthew, we shall here treat them in full.

The language of the Gospel

St. Matthew used about 1475 words, 137 of which are apax legomena (words used by him alone of all the New Testament writers). Of these latter 76 are classical; 21 are found in the Septuagint; 15 (battologein biastes, eunouchizein etc.) were introduced for the first time by Matthew, or at least he was the first writer in whom they were discovered; 8 words (aphedon, gamizein, etc.) were employed for the first time by Matthew and Mark, and 15 others (ekchunesthai, epiousios, etc.) by Matthew and another New Testament writer. It is probable that, at the time of the Evangelist, all these words were in current use. Matthew's Gospel contains many peculiar expressions which help to give decided colour to his style. Thus, he employs thirty-four times the expression basileia ton ouranon; this is never found in Mark and Luke, who, in parallel passages, replace it by basileia tou theou, which also occurs four times in Matthew. We must likewise note the expressions: ho pater ho epouranions, ho en tois ouranois, sunteleia tou alonos, sunairein logon, eipein ti kata tinos, mechri tes semeron, poiesai os, osper, en ekeino to kairo, egeiresthai apo, etc. The same terms often recur: tote (90 times), apo tote, kai idou etc. He adopts the Greek form Ierisiluma for Jerusalem, and not Ierousaleu, which he uses but once. He has a predilection for the preposition apo, using it even when Mark and Luke use ek, and for the expression uios David. Moreover, Matthew is fond of repeating a phrase or a special construction several times within quite a short interval (cf. ii, 1, 13, and 19; iv, 12, 18, and v, 2; viii, 2-3 and 28; ix, 26 and 31; xiii, 44, 4.5, and 47, etc.). Quotations from the Old Testament are variously introduced, as: outos, kathos gegraptai, ina, or opos, plerothe to rethen uto Kuriou dia tou prophetou, etc. These peculiarities of language, especially the repetition of the same words and expressions, would indicate that the Greek Gospel was an original rather than a translation, and this is confirmed by the paronomasiæ (battologein, polulogia; kophontai kai ophontai, etc.), which ought not to have been found in the Aramaic, by the employment of the genitive absolute, and, above all, by the linking of clauses through the use of men . . . oe, a construction that is peculiarly Greek. However, let us observe that these various characteristics prove merely that the writer was thoroughly conversant with his language, and that he translated his text rather freely. Besides, these same characteristics are noticeable in Christ's sayings, as well as in the narratives, and, as these utterances were made in Aramaic, they were consequently translated; thus, the construction men . . . de (except in one instance) and all the examples of paronomasia occur in discourses of Christ. The fact that the genitive absolute is used mainly in the narrative portions, only denotes that the latter were more freely translated; besides, Hebrew possesses an analogous grammatical construction. On the other hand, a fair number of Hebraisms are noticed in Matthew's Gospel (ouk eginosken auten, omologesei en emoi, el exestin, ti emin kai soi, etc.), which favour the belief that the original was Aramaic. Still, it remains to be proved that these Hebraisms are not colloquial Greek expressions.

General character of the Gospel

Distinct unity of plan, an artificial arrangement of subject-matter, and a simple, easy style--much purer than that of Mark--suggest an original rather than a translation. When the First Gospel is compared with books translated from the Hebrew, such as those of the Septuagint, a marked difference is at once apparent. The original Hebrew shines through every line of the latter, whereas, in the First Gospel Hebraisms are comparatively rare, and are merely such as might be looked for in a book written by a Jew and reproducing Jewish teaching. However, these observations are not conclusive in favour of a Greek original. In the first place, the unity of style that prevails throughout the book, would rather prove that we have a translation. It is certain that a good portion of the matter existed first in Aramaic--at all events, the sayings of Christ, and thus almost three-quarters of the Gospel. Consequently, these at least the Greek writer has translated. And, since no difference in language and style can be detected between the sayings of Christ and the narratives that are claimed to have been composed in Greek, it would seem that these latter are also translated from the Aramaic. This conclusion is based on the fact that they are of the same origin as the discourses. The unity of plan and the artificial arrangement of subject-matter could as well have been made in Matthew's Aramaic as in the Greek document; the fine Greek construction, the lapidary style, the elegance and good order claimed as characteristic of the Gospel, are largely a matter of opinion, the proof being that critics do not agree on this question. Although the phraseology is not more Hebraic than in the other Gospels, still it not much less so. To sum up, from the literary examination of the Greek Gospel no certain conclusion can be drawn against the existence of a Hebrew Gospel of which our First Gospel would be a translation; and inversely, this examination does not prove the Greek Gospel to be a translation of an Aramaic original.

Quotations from the Old Testament

It is claimed that most of the quotations from the Old Testament are borrowed from the Septuagint, and that this fact proves that the Gospel of Matthew was composed in Greek. The first proposition is not accurate, and, even if it were, it would not necessitate this conclusion. Let us examine the facts. As established by Stanton ("The Gospels as Historical Documents", II, Cambridge, 1909, p. 342), the quotations from the Old Testament in the First Gospel are divided into two classes. In the first are ranged all those quotations the object of which is to show that the prophecies have been realized in the events of the life of Jesus. They are introduced by the words: "Now all this was done that it might be fulfilled which the Lord spoke by the prophet," or other similar expressions. The quotations of this class do not in general correspond exactly with any particular text. Three among them (ii, 15; viii, 17; xxvii, 9, 10) are borrowed from the Hebrew; five (ii, 18; iv, 15, 16; xii, 18-21; xiii, 35; xxi, 4, 5) bear points of resemblance to the Septuagint, but were not borrowed from that version. In the answer of the chief priests and scribes to Herod (ii, 6), the text of the Old Testament is slightly modified, without, however, conforming either to the Hebrew or the Septuagint. The Prophet Micheas writes (5:2): "And thou Bethlehem, Ephrata, art a little one among the thousands of Juda"; whereas Matthew says (ii, 6): "And thou Bethlehem the land of Juda art not the least among the princes of Juda". A single quotation of this first class (iii, 3) conforms to the Septuagint, and another (i, 23) is almost conformable. These quotations are to be referred to the first Evangelist himself, and relate to facts, principally to the birth of Jesus (i, ii), then to the mission of John the Baptist, the preaching of the Gospel by Jesus in Galilee, the miracles of Jesus, etc. It is surprising that the narratives of the Passion and the Resurrection of Our Lord, the fulfilment of the very clear and numerous prophecies of the Old Testament, should never be brought into relation with these prophecies. Many critics, e.g. Burkitt and Stanton, think that the quotations of the first class are borrowed from a collection of Messianic passages, Stanton being of opinion that they were accompanied by the event that constituted their realization. This "catena of fulfilments of prophecy", as he calls it, existed originally in Aramaic, but whether the author of the First Gospel had a Greek translation of it is uncertain. The second class of quotations from the Old Testament is chiefly composed of those repeated either by the Lord or by His interrogators. Except in two passages, they are introduced by one of the formula: "It is written"; "As it is written"; "Have you not read?" "Moses said". Where Matthew alone quotes the Lord's words, the quotation is sometimes borrowed from the Septuagint (v, 21 a, 27, 38), or, again, it is a free translation which we are unable to refer to any definite text (v, 21 b, 23, 43). In those Passages where Matthew runs parallel with Mark and Luke or with either of them, all the quotations save one (xi, 10) are taken almost literally from the Septuagint.

Analogy to the Gospels of St. Mark and St. Luke

From a first comparison of the Gospel of Matthew with the two other Synoptic Gospels we find
  • that 330 verses are peculiar to it alone; that it has between 330 and 370 in common with both the others, from 170 to 180 with Mark's, and from 230 to 240 with Luke's;
  • that in like parts the same ideas are expressed sometimes in identical and sometimes in different terms; that Matthew and Mark most frequently use the same expressions, Matthew seldom agreeing with Luke against Mark. The divergence in their use of the same expressions is in the number of a noun or the use of two different tenses of the same verb. The construction of sentences is at times identical and at others different.
  • That the order of narrative is, with certain exceptions which we shall later indicate, almost the same in Matthew, Mark, and Luke.
These facts indicate that the three Synoptists are not independent of one another. They borrow their subject-matter from the same oral source or else from the same written documents. To declare oneself upon this alternative, it would be necessary to treat the synoptic question, and on this critics have not vet agreed. We shall, therefore, restrict ourselves to what concerns the Gospel of St. Matthew. From a second comparison of this Gospel with Mark and Luke we ascertain:
  • that Mark is to be found almost complete in Matthew, with certain divergences which we shall note;
  • that Matthew records many of our Lord's discourses in common with Luke;
  • that Matthew has special passages which are unknown to Mark and Luke.
Let us examine these three points in detail, in an endeavour to learn how the Gospel of Matthew was composed.


(a) Analogy to Mark
  • Mark is found complete in Matthew, with the exception of numerous slight omissions and the following pericopes: Mark 1:23-28, 35-39; 4:26-29; 7:32-36; 8:22-26; 9:39-40; 12:41-44. In all, 31 verses are omitted.
  • The general order is identical except that, in chapters 5-13, Matthew groups facts of the same nature and sayings conveying the same ideas. Thus, in Matthew 8:1-15, we have three miracles that are separated in Mark; in Matthew 8:23-9:9, there are gathered together incidents otherwise arranged in Mark, etc. Matthew places sentences in a different environment from that given them by Mark. For instance, in 5:15, Matthew inserts a verse occurring in Mark 4:21, that should have been placed after 13:23, etc.
  • In Matthew the narrative is usually shorter because he suppresses a great number of details. Thus, in Mark, we read: "And the wind ceased: and there was made a great calm", whereas in Matthew the first part of the sentence is omitted. All unnecessary particulars are dispensed with, such as the numerous picturesque features and indications of time, place, and number, in which Mark's narrative abounds.
  • Sometimes, however, Matthew is the more detailed. Thus, in 12:22-45, he gives more of Christ's discourse than we find in Mark 3:20-30, and has in addition a dialogue between Jesus and the scribes. In chapter 13, Matthew dwells at greater length than Mark 4 upon the object of the parables, and introduces those of the cockle and the leaven, neither of which Mark records. Moreover, Our Lord's apocalyptic discourse is much longer in Matthew 24-25 (97 verses), than in Mark 13 (37 verses).
  • Changes of terms or divergences in the mode of expression are extremely frequent. Thus, Matthew often uses eutheos, when Mark has euthus; men . . . de, instead of kai, as in Mark, etc.; the aorist instead of the imperfect employed by Mark. He avoids double negatives and the construction of the participle with eimi; his style is more correct and less harsh than that of Mark; he resolves Mark's compound verbs, and replaces by terms in current use the rather unusual expressions introduced by Mark, etc.
  • He is free from the lack of precision which, to a slight extent, characterizes Mark. Thus, Matthew says "the tetrarch" and not "the king" as Mark does, in speaking of Herod Antipas; "on the third day" instead.of "in three days". At times the changes are more important. Instead of "Levi, son of Alpheus," he says: "a man named Matthew"; he mentions two demoniacs and two blind persons, whereas Mark mentions only one of each, etc.
  • Matthew extenuates or omits everything which, in Mark, might be construed in a sense derogatory to the Person of Christ or unfavourable to the disciples. Thus, in speaking of Jesus, he suppresses the following phrases: "And looking round about on them with anger" (Mark 3:5); "And when his friends had heard of it, they went out to lay hold on him. For they said: He is beside himself" (Mark 3:21), etc. Speaking of the disciples, he does not say, like Mark, that "they understood not the word, and they were afraid to ask him" (ix, 3 1; cf. viii, 17, 18); or that the disciples were in a state of profound amazement, because "they understood not concerning the loaves; for their heart was blinded" (vi, 52), etc. He likewise omits whatever might shock his readers, as the saying of the Lord recorded by Mark: "The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath" (ii, 27). Omissions or alterations of this kind are very numerous. It must, however, be remarked that between Matthew and Mark there are many points of resemblance in the construction of sentences (Matthew 9:6; Mark 2:10; Matthew 26:47 = Mark 14:43, etc.); in their mode of expression, often unusual. and in short phrases (Matthew 9:16 = Mark 2:21; Matthew 16:28 = Mark 9:1; Matthew 20:25 = Mark 10:42); in some pericopes, narratives, or discourses, where the greater part of the terms are identical (Matthew 4:18-22; Mark 1:16-20; Matthew 26:36-38 = Mark 14:32-34; Matthew 9:5-6 = Mark 2:9-11), etc.
(b) Analogy to Luke

A comparison of Matthew and Luke reveals that they have but one narrative in common, viz., the cure of the centurion's servant (Matthew 8:5-13 = Luke 7:1-10). The additional matter common to these Evangelists, consists of the discourses and sayings of Christ. In Matthew His discourses are usually gathered together, whereas in Luke they are more frequently scattered. Nevertheless, Matthew and Luke have in common the following discourses: the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7, the Sermon in the Plain, Luke 6); the Lord's exhortation to His disciples whom He sends forth on a mission (Matthew 10:19-20, 26-33 = Luke 12:11-12, 2-9); the discourse on John the Baptist (Matthew 11 = Luke 7); the discourse on the Last Judgment (Matthew 24; Luke 17). Moreover, these two Evangelists possess in common a large number of detached sentences, e.g., Matthew 3:7b-19:12 = Luke 3:7b-9, 17; Matthew 4:3-11 = Luke 4:3-13; Matthew 9:37-38 = Luke 10:2; Matthew 12:43-45 = Luke 11:24-26 etc. (cf. Rushbrooke, "Synopticon", pp. 134-70). However, in these parallel passages of Matthew and Luke there are numerous differences of expression, and even some divergences in ideas or in the manner of their presentation. It is only necessary to recall the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12 = Luke 6:20b-25): in Matthew there are eight beatitudes, whereas in Luke there are only four, which, while approximating to Matthew's In point of conception, differ from them in general form and expression. In addition to having in common parts that Mark has not, Matthew and Luke sometimes agree against Mark in parallel narratives. There have been counted 240 passages wherein Matthew and Luke harmonize with each other, but disagree with Mark in the way of presenting events, and particularly in the use of the same terms and the same grammatical emendations. Matthew and Luke omit the very pericopes that occur in Mark.

(c) Parts peculiar to Matthew

These are numerous, as Matthew has 330 verses that are distinctly his own. Sometimes long passages occur, such as those recording the Nativity and early Childhood (i, ii), the cure of the two blind men and one dumb man (ix, 27-34), the death of Judas (xxvii, 3-10), the guard placed at the Sepulchre (xxvii, 62-66), the imposture of the chief priests (xxviii, 11-15), the apparition of Jesus in Galilee (xxviii, 16-20), a great portion of the Sermon on the Mount (v, 17-37; vi, 1-8; vii, 12-23), parables (xiii, 24-30; 35-53; xxv, 1-13), the Last Judgment (xxv, 31-46), etc., and sometimes detached sentences, as in xxiii, 3, 28, 33; xxvii, 25, etc. (cf. Rushbrooke, "Synopticon", pp.171-97). Those passages in which Matthew reminds us that facts in the life of Jesus are the fulfilment of the prophecies, are likewise noted as peculiar to him, but of this we have already spoken.

