Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, June 13th, 2024
the Week of Proper 5 / Ordinary 10
Attention!
Tired of seeing ads while studying? Now you can enjoy an "Ads Free" version of the site for as little as 10¢ a day and support a great cause!
Click here to learn more!

Bible Commentaries
Matthew 1

Orchard's Catholic Commentary on Holy ScriptureOrchard's Catholic Commentary

Search for…
Enter query below:
Additional Authors

Verse 1

THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST ACCORDING TO ST MATTHEW IntroductionBy A. JONES

I Authority and Authorship of the First Gospel I Early Witness to its Authority— Already at the end of the ist cent. and during the first years of the 2nd, the gospel we know as Matthew’s had won special prominence. The allusions of Clement of Rome (1 Ep. ad Cor., a.d. 95) of the Epistle of Barnabas ( a.d. 100-30), of Ignatius of Antioch (d. a.d. 115), of the Didache (c a.d. 100), clearly reflect the text of the First Gospel. Nor are these reflexions confined to the discourses (?ó??a) of our Lord (e.g. Ignatius, Ep. ad Smyrn. 1:1; cf. Matthew 3:15). The authority of Mt’s text is even underlined by the phrase ’as it is written’ (?? ????apta?) which is technical for the canonical writings of the OT ( Ep. Barn. 4:4, alluding to Matthew 22:14). Though the name of the Apostle is not yet used in connexion with these texts this early preference for the First Gospel, in Rome and in Antioch, does not favour a recent or obscure origin.

2 Early Witness to Matthean Authorship— From the mid-2nd cent. at least, and probably from its beginning, the title according to Matthew’ (?at? MatFaî??) was current; there is no trace of any other name in connexion with the First Gospel. Explicit evidence comes from Irenaeus writing before the end of the 2nd cent.: he declares that Matthew not only preached to the Hebrew (i.e. Aramaic) speaking public but also produced for them a written gospel in their own tongue ( Adv. Haer. 3:1; quoted by Eusebius, HE 5, 8, 2). Origen (writing c a.d. 233), severe critic though he was, accepts the truth of the already rooted tradition (?? ?? pa?ád?s?se?) that the apostle-publican Matthew wrote the First Gospel in Hebrew characters for converted Jews (cf. Eus., HE 6, 25). This witness becomes a commonplace in the 4th cent. (Eus., HE 3, 24, etc.; Cyril of Jerusalem, Catech. 14, 15; Epiphanius, Haer. 30, 3, 6; 51, 5, etc.; cf. texts and references in Lagrange, Mt xi-xv).

3 Testimony of Papias— MatTaî? µ?? ??? ’Eß?a?d? d?a???t? t??at? (?s??e???fat?). H?µ??e?se d’ a?t? ?? ?? d??atò? ??ast?? (quoted by Eus., HE iii. 39): ’Matthew wrote an ordered account of the oracles (?ó??a) in the Hebrew tongue and each interpreted those oracles according to his ability’. This is the earliest known explicit witness to the Matthean authorship of the First Gospel. It comes from Papias, Bishop of Hierapolis, who wrote a five-volume work: Explanation of the Lord’s Discourses (or: of the Oracles about the Lord). The date of Papias’ birth was probably a.d. 60 (Chapman) or 70 (Lagrange) and his book is commonly dated c 125. He was in touch with the immediate disciples of the Apostles (Irenaeus). The precise sense of his term ?ó??a ’oracles’ has been much disputed (e.g. WV I xviii-xxii) but it is becoming increasingly recognized that Papias was not attributing to Matthew merely a collection of our Lord’s words (the hypothetical document originally dubbed ’Q’ in critical circles). It may be that Papias chooses the term ?ó??a because the discourses are to form the theme of his book (though see WV l. c.), but it by no means follows that Papias denies to Matthew anything more than discourses. There is a growing reluctance to credit the existence of a document containing our Lord’s words without any factual background and, moreover, its existence was not even suspected by those who originally used Papias’ evidence. ’From his context it is quite clear that Eusebius took it [the term ?ó??a] to mean the Gospel according to St Matthew. The same is true of Irenaeus. This interpretation seems the most satisfactory one, especially as we know that the Gospel was used by Ignatius some twenty years before Parias wrote. Nor can the ascription ?at? MatTaî?? be later than Papias’ time. Hence the presumption is that Papias by t? ?ó??a means our Gospel’, Kilpatrick, 3. Cf. also § 607f.

