[Table of Contents]
[Previous] [Next]
Word Pictures in the New Testament
(Matthew: Chapter 1)

1:1 {The Book} (\biblos\). There is no article in the Greek, but
the following genitives make it definite. It is our word Bible
that is here used, _the_ Book as Sir Walter Scott called it as he
lay dying. The usual word for book is a diminutive form
(\biblion\), a little book or roll such as we have in Lu 4:17,
"The roll of the prophet Isaiah." The pieces of papyrus
(\papuros\), our paper, were pasted together to make a roll of
varying lengths according to one's needs. Matthew, of course, is
not applying the word book to the Old Testament, probably not to
his own book, but to "the genealogical table of Jesus Christ"
(\biblos geneseōs Iēsou Christou\), "the birth roll of Jesus
Christ" Moffatt translates it. We have no means of knowing where
the writer obtained the data for this genealogy. It differs
radically from that in Lu 3:23-38. One can only give his own
theory of the difference. Apparently in Matthew we have the
actual genealogy of Joseph which would be the legal pedigree of
Jesus according to Jewish custom. In Luke we apparently have the
actual genealogy of Mary which would be the real line of Jesus
which Luke naturally gives as he is writing for the Gentiles.

{Jesus Christ}. Both words are used. The first is the name
(\Iēsous\) given by the angel to Mary (Mt 1:21) which describes
the mission of the child. The second was originally a verbal
adjective (\christos\) meaning anointed from the verb to anoint
(\chriō\). It was used often in the Septuagint as an adjective
like "the anointed priest" (1Ki 2:10) and then as a substantive
to translate the Hebrew word "Messiah" (\Messias\). So Andrew
said to Simon: "We have found the Messiah, which is, being
interpreted, Christ" (Joh 1:41). In the Gospels it is sometimes
"the Anointed One," "the Messiah," but finally just a proper name
as here, Jesus Christ. Paul in his later Epistles usually has it
"Christ Jesus."

{The Son of David, the son of Abraham} (\huiou Daueid huiou
. Matthew proposes to show that Jesus Christ is on the
human side the son of David, as the Messiah was to be, and the
son of Abraham, not merely a real Jew and the heir of the
promises, but the promise made to Abraham. So Matthew begins his
line with Abraham while Luke traces his line back to Adam. The
Hebrew and Aramaic often used the word son (\bēn\) for the
quality or character, but here the idea is descent. Christians
are called sons of God because Christ has bestowed this dignity
upon us (Ro 8:14; 9:26; Ga 3:26; 4:5-7). Verse 1 is the
description of the list in verses 2-17. The names are given in
three groups, Abraham to David (2-6), David to Babylon Removal
(6-11), Jechoniah to Jesus (12-16). The removal to Babylon
(\metoikesias Babulōnos\) occurs at the end of verse 11, the
beginning of verse 12, and twice in the resume in verse 17.
This great event is used to mark off the two last divisions from
each other. It is a good illustration of the genitive as the case
of genus or kind. The Babylon removal could mean either to
Babylon or from Babylon or, indeed, the removal of Babylon. But
the readers would know the facts from the Old Testament, the
removal of the Jews to Babylon. Then verse 17 makes a summary
of the three lists, fourteen in each by counting David twice and
omitting several, a sort of mnemonic device that is common
enough. Matthew does not mean to say that there were only
fourteen in actual genealogy. The names of the women (Thamar,
Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba the wife of Uriah)
are likewise not
counted. But it is a most interesting list.