These various considerations have given rise to a great number of hypotheses, varying in detail, but agreeing fundamentally. According to the majority of present critics--H. Holtzmann, Wendt, Jülicher, Wernle, von Soden, Wellhausen, Harnack, B. Weiss, Nicolardot, W. Allen, Montefiore, Plummer, and Stanton--the author of the First Gospel used two documents: the Gospel of Mark in its present or in an earlier form, and a collection of discourses or sayings, which is designated by the letter Q. The repetitions occurring in Matthew (v, 29, 30 = xviii, 8, 9; v, 32 xix, 9; x, 22a = xxiv, 9b; xii, 39b = xvi, 4a, etc.) may be explained by the fact that two sources furnished the writer with material for his Gospel. Furthermore, Matthew used documents of his own. In this hypothesis the Greek Gospel is supposed to be original. and not the translation of a complete Aramaic Gospel. It is admitted that the collection of sayings was originally Aramaic, but it is disputed whether the Evangelist had it in this form or in that of a Greek translation. Critics also differ regarding the manner in which Matthew used the sources. Some would have it that Matthew the Apostle was not the author of the First Gospel, but merely the collector of the sayings of Christ mentioned by Papias. "However", says Jülicher, "the author's individuality is so strikingly evident in his style and tendencies that it is impossible to consider the Gospel a mere compilation". Most critics are of a like opinion. Endeavours have been made to reconcile the information furnished by tradition with the facts resulting from the study of the Gospel as follows: Matthew was known to have collected in Aramaic the sayings of Christ, and, on the other hand, there existed at the beginning of the second century a Gospel containing the narratives found in Mark and the sayings gathered by Matthew in Aramaic. It is held that the Greek Gospel ascribed to Matthew is a translation of it, made by him or by other translators whose names it was later attempted to ascertain.

To safeguard tradition further, while taking into consideration the facts we have already noted, it might be supposed that the three Synoptists worked upon the same catechesis, either oral or written and originally in Aramaic, and that they had detached portions of this catechesis, varying in literary condition. The divergences may be explained first by this latter fact, and then by the hypothesis of different translations and by each Evangelist's peculiar method of treating the subject-matter, Matthew and Luke especially having adapted it to the purpose of their Gospel. There is nothing to prevent the supposition that Matthew worked on the Aramaic catechesis; the literary emendations of Mark's text by Matthew may have been due to the translator, who was more conversant with Greek than was the popular preacher who furnished the catechesis reproduced by Mark. In reality, the only difficulty lies in explaining the similarity of style between Matthew and Mark. First of all, we may observe that the points of resemblance are less numerous than they are said to be. As we have seen, they are very rare in the narratives at all events, much more so than in the discourses of Christ. Why, then, should we not suppose that the three Synoptists, depending upon the same Aramaic catechesis, sometimes agreed in rendering similar Aramaic expressions in the same Greek words? It is also possible to suppose that sayings of Christ, which in the three Synoptic Gospels (or in two of them) differed only in a few expressions, were unified by copyists or other persons. To us it seems probable that Matthew's Greek translator used Mark's Greek Gospel, especially for Christ's discourses. Luke, also, may have similarly utilized Matthew's Greek Gospel in rendering the discourses of Christ. Finally, even though we should suppose that Matthew were the author only of the Logia, the full scope of which we do not know, and that a part of his Greek Gospel is derived from that of Mark, we would still have a right to ascribe this First Gospel to Matthew as its principal author.

Other hypotheses have been put forth. In Zahn's opinion, Matthew wrote a complete Gospel in Aramaic; Mark was familiar with this document, which he used while abridging it. Matthew's Greek translator utilized Mark, but only for form, whereas Luke depended upon Mark and secondary sources, but was not acquainted with Matthew. According to Belser, Matthew first wrote his Gospel in Hebrew, a Greek translation of it being made in 59-60, and Mark depended on Matthew's Aramaic document and Peter's preaching. Luke made use of Mark, of Matthew (both in Aramaic and Greek), and also of oral tradition. According to Camerlynck and Coppieters, the First Gospel in its present form was composed either by Matthew or some other Apostolic writer long before the end of the first century, by combining the Aramaic work of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke.




Plan and contents of the First Gospel

The author did not wish to compose a biography of Christ, but to demonstrate, by recording His words and the deeds of His life, that He was the Messias, the Head and Founder of the Kingdom of God, and the promulgator of its laws. One can scarcely fail to recognize that, except in a few parts (e.g. the Childhood and the Passion), the arrangement of events and of discourses is artificial. Matthew usually combines facts and precepts of a like nature. Whatever the reason, he favours groups of three (thirty-eight of which may be counted)--three divisions in the genealogy of Jesus (i, 17), three temptations (iv, 1-11), three examples of justice (vi, 1-18), three cures (viii, 1-15), three parables of the seed (xiii, 1-32), three denials of Peter (xxvi, 69-75), etc.; of five (these are less numerous)--five long discourses (v-vii, 27; x; xiii, 1-52; xviii; xxiv-xxv), ending with the same formula (Kai egeneto, ote etelesen ho Iesous), five examples of the fulfilment of the law (v, 21-48), etc.; and of seven--seven parables (xiii), seven maledictions (xxiii), seven brethren (xxii, 25), etc. The First Gospel can be very naturally divided as follows:-

Introduction (1-2)

The genealogy of Jesus, the prediction of His Birth, the Magi, the Flight into Egypt, the Massacre of the Innocents, the return to Nazareth, and the life there.

The public ministry of Jesus (3-25)

This may be divided into three parts, according to the place where He exercised it.

In Galilee (3-18)

(a) Preparation for the public ministry of Jesus (3:1 to 4:11)
John the Baptist, the Baptism of Jesus, the Temptation, the return to Galilee.
(b) The preaching of the Kingdom of God (4:17 to 18:35)
(1) the preparation of the Kingdom by the preaching of penance, the call of the disciples, and numerous cures (iv, 17-25), the promulgation of the code of the Kingdom of God in the Sermon on the Mount (v, I-vii, 29);
(2) the propagation of the Kingdom in Galilee (viii, I-xviii, 35). He groups together:
  • the deeds by which Jesus established that He was the Messias and the King of the Kingdom: various cures, the calming of the tempest, missionary journeys through the land, the calling of the Twelve Apostles, the principles that should guide them in their missionary travels (viii, 1-x, 42);
  • various teachings of Jesus called forth by circumstances: John's message and the Lord's answer, Christ's confutation of the false charges of the Pharisees, the departure and return of the unclean spirit (xi, 1-xii, 50);
  • finally, the parables of the Kingdom, of which Jesus makes known and explains the end (xiii, 3-52).
(3) Matthew then relates the different events that terminate the preaching in Galilee: Christ's visit to Nazareth (xiii, 53-58), the multiplication of the loaves, the walking on the lake, discussions with the Pharisees concerning legal purifications, the confession of Peter at Cæsarea, the Transfiguration of Jesus, prophecy regarding the Passion and Resurrection, and teachings on scandal, fraternal correction, and the forgiveness of injuries (xiv, 1-xviii, 35).

