Biblical Studies/New Testament Commentaries/The Gospel of Matthew/Chapter 1

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Brief Introduction to Matthew

The Gospel of Matthew is, strictly speaking, anonymous. Longstanding tradition has defended Matthew, the disciple of Jesus, as the author of the book. Matthew was a tax collector before becoming a disciple. Those defending the tradition suggest that the evident skill of the writing resembles what might be expected of a tax collector. However, modern scholars assign the work to an unknown Jewish-Christian, educated in the Hebrew scripture (Varughese 284).

The sources in Matthew are thought to have been shared by the Gospel of Mark. Some sections of Matthew are also shared with Luke. Scholars for well over a century have identified the (mostly) sayings of Jesus shared with Luke as borrowed from a now-lost source called “Q.” This space given to the teachings of Jesus in Matthew suggest that this source must have been important to what the author of Matthew wanted to say. However like authorship and date, the sources used by Matthew are not accepted by all scholars (Varughese 284).

The date when Matthew was written is unknown. Proposed dates range from A.D. 45 to 150, although both the earliest and latest dates are unlikely. An emerging consensus suggests 85 as plausible.

Language: Matthew was written in Koine, the everyday Greek people spoke during the first century A.D. This is most apparent in the chapter 1, although it can be easily observed in chapters 2 and 28 as well (Buttrick 239).

Themes to look for in Matthew:

  • Emphasis on Jesus as messiah and his genealogy.
  • Emphasis on Jesus as the fulfillment of Judaism.
  • Emphasis on Jesus fulfilling the Israel’s history.
  • Emphasis on Jesus as Teacher
  • Emphasis on Jesus having more authority than prophets.
  • Emphasis on Jesus in comparison to Moses.
  • Emphasis on “ekklesia” or the church (only gospel to do this).

Introduction to Matthew Chapter One:

Matthew Chapter One can be broken into two sections, the first part of Matthew chapter one, begins the genealogy of Jesus and the second begins the birth narrative of Jesus. Though they are both a significant part of the Gospel's portrayal of the life of Jesus, we will be looking at them separately before uniting them as one chapter (Varughese 284).

Matthew Chapter 1[edit]

The Genealogy of Jesus 1 A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham: 2 Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, 3 Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar, Perez the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram, 4 Ram the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon,Nahshon the father of Salmon, 5 Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth,Obed the father of Jesse, 6 and Jesse the father of King David. David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah's wife, 7 Solomon the father of Rehoboam,Rehoboam the father of Abijah, Abijah the father of Asa, 8 Asa the father of Jehoshaphat,Jehoshaphat the father of Jehoram, Jehoram the father of Uzziah, 9 Uzziah the father of Jotham,Jotham the father of Ahaz, Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, 10 Hezekiah the father of Manasseh,Manasseh the father of Amon, Amon the father of Josiah, 11 and Josiah the father of Jeconiah[a] and his brothers at the time of the exile to Babylon. 12 After the exile to Babylon:Jeconiah was the father of Shealtiel, Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, 13 Zerubbabel the father of Abiud,Abiud the father of Eliakim, Eliakim the father of Azor, 14 Azor the father of Zadok,Zadok the father of Akim, Akim the father of Eliud, 15 Eliud the father of Eleazar,Eleazar the father of Matthan,Matthan the father of Jacob, 16 and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ. 17 Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Christ.[b]

The Birth of Jesus Christ 18 This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. 20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus,[c] because he will save his people from their sins."

22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23"The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel"[d]—which means, "God with us."

24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

The Genealogy of Jesus[edit]

(Matthew 1:1-17 from the New International Version)


1 A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham: 2 Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, 3 Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar, Perez the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram, 4 Ram the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon, Nahshon the father of Salmon, 5 Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse, 6 and Jesse the father of King David.

David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah's wife, 7 Solomon the father of Rehoboam, Rehoboam the father of Abijah, Abijah the father of Asa, 8 Asa the father of Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat the father of Jehoram, Jehoram the father of Uzziah, 9 Uzziah the father of Jotham, Jotham the father of Ahaz, Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, 10 Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, Manasseh the father of Amon, Amon the father of Josiah, 11 and Josiah the father of Jeconiah and his brothers at the time of the exile to Babylon.

12 After the exile to Babylon: Jeconiah was the father of Shealtiel, Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, 13 Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, Abiud the father of Eliakim, Eliakim the father of Azor, 14 Azor the father of Zadok, Zadok the father of Akim, Akim the father of Eliud, 15 Eliud the father of Eleazar, Eleazar the father of Matthan, Matthan the father of Jacob, 16 and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.

17 Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Christ.

