Chapter 17: The Words of Matthew
Matthew, according to the Bible Dictionary, was also known as Levi, the son of Alphaeus. His profession was tax collector, or a publican, in the town of Capernaum. The Romans forced the Jews to pay taxes and hired other Jews to collect these taxes. The Jews despised their fellow countrymen who worked for the Romans, but Matthew’s employment did not preclude him from being chosen by the Lord as an Apostle. “And as Jesus passed forth from thence, he saw a man, named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he saith unto him, follow me. And he arose, and followed him” (Matthew 9:9).
The account of Matthew’s calling is also recorded in Mark 2:13–14 and Luke 5:27–28. Each of those Gospel writers tell of a great feast Matthew gave for his fellow tax collectors (see Matthew 9:10–13, Mark 2:15–17, and Luke 5:29–32). Jesus attended this party and the Pharisees criticized Him for dining with “publicans and sinners” (Matthew 9:11). Unfortunately, not much more is known of Matthew’s life, except that, according to tradition, he died a martyr (see, for example, about-jesus.org/martyrs.htm.)
Matthew knew the Old Testament and references it more than sixty times. His purpose seems to be to help Jews connect the dots between Old Testament prophecy and New Testament fulfillment, as the following examples show:
The Son of God would come up out of Egypt (see Hosea 11:1 and Matthew 4:12–23).
A male person would come to prepare the way before the Messiah (see Isaiah 40:3, Malachi 3:1, Matthew 3:1–3).
He would be betrayed for thirty pieces of silver (see Zechariah 11:12 and Matthew 27:3).
The name Matthew means “gift of God,” and his writings have been a gift to the world. His words are the first in the New Testament and are unique among the Gospels in giving specifics we would not otherwise have. Because of Matthew:
We know what the angel said to Joseph: “Fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost” (Matthew 1:20).
We have information about the Wise Men’s visit and the dream that warned them “that they should not return to Herod, [and consequently] they departed into their own country another way” (Matthew 2:12).
We learn of Herod’s horrendous crime in killing “all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under” (Matthew 2:16).
We learn of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus’s flight into Egypt (see Matthew 2:15) and return from Egypt to make their home in Nazareth (see Matthew 2:19–23).
We have the Beatitudes and a longer recitation of the Savior’s Sermon on the Mount, including the Lord’s Prayer (see Matthew 5:13–39, 6:1–34, 7:6–15, 7:21–24).
We know eleven parables that are only found in Matthew (see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parables_of_Jesus).
We learn that following the Resurrection: “The graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, and came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many” (Matthew 27:52–53).
Of particular interest is Matthew chapter 24, including verse 39 of chapter 23, which Hugh Nibley called the Little Apocalypse (see Hugh Nibley, BYU Studies 25 (Winter 1985): 7–27). Matthew’s words speak of his devotion to and testimony of Jesus Christ and of His Second Coming.
Matthew placed emphasis on signs and wonders that will indicate the Second Coming is nigh at hand, such as the coming of false christs; wars and rumors of wars; the gathering that will bring the elect from around the globe; famines; pestilences; earthquakes in many places; great iniquity; “the love of men [waxing] cold” (Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:30); the gospel being preached in all the world; and signs in the heavens such as a darkened sun, no moonlight, and falling stars.
It would be anticipated that Matthew 24 would have unique vocabulary because of its path to its inclusion in the Pearl of Great Price. It was written in Greek and went through partial translations into English. John Wycliffe handwrote an English translation from Latin. William Tyndale translated from the Greek into English in about 1525 and is credited with the first English translation to be printed. About eighty years later, King James ordered a new Bible translation, although about 85 percent is directly from Tyndale’s version. King James funded this translation in order to resolve conflicts among different denominations in hopes of unifying his people with one Bible.
The following words are unique to Joseph Smith—Matthew and are also found in Matthew in the New Testament. It may seem credit is being given to Matthew for these unique words, but most of them are words Jesus Christ spoke.
Abomination, abound, afflicted, appoint, asunder, betray, broken, buildings, chambers, clothes, clouds, cold, Daniel, delayeth, desert, desolation, disciples, doors, eagles, earthquakes, elect’s, evil, false, flight, goods, grinding, household, housetop, iniquity, leaves, mill, parable, pestilences, portion, privately, ruler, rumors, servant, shaken, shortened, suck, summer, thrown, tribulation, verily, wheresoever, winds, winter, wise servant, wonders, wrath.
There are an additional nine words and two phrases that are unique to Joseph Smith—Matthew: Befallen, BEGINS, branches, by and by, carcass, destruction, good man, Judea, overcome, steadfast, TREASURETH.