1:2 {Begat} (\egennēsen\). This word comes, like some of the
early chapters of Genesis, with regularity through verse 16,
until the birth of Jesus is reached when there is a sudden
change. The word itself does not always mean immediate parentage,
but merely direct descent. In verse 16 we have "Joseph the
husband of Mary, from whom was begotten Jesus who is called
Christ" (\ton Iōsēph ton andra Marias ex hēs egennēthē Iēsous ho
legomenos Christos\)
. The article occurs here each time with the
object of "begat," but not with the subject of the verb to
distinguish sharply the proper names. In the case of David the
King (1:6) and Joseph the husband of Mary (1:16) the article
is repeated. The mention of the brethren of Judah (1:2) and of
both Phares and Zara (1:3) may show that Matthew was not
copying a family pedigree but making his own table. All the Greek
manuscripts give verse 16 as above save the Ferrar Group of
minuscules which are supported by the Sinaitic Syriac Version.
Because of this fact Von Soden, whose text Moffatt translates,
deliberately prints his text "_Jacob begat Jesus_" (\Iōsēph de
egennēsen Iēsoun\)
. But the Sinaitic Syriac gives the Virgin
Birth of Jesus in Mt 1:18-25. Hence it is clear that "begat"
here in 1:16 must merely mean line of descent or the text has
been tampered with in order to get rid of the Virgin Birth idea,
but it was left untouched in 1:18-25. I have a full discussion
of the problem in chapter XIV of _Studies in the Text of the New
Testament_. The evidence as it now stands does not justify
changing the text of the Greek uncials to suit the Sinaitic
Syriac. The Virgin Birth of Jesus remains in 1:16. The spelling
of these Hebrew names in English is usually according to the
Hebrew form, not the Greek. In the Greek itself the Hebrew
spelling is often observed in violation of the Greek rules for
the ending of words with no consonants save _n,r,s_. But the list
is not spelled consistently in the Greek, now like the Hebrew as
in Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, now like the Greek as in Judah,
Solomon, Hezekiah, though the Hebrew style prevails.

1:18 {The birth of Jesus Christ} (\tou [Iēsou] Christou hē
. In the Greek Jesus Christ comes before birth as the
important matter after 1:16. It is not certain whether "Jesus"
is here a part of the text as it is absent in the old Syriac and
the Old Latin while the Washington Codex has only "Christ." The
Vatican Codex has "Christ Jesus." But it is plain that the story
of the birth of Jesus Christ is to be told briefly as follows,
"on this wise" (\houtōs\), the usual Greek idiom. The oldest and
best manuscripts have the same word genealogy (\genesis\) used in
1:1, not the word for birth (begotten) as in 1:16
(\gennēsis\). "It is in fact the word Genesis. The evangelist is
about to describe, not the genesis of the heaven and the earth,
but the genesis of Him who made the heaven and the earth, and who
will yet make a new heaven and a new earth" (Morison).

{Betrothed to Joseph} (\Mnēsteutheisēs tōi Iōsēph\). Matthew
proceeds to explain his statement in 1:16 which implied that
Joseph, though the legal father of Jesus in the royal line, was
not the actual father of Mary's Son. Betrothal with the Jews was
a serious matter, not lightly entered into and not lightly
broken. The man who betrothed a maiden was legally husband (Ge
29:21; De 22:23f.)
and "an informal cancelling of betrothal was
impossible" (McNeile). Though they did not live together as
husband and wife till actual marriage, breach of faithfulness on
the part of the betrothed was treated as adultery and punished
with death. _The New Testament in Braid Scots_ actually has
"mairry't till Joseph" for "betrothed to Joseph." Matthew uses
the genitive absolute construction here, a very common Greek

