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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 tax-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 employed 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
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.
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.
2 Abraham begat Isaac; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat Judas and his brethren;
3 And Judas begat Phares and Zara of Thamar; and Phares begat Esrom; and Esrom begat Aram;
4 And Aram begat Aminadab; and Aminadab begat Naasson; and Naasson begat Salmon;
5 And Salmon begat Booz of Rachab; and Booz begat Obed of Ruth; and Obed begat Jesse;
It was customary among the Jews, and still is among the Arabians, to preserve such lists of names as Matthew has recorded in this chapter. In the case of the Jews, it was important, because the Messiah, the great object of their expectation, was to arise from
6 And Jesse begat David the king; and David the king begat Solomon of her that had been the wife of Urias;
7 And Solomon begat Roboam; and Roboam begat Abia; and Abia begat Asa;
8 And Asa begat Josaphat; and Josaphat begat Joram; and Joram begat Ozias;
9 And Ozias begat Joaamong them; and if one, professing to be the Messiah, could not trace his descent to David and to Abraham, he would fail in a particular, respecting which the prophets had distinctly spo
Hence Jesus Christ is expressly called "the son of David." That the Messiah was to descend from the royal line of David, was firmly believed by the Jews. See Is. 9:7. 11: 1. (Jesse was father of David.) See also Jer. 23: 5. And David's descent from Abraham was unquestionable.
1. The book of the generation. This expression corresponds to our word genealogy, or family record; so that the whole phrase, The book of the gen-ken. eration of Jesus Christ, means, the genealogy, or family record, of Jesus Christ. That record follows, and exhibits the names of the principal ancestors of Jesus. The word generations is used in the Old Testament in a similar manner; and is employed with reference to descendants as well as to ancestors. See Gen. 5:1. 10: 1. 11: 10. From being used to designate family record, it came to signify family history, as in Gen. 37: 2; and historical account in general, as in Gen. 2: 4.
2. Judas; the Greek method of ex pressing the word Judah. In several names of the genealogy there are slight departures from the sounds of the same names in the Old Testament, on account of the different powers of the Hebrew language, and of the Greek. Thus Esrom, in the 3d verse, is the same as Hezron in the Old Testament; Aram, v. 4, is the same as Ram in 1 Chron. 2:10; Naasson, the same as Nahshon. Booz, in v. 5, is the same as Boaz, Ruth 4:21. Ozias, in v. 8, is the same as Uzziah.