The first of the Gospels has been assigned by the Church, from the earliest times, to Matthew, one of the Twelve Apostles, and in all ages has been given the first place in the New Testament. He was the son of Alphæus, as we learn from Luke, who also calls him Levi ( Luke 5:27-29 ). He calls himself "Matthew the publican," refusing to conceal in his own history the despised calling that had engaged him before he entered the service of Christ. He was a Jew, but had so far lost the national feeling that he was a collector of the hateful Roman tribute at Capernaum, and was sitting at the receipt of custom when called by our Lord to leave all and to follow him. His history of the Savior shows, however, that he was more dominated by Jewish ideas than the writers of the other three gospels. Of the life of Matthew, after the death of the Savior, we have no information, for no reliance can be placed upon the traditions concerning his later history.
Whether written originally in Hebrew or not, it can hardly be doubted that Matthew wrote for Jewish readers. He takes for granted a familiarity with Jewish customs, laws, and localities, to a far greater extent than the other writers. Dean Alford says: "The whole narrative proceeds more upon a Jewish view of matters, and is concerned more to establish that point, which to a Jewish convert would be most important, namely, that Jesus is the Messiah prophesied in the Old Testament. Hence the commencement of his genealogy from Abraham and David; hence the frequent notice of the necessity of this or that event happening, because it was foretold by the prophets; hence the constant opposition of our Lord's spiritually ethical teaching to the carnal formalistic ethics of the Scribes and Pharisees."