{Of the Holy Ghost} (\ek pneumatos hagiou\). The discovery that
Mary was pregnant was inevitable and it is plain that she had not
told Joseph. She "was found with child" (\heurethē en gastri
. This way of putting it, the usual Greek idiom, plainly
shows that it was the discovery that shocked Joseph. He did not
as yet know what Matthew plainly asserts that the Holy Ghost, not
Joseph and not any man, was responsible for the pregnancy of
Mary. The problem of the Virgin Birth of Jesus has been a
disturbing fact to some through all the ages and is today to
those who do not believe in the pre-existence of Christ, the Son
of God, before his Incarnation on earth. This is the primal fact
about the Birth of Christ. The Incarnation of Christ is clearly
stated by Paul (2Co 8:9; Php 2:5-11; and involved in Col
and by John (Joh 1:14; 17:5). If one frankly admits
the actual pre-existence of Christ and the real Incarnation, he
has taken the longest and most difficult step in the matter of
the supernatural Birth of Christ. That being true, no merely
human birth without the supernatural element can possibly explain
the facts. Incarnation is far more than the Indwelling of God by
the Holy Spirit in the human heart. To admit real incarnation and
also full human birth, both father and mother, creates a greater
difficulty than to admit the Virgin Birth of Jesus begotten by
the Holy Spirit, as Matthew here says, and born of the Virgin
Mary. It is true that only Matthew and Luke tell the story of the
supernatural birth of Jesus, though Joh 1:14 seems to refer to
it. Mark has nothing whatever concerning the birth and childhood
of Jesus and so cannot be used as a witness on the subject. Both
Matthew and Luke present the birth of Jesus as not according to
ordinary human birth. Jesus had no human father. There is such a
thing in nature as parthenogenesis in the lower orders of life.
But that scientific fact has no bearing here. We see here God
sending his Son into the world to be the world's Saviour and he
gave him a human mother, but not a human father so that Jesus
Christ is both Son of God and Son of Man, the God Man. Matthew
tells the story of the birth of Jesus from the standpoint of
Joseph as Luke gives it from the standpoint of Mary. The two
narratives harmonize with each other. One credits these most
wonderful of all birth narratives according as he believes in the
love and power of Almighty God to do what he wills. There is no
miracle with God who has all power and all knowledge. The laws of
nature are simply the expression of God's will, but he has not
revealed all his will in the laws that we discover. God is
Spirit. He is Person. He holds in his own power all life. Joh
3:16 is called the Little Gospel because it puts briefly the
love of God for men in sending his own Son to live and die for

1:19 {A Righteous Man} (\dikaios\). Or just, not benignant or
merciful. The same adjective is used of Zacharias and Elizabeth
(Lu 1:6) and Simeon (Lu 2:25). "An upright man," the _Braid
Scots_ has it. He had the Jewish conscientiousness for the
observance of the law which would have been death by stoning (De
. Though Joseph was upright, he would not do that. "As a
good Jew he would have shown his zeal if he had branded her with
public disgrace" (McNeile). {And yet not willing} (\kai mē
. So we must understand \kai\ here, "and yet." Matthew
makes a distinction here between "willing" (\thelōn\) and
"wishing" (\eboulēthē\), that between purpose (\thelō\) and
desire (\boulomai\) a distinction not always drawn, though
present here. It was not his purpose to "make her a public
example" (\deigmatisai\), from the root (\deiknumi\ to show), a
rare word (Col 2:15). The Latin Vulgate has it _traducere_, the
Old Latin _divulgare_, Wycliff _pupplische_ (publish), Tyndale
_defame_, Moffatt _disgrace_, Braid Scots "Be i the mooth o' the
public." The substantive (\deigmatismos\) occurs on the Rosetta
Stone in the sense of "verification." There are a few instances
of the verb in the papyri though the meaning is not clear
(Moulton and Milligan's _Vocabulary_). The compound form appears
(\paradeigmatizō\) in Heb 6:6 and there are earlier instances
of this compound than of the uncompounded, curiously enough. But
new examples of the simple verb, like the substantive, may yet be
found. The papyri examples mean to furnish a sample (P Tebt.
, to make trial of (P Ryl. I. 28.32). The substantive means
exposure in (P Ryl. I. 28.70). At any rate it is clear that
Joseph "was minded to put her away privily." He could give her a
bill of divorcement (\apolusai\), the \gēt\ laid down in the
Mishna, without a public trial. He had to give her the writ
(\gēt\) and pay the fine (De 24:1). So he proposed to do this
privately (\lathrai\) to avoid all the scandal possible. One is
obliged to respect and sympathize with the motives of Joseph for
he evidently loved Mary and was appalled to find her untrue to
him as he supposed. It is impossible to think of Joseph as the
actual father of Jesus according to the narrative of Matthew
without saying that Matthew has tried by legend to cover up the
illegitimate birth of Jesus. The Talmud openly charges this sin
against Mary. Joseph had "a short but tragic struggle between his
legal conscience and his love" (McNeile).