For those, therefore, who deny that the Apostle Matthew wrote a gospel at all it remains only to refuse the witness of Papias. This is done on the alleged authority of intemal evidence. Before we examine this internal evidence and the legitimate conclusions to be drawn from it we should do well to make some preliminary and cautionary observations. In the first place, Papias’ is not the only evidence that remains to be explained away. Even granted that Irenaeus was its unwitting victim we are still faced with the conviction of the critical Origen who claims not Papias only, but a whole tradition in its support; Eusebius, too, mistrustful of Papias on other points, accepts his evidence on this without question. Secondly, in questions of this kind both internal and external evidence must be respected and not manipulated. Thirdly, the historical evidence is stubborn on two points which are not necessarily connected—Matthean authorship and Aramaic original; the ’critical’ hypothesis must reject both, however, if its arguments are to hold; in fact it argues from the Greek to the non-apostolic authorship of the same. Here there is danger of confusing the issue because the traditional view is not tied down to the detailed identity but only to the substantial identity of the Greek translation with its apostolic, Aramaic, original. Fourthly, the firm tradition insists that our Greek Matthew is a translation. If it is right in so doing we are already in presence of a complex problem to which we might reasonably

expect a complex answer. It will not therefore be wise to dismiss such an answer lightly as a ’cumbersome hypothesis’. We shall outline the possible solution below.

II Original Language of the Gospel— Papias, Irenaeus, Origen, Eusebius, Jerome, all bear formal witness that the First Gospel was written by Matthew ’in the Hebrew tongue’ or ’in his mother-tongue’. It is fairly clear that by ’Hebrew’ is here meant not the classical Hebrew of antiquity, but the cognate Aramaic, the contemporary Palestinian vernacular. For this use of the term, see the early ecclesiastical writers and, in the NT, Acts 21:40; Acts 22:2; Acts 26:14; John 19:13, John 19:17, John 19:20. Hebrew, indeed, would have been inaccessible at this time to all but scholars. Intrinsic evidence also excludes a Hebrew original since, in that hypothesis, quotations from the OT would have been taken verbatim from the Hebrew text (see below). A development of the argument for an original Aramaic Matthew may be found in Chapman, 182-214.

Despite this evidence the existence of a Semitic original is commonly denied on the ground that our Greek Matthew is manifestly not a translation. The arguments are not convincing. The Greek is clear but inelegant and repetitive: it may well be that of translation; occasional ingenuities of phrase (e.g. 21:41) are not beyond the powers of a translator; the handling of OT quotations points rather towards an Aramaic original than away from it. This last point calls for some elaboration: it is argued that the First Gospel makes use of the Greek Bible, the Septuagint, thus betraying its Greek origin. It may be answered, first, that this phenomenon too may be ascribed to the fact that the translator leans towards his familiar Greek OT. It may be argued further with Lagrange (Mt. cxvii-cxxiv; and cf. Chapman, 261-93) that the First Gospel’s use of the OT is in fact an indication of Semitic origin. The form of ten of Mt’s quotations betrays the influence of the Hebrew text and in six of these cases, 1:23; 2:6, 18; 12:18-21; 13:35; 21:5, no adequate reason can be assigned for such recourse to the Hebrew other than the fact that it, and not LXX, was already used in the work which lay before the translator’s eyes. The most natural explanation of such citations, notes Lagrange, is that ’Matthew (i.e. the Apostle) writing in Aramaic had before him the Hebrew text with which he was familiar and which he uses with a certain freedom’. At times the translator reproduces this characteristic of his original, at others (especially when the quotation is paralleled in the other Synoptics) he prefers the LXX form. III Date of Original and of Translation— That Matthew was the first of the four to write his gospel is the firm persuasion of antiquity. This puts the Aramaic Matthew before a.d. 62 (the date of Luke). External evidence does not allow of any further precision: the testimony of Eusebius (HE iii. 24. 6) is too vague and that of Irenaeus ( Adv. Haer. iii. 1:1) too uncertain of interpretation (cf. WV I xvii-xviii) to admit of a conclusion. The Greek Matthew was probably written several years before a.d. 70, see below. If therefore we allow twenty years or so for the development of our Gk Mt from its Aramaic original, a.d. 4050 would be an appropriate date for the latter.

