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Among the Jews, the law of Moses regulated both civil and religious matters; and a lawyer among them, or a doctor of the law, was in reality a teacher of religion.
5. Publicans. These were what we might call tar-gatherers, collectors of the revenue for the support of government. After the Jews became subject to the Romans, they were required, like the other subjugated nations, to pay tribute. The manner of collecting taxes, or tribute, was different from that which prevails among us. The Roman government was in the habit of selling to certain individuals the privilege of collecting the taxes in a particular region. What those individuals paid was all that the government received. Those individuals, having agreed with the government for a certain sum, would so levy the taxes as not only to raise the stipulated sum, but also to procure for themselves a large profit. Persons thus erns ployed were usually Romans of considerable note; and sometime: wealthy Jews procured to themselves this employment. Probably Zaccheus (Luke 19: 12) is to be regarded as such a person. These men employed inferior collectors ; and it is these inferior collectors that are called in the New Testament publicans. They were sometimes Romans, and sometimes Jews; of low rank in society, of little worth as
to character, anxious for gain, and practising extortion. Hence they were despised and detested. Such persons were, among other nations, held in contempt; but probably the dislike was much stronger among the Jews, as the payment of tribute perpetually reminded them that they were not only in subjection to a foreign power, but were even contributing to the support of a heathen gov. ernment.
GOSPEL OF MATTHEW.
The information concerning Matthew, in the New Testament, is brief. In the ninth chapter of his Gospel, it is related that Jesus, on one of his excursions to Capernaum, saw Matthew “sitting at the receipt of custom ;” that is, in the house where he attended as taxgatherer, or collector of the revenue. Being bidden by Jesus to follow him, he immediately obeyed. The account which Mark (2: 14) and Luke (5: 27, 28) give, is the same, excepting that the person is designated by another name; that is, Levi. It was, however, common among the Jews for the same person to have more names than one, and to be called by either of them. Thus Peter is also named Simon; Lebbeus (compare Matthew 10:3, and Luke 6: 16) is also named Thaddeus and Judas.
That the person named Levi, by Mark and Luke, is the same as Matthew, is evident from the perfect agreement in the circumstances related by the three evangelists, and from the fact, that, in the list of the twelve Apostles (Matthew 10:3), Matthew is called the publican. It was on account of his being a publican, that he was “sitting at the receipt of custom;" that is, at the custom-house, or tax-gatherer's office.
There is an additional agreement in the accounts of the three writers, and it is one which reflects much credit on Matthew. In Matthew's Gospel, after the calling of him by Jesus is mentioned, the account proceeds to state, that Jesus and many others were sitting at meat in the house. Now, from Mark (2: 15), we learn, that this entertainment took place in Levi's (that is, Matthew's) own house; and from Luke (5: 29), we learn more distinctly, that Levi (that is.
PREFACE TO THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW.
Matthew) furnished this entertainment. Matthew's design, doubtless, was, besides paying respect to Jesus, to give his former friends an opportunity for familiar acquaintance with Jesus, and to give Jesus a favorable opportunity for free and unrestrained conversation on religion and the Messiah's dispensation.
We cannot fail to notice the modesty of Matthew in his narrative. He gives himself no commendation: but while he wished to communicate the important conversation to which this interview gave rise, he has furnished no hint by which it could be known that the conversation occurred in connection with an entertainment given by himself. He wished to do honor to his Master, and to preserve the important sentiments which his Master had expressed. To others he left it, if they chose so to do, to make known the important part which he had in this matter.
Matthew's Gospel is believed, from the tradition of the earliest ages of Christianity, to have been written first of all the Gospels, in the order of time. The precise time cannot be fixed. It was probably not later than the year 50 or 60 of the Christian era; that is, somewhere within twenty or thirty years after the death of Christ. It has, however, by some writers, been assigned to as early a date as eight years after the death of Christ. A principal object with Matthew seems to have been, to excite and cherish confidence in Jesus, as the expected Messiah. His work is, therefore, distinguished by a careful pointing out of resemblances in the history of Jesus, to events and declarations stated in the Old Testament.
GOSPEL ACCORDING TO MATTHEW.
5 And Salmon begat Booz THE book of the generation of Rachab; and Booz begat
of David, the son of Abraham.
gat Jesse; 2 Abraham begat Isaac; and 6 And Jesse begat David the Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob king; and David the king begat begat Judas and his brethren; Solomon of her that had been
3 And Judas begat Phares the wife of Urias; and Zara of Thamar; and Pha 7 And Solomon begat Robores begat Esrom; and Esrom am; and Roboam begat Abia; begat Aram;
and Abia begat Asa; 4 And Aram begat Amina 8 And Asa begat Josaphat; dab; and Aminadab begat Naas- and Josaphat begat Joram; and son; and Naasson begat Sal- Joram begat Ozias; mon;
9 And Ozias begat JoaCHAPTER I.
among them; and if one, professing to
be the Messiah, could not trace his 1. The book of the generation. This descent to David and to Abraham, he expression corresponds to our word would fail in a particular, respecting genealogy, or family record; so that which the prophets had distinctly spothe whole phrase, The book of the gen- ken. Hence Jesus Christ is expressly eration of Jesus Christ, means, the called “the son of David.” That the genealogy, or family record, of Jesus Messiah was to descend from the royal Christ. That record follows, and ex- line of David, was firmly believed by hibits the names of the principal an- the Jews. See Is. 9: 7. 11:1. (Jesse cestors of Jesus. The word genera- was father of David.) See also Jer. tions is used in the Old Testament in 23: 5. And David's descent from a similar manner; and is employed Abraham was unquestionable. with reference to descendants as well 2. Judas; the Greek method of ex as to ancestors. See Gen.5:1. 10:1. pressing the word Judah. In several 11:10. From being used to desig- names of the genealogy there are slight nate family record, it came to signify departures from the sounds of the same family history, as in Gen. 37; 2; and names in the Old Testament, on achistoricul account in general, as in count of the different powers of the Gen. 2: 4.
Hebrew language, and of the Greek. It was customary among the Jews, Thus Esrom, in the 3d verse, is the and still is among the Arabians, to pre- same as Hezron in the Old Testaserve such lists of names as Matthew ment; Aram, v. 4, is the same as has recorded in this chapter. In the Ram in 1 Chron. 2: 10; Naasson, the case of the Jews, it was important, be- same as Nuhshon. Booz, in v. 5, is cause the Messiah, the great object of the same as Boaz, Ruth 4: 21. Ozias, their expectation, was to arise from in v. 8, is the same as Uzziah.