1:20 {An angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream}
(\aggelos kuriou kat' onar ephanē autōi\). This expression
(\aggelos kuriou\) is without the article in the New Testament
except when, as in 1:24, there is reference to the angel
previously mentioned. Sometimes in the Old Testament Jehovah
Himself is represented by this phrase. Surely Joseph needed God's
help if ever man did. If Jesus was really God's Son, Joseph was
entitled to know this supreme fact that he might be just to both
Mary and her Child. It was in a dream, but the message was
distinct and decisive for Joseph. He is called "Son of David" as
had been shown by Matthew in Mt 1:16. Mary is called his "wife"
(\tēn gunaika sou\). He is told "not to become afraid"
(ingressive first aorist passive subjunctive in prohibition), (\mē
, "to take to his side" (\paralabein\, ingressive
aorist active infinitive)
her whom he had planned
(\enthumēthentos\, genitive absolute again, from \en\ and
to send away with a writ of divorce. He had pondered
and had planned as best he knew, but now God had called a halt
and he had to decide whether he was willing to shelter Mary by
marrying her and, if necessary, take upon himself whatever stigma
might attach to her. Joseph was told that the child was begotten
of the Holy Spirit and thus that Mary was innocent of any sin.
But who would believe it now if he told it of her? Mary knew the
truth and had not told him because she could not expect him to
believe it.

1:21 {Thou shalt call his name Jesus} (\Kalesies to onoma autou
. The rabbis named six whose names were given before
birth: "Isaac, Ishmael, Moses, Solomon, Josiah, and the name of
the Messiah, whom may the Holy One, blessed be His name, bring in
our day." The angel puts it up to Joseph as the putative father
to name the child. "Jesus is the same as Joshua, a contraction of
Jehoshuah (Nu 13:16; 1Ch 7:27), signifying in Hebrew, 'Jehovah
is helper,' or 'Help of Jehovah'" (Broadus). So Jesus is the
Greek form of Joshua (Heb 4:8). He is another Joshua to lead
the true people of God into the Promised Land. The name itself
was common enough as Josephus shows. Jehovah is Salvation as seen
in Joshua for the Hebrews and in Jesus for all believers. "The
meaning of the name, therefore, finds expression in the title
_Saviour_ applied to our Lord (Lu 1:47; 2:11; Joh 4:42)"
(Vincent). He will save (\sōsei\) his people from their sins and
so be their Saviour (\Sōtēr\). He will be prophet, priest, and
king, but "Saviour" sums it all up in one word. The explanation
is carried out in the promise, "for he is the one who (\autos\)
will save (\sōsei\ with a play on the name Jesus) his people from
their sins." Paul will later explain that by the covenant people,
the children of promise, God means the spiritual Israel, all who
believe whether Jews or Gentiles. This wonderful word touches the
very heart of the mission and message of the Messiah. Jesus
himself will show that the kingdom of heaven includes all those
and only those who have the reign of God in their hearts and
lives. {From their sins} (\apo tōn hamartiōn autōn\). Both sins
of omission and of commission. The substantive (\hamartia\) is
from the verb (\hamartanein\) and means missing the mark as with
an arrow. How often the best of us fall short and fail to score.
Jesus will save us away from (\apo\) as well as out of (\ex\) our
sins. They will be cast into oblivion and he will cover them up
out of sight.