The Gk Matthew was certainly well established in the first years of the 2nd cent.: the seven letters of Ignatius ( a.d. 115 or earlier) use the Gk text as we know it. On this score alone it is difficult to believe that the translation was made later.than a.d. 90. The arguments of Kilpatrick, especially pp 101-23, for a.d. 90-100 are not compelling: the situation which our gospel was designed to meet was already developing before the Synod of Jamnia in a.d. 90. In view of the fact that our Gk Matthew, contemplates the Jewish catastrophe as something still to come a date some time before a.d. 70 is probable. The translator who, as will be seen, uses a certain freedom (cf. 21:39 note), would doubtless have allowed his language to be influenced by that event had it already taken place. Indeed, recent comparative studies of Matthew and Paul have suggested a date earlier than the latter’s first epistles (i.e. before a.d. 51 for a Gk translation of Aramaic Matthew; see Chapman, DR (1937) 432 ff.; Orchard, Bi ( 1938) 19 ff.; Butler, DR ( 1948) 367 if.; cf. Dodd, ET ( 1947) 293 ff. Whether this translation or one of these translations (cf. the evidence of Papias) is identical with our Gk Matthew or whether it is only the precursor and source of the same will have to be decided on other grounds. If we accept the argument for our Gk Matthew’s dependence upon Mark (cf. § 679a) we shall have to put Gk Matthew after a.d. 60 (probable date of Mark) and thus reject the identification. IV Pertinent Replies of the Biblical Commission— ( 19th June, 1911) ; § 50a-g.

1. The Apostle Matthew is truly author of the Gospel that bears his name. 2. Tradition amply shows that Matthew wrote before the other evangelists and in the language of the Palestinian Jews. 3. The date of the original Matthew is not later than the fall of Jerusalem ( a.d. 70) and tradition is best satisfied if we place it before Paul’s coming to Rome (c a.d. 60). 4. Matthew did not compose merely a collection of our Lord’s discourses, but a gospel in the strict sense. 5. Our Gk Matthew is substantially identical with the original. This is the legitimate conclusion from the fact that the Greek text was treated as canonical by the Fathers and ecclesiastical writers and by the early Church herself. V Structure of the Gospel— It has been truly said that ’if any passage or section is to be found in our Gospel as well as in another, our Gospel is the one in which it may most easily be found’. This is the result of Matthew’s highly systematic arrangement. Prescinding from the prologue (the Infancy narrative of chh 1-2) and from the epilogue (the Passion and Resurrection account of chh 26-28) the Gospel appears to fall naturally into five great parts. The evangelist marks these divisions with the repetition of a stereotyped formula (or its near equivalent) used nowhere else in the Gospel: ’And it came to pass when Jesus had ended these words . . . ’, 7:28; 11: 1; 13:53; 19:1; 26:1. Each part has its predominantly narrative section followed by a long discourse for which the narrative forms an apt preparation thus: c

1. i. Narrative chh 3-4 (The indispensable pre-liminary mise en scène). ii. Discourse chh 5-7 (Inaugural Discourse:the ’Sermon’).

2. i. Narrative chh 8-9 (Opening of our Lord’sministry; miracles). ii. Discourse ch 10 (Instruction for Apostles’ministry).

3. i. Narrative chh 11-12 (Opposition to the ’King-dom’). ii. Discourse ch 13 (Kingdom’s mysteriousnature explains opposi-tion).

4. i. Narrative chh 14-17 (Formation of disciplesand of Peter). ii. Discourse ch 18 (Duties of the disciples).

5. i. Narrative chh 19-23 (Mounting opposition ofJudaism). ii. Discourse chh 24-25 (Messianic Judgement onJudaism, etc.).

