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Matthew's original name was Levi (the same name as the son of Jacob who was the founder of the priestly tribe of Israel). He was given the name Matthew -- meaning "gift of God" -- by Jesus after being called as an apostle. Matthew was called by Jesus while acting in his role as a publican -- that is, a tax collector who gathered revenue on behalf of the Roman occupiers of Palestine. Publicans were widely regarded as dishonest individuals who collected more than they were authorized to in order to enrich themselves, and also as traitors to their nationality and religion through their work for the Romans. Immediately after his calling by Jesus, Matthew staged a dinner for Jesus at his house, which was attended by many other publicans, leading to the Pharisees criticizing Jesus for the sinful people with whom He associated, and leading Jesus to comment that those who were well were not in need of a physician, but those who were sick, and that He had come not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. Matthew is associated with the gospel bearing his name, which included a tracing of Jesus' genealogy (through the royal ancestry of His earthly father Joseph) back through David to Abraham (Matthew 1:1-17), as well as the lengthy discourse by Jesus that has come to be known as the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). Matthew's gospel is generally viewed as having been directed to a Jewish readership because of its extensive references to the manner in which Jesus fulfilled messianic prophecies contained in the Old Testament, with which Jews would have been familiar. Church tradition maintains that Matthew later preached the gospel in Ethiopia, where he was eventually martyred (circa AD 60) as a result of being impaled by a spear.
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