Tag Archives: Matthias

The Replacement Apostle (Part 2)

Matthias in Tradition

Almost all the early writers who deal with the topic say that Matthias was one of the seventy men chosen by Jesus in Luke 10 to proclaim the coming of the Kingdom of God, and heal sicknesses.1 These men were “sent”2 by Jesus Christ with a mission very similar to the apostles in their “limited commission.”3  Some believe that it is this group of people that Paul was referencing when he said that Jesus appeared to all the apostles (after already mentioning “the twelve”) in 1 Corinthians 15:7.4

It is said by some that the selection of Matthias was a mistake, a “blunder” made by the apostles, and that the real heir to Judas’ spot was Saul of Tarsus.5 In the face of the biblical evidence, however, it’s impossible to take such a view seriously.  (1) Peter properly applied biblical prophecy to say Judas needed to be replaced.  (2) They prayed for the Lord to make the selection, and there is no indication that the Lord ignored the prayer.  (3) God approved of the choice, for Peter stood up “with the eleven” (which would include Matthias) as ones who were speaking in tongues by the power of God.6 (4) Paul never once classed himself as one of the twelve—in fact, he showed that he was not one of them in 1 Corinthians 15:1-8.

After Matthias disappears from the biblical stage, there are traditions that say he spent time evangelizing Ethiopia with Rufus and Alexander, the sons of Simon of Cyrene, who bore the cross of Jesus in Mark 15:21.7  A work entitled “The Acts of Andrew and Matthew” is, in a significant number of manuscripts, titled “The Acts of Andrew and Matthias.”8  Because of the similarity in their names, the traditions tend to overlap, with no real certainty about which apostle is supposed to be under consideration.9  In one version of this work, Matthias, Rufus, and Alexander all go to Ethiopia to a city of cannibals, where Matthias is captured, blinded, and thrown into prison before he is healed by God and rescued by Andrew.  After they were both captured and thrown back into prison, they caused a flood to come on the inhabitants of the city, and then as they walked out of the prison, the waters divided in front of them like the Red Sea.  Though many died in the flood, the apostles prayed and all those who died were raised up.  Afterwards, many were baptized.10

The Preaching of Thomas in India claims that Matthias was taken by Peter to Persia.11

The Martyrdom of Matthias12 says that he preached in Damascus, where the people rose up against him, fastened him to a bedstead of iron, and tried to burn him alive on it for 24 days straight, but like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, the flames didn’t harm him.  Thus, the people in Damascus began to follow Christ.  After some more time working among the people, he moved to Judea and there died.13

Though it is now lost to time, a heretical gospel account was written by someone who attached Matthias’ name to it.  Meanwhile, a second-century Gnostic sect falsely claimed that they got all of their doctrines from Matthias.  Some traditions say he worked in Jerusalem and died there,14 while others say he was martyred in Ethiopia,15 and still others believe he was martyred in Colchis.16

People have been tempted to identify Matthias as someone else in the biblical narrative.   At least one writer has suggested that Matthias is the same as Nathanael.17 Clement of Alexandria was of the opinion that Matthias was another name for Zacchaeus, the tax collector mentioned in Luke 19.18

-Bradley S. Cobb

1 Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, Book 1, chapter 12.

2 The Greek word for “sent” in Luke 10:1 is the verb form of “apostle.”  Thus, Jesus “apostled” these men, and they were, in a very real sense, apostles of Jesus Christ—just not counted among “the twelve.”

3 Compare the words of Jesus in Luke 10:1-16 with Matthew 10:1-16.

4 See the commentaries of Adam Clarke; Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown; Henrich Meyer; and John Wesley.  If this is the case, then it fits together with the requirement that the nominees for Judas’ vacant spot was to be one who had seen the risen Lord.

5 See David Smith’s article in James Hasting’s Dictionary of the Bible, “Matthias.”

6 See Acts 2:1-14.

7 See Budge, Contendings of the Apostles, Vol. 2, page 163-164.

8 Unfortunately, there is confusion on whether it is Matthias or Matthew that is under consideration in some of ancient Apocryphal Acts.  In the stories about the cannibals, some manuscripts say Matthew, while others say Matthias.  As such, many of the traditions about Matthias are also said to be traditions about Matthew, simply because no one knows for certain which one is under consideration.  See the section “Matthew, According to Tradition” in the chapter on that apostle for more details.

9 The Ethiopian traditions, which were translated by Budge in Contendings of the Apostles say that it was Matthias who went to the city of cannibals, which is what is described in “The Acts of Andrew and Matthew/Matthias.”

10 This version of the story is contained in Budge’s Contendings of the Apostles, Vol. 2, pages 267-288.  Pages 370-403 give a fuller version of the story, called The Preaching of Matthias.

11 See Budge, Contendings of the Apostles, Vol. 2, page 320.  This work appears to be a slightly enlarged edition of the Acts of Thomas, at least of the opening sequence.

12 The title for this work is rather ironic, considering that it records Matthias dying a natural death.

13 Budge, Contendings of the Apostles, Vol. 2, pages 289-294.

14 See the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, “Matthias.”

15 See Smith’s Bible Dictionary, “Matthias.”

16 See Richard Watson’s Biblical and Theological Dictionary.

17 See the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, “Matthias.”

18 This according to John Gill, in his notes on Acts 1:23.

The Replacement Apostle (Part 1)

Though Matthias is only mentioned once in the biblical record, we actually know more about him that some people think.

