In this chapter, the genealogy of Jesus Christ and his birth are told.
As I will write in the introduction to every chapter:
This translation and commentary are offered for free, gratis, across the worldwide web to Christians in oppressive (persecuting) or developing countries, who cannot afford printed commentaries or Study Bibles, though everyone can use the commentary and entire website, of course.
The commentary has a practical application (GrowApp) at the end of each section, for discipleship.
The Greek terms with brief definitions can be looked up at biblehub.com. However, I hope to bring different nuances to the few words I focus on. And I keep things nontechnical.
The translation is mine. I wrote it to learn what the Greek text really says. The translation tends to be literal, but complete literalism and readability are impossible, so adjustments had to be made. If you would like to see other translations, please go to biblegateway.com.
Links are provided for further study.
The Genealogy of Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:1-17)
This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, 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[c] 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 Abihud,
Abihud the father of Eliakim,
Eliakim the father of Azor,
14 Azor the father of Zadok,
Zadok the father of Akim,
Akim the father of Elihud,
15 Elihud 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, and Mary was the mother of Jesus who is called the Messiah.
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 Messiah. (NIV)
Okay, I admit it. I used the New International Version in these opening verses because I simply did not want to type out all the names. I would probably miss one. Plus, I would have translated the verses as those translators did: “was the father of” (ESV, NASB, NEC, NLT). Other options: “the father of” (NET) or “begat” (KJV) or “begot” (NKJV) or “had” (Message). Of course, the KJV and NKJV are right because the verb is active and applies to the father who begets or procreates, while the mother births or gives birth (and they procreate together). Also, one could translate the main verb as “ancestor of,” indicating a skipped genealogy (Turner, p. 58).
However, the modern reader doesn’t like “begot” or “begat,” yet they appear in the opening verses of the New Testament! So translators don’t want to scare off beginning readers. I can’t blame them when other options are available.
I will translate the rest of the chapter and the rest of the Gospel.
At the end of Matt. 2, commentator Turner offers us this summary of the infancy narrative:
In retrospect it is clear that the message of the so-called infancy narratives in Matt. 1-2 has little to do with Jesus’ infancy. Rather, they trace his ancestry, miraculous conception, early worship and opposition and residence in Nazareth. All this is interwoven with biblical-historical patterning and prophetic prediction. Jesus is the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham. He is the culmination of biblical history and prophecy. As the son of David, he is the genuine king of Israel, contrasted with the wicked usurper Herod. As the son of Abraham, he brings the blessing of God to the gentile magi … “Jesus culminates Israel’s history in chapter 1; in chapter 2 he repeats it.” (comment on 2:23b).
In the last quoted sentence Turner is referring to two other commentators. His point is that Jesus is the fulfillment of Israel’s history and the answer to Israel’s longing for deliverance. Jesus is the apex of the story of Israel. I add: but this deliverance will not be as the Jerusalem establishment and Jewish leaders and the populace demands. We know that his people will officially reject him, though thousands converted after Pentecost (Acts 2:41; 4:4; 6:7 [large number of priests]; 21:20).
This genealogy teaches us that God sends his son, birthed into his creation, so that God can launch the newly accented kingdom, which will eventually culminate in new creation at the end of this age, when he comes back a second time in the Second Coming. Right now, however, this is his first coming.
Grammarian Wesley Olmstead suggests this translation of v. 1: “The account of the genesis of Jesus the Messiah” (emphasis original). The Septuagint (pronounced sep-TOO-ah-gent) is a third to second century Greek translation of the Hebrew. And the wording “the account of the genesis” appears only in Gen. 2:4 and 5:1. Matthew is being intentional. Verse 18 again repeats the Greek word genesis, to give the account of Jesus’s birth or the beginning of his life; and second, Gen. 5:1 echoes 2:4, so this the genesis or creation of Jesus during his incarnation. No, Jesus was not created at his conception and had no existence before his incarnation, but it is the genesis or beginning of his earthly life. In any case, Olmstead offers this translation in light of Gen. 2:4 and 5:1. You can take it or leave it.
One big point to the genealogy is that some Jews of the first century and beyond, looking for ways to deny Jesus as the Messiah, claimed that Jesus’s parentage was doubtful. In reply, Matthew’s genealogy is designed to clear the air and prove it was royal and included key figures in Israel’s past. So Matthew is being polemical or feisty.
“Christ”: it is a title that means “an anointed one” or “the anointed one.” It soon evolved into his name, and even the writers of the epistles seem to adopt it as his name. It appears 18 times in Matthew, and three times in the prologue (vv. 1-17). This shows that Matthew is a devout Christian who recognized that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah (Carson).
See my post on the title or name of Christ:
“Son of David”: David is the turning point or pivot in the genealogy, and it recurs throughout the Gospel: 9:27; 12:23; 15:22; 20:30-32; 21:9, 15; 22:42, 45). Jesus will show that he is the Lord of David, so he rises above the earlier model king, his ancestors (22:41-46). Jesus was going to fulfill the David covenant by sitting on his throne—by himself, without sharing it with his ancestor. So the throne of David is not enduring forever (2 Sam. 7:12-16).
“The tree of David, hacked off so that only a stump remained, was spouting a new branch” (Is. 11:1) (Carson). The new branch was Jesus the Messiah.
Jesus is also the son of Abraham, since David was the son of Abraham. The promise of faith came through the patriarch (Gen. 12:1-3; 17:7; 22:18). This was very basic in Paul’s theology, since Abraham was declared righteous by faith (Rom. 4:1-5; 9-25; Gal. 3:7-18). This promise of salvation by faith—as distinct from law-keeping—will be fulfilled in Christ Jesus. The blessing of Abraham’s seed or offspring is Jesus, and at the Great Commission to make disciples of all nations, Jesus will fulfill the promise (Matt. 28:18-20).
Jesus’s Ancestry: Men
All of them were sinners, and their bad behavior is laid out for us in Scripture. Some would say that they were moral “train wrecks.” But God still used and redeemed them.
The following names and events in their lives are not exhaustive. You can find more trouble and their redemption, with more research.
Positive: He believed the Lord, and it was credited to him as righteousness (Gen. 15:6; Rom. 4:3; Gal. 3:6). He was called the “friend of God” (2 Chron. 20:7; Jas. 2:23).
Negative: He had a child by Sarai’s slave woman, Hagar (Gen. 15:1-6); he lied to the Pharaoh about Sarai not being his wife (Gen. 12:10-20). He lied to king Abimelech about the same thing (Gen. 20).