VI Characteristic Theme— One might hesitate between two possible titles for our Gospel: the ’Gospel of Fulfilment’ or the ’Gospel of the Kingdom’ but, in effect, these are but two aspects of the one theme. The coming of the Kingdom is a fulfilment of the old promises and the Kingdom itself is not an entirely new thing, but a perfecting of the old. There is true continuity here as Mt insists in one sentence which he alone quotes: ’The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and shall be given to a nation yielding the fruits thereof’, 21:43.

The Gospel of Fulfliment— Mt sees both Kingdom and King not as unforeseen and unprepared phenomena, but as the supernatural climax of a divine plan announced and developing in the history of Israel. On twelve occasions the evangelist formally asserts that the old Scriptures were ’fulfilled’ in Jesus and his work (1:22; 2:15, 17, 23; 4:14; 8:17; 12:17; 13:35; 21:4; 26:54; 27:9; cf. 3:1.5 note). From the first verses of the Gospel this is evident. The descent of Jesus from Abraham, not traced back to Adam as in Lk, implicitly links our Lord with the promise of Genesis (Genesis 13:15; Genesis 17:8; cf.Galatians 3:16) and the Infancy narrative is punctuated with OT references eagerly sought out to reduce the surprise of the early opposition to the Messias, 2:15, 17, 23. Alone among the evangelists Mt, 4:15, sees the opening of our Lord’s public preaching as the shining of the great Messianic light already spoken of by Isaias (9:1), and the first works of healing as the prophesied function of the Isaian ’Servant of God’, Matthew 8:16-17. This second passage with its hint of suffering prepares the reader for the remaining OT citations chosen for circumstances more sombre: our Lord’s withdrawal from the opposition of his people’s leaders, the blindness of the people themselves, the flight of his own disciples, the mortal treachery of one of them—even these are not the frustration of the divine plan, but its fulfilment, 12:17; 13:35; 26:54, 56; 27:9.

As for the new order itself, it too is a fulfilment of the old and not its destruction, 5:17; ritual laws may pass, but the ancient moral code is protected, 15:3-6, and reinforced with a strong inner spirit, 5:20-48; though the new era is on a higher plane the old had looked towards it, 11:11-13. The message of the new Kingdom is addressed first to the subjects of the old, 10:5f.; if it passes from Israel it is through Israel’s fault, 21:28-44, and even our Lord’s farewell words to his people hold a hint of hope for the nation elect of old (23:39 note). The very refusal of its Messias by Israel is no break with the past, but rather the climax of its melancholy history: Israel’s response to God’s invitations was never generous, 23:35, and Matthew’s readers, largely converts from Judaism, need not be surprised nor scandalized that their own nation as a body has rejected the new offer, 23:34.