Matthias the Early Disciple

In order for Matthias to be nominated as an apostle, he had to have been one who “went in and out” with the apostles and Jesus, dating back to the baptism of John.1  This means that Matthias was well-known among the apostles as being one who had proven faithful in following the Lord Jesus Christ during His earthly ministry.  Matthias would have seen Jesus perform miracles, and most likely was among those who traveled with Jesus to Jerusalem and saw Jesus overturn the tables of the money-changers.2  Since he had to have been one of the earliest disciples in order to be nominated to be an apostle, it also means he was probably one of the ones in Judea with Jesus, baptizing people.3

Matthias the Witness of the Resurrected Christ

We are not told exactly when and how Matthias saw Jesus after His resurrection, but we do know that it happened, because it was a requirement for someone to be nominated to become an apostle.  Certainly, it was one of the following occasions:

Christ died on behalf of our sins, according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He has been raised up on the third day, according to the Scriptures.  And that He appeared to Cephas, and then to the twelve; thereafter He appeared to over five hundred brethren at once, out of whom most remain until now, but some have also fallen asleep; thereafter He appeared to James, thereafter to all the apostles.4

Matthias the Chosen

Prior to Pentecost, there were around 120 disciples meeting together in Jerusalem, and Matthias was one of them.  He watched as Peter stood up and announced that the Scriptures foretold that Judas Iscariot was to be replaced:

Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples, and said, “Men and brethren, it was necessary for this Scripture to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit, by the mouth of David, spoke before concerning Judas, who was the guide for the ones who took Jesus.  For he was numbered with us, and had obtained a part of this ministry. … For it is written in the book of Psalms, ‘Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein,’ and ‘His overseership let another man take.’  Therefore, from these men who have accompanied us all the time in which the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John, until that same day that He was taken up from us, must one have been to be a witness with us of His resurrection.5

We don’t know what Matthias was thinking at this point, but it probably included the idea, I’ve been with them during that time. 

Among the 120 disciples that were there, only two men were put forward—Joseph Barsabbas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias himself.6  The apostles did not choose between the two of them, but instead, they went to God in prayer, asking Him to show which one had been chosen.

They prayed, and said, “You, Lord, who knows the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen to take part of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas by transgression fell, to go to his own place.”7

After the prayer, they8 cast their lots, and the lot fell on Matthias.9  As a result, he was chosen to become the new twelfth apostle.  This selection shows that he was a faithful disciple, and that the Lord trusted him.

The results of this selection were that Matthias was baptized with the Holy Spirit not long afterwards, along with the rest of the apostles.  He stood up and preached the wonderful works of God in another language, along with the rest of the apostles.  He performed miracles and wonders, like the rest of the apostles.  He helped oversee the distribution of funds for the needy saints in Jerusalem, along with the rest of the apostles.  In short, even though he was the newest apostle, he was still an apostle, with every bit as much authority as the other eleven had.  It wasn’t as though he was some newcomer to the scene, for he was one of the earliest disciples of the Lord, and had been in the apostles’ company for years.

Matthias died in faith, and when this life is over, we can hope to meet him as well.

-Bradley S. Cobb

1 This has caused some unnecessary confusion, because none of the apostles followed Jesus until at least 40 days after His baptism.  The reference, then, is to someone who was a disciple of Jesus dating back to the time when John was still alive and baptizing people—obviously, the earlier the better.

2 John chapter 2.

3 As recorded in John 3:22, 4:1-2.

4 1 Corinthians 15:3-7, Modern Literal Version.  Some believe the phrase “all the apostles” is a reference to the seventy men that Jesus “apostled” (sent) in Luke 10.

5 Acts 1:15-17, 22.  Verses 18-19 are an insertion by Luke, explaining what happened to Judas after the betrayal, something that the author didn’t include in his gospel account.

6 Since Peter laid out the requirements for the replacement, it appears as though these two men were the only ones who were qualified.  It’s not that the others among the 120 weren’t faithful disciples of the Lord, but that they weren’t able to be a witness of the entire ministry of Jesus Christ on earth, as Matthias and Joseph were.  This is strong evidence that the man called “Nathanael” by John (see chapter on Bartholomew) was already one of the apostles, for he fit these qualifications.

7 Acts 1:24-25.  The KJV needlessly confuses some of this passage.  The word “whether” is used, when the Greek is literally “which one.”  It uses the phrase “that he may take,” when the Greek is literally “to take,” and makes perfect sense just like that (as rendered in the translation we have chosen to use above).

8 The text isn’t clear as to the identity of the “they” under consideration.  It may be that Joseph and Matthias both cast their lots, and it landed on Matthias.  It could be the apostles themselves who did this.  The second seems more likely, as Joseph and Matthias were not the “they” who were praying in the verses previous to this (see how they are referenced as “these two” and not “us two”).

9 The casting of lots is not, as some would have us believe, a form of gambling.  Gambling involves risk, whether it is placing a coin in a slot or wagering large amounts of money on a football game—there is always the risk that you will lose something.  In casting lots, there was no such risk of loss.  It is equivalent to flipping a coin or drawing straws to determine who is chosen for a specific job.  In fact, the book of Proverbs (16:33) says that “the lot is cast into the lap, but the whole disposing thereof [that is, the determining of who is chosen] is of God.”