Positive: He humbled himself to permit his father (almost) to sacrifice him (Gen. 22); he found a good wife (Gen. 24); he received the same promise from God as his father did (Gen. 26:1-5);
Negative: he also lied to Abimelech about his wife Rebecca (Gen. 26:6-11). He allowed himself to be tricked by his son Jacob (Gen. 27)
Positive: Jacob sought God (Gen. 28:10-17); he wrestled with God (32:22-32); God renames him Israel, which means “wrestle with God” of “God strives” (35:9-14).
Negative: Jacob was a deceiver and trickster. He tricked his father Isaac (Gen. 27). But he was tricked by his father-in-law Laban (Gen. 29:15-30). But then he outsmarted his father-in-law in prospering his own livestock (30:25-43). He loved Rachel more than Leah (29:30).
Now let’s skip many generations.
Positive: He wrote many Psalms. He was a giant killer (1 Sam. 17). He was the exemplary king, winning many battles and seeking God. Jesus was called the son of David (Matt. 9:27; 15:22; 20:30-31; 21:9, 15; 22:42). David’s last words were poetry of praise (2 Sam. 23).
Negative: he committed adultery with Bathsheba and orchestrated the murder of his husband Uriah (2 Sam. 11-12). Trouble never left his family (2 Sam. 12:10-11). His son Absalom revolted (2 Sam. 17-18); he wrongly counted his army without God’s permission and brought judgment on the nation (2 Sam. 24). His son Adonijah tries to become king prematurely (1 Kings 1:1-27)
This passage states the problem:
In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, … One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful, 3 and David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, “She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite.” 4 Then David sent messengers to get her. She came to him, and he slept with her. (2 Sam. 11:1, 2-4, NIV)
Next, David recalled Uriah (Bathsheba’s husband) and told him to go home and sleep with his wife. Uriah said no:
11 Uriah said to David, “The ark and Israel and Judah are staying in tents, and my commander Joab and my lord’s men are camped in the open country. How could I go to my house to eat and drink and make love to my wife? As surely as you live, I will not do such a thing!” (2 Sam. 11:11, NIV)
David gets panicky and plots Uriah’s death:
14 In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it with Uriah. 15 In it he wrote, “Put Uriah out in front where the fighting is fiercest. Then withdraw from him so he will be struck down and die.” (2 Sam. 11:14-15, NIV)
Now Nathan the prophet told a parable about a rich man with lots of flocks and herds, who took a poor man’s lamb to slaughter it for dinner. Nathan asked David what should be done to the rich man. David reacted. The rich man should die and pay four times the amount. Nathan now rebukes the king:
7 Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. 8 I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you all Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more. 9 Why did you despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. 10 Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.’ (2 Sam. 12:7-10, NIV)
Yet God did not withdraw his love for David. God did not cancel out David’s covenant. It is now fulfilled in his descendant, King Jesus. In Christ, the Davidic covenant lives on forever, just as the Lord had promised David.
Positive: he was the wisest of all kings, after God gave him wisdom beyond measure (1 Kings 4:29-30; 2 Kings 10:14-29). His prayer of dedication of the temple and his closing benediction were inspired and inspiring (2 Kings 8:22-61). The Lord appeared to him and promised him wisdom and wealth (2 Kings 9:1-9).
Negative: summed up in these verses: “He had 700 wives, who were princesses, and 300 concubines. And his wives turned away his heart. 4 For when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father” (2 Kings 11:3-4, ESV). It all went downhill from there. He even built a high altar to the bloodthirsty demonic being Molek who demanded child sacrifices (2 Kings 11:7).
Jesus’s Ancestry: Women
Now for the women listed in the genealogy.
Commentator R. T. France points out that the appearance of women in OT genealogies is not so rare (Gen. 20:22-24; 25:1-6; 36:1-14; 1 Chron. 2:3-4, 18-20, 46-47, 3:1-9); . what is rare is that four (or three) foreign women appear in this genealogy here. However, it is still good sermon material to talk about the disreputable past of many people—in order to show that Jesus’s ancestry may be imperfect, but so is ours. We can still be accepted by God, even if our heritage is off-kilter or dubious (or dodgy, as the English like to say).
In contrast to Matthew, Luke writes about women contributing mightily to the Jesus Movement (Luke 8:2-3; 23:49; 55; 24:10, 22, 44), but he does not include women by name in his genealogy, not even the great matriarchs like Sarah, Rebecca, and Rachel and Leah, and not even Mary, the mother of Jesus. Matthew mentions four besides Mary.
Let’s look at their lives.
Tamar (Gen. 38)
She was an Aramean woman. She married losers who did not do right by her. According to ancient custom, brothers were to marry Tamar and were required to carry on their brother’s lineage, but they performed “tricks” to not do their duty. The Lord “took” them. (According to some Bible interpreters, God is said to do what he actually allows. When people break the law, they suffer the consequences.) In any case, Tamar took scandalous action to rectify the custom-breaking. Her father-in-law was Judah, one of the twelve patriarchs. He finally told her to go back to her father’s house and wait for Judah’s youngest son to grow up and he would provide a line for his older deceased brother. However, Judah had no intention of giving his son to her. Judah’s sons were “taken” by the Lord. Tamar was fed up with the dysfunctional family.
She heard that Judah was going to a certain area, so she hatched a plan. She disguised herself as a cult prostitute (some gods required prostitution), and he fell for her hook, line, and sinker. She required him to give her some token possessions (signet, cord, and staff) as a pledge until he would pay her with a goat, and he left. She took got into her normal clothes and waited. Judah sent a man to pay her but did not find her. No one had ever heard of a cult prostitute in the area.
Then three months later, Judah had heard the Tamar had been immoral and was pregnant, so Judah was outraged. He went to confront her, and she produced the tokens. “Then Judah identified them and said, “She is more righteous than I, since I did not give her to my son Shelah” (Gen. 38:26). So she had twins by her father-in-law: Perez the firstborn and the second born was Zerah.
Perez was in Jesus’s lineage.