Outside Galilee or the way to Jerusalem (19-20)

Jesus leaves Galilee and goes beyond the Jordan; He discusses divorce with the Pharisees; answers the rich young man, and teaches self-denial and the danger of wealth; explains by the parable of the labourers how the elect will be called; replies to the indiscreet question of the mother of the sons of Zebedee, and cures two blind men of Jericho.

In Jerusalem (21-25)

Jesus makes a triumphal entry into Jerusalem; He curses the barren fig tree and enters into a dispute with the chief priests and the Pharisees who ask Him by what authority He has banished the sellers from the Temple, and answers them by the parables of the two sons, the murderous husbandmen, and the marriage of the king's son. New questions are put to Jesus concerning the tribute, the resurrection of the dead, and the greatest commandment. Jesus anathematizes the scribes and Pharisees and foretells the events that will precede and accompany the fall of Jerusalem and the end of the world.

The Passion and the Resurrection of Jesus (26-28)

The Passion (26-27)

Events are now hurrying to a close. The Sanhedrin plots for the death of Jesus, a woman anoints the feet of the Lord, and Judas betrays his Master. Jesus eats the pasch with His disciples and institutes the Eucharist. In the Garden of Olives, He enters upon His agony and offers up the sacrifice of His life. He is arrested and brought before the Sanhedrin. Peter denies Christ; Judas hangs himself. Jesus is condemned to death by Pilate and crucified; He is buried, and a guard is placed at the Sepulchre (xxvi, 1-xxvii, 66).

The Resurrection (28)

Jesus rises the third day and appears first to the holy women at Jerusalem, then in Galilee to His disciples, whom He sends forth to propagate throughout the world the Kingdom of God.

Object and doctrinal teaching of the First Gospel

Immediately after the descent of the Holy Ghost upon the Apostles, Peter preached that Jesus, crucified and risen, was the Messias, the Saviour of the World, and proved this assertion by relating the life, death, and resurrection of the Lord. This was the first Apostolic teaching, and was repeated by the other preachers of the Gospel, of whom tradition tells us that Matthew was one. This Evangelist proclaimed the Gospel to the Hebrews and, before his departure from Jerusalem, wrote in his mother tongue the Gospel that he had preached. Hence the aim of the Evangelist was primarily apologetic. He wished to demonstrate to his readers, whether these were converts or still unbelieving Jews, that in Jesus the ancient prophecies had been realized in their entirety. This thesis includes three principal ideas:

Jesus as Messias

St. Matthew has shown that in Jesus all the ancient prophesies on the Messias were fulfilled. He was the Emmanuel, born of a Virgin Mother (1:22-23), announced by Isaias (7:14); He was born at Bethlehem (ii, 6), as had been predicted by Micheas (v, 2), He went to Egypt and was recalled thence (ii, 15) as foretold by Osee (11:1). According to the prediction of Isaias (40:3), He was heralded by a precursor, John the Baptist (iii, 1 sqq.); He cured all the sick (viii, 16 so.), that the Prophecy of Isaias (53:4) might be fulfilled; and in all His actions He was indeed the same of whom this prophet had spoken (xiii, 1). His teaching in parables (13:3) was conformable to what Isaias had said (6:9). Finally, He suffered, and the entire drama of His Passion and Death was a fulfilment of the prophecies of Scripture (Isaiah 53:3-12; Psalm 21:13-22). Jesus proclaimed Himself the Messias by His approbation of Peter's confession (16:16-17) and by His answer to the high priest (26:63-64). St. Matthew also endeavours to show that the Kingdom inaugurated by Jesus Christ is the Messianic Kingdom. From the beginning of His public life, Jesus proclaims that the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand (4:17); in the Sermon on the Mount He promulgates the charter of this kingdom, and in parables He speaks of its nature and conditions. In His answer to the envoys of John the Baptist Jesus specifically declares that the Messianic Kingdom, foretold by the Prophets, has come to pass, and He describes its characteristics: "The blind see, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead rise again, the poor have the gospel preached to them." It was in these terms, that Isaias had described the future kingdom (35:5-6). St. Matthew records a very formal expression of the Lord concerning the coming of the Kingdom: "But if I by the Spirit of God cast out devils, then is the kingdom of God come upon you" (xii, 28). Moreover, Jesus could call Himself the Messias only inasmuch as the Kingdom of God had come.

Exclusion of Jews from messianic kingdom

The Jews as a nation were rejected because of their sins, and were to have no part in the Kingdom of Heaven. This rejection had been several times predicted by the prophets, and St. Matthew shows that it was because of its incredulity that Israel was excluded from the Kingdom, he dwells on all the events in which the increasing obduracy of the Jewish nation is conspicuous, manifested first in the princes and then in the hatred of the people who beseech Pilate to put Jesus to death. Thus the Jewish nation itself was accountable for its exclusion from the Messianic kingdom.

Universal proclamation of the Gospel

That the pagans were called to salvation instead of the Jews, Jesus declared explicitly to the unbelieving Israelites: "Therefore I say to you that the kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and shall be given to a nation yielding the fruits thereof" (xxi, 43); "He that soweth the good seed, is the Son of man. And the field is the world" (xiii, 37-38). "And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a testimony to all nations, and then shall the consummation come" (xxiv, 14). Finally, appearing to His Apostles in Galilee, Jesus gives them this supreme command: "All power is given to me in heaven and in earth. Going therefore, teach ye all nations" (xxviii 18, 19). These last words of Christ are the summary of the First Gospel. Efforts have been made to maintain that these words of Jesus, commanding that all nations be evangelized, were not authentic, but in a subsequent paragraph we shall prove that all the Lord's sayings, recorded in the First Gospel, proceed from the teaching of Jesus.

Destination of the Gospel

The ecclesiastical writers Papias, St. Irenæus, Origen, Eusebius, and St. Jerome, whose testimony has been given above (II, A), agree in declaring that St. Matthew wrote his Gospel for the Jews. Everything in this Gospel proves, that the writer addresses himself to Jewish readers. He does not explain Jewish customs and usages to them, as do the other Evangelists for their Greek and Latin readers, and he assumes that they are acquainted with Palestine, since, unlike St. Luke he mentions places without giving any indication of their topographical position. It is true that the Hebrew words, Emmanuel, Golgotha, Eloi, are translated, but it is likely that these translations were inserted when the Aramaic text was reproduced in Greek. St. Matthew chronicles those discourses of Christ that would interest the Jews and leave a favourable impression upon them. The law is not to be destroyed, but fulfilled (v, 17). He emphasizes more strongly than either St. Mark or St. Luke the false interpretations of the law given by the scribes and Pharisees, the hypocrisy and even the vices of the latter, all of which could be of interest to Jewish readers only. According to certain critics, St. Irenæus (Fragment xxix) said that Matthew wrote to convert the Jews by proving to them that Christ was the Son of David. This interpretation is badly founded. Moreover, Origen (In Matt., i) categorically asserts that this Gospel was published for Jews converted to the Faith. Eusebius (Church History III.24) is also explicit on this point, and St. Jerome, summarizing tradition, teaches us that St. Matthew published his Gospel in Judea and in the Hebrew language, principally for those among the Jews who believed in Jesus, and did not observe even the shadow of the Law, the truth of the Gospel having replaced it (In Matt. Prol.). Subsequent ecclesiastical writers and Catholic exegetes have taught that St. Matthew wrote for the converted Jews. "However," says Zahn (Introd. to the New Testament, II, 562), "the apologetical and polemical character of the book, as well as the choice of language, make it extremely probable that Matthew wished his book to be read primarily by the Jews who were not yet Christians. It was suited to Jewish Christians who were still exposed to Jewish influence, and also to Jews who still resisted the Gospel".