The Gospel of the Kingdom— 51 times (as against 14 in Mk, 39 in Lk) Mt speaks of ’the Kingdom’, but whereas Mk and Lk consistently use the expression ’Kingdom of God’, Mt uses it, at most, 5 times only and prefers (32 or 33 times) ’Kingdom of the Heavens’. This last is almost certainly the formula used by our Lord himself (Lagrange, Mt, ci, cv-cvi), the plural form of ’heavens’ reproducing Aramaic (and Hebrew) usage and the term itself being the contemporary respectful equivalent for ’God’, 1 Mac 3:60; 4:24. Since the two expressions are in practice synonymous it follows that the phrase ’Kingdom of the Heavens’ does not necessarily imply a kingdom in another world than this. Nevertheless the expression lends itself of its very nature to a certain ambiguity and the context will have to decide the exact formality of its use in any given passage. Sometimes it is the Messianic kingdom of God on earth, sometimes the apotheosis of that kingdom in heaven, sometimes the recognition of God’s royal rights by the individual soul. The perspectives will often merge since the kingdom on earth is designed as the antechamber to the kingdom in heaven, e.g. 8: 11-12. In some cases the distinction will be clear as when the kingdom of the Son (the kingdom on earth) is distinguished from the kingdom of the Father which is in heaven (cf.1 Corinthians 15:28) ; this is most deliberately done in Matthew 13:41-43. Thus to the kingdom of the Son refer 13:41; 16:28; 20:21, and cf. 19:28; to the kingdom of the Father: 13:43; 25:34; 26:29. On occasions the characteristics of the kingdom are such as to exclude a formal reference to heaven; thus, in the case of the parables of ch 13, the coexistence in the kingdom of good and bad, the hidden nature of the kingdom, its slow and secret growth. Similarly the disciples’ ambition in 18:1-4 clearly has an earthly kingdom for its object; the same may be said of the request of the sons of Zebedee, 20:21. Likewise when the kingdom is said to have come, 12:28, or when it is given a human authority, 16:17-19, the aspect of a kingdom on earth is foremost. It is upon this aspect that Mt’s emphasis lies because, for him, the kingdom is successor to God’s ancient kingdom which was Israel, a kingdom of God upon this earth. The kingdom is on the threshold when the Baptist speaks, 3:2, and his words are echoed by our Lord, 4:17, with whose ministry the day of Sion’s kingdom had dawned (11:5; cf.Isaiah 35:5; Isaiah 61:1). It has manifestly come with the great work of exorcism, 12:28, and is a matter of present experience, 13:16-19. But its ’coming’, though hidden and constant like the great works of nature, may break through into observable history, in spectacular fashion from time to time; in this sense it may have many ’comings’. Such a thrust is said to be near at hand, 16:28; 24:34; when the old temple falls the new kingdom will be known for its excelling successor (ch 24 notes). Matthew’s gospel is therefore in some sort a theology of history, a sustained reflection upon the origin and nature and fortune and final destiny of the permanent and permeating force which God, through Christ, has infused into the affairs of the world. The Epistle to the Romans sees this revolutionary thing as the saving justice of God manifested in his Son, the gospel sees it as God’s kingdom established by the Son; its theology is less elaborate than St Paul’s, but it is no less profound and its arrangement admirable. The skilful synthesis and distribution of our Lord’s discourses provides the reader with a growing understanding of the Kingdom which is Mt’s central theme. His first discourse describes the true subjects of the Kingdom and their spirit; his second instructs its missionaries; the third illustrates its hidden but irresistible power; the fourth the mutual obligations of its citizens; the fifth its establishment in power upon the ruins of Judaism—nor does this last discourse end until the king ushers his faithful subjects into the lasting kingdom of his Father. It is small wonder that the marked preference for the gospel of Matthew in the early Church has remained to this day, because it is the gospel of God’s kingdom on earth, the ’ecclesiastical gospel’, the gospel of ’the Church’.

VII The Composition of Greek Matthew— The TwoSource Theory (Two-Document Hypothesis) with varying modifications is accepted in non-Catholic critical circles as a demonstrated thesis. Rejecting the historical evidence of an original Aramaic gospel it affirms two principal sources of Gk Matthew: (1) Mark’s gospel, incorporated almost in toto; (2) A written document containing principally the sayings of our Lord (document ’ Q’) which is the supposed source of non-Marcan matter common to Mt and Lk. Harnack maintained that Q consisted almost exclusively of our Lord’s discourses, but it is more commonly held today that Q contained narrative matter also, that it was an embryonic gospel. In addition to these two sources at least one other is usually postulated for those parts of Gk Matthew not found in either Mk or Lk—a source of Semitic origin. The Two-Source theory has been rejected by the Biblical Commission, § 51a-b, which notes that it lacks historical foundation. The Commission, however, permits free discussion of all hypotheses which respect the points mentioned in its decree of 1911, § 50a-g.

Catholic scholars, fully aware of the problem and equally respectful of the data of historical tradition are not agreed upon the solution of the problem. The Oral Tradition Theory considers the Synoptic phenomenon adequately explained by the uniformity of the original spoken gospel. This was’ a traditional outline of the life of Christ and of his chief sayings, current at Jerusalem both in Aramaic and Greek’. It is claimed that the hypothesis is confirmed by the language of the gospels themselves which displays a colourless uniformity in sections common to the three Synoptics as opposed to the marked individuality of other passages. The tenacious oriental memory is credited with the preservation of the order of events and content or discourses found to be the same in the three Synoptics. Stress is laid upon the differences which, it is said, the theory of written sources finds it difficult to explain. ’Memory explains both the likenesses and the differchices in the Synoptic gospels, but the hypothesis or documents does not sufficiently explain the differences such as we have them in the concrete’; cf. WV I 371-82. The Aramaic gospel of Matthew and, through it, the Greek preserve for us the Aramaic form of the original spoken gospel.