Rahab (Josh. 2, 6; Heb. 11:31; Jas. 2:5)
She was also a Canaanite woman of Jericho. She welcomed the spies who went on a reconnaissance mission to find out how difficult or easy the Promised Land could be taken. They were told to check out Jericho especially. They met Rahab the prostitute, who lived in an apartment in the wall. She told them that everyone had heard of the great miracles God has done for the Israelites. Everyone is trembling. She hid them under flax, when the pursuers came knocking on her door. They got out of their hiding place, She made a deal. She would not tell on them to the guards, if they saved herself and her family. They agreed. She let them down the wall through a window. “Then she sent them away, and they departed. And she tied the scarlet cord in the window” (Josh 2:21). The scarlet thread speaks of redemption: “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life” (Lev. 17:11, ESV). “And after eating, likewise, he did so with the cup, saying, ‘This cup, which is poured out for you, is the New Covenant in my blood’” (Luke 22:20, GAT).
Then in Josh. 6, the Israelite army marched around Jericho seven times in seven days, and just before the trumpet blast:
22 But to the two men who had spied out the land, Joshua said, “Go into the prostitute’s house and bring out from there the woman and all who belong to her, as you swore to her.” 23 So the young men who had been spies went in and brought out Rahab and her father and mother and brothers and all who belonged to her. And they brought all her relatives and put them outside the camp of Israel. 24 And they burned the city with fire, and everything in it. Only the silver and gold, and the vessels of bronze and of iron, they put into the treasury of the house of the Lord. 25 But Rahab the prostitute and her father’s household and all who belonged to her, Joshua saved alive. And she has lived in Israel to this day, because she hid the messengers whom Joshua sent to spy out Jericho. (Josh. 6:22-25, ESV)
Other verses in the New Testament honor her good deeds.
By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies. (Heb. 11:31, ESV)
And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? (Jas. 2:5, ESV)
Ruth (book of Ruth)
She was a Moabitess, who married Mahlon (Ruth 4:10), one of Israelite Naomi’s sons:
These took Moabite wives; the name of the one was Orpah and the name of the other Ruth. They lived there about ten years, 5 and both Mahlon and Chilion died, so that the woman was left without her two sons and her husband (Ruth 1:4-5, ESV)
Then the story progresses, and Ruth refused to leave her mother-in-law Naomi. Naomi counselor her to go back home:
15 And she said, “See, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.” 16 But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. 17 Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.” 18 And when Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more. (Ruth 1:15-18, ESV).
The rest of the story goes on. Ruth the widow married Boaz, and they had Jesse, and Jesse had David, the exemplar king.
Moabites were not allowed to enter the temple of ten generation, even forever: “No Ammonite or Moabite may enter the assembly of the Lord. Even to the tenth generation, none of them may enter the assembly of the Lord forever” (Deut. 23:3, ESV)
Jesus descends from a Moabite outcast, a misfit, in terms of lineage and heritage.
Bathsheba: “Wife of Uriah” (2 Sam. 11-12)
Some scholars believe that since she was married to a foreigner, she herself was one also. However, she was probably an Israelite. Mathew highlights her foreign husband to indicate Jesus had Gentiles in his heritage (Osborne, comment on 1:6). When kings were supposed to go out to battle, David stayed home. Bathsheba was on a nearby rooftop taking a bath. David saw her and called for her. She came. He had sex with her. She got pregnant. But she was married to Uriah the Hittite, a foreigner. David called him back from the battle and insisted that he sleep with his wife, but he refused, since his men were not experiencing such luxury. David contrived to get him killed. He told his general to put Uriah near the front where the battle was fiercest and then withdraw without him. He was killed. Nathan the prophet confronted him. “You are the man!” (2 Sam. 12:7). David repented. His repentance is seen in Psalm 51.
Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin!
3 For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
4 Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words
and blameless in your judgment.
5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
and in sin did my mother conceive me.
6 Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
11 Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit. (Ps. 51:1-6, 10-12, ESV)
Their child died. David and Bathsheba later had Solomon, and Jesus descends from him, but his ancestors David and Bathsheba had a sinful, dysfunctional past.
As a matter of fact, most of these descendants were not one hundred percent moral. They all did something wrong at various times in their lives. The kings were frequently wicked. Yet Jesus descends from these defective characters whom God still selected and used.
Keener is right:
When Matthew cites four women, he is probably reminding his readers that three of King David and the mother of King Solomon were Gentiles. The Bible that accepted David’s mixed race also implied it for the Messianic King; Matthew thus declares that the Gentiles were never an afterthought in God’s plan, but had been part of his work in history from the beginning. One who traces Matthew’s treatment of Gentiles through the Gospel, from the Magi who sought Jesus in Chapter 2 through the concluding commission to disciple the nations in 28:19, will understand Matthew’s point in emphasizing this. Matthew exhorts his readers that as much as Jesus is connected with the heritage of Israel, he is for all peoples as well, and his disciples have a responsibility to let everyone know. (pp. 80-81, emphasis original)
Grant R. Osborne:
All four women were foreigners and Gentiles (Tamar the Canaanite or from Aram, Rahab from Jericho, Ruth the Moabitess, and Bathsheba, the wife of a Hittite). This along with the appearance of the Magi stresses at the outset the Gentile mission towards which Matthew is building (28:18-20) and shows that all humanity is involved in the birth of the Messiah … Putting them together, God in his providence saw fit to include women who were foreigners and sinners in the royal lineage of Jesus so as to show that he is God not only of the righteous Jews but of all humanity and that he has come to bring salvation to the whole world of humanity (Osborne, comment on. 1:3 and 1:6).
Within the Gospels, Jewish polemic hinted (John 8:48) and in the early centuries of the Christian era explicitly charged that Jesus was an illegitimate child. Matthew here strenuously denies the charge, but he also points out that key members of the messianic genealogy were haunted by similar suspicions (justified in at least the two cases of Tamar and Bathsheba and probably unjustified in the case of Ruth). Such suspicions, nevertheless, did not impugn the spiritual character of the individuals involved. In fact, Jesus comes to save precisely such people. Already here in the genealogy, Jesus is presented as the one who will ignore human labels of legitimacy and illegitimacy to offer his gospel of salvation to all, including the most despised and outcast of society. A question for the church to ask itself in any age is how well it is visibly representing this commitment to reach out to the oppressed and marginalized of society with the good news of salvation in Christ. (comment on 1:2-17)
I like the last sentence: are we willing to take in the oppressed and marginalized of society with the gospel?
Let’s circle back around to verses vv. 2-17 and look at the big picture of Matthew’s genealogy.
I really like the idea that the genealogy is presented in a leaning capital N.
From Abraham to David in the first fourteen generations, Israel rises. In the next fourteen generations, Israel falls. In the last fourteen generations, Israel’s history ends at the top—Messiah Jesus (Turner’s comment on v. 17).
