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One question I have is regarding some names. I’ve read of name changes and different names being from different languages (e.g. “Matthew was the Greek name and Levi was the Hebrew name”), but I could use some help.

Q: How many different individuals are there among the following three?...

-Levi the tax collector

-Matthew the Apostle

-The author(s) of the Gospel of Matthew.


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up vote 3 down vote accepted

In his Introduction to the Gospel of Matthew, Heinrich August Wilhelm Meyer wrote,1

It was Matthew who, before he passed over to the service of Jesus, was called Levi, and was a collector of taxes by the lake of Tiberias, where he was called away by Jesus from the receipt of custom. From Matthew 9:9, compared with Mark 2:14 and Luke 5:27, it is sufficiently evident that the two names Matthew and Levi denote the same individual; for the agreement between these passages in language and contents is so obvious, that Levi, who is manifestly called to be an apostle, and whose name is yet wanting in all the lists of the apostles, must be found again in that Matthew who is named in all these lists; so that we must assume that, in conformity with the custom of the Jews to adopt on the occasion of decisive changes in their life a name indicative of the change, he called himself, after his entrance on the apostolate, no longer לֵוִי, but מַתָּאִי, i.e. מַתַּנְיָה (Theodore = Gift of God).

This name, as in the cases of Peter and Paul, so completely displaced the old one, that even in the history of his call, given in our Gospel of Matthew, he is, at the expense of accuracy, called, in virtue of a historical ὕστερον πρότερον, by the new name (Matthew 9:9); while Mark, on the other hand, and after him Luke, observing here greater exactness, designate the tax-gatherer, in their narrative of his call, by his Jewish name, in doing which they might assume that his identity with the Apostle Matthew was universally known; while in their lists of the apostles (Mark 3:18; Luke 6:15; Acts 1:13), where the apostolic names must stand, they rightly place the name Matthew.

As for being the author of the first Gospel (according to the order established in most English translations), we only have tradition (rather than an actual statement in the Bible itself) that attributes him as its author.


1 p. 1-2


Meyer, Heinrich August Wilhelm. Critical and Exegetical Handbook to the Gospel of Matthew. Trans. Christie, Peter. Ed. Crombie, Frederick; Stewart, William. New York: Funk, 1884.

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As stated elsewhere, we only have tradition that the apostle Matthew wrote the Gospel that now bears his name. A careful reading in the original Greek language shows that Matthew takes over almost all Mark's material, Mark's sequence of events and, for the most part, Mark’s wording. Uta Ranke-Heinemann puts the consensus of New Testament scholars succinctly in Putting Away Childish Things, when she says, at page 218, that it is incomprehensible that an eyewitness (the Apostle Matthew) would choose to depend so radically on a non-eyewitness (the author of Mark). The real author of Matthew is unknown.

Mark's Gospel mentions both Levi and Matthew separately, referring to Levi, son of Alphaeus as a tax collector whom Jesus called to follow him (Mark 2:14). Mark never again refers to Levi, who is not mentioned in the full list of the twelve disciples (Mark 3:14-19), where Mark introduces other disciples including Matthew, Thaddaeus and James, son of Alphaeus. So far, there is good reason to see Levi and Matthew as being two separate people. Luke follows Mark closely, mentioning Levi but only in the context of a story in which Jesus is criticised for consorting with tax collectors (Luke 5:27-32), with Matthew being one of the twelve (Luke 6:15).

Disciples are not meant to change their minds when called by Jesus, yet this seems to happen when Mark omits Levi in the list of all the twelve apostles. Matthew's author resolves Levi's unexplained absence simply by not mentioning Levi at all, and by having Matthew as the disciple who was a tax collector, so that two thousand years of tradition have held that Levi and Matthew must be the same person.

We have two sources (Mark and Luke) that say Matthew and Levi are two different people, and one source that does not mention Levi, even if Matthew transfers the description of Levi onto the person Matthew. On this evidence, we should be compelled to see Levi and Matthew the apostle as two persons. The evidence that the author of Matthew's Gospel could not have been Matthew himself, means that we have three separate people here.

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