Apostle. The name is probably an abbreviation of Mattathias, meaning “gift of Yahweh.” He was chosen to take the place of Judas Iscariot among the twelve apostles (Acts 1:15-26). The qualifications for the office were, to have been a companion of the Twelve during the ministry of Jesus until the ascension and to have met the risen Christ so as to be able to witness to the resurrection. This in effect meant he must be able to preach the kerygma from firsthand experience. The choice was by lot, as in the Urim and Thummim of the OT, a system not apparently used after Pentecost. The idea that the choice was a mistake and that the place was meant for Paul is based on a misunderstanding of the nature of Paul's apostleship. Nothing else is known with certainty about Matthias, but Eusebius suggests that he was one of the seventy (Luke 10:1).


Eusebius, History of the Church; E. Hennecke, New Testament Apocrypha, II (1965).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

Matthias was the one upon whom the lot fell when he, along with Joseph Barsabbas, was put forward to fill up the place in the apostleship left vacant by nodetitle (Ac 1:15-26). This election was held at Jerusalem, and the meeting was presided over by Peter. The conditions demanded of the candidates were that they should "have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and went out among us, beginning from the baptism of John, unto the day that he was received up from us," and that the one chosen should "become a witness with us of his resurrection" (Ac 1:21,22). The mode of procedure was by lot, and with prayer was the election made (compare Ac 1:24).

Hilgenfeld identifies Matthias with Nathanael (compare NATHANAEL). He was traditionally the author of the "Gospel of Matthias," a heretical work referred to by Origen (Hom. on Lk, i), by Eusebius (Historia Ecclesiastica, III, 25, 6) and by Hieronymus (Proem in Matth.). No trace of it is left. The Gnostic Basilides (circa 133 AD) and his son Isidor claimed to ground their doctrine in the "Gospel of Basilides" on the teaching Matthias received directly from the Saviour (Hippol., vii.20) (compare Hennecke, Neutestamentliche Apokryphen, 167). Various parts of the apocryphal "Contendings of the Apostles" deal with the imprisonment and blinding of Matthias by the Ethiopian cannibals, and his rescue by Andrew (compare Budge, Contendings of the Apostles, II, 163, 164, 267-88; see also ANDREW). According to the Martyrdom of Matthias (Budge, II, 289-94) he was sent to Damascus, and died at Phalaeon, a city of Judea. Other sources mention Jerusalem as the place of Matthias’ ministry and burial.