What is the purpose of genealogies? In the Ancient Near East they served these basic functions, among others: economic (legacy and inheritance), tribal (sense of belonging), political (who has the right to rule?), domestic (family relationships and geographical inheritance or origins). Matthew’s purpose is revealed in v. 1, to show Jesus’s connection to Abraham and David. He will be the fulfillment of God’s covenants with both of them. He will bring the divine blessing to the nations, which includes Gentile women and men, who are named in the list of names.
Now the more difficult situation is to reconcile Matthew’s genealogy with Luke’s. Several attempts has been made. In the next link, I look at various scholars’ attempt. To me, they are convincing, particularly James Bejon’s brilliant efforts in the early generational chains after David to the deportation.
Please see my post:
The results of those scholars’ attempts at reconciling the two genealogies are too complex for this commentary. Click on the above link, if you are interested. Keener boils things down: “The best alternative to harmonizing the lists is to suggest that Matthew emphasizes the nature of Jesus’ lineage as royalty rather than trying to formulate a biologically precise list (contrast possibly Luke), to which he did not have access” (pp. 75-76). Again, see the link, just above about harmonizing the two genealogies.
The levirate marriage in the OT (Deut. 25:5-10) says that a woman whose husband just died may marry his brother to carry on the deceased brother’s name. In Luke 3:23, Joseph’s father is said to be Heli, whereas in v. 16 he is said to be the son of Jacob. In their commentary on Luke, Liefeld and Pao offer this solution: “The widow of a childless man could marry his brother so that a child of the second marriage could legally be considered as the son of the deceased man in order to perpetuate his name. In a genealogy, the child could be listed as the son of Heli in Luke but as the son of Jacob in Matthew. On the levirate marriage theory, Heli and Jacob may have been half brothers, with the same mother, but fathers of different names. Perhaps Heli died and Jacob married his widow (Luke. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary. [Zondervan, 2007], p. 97).
In v. 16, I really like the wording: “Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born.” In Greek the pronoun “of whom” is feminine, so it clearly and can only refer to Mary. Jesus was born from her, not Mary’s husband Joseph. This is a subtle way to express the virgin birth. So I could have analyzed Mary in Matthew’s genealogy, adding up to five women, but she is about to be the star of the this chapter and the next, so let’s wait till then. Also Turner points out that the verb becomes passive, which is a surprise, because it introduces divine activity (comment on 1:6b-11). Many scholars call it the divine passive, meaning, God is behind the scenes working it out.
In v. 17, Matthew summarizes the three sets of fourteen. Let’s first look at what deportation means. The deportation means that Judah (the surviving kingdom) was conquered by Babylon in 605, and thousands, including Daniel, were deported to Babylon. In 597 King Jehoiachin and thousands of nobles were deported, including Ezekiel. In 587/6, Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed, and King Zedekiah and others were exiled to Babylon.
Many scholars (e.g. Keener on p. 74, who then references many others in n. 6) have observed that Matthew organized his genealogy in three sets of fourteen, and fourteen can be reached by 7 + 7 = 14, and seven is the number of completion. It is the Sabbath day of rest. Further, three fourteens can be reached by six sevens (3 x 14 = 42 and 6 x 7 = 42). The period of the seventh seven is really significant for the ongoing purpose of God. In Dan. 9:24-27 the Anointed One brings in the final and seventh week of seven years. Jesus is the Anointed One and he is ushering in the final age.
One other teaching says that 6 x 7 = six days of creation, plus God’s rest on the seventh day (Gen. 1). Then these teachers look up the number seven in the Bible and find other important meanings, hinting at rest. You can make of this what you will.
However, Matthew does not divide his list of names by six sevens. So this calculation is over-reading Matthew himself. It is never a good idea to outsmart the author of a biblical text, as many modern American Bible TV interpreters often do (unfortunately). It is likely that Matthew organized his first set of fourteen because there were fourteen head-of-household names in the genealogical list from Abraham to David (1 Chron. 1:28-2:55). And Matthew started there.
Now let’s analyze this more thoroughly because the timespan between Abraham and David is about seven hundred to eight hundred years and would require more than fourteen generations. From David to the exile is only four hundred years, but Matthew omits four members of the dynastic succession. And from the deportation or exile to the birth of Jesus is about six hundred years, so Matthew’s thirteen names cannot cover the span (Luke has twenty-two names for the same period).
Therefore, Matthew’s list is selective. Why did he do that? First “was the father of” can mean “was the ancestor of,” so any number of names could be omitted to go straight to the main ancestor, perhaps the dynastic one. Second, clearly Matthew highlights king David. And when the three letters in his name (d-w-d, the vowels were inserted later in Hebrew), the three letters add up to fourteen (again see Keener on p. 74 and note 6):
D = 4
W = 6
D = 4
This addition is not a farfetched explanation. Matthew was a Jew who counted numbers for a living. He was a tax collector, after all (I accept traditional authorship and take it seriously). Other Jewish writings before and contemporaneous with the Gospel played with numbers (the pursuit is called gematria, which you can google, if you wish). However, I prefer to keep the plain things the main things, so I use caution in numerology.
Finally, the alert reader will notice that the third set of fourteen has one member missing. Various solutions have been proposed, but I like Carson’s: “And if the third set of fourteen is short one member, perhaps it will suggest to some readers that just as God cuts short the time of distress for the sake of his elect (Matt. 24:22), so also he mercifully shortens the period from the Exile to Jesus the Messiah.”
A less spiritual reason is that David is the pivot. He looks back to Abraham and then he turns, so to speak, and looks forward to Jesus in two sets of fourteen.
That link has further links to a great effort at reconciling the two genealogies, and I think they succeed.
However, let’s imagine, for the sake of argument, that with the available information we are unable to reconcile Luke’s and Matthew’s genealogies. We must stop the foolishness of a brittle position on Scripture. “If there are disagreements or differences, then the brittle Bible breaks into pieces, and so does my brittle faith! I quit!” No. Focus on the main point.
The main point: Jesus is the son of David and belongs to the bigger story of God’s salvation and redemption; he is in fact the culmination or ultimate fulfillment of biblical salvation and redemption.
See the next section for links to the inspiration of Scripture and the historical reliability of the Gospels (below the next major table).
GrowApp for Matt. 1:1-17
A.. Jesus’s heritage included Gentile or foreign women, yet God still used them for his glory. He is sovereign, and he can call whomever he wishes. Have you ever felt like an outcast? How did God redeem you from your past or outsider status?
B.. If you have a young family, how do you start a new legacy? If your family is nearly grown, and you made mistakes, how does God redeem your mistakes?
