Matthias (apostle)

Article

May 25, 2022

The apostle Matthias (...-...) according to the book of the Acts of the Apostles 1,21-22 was one of the seventy disciples of Jesus and remained with him from Baptism by John the Baptist until the Ascension. The Greek Matthias (or, in some manuscripts, Maththias) is a name derived from Mattathias, in Hebrew מתיאס הקדוש ’’ Mathiās ’’, which means "Gift of God"; he should not be confused with Matthew, also an apostle (and whose name has the same meaning).

Matthias in the New Testament

In the book of Acts 1: 15-26 it is said that, in the days following the Ascension, the apostle Peter proposed to the assembly of brothers, whose number was one hundred and twenty, to choose one among them to take the place of the traitor Judas Iscariot in the apostolic college. Two disciples were proposed: Joseph, called Barsaba, and Matthias. A draw was carried out which indicated Matthias and who was therefore associated with the eleven apostles.

Matthias in ancient Christian writings

All further information concerning Mattia's life and death is vague and contradictory. According to Nikephoros, he preached first in Judea and then in Ethiopia and was then crucified. Doroteo's synopsis contains this tradition: A tradition of doubtful historical value tells us that Matthias would have suffered martyrdom in Jerusalem by stoning by the Jews, and then beheaded, according to tradition with a halberd, which has become his iconographic attribute.

Worship

The relics of Mattia are contained in a marble ark in the transept of the basilica of Santa Giustina in Padua, not far from the ark of the evangelist St. Luke. It has been said that St. Helen the empress brought the relics of St. Matthias to Rome, and that some of them were near Trier. Bollandus believes that the relics found in Rome were rather those of St. Matthias or Matthew, who was bishop of Jerusalem around the year 120, who seem to have later been confused with those of the apostle. The Catholic Church celebrates the feast of St. Matthias on May 14; the calendar of the Tridentine Mass remembers him on 7 February in the Ambrosian Rite and on 24 February in the Roman Rite, as well as the Lutheran Church and the Anglican Church; the Orthodox Church and the other Churches of Greek tradition on 9 August.

The Gospel of Matthias

Clemente Alessandrino recalls a sentence that the Nicolaitans ascribe to Mattia: This teaching was probably found in the Gospel of Matthias which was remembered by Origen; by Eusebius of Caesarea, who attributes it to heretics; from St. Jerome, and in the decree of Gelasius (VI, 8) which declares it apocryphal. This is at the end of the list of the Barrocianus Codex (206). This gospel is probably the document with which Clement of Alexandria quoted several passages, knowing that they were borrowed from the traditions of Matthias, Paradoesis, whose testimony was claimed by the heretics Valentine, Marcion and Basilides. According to the Philosophoumena, VII, 20, Basilides records apocryphal discourses, which he attributes to Matthias. These three writings: the gospel, the traditions, and the apocryphal discourses were identified by Zahn, but Harnack rejects this identity. Tischendorf published after Thilo, 1846, Acta Andreae et Matthiae in urbe anthropophagarum, which according to Lipsius belong to the middle of the second century. These apocryphals report that Mattia went among the cannibals and, having been thrown into prison, was handed over by Andrew; the whole narrative is without historical value, and in the apocryphal writings Matthew and Matthias were sometimes confused.

Ancestry of Matthias

According to the Golden Legend and according to the most ancient Apocryphal Acts, St. Matthias the apostle was born in Bethlehem (of Judea) from a noble family of the Tribe of Judah, the same as the traitor apostle. This information is not confirmed by the four canonical Gospels or by the Acts of the Apostles, but assumes an important importance because it would assimilate the Twelve Apostles, which