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The Apostles, St. Matthias

posted Oct 18, 2018, 7:51 AM by Allen Bergstrazer   [ updated Oct 18, 2018, 7:58 AM ]

The Apostles,
St. Matthias



Name:   Matthias is a Greek transliteration of the Hebrew

name Matthew which means “Gift from Yahweh.”


Who was he?  

     According to the Acts of the Apostles, Matthias was the apostle

 chosen by the remaining eleven apostles to replace Judas Iscariot following

 Judas' betrayal of Jesus and suicide.  His calling as an apostle is unique in that his appointment was not made personally by Jesus, who had already ascended to heaven, and, it was made before the descending of the Holy Spirit upon the early Church.

   There is no mention of a Matthias among the lists of disciples or followers of Jesus in the three synoptic gospels. According to Acts chapter 1, in the days following the Ascension of Jesus, the assembled disciples, who numbered about one hundred and twenty, nominated two men to replace Judas: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. Then they prayed, "Lord, you know everyone's heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs." Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles. (Acts 1:23-26)

    It is apparent from Acts that Matthias, though not mentioned prior to his calling to replace Judas was indeed one of the men who had witnessed the teachings of Jesus ‘from the time he was baptized by John.” (Acts 1:22)  Historian Eusebius thought that Matthias was one of the seventy sent out by Jesus (Luke 10:1).  This is entirely possible, and in this role he would have had opportunity to show qualities of leadership which impressed the eleven. 

   Matthias had apparently accompanied the twelve apostles on numerous occasions and very possibly may have been at first a disciple of John the Baptist like John and Andrew.  Since he was elected immediately after the ascension of Jesus he was therefore in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost and had an early and prominent part in the early days of Christianity’s expansion.  As a Jew he would have gone from Jerusalem to minister to the far flung diaspora of Israel.  There were colonies of Jews and other Hebrews to be found in practically every population center throughout the Middle East. 


 His discipleship after Pentecost:

     No further information about Matthias is to be found in the canonical New Testament.


Church tradition/Lore:

     Matthias is mentioned quite a lot in historical books about early Christianity.  Unfortunately there is also a great deal of confusion as well-even over his name.  The Syriac version of Eusebius does not call him Matthias but "Tolmai", not to be confused with Bartholomew (which means Son of Tolmai) who was originally one of the twelve Apostles.  Clement of Alexandria says some identified him with Zacchaeus; which is impossible as Zacchaeus was never a disciple in the sense that the others were.  The Clementine Recognitions identify him with Barnabas.  Hilgenfeld thinks he is the same as Nathanael in the Gospel of John.

    According to Nicephorus (Historia eccl., 2, 40), Matthias first preached the Gospel in Judea, then in what was called ‘Ethiopia’ but that name was a synonym for the region of Colchis, which is in modern-day Georgia.  In Biblical times there was probably two regions called Ethiopia, the one in Africa that we know today, and the other not identifiable today which seems to have been one of the provinces of Mesopotamia or Armenia.   He is believed to have been crucified in Colchis. A marker placed in the ruins of the Roman fortress at Gonio (Apsaros) in the modern Georgian region of Adjara claims that Matthias is buried at that site. An extant CopticActs of Andrew and Matthias,” places his activity similarly in "the city of the cannibals" in Ethiopia.   

    Matthias is one of the five apostles credited by Armenian tradition with evangelizing Armenia.  These five were Thaddeus, Bartholomew, Simon the Cananaean, Andrew and Matthias.  One can imagine Matthias returning to Jerusalem a battered witness of dangerous missionary experience. But upon his return he found a greater antagonism toward Christianity among the Jews than when he first had left-the antagonism proved to be fatal.   Most traditions hold that he was stoned to death by a crowd of hostile Jews around A.D. 51, which would probably make him the second of the twelve to die. Alternatively, another tradition maintains that Matthias was stoned at Jerusalem by the Jews, and then beheaded, this tradition is shown in the shield of St. Matthias which depicts an open Bible with a double bladed battle axe over it. 

    It is claimed that St Matthias the Apostle's remains are interred in the abbey of St. Matthias, Trier, Germany,  and were brought there through Empress Helena of Constantinople, the mother of Emperor Constantine I (the Great).

    The feast of Saint Matthias was included in the Roman calendar in the 11th century and celebrated on February 24.  Owing to the reform of the Roman Catholic Calendar of Saints in 1969, his feast was transferred to May 14, so as not to celebrate it in Lent but instead in Eastertide close to the Solemnity of the Ascension, the event after which the Acts of the Apostles recounts that Matthias was selected to be ranked with the Twelve Apostles. The Eastern Orthodox Church celebrates his feast on August 9. The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod and The Lutheran Church–Canada, retains this feast day on February 24.



Question 1:  What was the one criterion that Peter had for selecting a replacement for Judas and can that still be applied today in our consideration of leaders in the church? 


Question 2:  Why do you think the one particular criterion for a replacement of Judas mattered?


Question 3: Read Revelation 21:14.  Though Matthias was chosen to be an apostle after the Lord’s ascension, his name will be honored with the others.  In what way is he like latter day Christians?    


Prayer:  Almighty God, You chose Your servant Matthias to be numbered among the Twelve.  Grant that Your Church, ever preserved from false teachers, may be taught and guided by faithful and true pastors; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.