Looking Into the Genealogy[edit]

Three sets of Fourteen generations:[edit]

(Verse 17)Although the author mentions 3 sets of 14 generations, there is apparently one missing generation within the third set. No one knows why only 13 generations are named. Some explanations have been offered:

a. One theory is that it did not flow with the authors “monotone” or “short phrase clauses.” Perhaps the last name in set two is to be counted also as the first in set three (Luz 80).
Problem: If this was done, there would actually be more than 14 names. Thus it is unlikely.
b. Mary, Jesus’ mother, was to be counted as a generation.
Problem: Mary would not have been counted as an entirely separate generation from Joseph (Hagner 5).
c. Jesus was 13th generation, so Christ after the resurrection is the 14th generation.
Argument: This was not the emphasis in the gospel of Matthew (Hagner 5).
d. Also this “missing” descendant that would make a full fourteen could have to do with the value that is found in David’s name. During this time numerical value in a name would not have been uncommon. David’s name just happens to add up to the numerical value of fourteen. The author of Luke provides the emphasis on the actual descent of Jesus through the lineage of David in his gospel, but through his son Nathan, whereas Matthew keeps the focus on Jesus’ descent through the royal lineage directly from Jesus to the throne (Hill, 74). Not only is he recognized in the genealogy to emphasis this royal decent, but it may also show that there was a royal “dignity” that David possessed, but was lost in the exile. This would be something that Jesus would soon regain (Hill, 75).
e. The most widely accepted argument is that the problem with the genealogy is at the end of the second set of 14 and the beginning of the third set, starting with Jechoniah (Hagner 6).
In comparison to 1 Chronicles chapter 3 it is possible that the author of Matthew took a different route from the Old Testament’s genealogy. In Chronicles Josiah was Jechoniah’s grandfather. In Matthew he is listed as his Father.

Passage Comparisons.pdf


This again shows that the author of Matthew has certain significant topics he wishes to emphasize.

Women in Genealogy:[edit]

It is unusual for women to be mentioned in biblical genealogies, which are usually patrilineal (based on the father’s side of the family, not the mother's).It is important to become familiar with the unique stories of some of these people to understand the significance that this lineage has to offer. (Below are some chapters to become more familiar with the lives within the lineage).

http://www.biblegateway.com

  • Tamar- (Genesis 38)
  • Rahab the Prostitute- The prostitute that protects Israelite spies. (Joshua chapter 2)
  • Ruth the Moabitess- Ruth 4:13 is the start of her lineage to David. The book of Ruth is important to understanding the character of Ruth.
  • Uriah’s Wife Bathsheba- (2 Samuel 11), Bathsheba as David’s wife has Solomon (2 Samuel 12:24).

Possible reasons why the author chose to include women in the lineage (Luz 83-84):

a. God’s Grace in Sinners. These women were far from perfect. However, Ruth was not usually considered in this way and some even believe Tamar's background was out of context. Also Bathsheba is not blamed as greatly as David for her situation.
b. God’s saving activity does not always follow expected and regular paths. This is true in all four of these women’s stories, but may not be close enough in all of their circumstances.
c. All these women are non-Jews. Tamar is a proselyte (Syrian Palestinian), Ruth is a Moabitess, Rahab from Canaanite territory, and Bathsheba’s first husband we know was a Hittite, so it is possible they had this in common. Suggesting that the Messiah was for the gentiles as well as for the Jewish tradition (Luz 84).
By choosing these types of women instead of the well-known mothers of Israel (Rebekah, Rachel, Sarah), adds to the idea that the Messiah was for every kind of person. This could be why the author chooses to refer to Bathsheba as “Uriah’s Wife” in past tense, to emphasis her adulterous situation (Turner 60).

Royal Messiah or Jesus as Messiah:[edit]

(Word Study) According to Marinus de Jonge, the word “Messiah” or its Hebrew form hammasiah is usually translated into Greek as "the Christ" (de Jonge 777). There has always been a strong emphasis on Jewish expectations of the Messiah. Jesus’ lineage helps reveal that he, in fact, fits the description of the Messiah found in the Old Testament (e.g., in Isaiah). This is due to two important connections found in his lineage; Abraham and David. Though Jesus may not have been what was expected, but from about 63 B.C. until the present, the common belief was that the Messiah was to be the son of David.

  • Abraham-(original name Abram):

Significant points of his life: His story begins(Genesis 11: 12) Call of Abram(Genesis 12) Covenant between Abram and the Lord,and his name changes to Abraham(Genesis 17:1-3). Abraham became the father of a great nation. He was in covenant with the Lord. This would have been significant to understand that Jesus came from this biblical figure.

  • King David

Significant points in his life: Enter David (1 Samuel 17) Becoming King (2 Samuel 5:1-4). By mentioning David in Jesus’ Lineage shows that Jesus is of royal descent.

It cannot be stressed enough the significance the rabbis would have found in these names (Zondervan 250). The author of Matthew was also paying attention to the significant of numerical value during this time period, not only by the way the genealogy was split up, but also the placement of David as a central point (Turner 58). Matthew was making his message clear. Even by mentioning the exile, which would have been one of the lowest points in Israelite history, in contrast to David being the highest.