The Birth of Jesus Christ (Matt. 1:18-25)
18 The beginning of Jesus Christ happened in this way. After his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph and before they came together, she was found pregnant by the Holy Spirit. 19 Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and not wanting to make a spectacle of her, decided to divorce her privately. 20 After he reflected on these things … Look! An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is borne in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a Son, and you will call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins. 22 All of this has happened in order to fulfill the word spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying:
23 “Look! The virgin shall be pregnant and shall give birth to a son, and you shall call his name Emmanuel!” [Is. 7:14],
which, interpreted, means “God with us.”
24 Then Joseph got up from his sleep and did as the angel commanded him and took her as his wife, 25 and he did not know her until she gave birth to a son, and he called his name Jesus.
In this long passage, heaven comes down to earth, in the person of Jesus the Messiah. The curtains to heaven have been pulled back, if only a little, in order to reveal heaven’s plan and what the heavenly realm is like. Renewalists really do believe that if we open our hearts to Scripture and a revelation to our minds and hearts, God in his sovereignty reveals it to us.
Let’s start off with a table of similarities between Matthew’s and Luke infancy narratives.
Details in Common in the Infancy Narratives of Matthew and Luke
|1||His birth is placed during the reign of Herod (Luke 1:5; Matt. 2:1)|
|2||His father’s name is Joseph, and his mother’s name is Mary (Luke 1:26; Matt. 1:18)|
|3||Mary, mother to be, is a virgin betrothed to Joseph, but they do not yet live together (Luke 1:27, 34; 2:5; Matt. 1:18)|
|4||Jesus fulfills prophecies, whether by direct quotations or by OT patterns (Luke 1:31 and Is. 7:14; Luke 1:32 and Is. 9:6-7, 2 Sam. 7:12-16; Luke 1:37 and Gen. 18:14; Matt. 1:23 and Is. 7:14, 8:8; Matt. 2:2 and Num. 24:17; Matt. 2:6 and Mic. 5:2; 2:11 and Is. 60:6; Matt. 2:15 and Hos. 11:1; Matt. 2:18 and Jer. 31:15; 2:23 and Is. 11:1)|
|5||Joseph is of the house of David (Luke 1:27; 2:4; Matt. 1:16, 20)|
|6||An angel from heaven announces the coming birth of Jesus (Luke 1:28-30; Matt. 1:20-21)|
|7||Angels in dreams and visitations direct the events and instruct Joseph and Mary (Luke 1:26-38; 2:13-14; Matt. 1:20-24; 2:13, 19)|
|8||Jesus is recognized to be a son of David (Luke 1:35; Matt. 1:18, 20)|
|9||His conception is to take place through the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35; Matt. 1:18, 20)|
|10||Joseph is not involved in the conception (Luke 1:34; Matt. 1:18-25)|
|11||The name “Jesus” is imposed by heaven prior to his birth (Luke 1:31; Matt. 1:21)|
|12||The angel identifies Jesus as “Savior” (Luke 2:11; Matt. 1:21)|
|13||Jesus is born after Mary and Joseph come to live together (Luke 2:4-7; Matt. 1:24-25)|
|14||Jesus is born at Bethlehem (Luke 2:4-7; Matt. 2:1)|
|15||New family has visitors: shepherds (Luke 2:15-20) and wise men (Matt. 2:10-11)|
|16||Wise men visit the family in a house (Matt. 2:11), but shepherds see him in part of the house where animals were stabled (Luke 2:16)|
|17||Jesus settles, with Mary and Joseph, in Nazareth in Galilee (Luke 2:29, 51; Matt. 2:22-23)|
|Joseph A. Fitzmyer, SJ. The Gospel according to Luke, I-IX. Vol. 28. The Anchor Bible. (Doubleday, 1981), p. 307, modified, adding five rows.|
There are differences as well. But differences do not add up to contradictions. An account having information, while another account covering the same broad topic does not have the same information in the details, do not add up to a contradiction. A difference, yes, but not a contradiction, particularly when the differences can be possibly reconciled.
Information in one account + Silence in another account ≠ Contradiction
Information + Silence ≠ A Contradiction
Information + Silence = A Difference
Information + An omission = A Difference
A Difference ≠ A Contradiction ≠ an Error
Differences are guided by the purpose of the biblical authors. Or we may not know why an author omits or includes bits of information. Whatever the case, we should not get panicky about them or deny the truthfulness of the accounts. This mindset is too fussy and demanding, not recognizing the texts as they present themselves but unwisely imposing our modern concerns on them.
If those equations help, then good. If not, move on.
In any case, as noted, our faith in God and his written Word should not be brittle. It should not break when these differences emerge. Call it the dramatist’s art. All four biblical writers took small liberties to tell their stories, their own way. Please relax a lot more about this. Don’t get stuck into a groove laid down by hyper-inerrantists, who nervously force all the small details to fit together. Keep the plain thing the main thing. The plain thing is those commonalities in the table: Virgin birth, his name Jesus, he is the Savior, and God is orchestrating the birth of his Son.
My view of Scripture: It’s very high, but I don’t believe in “total inerrancy” or “hyper-inerrancy”:
Begin a series on the reliability of the Gospels. Start with the Conclusion which has quick summaries and links back to the other parts:
The Gospels have a massive number of agreements in their storylines:
See this part in the series that puts differences in perspective (a difference ≠ a contradiction):
But the bigger picture is, as noted, to not allow your faith to become so brittle that it snaps in two because of these puzzles. It’s time to stop demanding no discrepancies or else you will leave the Christian faith.
Bottom line: in my opinion, there are no contradictions in the synoptic Gospels covering the infancy narratives–just differences.
We should focus on and celebrate the similarities in the table.
“beginning”: it translates the noun genesis, which could be translated as origin.
Betrothal was much more than today’s engagement between two people who decide on their own to get married. Families were involved and contracts signed or an oral agreement was reached. Betrothal was much more binding than just a “couples only” promise to get married. Breaking it was a divorce.
Commentator France writes:
The difference between our modern concept of “engagement” and that of the first-century Jews is indicated by the description of Joseph already in v. 19 as Mary’s husband and by the use of the normal word for divorce to describe the ending of the engagement. Though the couple were not yet living together, it was a binding contract entered into before witnesses which could be terminated only by death (which would leave the woman a “widow”) or by divorce as if for a full marriage… sexual infidelity during engagement would be a basis for such a divorce. About a year after the engagement … the woman then normally about thirteen or fourteen would leave her father’s home and go live with her husband in a public ceremony (such as described in 25:1-12), which is here referred to as “coming together” and will be recorded in v. 24. (p. 50).