Date and place of composition

Ancient ecclesiastical writers are at variance as to the date of the composition of the First Gospel. Eusebius (in his Chronicle), Theophylact, and Euthymius Zigabenus are of opinion that the Gospel of Matthew was written eight years, and Nicephorus Callistus fifteen years, after Christ's Ascension--i.e. about A.D. 38-45. According to Eusebius, Matthew wrote his Gospel in Hebrew when he left Palestine. Now, following a certain tradition (admittedly not too reliable), the Apostles separated twelve years after the Ascension, hence the Gospel would have been written about the year 40-42, but following Eusebius (Church History III.5.2), it is possible to fix the definitive departure of the Apostles about the year 60, in which event the writing of the Gospel would have taken place about the year 60-68. St Irenæus is somewhat more exact concerning the date of the First Gospel, as he says: "Matthew produced his Gospel when Peter and Paul were evangelizing and founding the Church of Rome, consequently about the years 64-67." However, this text presents difficulties of interpretation which render its meaning uncertain and prevent us from deducing any positive conclusion.

In our day opinion is rather divided. Catholic critics, in general, favour the years 40-45, although some (e.g. Patrizi) go back to 36-39 or (e.g. Aberle) to 37. Belser assigns 41-42; Conély, 40-50; Schafer, 50-51; Hug, Reuschl, Schanz, and Rose, 60-67. This last opinion is founded on the combined testimonies of St. Irenæus and Eusebius, and on the remark inserted parenthetically in the discourse of Jesus in chapter xxiv, 15: "When therefore you shall see the abomination of desolation, which was spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place": here the author interrupts the sentence and invites the reader to take heed of what follows, viz.: "Then they that are in Judea, let them flee to the mountains." As there would have been no occasion for a like warning had the destruction of Jerusalem already taken place, Matthew must have written his Gospel before the year 70 (about 65-70 according to Batiffol). Protestant and Liberalistic critics also are greatly at variance as regards the time of the composition of the First Gospel. Zahn sets the date about 61-66, and Godet about 60-66; Keim, Meyer, Holtzmann (in his earlier writings), Beyschlag, and Maclean, before 70, Bartiet about 68-69; W. Allen and Plummer, about 65-75; Hilgenfeld and Holtzmann (in his later writings), soon after 70; B. Weiss and Harnack, about 70-75; Renan, later than 85, Réville, between 69 and 96, Jülicher, in 81-96, Montefiore, about 90-100, Volkmar, in 110; Baur, about 130-34. The following are some of the arguments advanced to prove that the First Gospel was written several years after the Fall of Jerusalem. When Jesus prophesies to His Apostles that they will be delivered up to the councils, scourged in the synagogues, brought before governors and kings for His sake; that they will give testimony of Him, will for Him be hated and driven from city to city (x, 17-23) and when He commissions them to teach all nations and make them His disciples, His words intimate, it is claimed, the lapse of many years, the establishment of the Christian Church in distant parts, and its cruel persecution by the Jews and even by Roman emperors and governors. Moreover, certain sayings of the Lord--such as: "Thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church" (16:18), "If he [thy brother] will not hear them: tell the Church" (xviii, 10)--carry us to a time when the Christian Church was already constituted, a time that could not have been much earlier than the year 100. The fact is, that what was predicted by Our Lord, when He announced future events and established the charter and foundations of His Church, is converted into reality and made coexistent with the writing of the First Gospel. Hence, to give these arguments a probatory value it would be necessary either to deny Christ's knowledge of the future or to maintain that the teachings embodied in the First Gospel were not authentic.

Historic value of the First Gospel

Of the narratives

Apart from the narratives of the Childhood of Jesus, the cure of the two blind men, the tribute money, and a few incidents connected with the Passion and Resurrection, all the others recorded by St. Matthew are found in both the other Synoptists, with one exception (viii, 5-13) which occurs only in St. Luke. Critics agree in declaring that, regarded as a whole, the events of the life of Jesus recorded in the Synoptic Gospels are historic. For us, these facts are historic even in detail, our criterion of truth being the same for the aggregate and the details. The Gospel of St. Mark is acknowledged to be of great historic value because it reproduces the preaching of St. Peter. But, for almost all the events of the Gospel, the information given by St. Mark is found in St. Matthew, while such as are peculiar to the latter are of the same nature as events recorded by St. Mark, and resemble them so closely that it is hard to understand why they should not be historic, since they also are derived from the primitive catechesis. It may be further observed that the narratives of St. Matthew are never contradictory to the events made known to us by profane documents, and that they give a very accurate account of the moral and religious ideas, the manners and customs of the Jewish people of that time. In his recent work, "The Synoptic Gospels" (London, 1909), Montefiore, a Jewish critic, does full justice to St. Matthew on these different points. Finally all the objections that could possibly have been raised against their veracity vanish, if we but keep in mind the standpoint of the author, and what he wished to demonstrate. The comments we are about to make concerning the Lord's utterances are also applicable to the Gospel narratives. For a demonstration of the historic value of the narratives of the Holy Childhood, we recommend Father Durand's scholarly work, "L'enfance de Jésus-Christ d'après les évangiles canoniques" (Paris, 1907).

Of the discourses

The greater part of Christ's short sayings are found in the three Synoptic Gospels and consequently spring from the early catechesis. His long discourses, recorded by St. Matthew and St. Luke, also formed part of an authentic catechesis, and critics in general are agreed in acknowledging their historic value. There are, however some who maintain that the Evangelist modified his documents to adapt them to the faith professed in Christian communities at the time when he wrote his Gospel. They also claim that, even prior to the composition of the Gospels, Christian faith had altered Apostolic reminiscences. Let us first of all observe that these objections would have no weight whatever, unless we were to concede that the First Gospel was not written by St. Matthew. And even assuming the same point of view as our adversaries, who think that our Synoptic Gospels depend upon anterior sources, we maintain that these changes, whether attributable to the Evangelists or to their sources (i.e. the faith of the early Christians), could not have been effected.

The alterations claimed to have been introduced into Christ's teachings could not have been made by the Evangelists themselves. We know that the latter selected their subject-matter and disposed of it each in his own way, and with a special end in view, but this matter was the same for all three, at least for the whole contents of the pericopes, and was taken from the original catechesis, which was already sufficiently well established not to admit of the introduction into it of new ideas and unknown facts. Again, all the doctrines which are claimed to be foreign to the teachings of Jesus are found in the three Synoptists, and are so much a part of the very framework of each Gospel that their removal would mean the destruction of the order of the narrative. Under these conditions, that there might be a substantial change in the doctrines taught by Christ, it would be necessary to suppose a previous understanding among the three Evangelists, which seems to us impossible, as Matthew and Luke at least appear to have worked independently of each other and it is in their Gospels that Christ's longest discourses are found. These doctrines, which were already embodied in the sources used by the three Synoptists, could not have resulted from the deliberations and opinions of the earliest Christians. First of all, between the death of Christ and the initial drawing up of the oral catechesis, there was not sufficient time for originating, and subsequently enjoining upon the Christian conscience, ideas diametrically opposed to those said to have been exclusively taught by Jesus Christ. For example, let us take the doctrines claimed, above all others, to have been altered by the belief of the first Christians, namely that Jesus Christ had called all nations to salvation. It is said that the Lord restricted His mission to Israel, and that all those texts wherein He teaches that the Gospel should be preached throughout the entire world originated with the early Christians and especially with Paul. Now, in the first place, these universalist doctrines could not have sprung up among the Apostles. They and the primitive Christians were Jews of poorly developed intelligence, of very narrow outlook, and were moreover imbued with particularist ideas. From the Gospels and Acts it is easy to see that these men were totally unacquainted with universalist ideas, which had to be urged upon them, and which, even then, they were slow to accept. Moreover, how could this first Christian generation, who, we are told, believed that Christ's Second Coming was close at hand, have originated these passages proclaiming that before this event took place the Gospel should be preached to all nations? These doctrines do not emanate from St. Paul and his disciples. Long before St. Paul could have exercised any influence whatever over the Christian conscience, the Evangelical sources containing these precepts had already been composed. The Apostle of the Gentiles was the special propagator of these doctrines, but he was not their creator. Enlightened by the Holy Spirit, he understood that the ancient prophecies had been realized in the Person of Jesus and that the doctrines taught by Christ were identical with those revealed by the Scriptures.