The majority of Catholics think this explanation insufficient to account for a similarity which is striking and sustained. In addition to the part played by oral tradition they invoke some form of Mutual Dependence of one written gospel on another. Within this school of thought are two widely differing opinions. The first is a return to Augustine’s view that Mk is, in effect, an abridgement of Gk Mt. ’The Gk Mt served as Mk’s chief source in the sense that Peter, when preaching in Rome, had the Gk Mt before him, and adapted it in his own way to his hearers’ needs’, Chapman, xxi. Mark was Peter’s stenographer, ibid. 89-92. In this theory Gk Mt is considered as an independent translation of the Aramaic original and a discussion of its ’composition’ lies outside the range of the Synoptic Problem.

The second of the two ’Mutual Dependence’ theories is adopted here. It enjoys the advantage of combining the historical data with what appear to be the more assured findings of recent inquiry into the internal evidence. The following summary of the theory, which is offered as a probable solution, is based upon the outline-presentation of Père Benoit O.P., 12-30. The source which the critics call ’Q’ is no other than the original Aramaic gospel, discourses and events, of the Apostle Matthew. This gospel presented the Jerusalem catechesis which was the framework of Peter’s preaching, the preaching which Mark committed to writing. Composed in Aramaic, as its Semitic flavour often suggests, it was very soon translated into Greek (cf. §678a: the alleged dependence of Paul on Gk Mt). There were, doubtless, many such translations (Papias). These translations were used by our three evangelists each of whom adjusted his source to his purpose. Thus Mark, for example, omitted many sayings of our Lord, notably the opening discourse, and arranged the narrative-matter in his own way. In this Luke followed him fairly closely but filled in many of his omissions of discourse. The Gk Mt completely reorganized the narrative-sequence and, to some extent, the discourses—though apparently his arrangement of five great discourses is due to his source, the Aramaic Mt.

The vindication of this hypothesis cannot here be pursued in detail and a few general remarks must suffice. The theory rightly insists that the Two-Source position has a fatal weakness: its rejection of the distinction between our Gk Mt and an Aramaic original vouched for by firm historical evidence. It agrees, however, that oral tradition alone is not capable of explaining the similarity between Mark and Gk Mt (the latter has all of but little more than Mark’s narrative; its order from Mt 14 is identical; 45 verses of Mk, one-fifteenth of his gospel, are remarkably similar in form to their counterpart in Mt; 23 rare words are found only in the parallel places of Mk and Gk Mt). It agrees also, and in this it is opposed to the former of the Mutual Dependence opinions, that the form of narrative in Gk Mt is dependent upon Mk and not vice-versa (its less vivid and more correct style, its signs of transposition, its doublets, etc.). Attention is called, on the other hand, to contrary phenomenathe Gk Mt is more Semitic in character than Mk who also shows signs of having abridged the Mt-narrative in places. This cannot be due to a dependence of Mk on Gk Mt, as has been shown; it must therefore be due to Mark’s dependence upon the common source (the Aramaic catechesis). The same apparently contradictory phenomena occur in the discourses and lead to the same conclusion: dependence of Greek Mt on Mk and dependence of both on a common source. It is regarded as fairly probable that Mk knew and used the catechesis not only through the medium of Peter’s preaching but also in its written form in the original gospel of Mt. As for the translator of Mt, he too’ knew this primitive tradition in the Aramaic gospel of Mt which was probably already translated. He undertook to present this gospel more fully than Mk, his predecessor, of whose work however he made considerable use. Employing this Gk text of Mk he adjusted it when his prudence suggested, omitting those descriptive details which did not further his essential purpose which was doctrinal and at times preserving the flavour of his Aramaic original. He made use also of Mark’s sequence which was, to a great extent no doubt, the sequence of Aramaic Matthew; this he sometimes followed, sometimes manipulated. From the original gospel of Mt he took over the discourses in their entirety, even adding to them with the help of other traditions’, Benoit, op. cit., 20-1.