1:22 {That it may be fulfilled} (\hina plērōthēi\). Alford says
that "it is impossible to interpret \hina\ in any other sense
than in order that." That was the old notion, but modern
grammarians recognize the non-final use of this particle in the
_Koinē_ and even the consecutive like the Latin _ut_. Some even
argue for a causal use. If the context called for result, one
need not hesitate to say so as in Mr 11:28; Joh 9:36; 1Jo 1:9;
Re 9:20; 13:13. See discussion in my _Grammar of the Greek New
Testament in the Light of Historical Research_, pp. 997-9. All
the same it is purpose here, God's purpose, Matthew reports the
angel as saying, spoken "by (\hupo\, immediate agent) the Lord
through (\dia\, intermediate agent) the prophet." {"All this has
(\touto de holon gegonen\, present perfect
, stands on record as historical fact. But the Virgin
Birth of Jesus is not due to this interpretation of Isa 7:14.
It is not necessary to maintain (Broadus) that Isaiah himself saw
anything more in his prophecy than that a woman then a virgin,
would bear a son and that in the course of a few years Ahaz would
be delivered from the king of Syria and Israel by the coming of
the Assyrians. This historical illustration finds its richest
fulfilment in the birth of Jesus from Mary. "Words of themselves
are empty. They are useful only as vessels to convey things from
mind to mind" (Morison). The Hebrew word for young woman is
translated by virgin (\parthenos\), but it is not necessary to
conclude that Isaiah himself contemplated the supernatural birth
of Jesus. We do not have to say that the idea of the Virgin Birth
of Jesus came from Jewish sources. Certainly it did not come from
the pagan myths so foreign to this environment, atmosphere and
spirit. It is far simpler to admit the supernatural fact than try
to explain the invention of the idea as a myth to justify the
deification of Jesus. The birth, life, and death of Jesus throw a
flood of light on the Old Testament narrative and prophecies for
the early Christians. In Matthew and John in particular we often
see "that the events of Christ's life were divinely ordered for
the express purpose of fulfilling the Old Testament" (McNeile).
See Mt 2:15,23; 4:14-17; 8:17; 12:17-21; 13:25; 21:4f.; Joh
12:38f.; 13:18; 19:24,28,36f.

1:23 {They shall call} (\kalesousin\). Men, people, will call his
name Immanuel, God with us. "The interest of the evangelist, as
of all New Testament writers, in prophecy, was purely religious"
(Bruce). But surely the language of Isaiah has had marvellous
illustration in the Incarnation of Christ. This is Matthew's
explanation of the meaning of Immanuel, a descriptive appellation
of Jesus Christ and more than a mere motto designation. God's
help, Jesus=the Help of God, is thus seen. One day Jesus will say
to Philip: "He that has seen me has seen the Father" (Joh

1:24 {Took unto him his wife} (\parelaben tēn gunaika autou\).
The angel had told him not to be afraid to "take to his side"
Mary his wife (1:20). So when he awoke from his sleep he
promptly obeyed the angel and "took his wife home" (Moffatt). One
can only imagine the relief and joy of Mary when Joseph nobly
rose to his high duty toward her. I have tried to sketch Mary's
problems in _Mary the Mother of Jesus: Her Problems and Her

1:25 {And knew her not} (\kai ouk eginōsken autēn\). Note the
imperfect tense, continuous or linear action. Joseph lived in
continence with Mary till the birth of Jesus. Matthew does not
say that Mary bore no other children than Jesus. "Her firstborn"
is not genuine here, but is a part of the text in Lu 2:7. The
perpetual virginity of Mary is not taught here. Jesus had
brothers and sisters and the natural meaning is that they were
younger children of Joseph and Mary and not children of Joseph by
a previous marriage. So Joseph "called his name Jesus" as the
angel had directed and the child was born in wedlock. Joseph
showed that he was an upright man in a most difficult situation.

[Table of Contents]
[Previous] [Next]
Word Pictures in the New Testament
(Matthew: Chapter 1)