Finally, by considering as a whole the ideas constituting the basis of the earliest Christian writings, we ascertain that these doctrines, taught by the prophets, and accentuated by the life and words of Christ, form the framework of the Gospels and the basis of Pauline preaching. They are, as it were, a kind of fasces which it would be impossible to unbind, and into which no new idea could be inserted without destroying its strength and unity. In the prophecies, the Gospels the Pauline Epistles, and the first Christian writings an intimate correlation joins all together, Jesus Christ Himself being the centre and the common bond. What one has said of Him, the others reiterate, and never do we hear an isolated or a discordant voice. If Jesus taught doctrines contrary or foreign to those which the Evangelists placed upon His lips, then He becomes an inexplicable phenomenon, because, in the matter of ideas, He is in contradiction to the society in which He moved, and must be ranked with the least intelligent sections among the Jewish people. We are justified, therefore, in concluding that the discourses of Christ, recorded in the First Gospel and reproducing the Apostolic catechesis, are authentic. We my however, again observe that, his aim being chiefly apologetic, Matthew selected and presented the events of Christ's life and also these discourses in a way that would lead up to the conclusive proof which he wished to give of the Messiahship of Jesus. Still the Evangelist neither substantially altered the original catechesis nor invented doctrines foreign to the teaching of Jesus. His action bore upon details or form, but not upon the basis of words and deeds.

Appendix: decisions of the Biblical Commission

The following answers have been given by the Biblical Commission to inquiries about the Gospel of St. Matthew: In view of the universal and constant agreement of the Church, as shown by the testimony of the Fathers, the inscription of Gospel codices, most ancient versions of the Sacred Books and lists handed down by the Holy Fathers, ecclesiastical writers, popes and councils, and finally by liturgical usage in the Eastern and Western Church, it may and should be held that Matthew, an Apostle of Christ, is really the author of the Gospel that goes by his name. The belief that Matthew preceded the other Evangelists in writing, and that the first Gospel was written in the native language of the Jews then in Palestine, is to be considered as based on Tradition.

The preparation of this original text was not deferred until after the destruction of Jerusalem, so that the prophecies it contains about this might be written after the event; nor is the alleged uncertain and much disputed testimony of Irenaeus convincing enough to do away with the opinion most conformed to Tradition, that their preparation was finished even before the coming of Paul to Rome. The opinion of certain Modernists is untenable, viz., that Matthew did not in a proper and strict sense compose the Gospel, as it has come down to us, but only a collection of some words and sayings of Christ, which, according to them, another anonymous author used as sources.

The fact that the Fathers and all ecclesiastical writers, and even the Church itself from the very beginning, have used as canonical the Greek text of the Gospel known as St. Matthew's, not even excepting those who have expressly handed down that the Apostle Matthew wrote in his native tongue, proves for certain that this very Greek Gospel is identical in substance with the Gospel written by the same Apostle in his native language. Although the author of the first Gospel has the dogmatic and apologetic purpose of proving to the Jews that Jesus is the Messias foretold by the prophets and born of the house of David, and although he is not always chronological in arranging the facts or sayings which he records, his narration is not to be regarded as lacking truth. Nor can it be said that his accounts of the deeds and utterances of Christ have been altered and adapted by the influence of the prophecies of the Old Testament and the conditions of the growing Church, and that they do not therefore conform to historical truth. Notably unfounded are the opinions of those who cast doubt on the historical value of the first two chapters, treating of the genealogy and infancy of Christ, or on certain passages of much weight for certain dogmas, such as those which concern the primacy of Peter (xvi, 17-19), the form of baptism given to the Apostles with their universal missions (xxviii, 19-20), the Apostles' profession of faith in Christ (xiv, 33), and others of this character specially emphasized by Matthew.


Jacquier, Jacque Eugène. "Gospel of St. Matthew." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 10. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. 21 Sept. 2015 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/10057a.htm>.

SOURCE : http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/10057a.htm






St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist

Matt. ix. Mark ii. Luke v. See Tillemont, Calmet, Ceillier, Hammond, &c

ST. MATTHEW is called by two evangelists Levi, both which names are of Jewish extraction. 1 The latter he bore before his conversion, the other he seems to have taken after it, to show that he had renounced his profession, and had become a new man. St. Mark calls him the son of Alphæus; but the conjecture which some form from hence, that he was brother to St. James the Less, has not the very shadow of probability. He seems to have been a Galilæan by birth, and was by profession a publican, or gatherer of taxes for the Romans, which office was equally odious and scandalous among the Jews. The Romans sent publicans into the provinces to gather the tributes, and this was amongst them a post of honour, power, and credit, usually conferred on Roman knights. T. Flavius Sabinus, father of the Emperor Vespasian, was the publican of the provinces of Asia. These Roman general publicans employed under them natives of each province, as persons best acquainted with the customs of their own country. These collectors or farmers of the tributes often griped and scraped all they could by various methods of extortion, having frequent opportunities of oppressing others to raise their own fortunes, and they were usually covetous. On this account even the Gentiles often speak of them as exactors, cheats, and public robbers. 2 Zaccheus, a chief among these collectors, was sensible of these occasions of fraud and oppression, when he offered four-fold restitution to any whom he had injured.

Among the Jews these publicans were more infamous and odious, because this nation looked upon them as enemies to their privilege of natural freedom which God had given them, and as persons defiled by their frequent conversation and dealing with the pagans, and as conspiring with the Romans to entail slavery upon their countrymen. Hence the Jews universally abhorred them, regarding their estates or money as the fortunes of notorious thieves, banished them from their communion in all religious worship, and shunned them in all affairs of civil society and commerce. Tertullian is certainly mistaken when he affirms that none but Gentiles were employed in this sordid office, as St. Jerom demonstrates from several passages in the gospels. 3 And it is certain that St. Matthew was a Jew, though a publican. His office is said to have particularly consisted in gathering customs of commodities that came by the lake of Genesareth or Tiberias, and a toll which passengers paid that came by water; of which mention is made by Jewish writers. Hence the Hebrew gospel published by Munster renders the word Publican in this place by, “The Lord of the Passage.” St. Mark says that St. Matthew kept his office or toll-booth by the side of the lake, where he sat at the receipt of custom.