Mary is already called Jesus’s mother, while is he is in the womb. When a woman is pregnant, she is a mother. She is not just a mere pregnant woman with disposal cargo. He really was considered a human being and an angel from God is about to name the baby in the womb. Now friendly outsiders to Christianity can at least appreciate why we value life in the womb. All babies are human beings, in God’s sight and by science. It is not a chimp or a plant, and it has all the necessary DNA, and it is living and growing, so it is a living human being. Being healthy, the living human being would grow to the time of birth and then keep growing until the day God calls the full adult home.
“before they came together” means “before they had sexual union.” I translated it more literally, which I am prone to do. However, “she was found pregnant” is literally “she was found having in her belly” and the “baby” is implied, so I can’t go literal all the time. The Greek phrasing is a circumlocution or a roundabout way of saying “pregnant.”
She was impregnated by the Holy Spirit. Mary supplied the ovum, and the Spirit, by a miracle, conceived the child. Therefore, Jesus has both a divine nature and a human nature. Further, we Christians of all three major branches (Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholics, and Protestants) and all the numerous denominations within those three branches believe—when we respect Scripture as we should—we all believe that Jesus’s divine conception protected him from having a sin nature. The details are impossible to understand, but other Scriptures support our belief.
These posts are about systematic theology on the life of Christ and what it means for the Son of God to become a man:
Therefore, we accept it by Scripture first and then by faith.
The Holy Spirit, mentioned here for the first time, plays a central role in Jesus’ life. He is present at the Lord’s conception (1:18, 20), empowerment (3:16; 12:18, 28), and leading (4:1). These latter two passages represent many other unrecorded verses where Jesus was being empowered and led by the Spirit, as he ministered to people (cf. Acts 10:38).
This conception was not a crass coupling that we see in pagan literature, when a god comes down and has physical sex with an unwilling partner. Instead, the Spirit worked a miracle without physical sex.
Some say that by beginning at Jesus’ birth, he was not the preincarnate Son of God, or at least that’s not Matthew’s focus. However, I reply to this objection in this post:
One last point in v. 18: the Greek actually says Maria, which is a version of Mary. The Hebrews roots people insist on calling her by her Hebrew name Miriam. I have no quarrel with their decision, because they are making the Bible more relatable to Jewish readers. No problem on that level. However, let’s hope they do not impose on the rest of us that we must do the same. Let’s hope they don’t imply that their editorial decision is the only way and all other versions of her name are inferior. Jewish writer Matthew had no problem with calling her Maria, for his Greek readers.
I really like how the Spirit through the Scriptures call Joseph a righteous man. It is possible for a man of Israel to be law-abiding and maintain a certain level of righteousness. But what makes him righteous in this verse? He did not wish to “make a public spectacle” of her. The Greek root of “make a spectacle” really does indicate pointing at her, showing her to the village. “Look what she did!” France says that he would have to repudiate Mary in a public trial for adultery (p. 51). It’s very moving to me that he was going to divorce her privately. As noted in v. 18, the Scriptures call him “her husband,” so betrothal meant something beyond what engagement does for us.
Would Mary had been stoned to death during the betrothal period because she seemingly committed adultery (Lev. 20:10)? It’s not clear ancient Israel really did carry out that law in the first century. But technically she could have been.
Deut. 24:1-3 describe the reason for divorce:
“When a man takes a wife and marries her, if then she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, and she departs out of his house, 2 and if she goes and becomes another man’s wife, 3 and the latter man hates her and writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, or if the latter man dies, who took her to be his wife (Deut. 24:1-3, ESV, emphasis added)
And one cause for sure was indecency. And one sure-fire definition of indecency was sexual unfaithfulness. Therefore, Joseph had the legal right to divorce her.
“So he compromised by deciding to do so [put her away] privately. According to Jewish tradition, this would be done by giving her a writ of divorce … privately in front of two witnesses rather than in front of the whole town” (Osborne, comment on 1:19).
A betrothed woman (before marriage), if found pregnant by another man, could be executed:
23 If a man happens to meet in a town a virgin pledged to be married and he sleeps with her, 24 you shall take both of them to the gate of that town and stone them to death—the young woman because she was in a town and did not scream for help, and the man because he violated another man’s wife. You must purge the evil from among you. (Deut. 22:23-24, NIV)
Joseph really was a good man. He did not want this to happen to Mary, so he decided not going to publicly expose her but divorce her privately.
Then God intervened. He sent an angel.
“Look!” This is often translated as “behold!” It introduces an unexpected or surprising event. Turner translates it simply as “unexpectantly.” I like it.
This story element actually happened. Rescue by clarity is God’s specialty. It flows out of his mercy, when people are in distress. Joseph was mulling things over, “Who was the father? The neighbor boy closer to her own age? What will her family think? How should I divorce her? Will her parents send her away to another village, to visit her cousin Elizabeth and deliver the baby? Should I myself send her away and not tell her parents?” Clearly Joseph was enduring a sleepless night, as he was pondering these things while in bed. Then Joseph’s mind was made up. He had to divorce her. But he fell asleep eventually and had a dream. Dreams are a frequent way for God to communicate in the OT. The angel addressed Joseph as the “son of David,” which is designed to remind the reader that Matthew’s genealogy was valid, and Jesus’s ancestry had royal linage in it.
Renewalists believe that angels appear today, whether in dreams or in person, just like they did back in biblical times. God is the Lord, we are not. He can work miracles as he sees fit. He will accomplish his plans, and in this case the angel was a messenger to guide him.
Here is a multi-part study of angels in the area of systematic theology, but first a list of the basics.
(a) Are messengers (in Hebrew mal’ak and in Greek angelos);
(b) Are created spirit beings;
(c) Have a beginning at their creation (not eternal);
(d) Have a beginning, but they are immortal (deathless).
(e) Have moral judgment;
(f) Have a certain measure of free will;
(g) Have high intelligence;
(h) Do not have physical bodies;
(i) But can manifest with immortal bodies before humans;
(j) Can show the emotion of joy.
See my posts about angels in the area of systematic theology:
Please see my post on how to interpret dreams:
Don’t go overboard, as some dream interpreters advocate.
“take Mary your wife” is literal. It does not say “take Mary as your wife.” The “as” is not in Greek. Maybe it is implied, but I say they were betrothed, and betrothal meant something. My application: No more easy divorce. No more men abandoning their households. Learn from Joseph.