Conclusion of the Genealogy: Mary and Joseph.[edit]

By the end of the genealogy we see the passage get much more specific with its language. This is due to the connection between it and the birth narrative that is to follow. Joseph is explained to be the husband of Mary. The pattern using the language “The father of” is left behind, and we see a different relationship. Why is this? By choosing to use this language, the lineage stays true to the virgin birth. It also shows the obedience of Joseph for being with his wife Mary (Turner 61).

The genealogy in the book of Matthew is not for the purpose of exact lineage from father to son, but for a deeper emphasis on theology (Turner 60). It was also not unusual for a child’s grandfather to be referred to as his father.The senior males within a family had great authority within biblical times (Wright 768).

The author of Matthew obviously put a great deal of thought into the way they presented the lineage of Jesus. It emphasizes Jesus as Messiah from a Royal and covenanted bloodline. It leads to a new understanding of a Messiah who is for all people, but still of Jewish descent. It supports the virgin birth and sets the tempo for the next part of Jesus’ story.

The Meaning of Family[edit]

(Word Study)

When searching through biblical dictionaries for the meaning of father or son, it says to see the word “family.” Within the New Testament two words are used for family; “patria and oikos” (Anchor Bible, 768). In the Old Testament the word for oikos was bayit, which includes the whole household. This would have included servants, workers, and non-blood relatives. It is important to understand this within the context of the New Testament and throughout Matthew. However, though the genealogy is not directly linked for father to son every time, it is referring to the word “patria.” Patria is the biological lineage of a family (Wright 768).

The Birth of Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:18-25 NIV)[edit]

18 This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."

22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23"The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel"—which means, "God with us."

24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

Verse by verse:[edit]

Verse 18:

In this time period, a woman would spend the first year of her marriage in her family's house before moving in and consummating her marriage to her husband. This is what the author is telling us about Jesus’ birth (Turner 63). Though Mary and Joseph were married, she has not had sexual relations with him. It was through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived. This is also important to see that the Holy Spirit would take an active role through this child (Hagner 17). It is also important to know, that the Hebrew word used for birth in this passage, comes from the same word used in Genesis 1 when referring to Jesus Christ (Hagner 17).

Verse 19:

This verse suggests that Joseph already knew of Mary’s pregnancy, and it was obviously not his. It also says a lot about Joseph’s Character. For a woman in Mary’s situation, this meant trial and humiliation in public for what she had done, but Joseph decides to divorce her quietly. This tells us a lot about Joseph, for Mary could have been put to death for her situation (Hendriksen, 130). Joseph is said to be “Righteous,” or what would have been understood as “Law-abiding” (Turner, 63). Joseph understood what he must do with Mary according to the law, but by doing so quietly for her sake, shows even more about Joseph’s character. Especially for a man that did not know how his wife was pregnant.

Verse 20-21: Joseph has a dream in which an angel explains Mary’s pregnancy. The dream also ties Joseph back to the emphasis on David. It is the only time in which Joseph is call David’s son instead of Jesus (Turner, 63). This could have been a sign that the angel was trying to give Joseph courage for what he was going to need to do (Hendriksen, 131). By the angel telling Joseph to take marry home and name her son, he is telling Joseph to adopt her son as his own. He also reveals Jesus’ purpose to Joseph through giving him a specific name (Turner, 64). This birth narrative begins with the same type of language as that is common for birth narratives in both Genesis and in Luke, but this is an uncommon thing to hear a Birth story told in this way (Turner, 67).

Verse 22-23: There have been many arguments over what is meant by he word “virgin” in the book of Matthew. Was it meant to describe a young woman or a sexually inexperienced woman? It has also been argued that only certain people would call Jesus Immanuel. However, by verse 23 quoting lines from Isaiah chapter 7, we can see that Matthew was staying with the prediction of Isaiah’s specific passage that a Messiah would be born of an actual virgin; not just a young girl (Turner, 71). It also re-emphasizes Jesus’ blood line, and fulfillment of Jewish beliefs. We also see the name “Immanuel” which means “God with us,” along with the Hebrew name given “Jesus,” which means “salvation” (Zaundervan, 253). These are two unique meanings to be given to the soon to come Messiah.

Verse 24-25: Again we see Joseph being obedient. He takes Mary as his wife, and Jesus as his son. The last verse does not indicate that Joseph and Mary did not later have sexual relations, because we see later in Matthew that Jesus has brothers and sisters (Turner, 72-73).

Comments and Implications for Today: [edit]

The author of Matthew has taken this narrative and shows the emphasis of Jesus Christ as the Messiah, through the significance of genealogy. God used people of great character, yet of all different kinds, to be the lineage to his son Jesus Christ. The one who would save all people from their sins. He is Immanuel,"God with us." This is as true now as it was then. Jesus Christ is the Messiah. God uses people who are willing, of all different kinds. He is still a God for all people. He is still a God that is with us. This is reflected in God's promise to deliver men who believe in Jesus from their sin and from eternal separation from God. Not all will be saved, but those who embrace Jesus as the Messiah seen in Matthew.