Jesus having lately cured a famous paralytic, went out of Capharnaum, and walked on the banks of the lake or sea of Genesareth, teaching the people who flocked after him. Here he espied Matthew sitting in his custom-house, whom he called to come and follow him. The man was rich, enjoyed a very lucrative post, was a wise and prudent man, and perfectly understood what his compliance would cost him, and what an exchange he made of wealth for poverty. But he overlooked all these considerations, and left all his interests and relations to become our Lord’s disciple, and to embrace a spiritual kind of commerce or traffic. We cannot suppose that he was before wholly unacquainted with our Saviour’s person or doctrine, especially as his custom-office was near Capharnaum, and his house seems to have been in that city, where Christ had resided for some time, had preached and wrought many miracles, by which he was in some measure prepared to receive the impression which the call of Christ made upon him. St. Jerom says, that a certain amiable brightness and air of majesty which shone in the countenance of our divine Redeemer, pierced his soul, and strongly attracted him. But the great cause of his wonderful conversion was, as Bede remarks, that, “He who called him outwardly by his word, at the same time moved him inwardly by the invisible instinct of his grace.” We must earnestly entreat this same gracious Saviour that he would vouchsafe to touch our hearts with the like powerful interior call, that we may be perfectly converted to him. He often raises his voice in the secret of our hearts: but by putting wilful obstacles we are deaf to it, and the seed of salvation is often choked in our souls.

This apostle, at the first invitation, broke all ties; forsook his riches, his family, his worldly concerns, his pleasures, and his profession. His conversion was sincere and perfect, manifesting itself by the following marks. First, it admitted no deliberation or delay; to balance one moment between God and sin or the world, is to resist the divine call, and to lose the offered grace. Secondly, it was courageous; surmounting and bearing down all opposition which his passions or the world could raise in his way. Thirdly, it was constant; the apostle from that moment looked no more back, but following Christ with fervour, persevered to the end, marching every day forward with fresh vigour. It is the remark of St. Gregory, that those apostles who left their boats and nets to follow Christ, were sometimes afterwards found in the same employment of fishing, from which they were called: but St. Matthew never returned to the custom-house, because it was a dangerous profession, and an occasion of avarice, oppression, and extortion. St. Jerom and St. Chrysostom take notice, that St. Mark and St. Luke mention our apostle by the name of Levi, when they speak of his former profession of publican, as if it were to cover and keep out of sight the remembrance of this apostle’s sin, or at least to touch it tenderly; but our evangelist openly calls himself Matthew, by which name he was then known in the church, being desirous out of humility to publish his former infamy and sin, and to proclaim the excess of the divine mercy which had made an apostle of a publican. The other evangelists, by mentioning him in his former dishonourable course of life under the name of Levi, teach us, that we ought to treat penitent sinners with all modesty and tenderness; it being against the laws of religion, justice, and charity, to upbraid and reproach a convert with errors or sins which God himself has forgiven and effaced, so as to declare that he no longer remembers them, and for which the devil himself, with all his malice, can no longer accuse or reproach him.

St. Matthew, upon his conversion, to show that he was not discontented at his change, but looked upon it as his greatest happiness, entertained our Lord and his disciples, at a great dinner in his house, whither he invited his friends, especially those of his late profession, doubtless hoping that by our Saviour’s divine conversation, they also might be converted. The Pharisees carped at this conduct of Christ, in eating with publicans and sinners. Our divine Saviour answered their malicious secret suggestions, that he came for the sick, not for the sound and healthy, or for those who conceited themselves so, and imagined they stood in no need of a physician; and he put them in mind, that God prefers acts of mercy and charity, especially in reclaiming sinners, and doing good to souls, before ritual observances, as the more necessary and noble precept, to which other laws were subordinate. Commerce with idolaters was forbidden the Jews for fear of the contagion of vice by evil company. This law the proud Pharisees extended not only beyond its bounds, but even against the essential laws of charity, the first among the divine precepts. Yet this nicety they called the strict observance of the law, in which they prided themselves, whereas in the sight of God it was hypocrisy and overbearing pride, with a contempt of their neighbours, which degraded their pretended righteousness beneath the most scandalous sinners, with whom they scorned to converse, even for the sake of reclaiming them, which the law, far from forbidding, required as the first and most excellent of its precepts. Christ came from heaven, and clothed himself with our mortality, in the bowels of the most tender compassion and of his infinite mercy for sinners: he burned continually with the most ardent thirst for their salvation, and it was his greatest delight to converse with those who were sunk in the deepest abyss, in order to bring them to repentance and salvation. How affectionately he cherished, and how tenderly he received those who were sincerely converted to him he has expressed by the most affecting parables, and of this, St. Matthew is, among others, an admirable instance.

The vocation of St. Matthew happened in the second year of the public ministry of Christ, who soon after forming the college of his apostles, adopted him into that holy family of the spiritual princes and founders of his church. The humility of our saint is remarked in the following circumstance. Whereas the other evangelists, in describing the apostles by pairs, constantly rank him before St. Thomas, he places that apostle before himself, and in this very list adds to his name the epithet of the publican. He delighted in the title of Matthew the Publican, because he found in it his own humiliation, magnified by it the divine mercy and grace of his conversion, and expressed the deep spirit of compunction in which he had his former guilt always before his eyes. Eusebius and St. Epiphanius tell us, that after our Lord’s ascension, St. Matthew preached several years in Judea and the neighbouring countries till the dispersion of the apostles; and that a little before it he wrote his gospel, or short history of our blessed Redeemer, at the entreaty of the Jewish converts, and, as St. Epiphanius says, at the command of the other apostles. That he compiled it before their dispersion appears, not only because it was written before the other gospels, but also because St. Bartholomew took a copy of it with him into India, and left it there. 4 Christ no where appears to have given any charge about committing to writing his history or divine doctrine; particular accidents gave the occasions. St. Matthew wrote his gospel to satisfy the converts of Palestine; 5 St. Mark at the pressing entreaties of the faithful at Rome; 6 St. Luke, to oppose false histories; 7 St. John, at the request of the bishops of Asia, to leave an authentic testimony against the heresies of Cerinthus and Ebion. 8 It was, nevertheless, by a special inspiration of the Holy Ghost, that this work was undertaken and executed by each of them. The gospels are the most excellent part of the sacred writings. For in them Christ teaches us, not by his prophets, but by his own divine mouth, the great lessons of faith, and of eternal life; and in the history of his holy life the most perfect pattern of sanctity is set before our eyes for us to copy after. The gospel of St. Matthew descends to a fuller and more particular detail in the actions of Christ, than the other three, but from ch. v., to ch. xiv., he often differs from them in the series of his narration, neglecting the order of time, that those instructions might be related together which have a closer affinity with each other. This evangelist enlarges chiefly on our Saviour’s lessons of morality, and describes his temporal or human generation, in which the promises made to Abraham and David, concerning the Messias to be born of their seed, were fulfilled; which argument was a particular inducement to the Jews to believe in him.

St. Matthew, after having made a great harvest of souls in Judea, went to preach the faith to the barbarous and uncivilized nations of the East. He was a person much devoted to heavenly contemplation, and led an austere life, using a very slender and mean diet; for he ate no flesh, satisfying nature with herbs, roots, seeds, and berries, as St. Clement of Alexandria assures us. 9 St. Ambrose says, 10 that God opened to him the country of the Persians. Rufinus 11 and Socrates 12 tell us, that he carried the gospel into Ethiopia, meaning probably the southern and eastern parts of Asia. St. Paulinus mentions, 13 that he ended his course in Parthia. Venantius Fortunatus relates, that he suffered martyrdom at Nadabar, a city in those parts. According to Dorotheus, he was honourably interred at Hierapolis in Parthia. His relics were long ago brought into the West. Pope Gregory VII., in a letter to the bishop of Salerno, in 1080, testifies that they were then kept in a church which bore his name in that city. They still remain in the same place.

St. Irenæus, St. Jerom, St. Austin, and other fathers find a figure of the four evangelists in the four mystical animals represented in Ezechiel, 14 and in the Apocalypse of St. John. 15 The eagle is generally said to represent St. John, who in the first lines of his gospel soars up to the contemplation of the eternal generation of the Word. The calf agrees to St. Luke, who begins his gospel with the mention of the priesthood. St. Austin makes the lion the symbol of St. Matthew, who explains the royal dignity of Christ; but others give it to St. Mark, and the man to St. Matthew, who begins his gospel with Christ’s human generation.

In the gospel, The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, hath declared him, 16 and hath delivered to us the most sublime truths. Wherefore St. Austin writes, 17 “Let us hear the gospel as if we listened to Christ present.” The primitive Christians always stood up when they read it, or heard it read. 18 St. Jerom says: “While the gospel is read, in all the churches of the East, candles are lighted, though the sun shine, in token of joy.” 19 St. Thomas Aquinas always read the gospel on his knees. In this divine book not only the divine instructions of our Blessed Redeemer are delivered to us, but moreover a copy of his sacred life on earth is painted before our eyes. As St. Basil says; 20 “Every action and every word of our Saviour Jesus Christ is a rule of piety. He took upon him human nature that he might draw as on a tablet, and set before us a perfect model for us to imitate.” Let us study this rule, and beg the patronage of this apostle, that the spirit of Christ, or that of his humility, compunction, self-denial, charity, and perfect disengagement from the things of this world, may be imprinted in our hearts.

Note 1. Levi signifies one associated; Matthew, him that is given; in Latin, Donatus. [back]

Note 2. The profession of a tax-gatherer is in itself lawful and necessary, and may be innocent. It has even furnished eminent examples of sanctity, witness the baron of Montmorency in Flanders, and Bernieres in Normandy, &c. [back]

Note 3. Ep. 146, ad Damas. [back]

Note 4. The English word Gospel signifies, in the language of our ancestors, not God’s Word, but Good Word, or tidings, as Evangelium in Greek. Good they wrote God; and God, Gode, with e. We now retain the word Spell only to signify a charm. See Hammond, (p. 3,) Somner, and Fr. Junius’s Etymological Dictionary by Edm. Lye. That St. Matthew’s gospel was originally written in the modern Hebrew, that is, in the Syro-Chaldaic language, used by the Jews after the captivity, is affirmed by Papias, Origen, SS. Irenæus, Eusebius, Jerom, Epiphanius, Theodoret, and all the ancient fathers, so positively and so unanimously, that it is matter of surprise that Erasmus, Calvin, Lightfoot, and some few others, should pretend it was written first in Greek, which they falsely mistake to have then been the vulgar language of the Jews in Palestine. That Christ preached to them in the Syro-Chaldaic tongue is plain from many words of that language used by him, which the evangelists retain and interpret in the gospels. St. Paul, haranguing the Jews at Jerusalem, spoke in the Syro-Chaldaic tongue, (Act. xx. 2, xxvii. 40, xxvi. 14.) The Syro-Chaldaic paraphrase of Onkelos on the Pentateuch, composed about the time of our Redeemer, and that of Jonathan on the books of Josue, Judges, and Kings, not much later, extant in the Polyglot, &c. were made to expound the Bible to the common people, who no longer understood the true ancient Hebrew, in which language the sacred books were still read in the synagogues. (See Huet, de Claris Interpret. § 6, Simon, l. 2, c. 18; Walton, Proleg. 12; Frassen, contra Morin. l. 2; Exercit. 8, et Nat. Alex. Sæc. 2, Diss. 11.)

  What Erasmus and the rest of these authors ground their conjecture upon, that St. Matthew quotes the Old Testament according to the Greek Septuagint, is another mistake. For out of ten quotations found in his gospel, seven are visibly taken from the Hebrew, and the rest are no way contrary to that text, though they are mentioned only as to the sense, not in the words. St. Jerom expressly observes, from a copy of this gospel in the original Hebrew which he saw in the library at Cæsarea, that St. Matthew’s quotations are made from the Hebrew. (in Catal.) We are fools, says Isaac Vossius, (Præf. App. in l. de 70 Interpr.) if we spend our time in confuting all idle dreams which trample upon the unanimous testimony of all antiquity, and the authority of all churches, which conspire in assuring us, that the gospel of St. Matthew was originally written in the Syro-Chaldaic language. The Greek translation was made in the time of the apostles, as St. Jerom and St. Austin affirm, perhaps by some of them; it was at least approved by them, and from their time has been always looked upon to hold the place of the original. For, the Syro-Chaldaic copy seems to have been soon corrupted by the Nazareans, or Jewish converts, who adhered to the ceremonies of the law. Also the Ebionite heretics retrenched many passages.

  Among the additions made by the Nazareans some consisted of sayings of our Divine Redeemer, handed down by those who had received them from his sacred mouth, and are quoted as such by the fathers. See a collection of these in Grabe. (Spicilegii, t. 1, p. 12.) Other additions of these heretics were fictions. These interpolations and falsifications brought the Hebrew copy into disrepute in the church; or if the gospel of the Nazareans had a different ground from the Hebrew text of St. Matthew, at least the latter is long since lost: and St. Epiphanius tells us (Hær. 29, n. 9,) that the gospel of the Nazareans or Hebrews was only that of St. Matthew interpolated. The Chaldaic text of St. Matthew’s gospel, published by Tillet, and republished from another more imperfect copy by Munster, is evidently a modern translation made from the Greek. The Latin Vulgate, or rather the old Italic, was translated from the Greek text, and corrected according to it by St. Jerom. See Le Long, Biblioth. Sacra: Mills, Proleg. in Gr. Test. p. 5 et 31, &c. Dom Martianay published, in 1695, the ancient Italic version of this gospel. Since that time an old MS. copy of the four gospels in the true ancient Italic version, was found at Corbie; and published at Verona. [back]


Note 5. Eus. l. 3, c. 24. S. Hieron. in Catal. [back]

Note 6. Eus. l. 2, c. 15. [back]

Note 7. Luke i. 1. [back]

Note 8. S. Hieron. Prol. in Matt. S. Epiph. hær. 31, t. 12. [back]

Note 9. Pædag. l. 2, c. 1. [back]

Note 10. In Ps. 45. [back]

Note 11. L. 10, c. 9. [back]

Note 12. L. 1, c. 19. [back]

Note 13. Carm. 26. [back]

Note 14. Ezech. i. 10. [back]

Note 15. Apoc. iv. 7. [back]

Note 16. John i. 18. [back]

Note 18. Const. Apost. l. 2, c. 62. [back]

Note 19. Adv. Vigilant. [back]

Note 20. Constit. Monast. c. 2. [back]

Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73).  Volume IX: September. The Lives of the Saints.  1866.



Voir aussi : http://catholique-verdun.cef.fr/spip/spip.php?page=service&id_article=3227

http://matthieu.com/saint-matthieu.html

http://www.cassicia.com/FR/Vie-de-saint-Matthieu-apotre-et-evangeliste-Fete-le-21-septembre-Il-est-l-auteur-inspire-par-le-Saint-Esprit-du-premier-des-quatre-recits-evangeliques-No_545.htm