God has a plan that no one expected. God was fulfilling it by the Holy Spirit. God conceived Jesus through the Spirit. Impossible humanly speaking. Possible, divinely speaking. When you cannot figure it out, God will break in and clarify what you should do next. He told Joseph to keep going even through the most difficult of circumstances. His betrothed was pregnant without him. It was “from the Holy Spirit.” Conception was not described in detail.
“borne in her”: does not mean “birthed in her”; it means “carried in her.” Some translations just go with “conceived,” since the verb is passive. The Spirit and Mary conceived the child. It is, once again, the divine passive. God is behind the scenes of the passive verb, working things out. “Conceived” is a translation I like.
God through the angel called Joseph by his heritage: “son of David.” How could a mere carpenter be a son of David? Joseph did not have a lot of status, so the lineage was definitely collateral and not direct from David through prominent people to him.
The angel is referring to Ps. 130:8, which says he will redeem Israel from all his iniquities. So why does Matthew switch it up to “people”? It is probably because he sees a remnant within Israel (Turner, p. 68).
“In the Jewish world names were not just marks of identification but were symbols containing the hopes and prayers of the parents for their children. ‘Jesus’ means that through him God promises the salvation will come to his people, though the Jewish people mistakenly interpreted it in terms of the other meaning of ‘save,’ that God would ‘deliver’ his people by destroying their enemies” (Osborne, comment on v. 21).
This verse is loaded with information. (Some Renewalists downgrade old fashioned Bible knowledge, “information”, but I disagree.) First, she shall have a son. No need for sonograms! It is a done deal! A son. Second, you shall name him Jesus. Joseph, there is no option. That is his name. You have no say in the matter. Why? Third, because Jesus is Joshua, and it means “he saves.” Save his people from what? From their sins. He won’t save them from the Romans. He will save their souls, one at a time.
The verb is sōzō: Since the theology of salvation (soteriology) is so critical for our lives, let’s look more closely at the noun salvation, which is sōtēria (pronounced soh-tay-ree-ah and used 46 times) and at the verb sōzō (pronounced soh-zoh and used 106 times)
Greek is the language of the NT. BDAG, considered by many to be the authoritative lexicon of the Greek NT, defines the noun sōtēria as follows, depending on the context: (1) “deliverance, preservation” … (2) “salvation.”
The verb sōzō means “save, rescue, heal” in a variety of contexts, but mostly it is used of saving the soul. BDAG says that the verb means, depending on the context: (1) “to preserve or rescue from natural dangers and afflictions, save, keep from harm, preserve,” and the sub-definitions under no. 1 are as follows: save from death; bring out safely; save from disease; keep, preserve in good condition; thrive, prosper, get on well; (2) “to save or preserve from transcendent danger or destruction, save or preserve from ‘eternal’ death … “bring Messianic salvation, bring to salvation,” and in the passive it means “be saved, attain salvation”; (3) some passages in the NT say we fit under the first and second definition at the same time (Mark 8:5; Luke 9:24; Rom. 9:27; 1 Cor. 3:15).
Another rarer verb is diasōzō (pronounced dee-ah-soh-zoh and used 8 times), and the prefix means “through.” Here are the occurrences: Mark 14:36; Luke 7:3; Acts 23:24; 27:43-44; 28:1, 4; 2; 1 Pet. 3:20. It means what the regular verb does, but often to be rescued through and up to the very end, like Paul’s ship landing on Malta after going through the storm.
As I will note throughout this commentary, the noun salvation and the verb save go a lot farther than just preparing the soul to go on to heaven. Together, they have additional benefits: keeping and preserving and rescuing from harm and dangers; saving or freeing from diseases and demonic oppression; and saving or rescuing from sin dominating us; ushering into heaven and rescuing us from final judgment. What is our response to the gift of salvation? You are grateful and then you are moved to act. When you help or rescue one man from homelessness or an orphan from his oppression, you have moved one giant step towards salvation of his soul. Sometimes feeding a hungry man and giving clothes to the naked or taking him to a medical clinic come before saving his soul.
All of it is a package called salvation and being saved.
“sins”: it comes from the noun hamartia (pronounced hah-mar-tee-ah). A deep study reveals that it means a “departure from either human or divine standards of uprightness” (BDAG, p. 50). It can also mean a “destructive evil power” (ibid., p. 51). In other words, sin has a life of its own. Be careful! In the older Greek of the classical world, it originally meant to “miss the mark” or target. Sin destroys, and that’s why God hates it, and so should we. The good news: God promises us forgiveness when we repent.
Some people want to shove aside the Old Testament, but they are wrong. It just needs to be interpreted properly. The Spirit, who inspired Matthew’s Gospel, also inspired the prophet Isaiah (7:14), and Mary and her son Jesus is the ultimate fulfillment of that verse about the virgin getting pregnant. And, what is more, the phrasing in Greek in Isaiah for “get pregnant” is what is said in v. 18: “having in belly” except Isaiah’s prophecy is in the future tense: “shall have in belly.” Circumlocution. In any case, Mary and her son are the fulfillment. I never saw it before. I always just focused on Jesus in that verse, but it says “a virgin,” and that means Mary.
The wonderful phrase “God with us,” coming from the one word Immanuel, is also repeated in Matt. 28:20, when Jesus promised he would be with us every day. These announcements form an inclusio of sorts, which means two bookends of envelope or framework to the entire Gospel. He also said in the middle of it that he will be there in the middle of those who gather together in a small group of two or three (Matt. 18:20).
Joseph’s obedience was instant. This instant obedience contrasts with Zechariah’s reluctance (Luke 1:18-23). Joseph was not struck mute; Zechariah was. Joseph’s circumstance was more difficult than that of Zechariah because Mary was pregnant before they had “come together.” God had to intervene so that Joseph would not fulfill the law and have her stoned to death or divorce her. Luke’s Gospel says that Mary told the angel, “See the Lord’s servant. Let it happen to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). Instant acceptance and obedience. She was willing to take the social shame to have a baby. People knew how long pregnancy lasted. They could count the months between the formal marriage ceremony and the birthdate.
