This gospel bears the name of its penman, Matthew, which means "Gift of God."
Matthew's original name was Levi. He was the son of Alphaeus (Mark 2:14; Luke 5:27), and was called Levi until Jesus chose him to be an apostle. He was by birth a Jew, by calling a publican. His business was the collection of customs from persons and goods crossing the Sea of Galilee, or passing along the shore between Bethsaida and Capernaum, his home. Apparently, he was a man of wealth (Matthew 9:9,10). Matthew refers to himself as "The Publican," perhaps to indicate his sense of humility, felt in having been exalted from the estate of a publican to that of an apostle. We know little of his life and work as an apostle. He is mentioned by name, after the resurrection of Christ, only in Acts 1:13. Tradition says that he remained in Jerusalem 15 years after the ascension and then became a missionary to the Persians, Parthians and Medes. A legend says that he died a martyr in Ethiopia. The New Testament confirms none of these traditions.
The date of Matthew's gospel is variously placed from 45 to 70 A.D. The post-apostolic church makes Matthew the first among the gospel records. Irenaeus says Matthew wrote while Peter and Paul were preaching at Rome, after A.D. 61. Alford says it was published before the destruction of Jerusalem, A.D. 70. Tidwell places it about A.D. 60, but thinks it was written after Mark.
Seventeen independent witnesses of the first centuries attest the genuineness of Matthew's gospel. Post-apostolic church leaders testify that it was written originally in the Hebrew language, and later translated into Greek. However, no traces of the Hebrew original survive. It is possible that Matthew wrote in both languages.
The purpose of the Gospel according to Matthew is to prove that Jesus is the King and Messiah foretold by Old Testament prophets.
The subject is the kingdom of God or of heaven. It is discussed under four headings as follows: