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The Identities of Levi and Matthew in the Early Church

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It has been a puzzle why Mark 2:14 and Luke 5:27-28 named the tax collector Levi, while Matthew 9:9 named the tax collector Matthew. The early church authorities wrestled with this issue as well and seem to have arrived at two primary solutions:

  • There seems to be a minority tradition in the early church that continued to distinguish Levi and Matthew as two separate individuals. Ben C. Smith has helpfully compiled the passages in this post on the Biblical Criticism & History Forum, though I think that I would dissent from a number of his conjectures about the admittedly complicated textual data (e.g. his hypotheses about the development of the lists of the Twelve), and Brent Nongbri notes in his blog post how Origen of Alexandria has conflicting opinions about harmonizing the Gospel texts about Levi the son of Alphaeus, James the son of Alphaeus, and Matthew.
  • The identification of Levi as Matthew was the more common view, with Patristic authorities such as John Chrysostom (Hom. in Matt. 30.1) and Jerome (Comm. Matt. 1.9.9) arguing that the evangelists Mark and Luke used the less common name “Levi” out of their respect for the apostle Matthew while the evangelist Matthew humbly admitted to his past notoriety as a publican under his more well-known name “Matthew.” You can read their comments in Manlio Simonetti’s commentary on Matthew 1-13 for the InterVarsity Press Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture Series on pages 176-177.
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