“He did not know her”: The verb for “know” is ginōskō (pronounced gee-noh-skoh, and the “g” is hard, as in “get”). It is so common that it is used 222 times in the NT. BDAG has numerous definitions of the verb, depending on the context: (1) “to arrive at a knowledge of someone or something, know, know about, make acquaintance of”; (2) “to acquire information through some means, learn (of), ascertain, find out”; (3) “grasp the significance or meaning of something, understand, comprehend”; (4) “to be aware of something, perceive, notice, realize”; (5) to have sexual intercourse with, sex / marital relations with”; (6) “to have come to the knowledge of, have come to know, know.” (7) “to indicate that one does know, acknowledge, recognize.” So we can know a person, a thing, a fact, an abstract thing like math. We can even know God personally or know about him from a distance, like a theological truth. It is best to know him personally. We can know all these things deeply or shallowly. In this verse, the best translation is the fifth one. Joseph and Mary did not have premarital sex.
“until she gave birth to a son”: Yes, Joseph and Mary had normal sexual relations after she birthed her son.
Then Joseph is simply shown in Matthew’s narrative to obey the angel. He named his stepson Jesus.
His parents were never confused about their son’s gender. God, taking a body, through his Son, teaches us that we should not view the body as being so pliable that we can change genders. Please don’t manipulate your body with chemicals and surgical procedures. If you do, then you can repent and detransition. You may not get your body restored after surgery, but God still loves and accepts you. He has a new mission for you. Find a church which accepts you and be discipled (trained) to think in new directions, in God’s ways. God can redeem you.
Now let’s get into some systematic theology. The church needs it.
Jesus is now incarnated. Did he lose his divine attributes, as some teach (I believe out of “noninformation,” not malice)?
Jesus did not “lay aside” or “set aside” or “lose” or “give up” his divine attributes when he became a baby in Bethlehem. Rather, a human nature was added to his divine nature. Now what happened to his divine nature and those powerful attributes with omni- in front of them? They were hidden behind his human nature, not lost or set aside. Therefore, he surrendered the use of his attributes to his Father, attributes he retained at his incarnation.
To say that Jesus was fully God while a human yet he lost or set aside or lay aside these powerful omni- attributes or other ones does not work. God cannot lose attributes and still remain God. It is best to say that Jesus took them with him at his incarnation, but they were hidden behind his humanity–yes, even when he was a baby lying in a manger. So, for example, if the Father had willed, the divine attribute of omnipotence could have manifested in the baby Jesus and flattened the soldiers whom Herod sent to kill the baby. But the Father wanted Jesus to experience his full humanity and Joseph and Mary to learn how to be good parents and take care of his Son, who was on loan to them.
Then why didn’t Jesus know the day or the hour when he would return (Matt. 24:36)?
I answer this question and others, here, in systematic theology posts:
To sum up, I urge all teachers to stop teaching that Jesus got his divine attributes “lopped off” and yet was still full deity. It makes more sense to say that he was full deity, yet his divine nature was hidden behind his humanity. His humanity was added to his deity. He lost the environment of heaven, but his divine attributes remained intact at his incarnation.
The main post you should click on for more information:
GrowApp for Matt. 1:18-22
A.. Has God ever interrupted your own plans? Can you share some details? How did you respond?
B.. In obedience to God, would you be courageous enough to endure social shame, similar to what Joseph and Mary had to go through in their village? Have you ever experienced sustaining grace to go through tough times even though people misunderstood you?
Summary and Conclusion
The genealogy of Jesus showed that he was thoroughly Jewish, but more than that, he was the son of David and son of Abraham. Jesus belongs in the bigger story of God, revealed in the Bible. More than “belongs,” he is the culmination of the story. All the thematic strands of the OT come together in him and carry on, reshaped and reworked, through him.
The circumstances of his birth were dicey. Joseph was about to put her away or divorce her, but an angel intervened in a dream. He took her as his wife. Joseph and Mary really are the heroes of the story, and Mary deserves special status because she had to carry and birth the child under a social cloud, but Joseph had his own test of obedience, and he passed. He really was a “righteous man.”
This chapter is about God’s sovereign intervention to protect his Son and the parents whom he appointed to care for him. God is in control of world history. And in about 30-33 years, the world is about to change.
Jesus is shown to be the Messiah and Son of God. He was born of Mary on the human side and of the Spirit, the divine side. He was fully human and fully God. The Father willed that his Son take the divine attributes with him, but his humanity was added to them, and now his divine attributes—even the omni- ones—were hidden behind his humanity. Jesus was born in the flesh, but not of the flesh. He did not share in the innate proneness towards evil that we have.
The Holy Spirit is at work in this chapter, though he is not a major theme in Matthew’s Gospel, as often as he is in Mark and Luke. Yet, Jesus is ushering in the Church Age and the Age of the Spirit. That is, the Spirit empowers the Church, even to this day.
One major theme in Matthew is the fulfillment of Scripture. It is difficult to find a chapter where an OT passage is not quoted. Matthew has a high regard for the OT, and so should we.
Jesus’s name in Hebrew is Joshua, and it means “he saves.” He is the Savior of the world. He is going to save his people from their sins; he was not going to rescue an entire nation from the Romans. Jesus was about to rescue people by fulfilling all the animal sacrifices in Leviticus and elsewhere in the OT.
Finally, God’s presence is embodied in Jesus. In the pillar of cloud by day and fire by night in Exodus in the wilderness wanderings, God shekinah glory was present. Now it is present in Jesus. Heaven is touching earth through his Son. He is the walking Holy Place, even the Most Holy Place.
See Osborne, pp. 45-47
As a life-long learner, I refer to a community of Bible scholars, throughout this commentary on Matthew. They are many kilometers ahead of me in understanding the text. They are excellent, and I admire them, but their commentaries are too often too technical. I hope I have simplified matters. I also write from a Renewal perspective.
Blomberg, Craig L. Matthew. The New American Commentary. Vol. 22 (Broadman, 1992).
Carson, D. A. Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary. Rev. Ed. by Tremper Longman III and David E. Garland. Vol. 9. (Zondervan, 2010).
France, R. T. The Gospel of Matthew: New International Commentary on the New Testament. (Eerdmans 2007).
Garland, David E. Reading Matthew: A Literary and Theological Commentary (Smyth and Helways, 2001).
The Greek New Testament. Fifth Revised Edition by Barbara Aland, Kurt Aland, Johannes Karavidopoulos, Carlo M. Martini, Bruce M. Metzger (United Bible Society, 2014).
Keener, Craig. A Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew. (Eerdmans 1999).
Olmstead, Wesley G. Matthew 1-14: A Handbook on the Greek Text. (Baylor UP, 2019).
Osborne, Grant R. Matthew: Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. (Zondervan, 2010).
Turner, David L. Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Baker Academic, 2008).