According to the Gospels, Matthew was a 1st-century Galilean (presumably born in Galilee, which was not part of Judea or the Roman Iudaea province), the son of Alphaeus. As a tax collector, he would have been literate in Aramaic and Greek. His fellow Jews would have despised him for what was seen as collaborating with the Roman occupation force.
After his call, Matthew invited Jesus home for a feast. On seeing this, the Scribes and the Pharisees criticized Jesus for eating with tax collectors and sinners. This prompted Jesus to answer, "I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."
The New Testament records that as a disciple, he followed Jesus, and was one of the witnesses of the Ascension of Jesus. Afterwards, the disciples withdrew to an upper room (Acts 1:10–14) (traditionally the Cenacle) in Jerusalem. The disciples remained in and about Jerusalem and proclaimed that Jesus was the promised Messiah.
Later Church fathers such as Irenaeus (Against Heresies 3.1.1) and Clement of Alexandria claim that Matthew preached the Gospel to the Jewish community in Judea, before going to other countries. Ancient writers are not in agreement as to which these other countries are. The Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church each hold the tradition that Matthew died as a martyr, although this was rejected by Heracleon, a Gnostic Christian viewed as a heretic, as early as the second century.
The Gospel of Matthew is anonymous: the author is not named within the text, and the superscription "according to Matthew" was added some time in the second century. The tradition that the author was the disciple Matthew begins with the early Christian bishop Papias of Hierapolis (c. AD 60–163), who is cited by the Church historian Eusebius (AD 260–340), as follows: "Matthew collected the oracles (logia: sayings of or about Jesus) in the Hebrew language (Hebraïdi dialektōi), and each one interpreted (hērmēneusen – perhaps "translated") them as best he could."
On the surface, this has been taken to imply that Matthew's Gospel itself was written in Hebrew or Aramaic by the apostle Matthew and later translated into Greek, but nowhere does the author claim to have been an eyewitness to events, and Matthew's Greek "reveals none of the telltale marks of a translation". Scholars have put forward several theories to explain Papias: perhaps Matthew wrote two gospels, one, now lost, in Hebrew, the other our Greek version; or perhaps the logia was a collection of sayings rather than the gospel; or by dialektōi Papias may have meant that Matthew wrote in the Jewish style rather than in the Hebrew language. The consensus is that Papias does not describe the Gospel of Matthew as we know it, and it is generally accepted that Matthew was written in Greek, not in Aramaic or Hebrew.
The Infancy Gospel of Matthew is a 7th-century compilation of three other texts: the Protevangelium of James, the Flight into Egypt, and the Infancy Gospel of Thomas.
Origen said the first Gospel was written by Matthew. This Gospel was composed in Hebrew near Jerusalem for Hebrew Christians and translated into Greek, but the Greek copy was lost. The Hebrew original was kept at the Library of Caesarea. The Nazarene Community transcribed a copy for Jerome which he used in his work. Matthew's Gospel was called the Gospel according to the Hebrews or sometimes the Gospel of the Apostles and it was once believed that it was the original to the Greek Matthew found in the Bible. However, this has been challenged by modern biblical scholars such as Bart Ehrman and James R. Edwards.
The Quran speaks of Jesus' disciples but does not mention their names, instead referring to them as "helpers to the work of God". Muslim exegesis and Qur'an commentary, however, name them and include Matthew amongst the disciples. Muslim exegesis preserves the tradition that Matthew and Andrew were the two disciples who went to Ethiopia (not the African country, but a region called 'Ethiopia' south of the Caspian Sea) to preach the message of God.
Base of a pillar at Sacred Heart Church, Puducherry, India
^Catherine Hezser (2001), Jewish Literacy in Roman Palestine, Mohr Siebeck, p. 172, ISBN978-3161475467, retrieved 10 September 2014, Even if they were pious and able to read the Hebrew Bible and/or literate in Greek poetry and prose, the writing they had to do in every day life ... 24 For the evidence of tax receipts amongst the Judaean Desert papyri see section II.
The Cambridge history of Judaism: 2 p192 ed. William David Davies, Louis Finkelstein "We are now touching upon that milieu in which Greek language and civilization were readily accepted in order to ... A great number of tax receipts on ostraca mainly from the 2nd century BCE show how Jews, Egyptians and Greeks.. "
^Anchor Bible Reference Library, Doubleday, 2001 pp. 130–133, 201
^Wilhelm Schneemelcher New Testament Apocrypha: Writings Relating to the Apostles revised edition translated R. McL. Wilson – 2003 Page 17 "in the Babylonian Talmud five disciples of Jesus are mentioned by name: 'Matthai, Nagai, Nezer, Buni, Thoda' (Sanhedrin 43a)."
^Nathaniel Lardner, Andrew Kippis (1838), "Eusebius, Church History 3.24.6", The Works of Nathaniel Lardner, Volume 5, W. Ball, p. 299, retrieved 22 February 2010CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
^Darrell L. Bock – Studying the Historical Jesus: A Guide to Sources and Methods – Page 164 2002 "The early church tradition is consistent in claiming that Matthew wrote his Gospel in Hebrew for the Jews (Irenaeus, Against Heresies 3.1.1)."
^Eusebius, "History of the Church" 3.39.14–17, c. 325 CE, Greek text 16: "ταῦτα μὲν οὖν ἱστόρηται τῷ Παπίᾳ περὶ τοῦ Μάρκου· περὶ δὲ τοῦ Ματθαῖου ταῦτ’ εἴρηται· Ματθαῖος μὲν οὖν Ἑβραΐδι διαλέκτῳ τὰ λόγια συνετάξατο, ἡρμήνευσεν δ’ αὐτὰ ὡς ἧν δυνατὸς ἕκαστος. Various English translations published, standard reference translation by CCEL: "[C]oncerning Matthew he [Papias] writes as follows: 'So then(963) Matthew wrote the oracles in the Hebrew language, and every one interpreted them as he was able.'(964)" Online version includes footnotes 963 and 964 by Schaff. p. 64 ff).