As for the relationship of Gk Mt with Lk, it seems impossible to suppose any direct dependence of either upon the other in view of their notable differences (e.g. the Infancy narratives, the genealogies, the wording of the Our Father, etc.). Their similarities are, therefore, best explained by a common written source of their non-Marcan material containing (as we have noted) not only discourses but also events. This source is the early translation, or better ’translations’, of the original Matthew. In addition to this source a second is postulated which Luke took bodily into his ’great intercalation’, Luke 9:51-; Luke 18:14, but which the Gk Mt quarries for the structure of his great discourses.

If this conception of the facts is approximately correct it follows that our Gk Mt is not a mere translation of the Apostle’s original Aramaic gospel; nevertheless it maintains the same fundamental structure and the same substantial teaching. Indeed any hypothesis which rejected the substantial identity of our Gk Mt with the apostolic work would collapse before the historical evidence. lt is undeniable that the earliest ecclesiastical writers unanimously accepted our Gk gospel as the reliable presentation of the Apostle’s Aramaic work. It may be added that they received the Greek text as sacred and canonical.

Inspiration of Mt.— It seems probable that the immediate. though not necessarily exclusive, object of the Church’s pronouncements relative to ’sacredness and canonicity is the Greek version, since this is the form of the Gospel in ecclesiastical use from the first century onwards, the well-known’ evangelium Matthaei’. If this view is exact then we possess a work inspired in its entirety and not simply a translation substantially identical with an inspired original.

For further discussion see The Synoptic Problem, §§ 610-15; also §§ 604d-f, 607a-g.

Verses 2-25

A. I:1-II:23 Prologue: Infancy of the Messias. I 1-17 Genealogy of Jesus the Messlas— 1. A brusque opening in headline-form introduces the Gospel. It refers perhaps to the whole gospel (WV ’book of the coming’), more probably to the genealogy only (KNT record of the ancestry’) or to the genealogy together with the conception-narrative; cf. 1:18. The use of ’Christ’ (not ’the Christ’) as a proper name became common after our Lord’s death (it is frequent in St Paul). The term is the Greek equivalent (???stó?) of the Aramaic mešî?a’ (Gk transliteration Messía?) meaning ’anointed’, technical at this time for the prophesied King. The most popular title of this King, representing his basic characteristic, was ’Son of David’, 2 Kg 7:12-17; Isaiah 11:1 ff., etc. Its vindication for Jesus is the goal of Mt’s genealogy. ’Son of Abraham’, whether immediately qualifying ’Jesus Christ’ or ’David’, implicitly presents Jesus as fulfilling in his person the Abrahamitic promise, Genesis 12:3; Galatians 3:16.

2-6a First Series: Abraham to David: Patriarchal List— Cf.1 Par 1:27-2:15 where, as here, the list is incomplete since only three names occur between Phares and Naasson to cover the period (at least 215 years) of the Egyptian sojourn.

6b-11 Second Series: Solomon to Jeehonlas: Royal List— Cf.1 Par 3:5-16 where, unlike here, the list is complete, placing Ochozias, Joas, Amasias, between Joram and Ozias (or Azarias) and naming Joaqim as also Sedecias. The historical situation summarized in 11f. is this: about the time of the deportation to Babylon, 598, Josias, 638-608, was succeeded by his son, Joachaz, 608, whose successors were Joaqim, brother of Joachaz, 608-598, Jechonias (or ’Joachin’) son of Joaqim, 597, finally Sedecias brother of Joachaz, 598-587). Jechonias, aged 18, was taken captive to Babylon in 598 and was released 37 years later. Zorobabel, 12 f., headed the returning exiles in 537.

12-16 Third Series (Jechonlas to Jesus): Dethroned Davidic Family— For Salathiel and Zorobabcl cf. 1 Par 3:17-19; Esd 3:2. From Abiud onwards Mt’s source must have been family archives, carefully preserved in Jewish circles and easily challenged by hostile readers.

17. Three series of fourteen generations are punctuated by two national crises: the indieption of a divinely guaranteed Davidic dynasty in the 10th cent. and the Babylonian exile in the 6th.

Notes on the Genealogy— (a) Purpose. The genealogy does not prove Messiaship, but vindicates for Jesus its prerequisite condition, viz. Israelitic stock traceable to the patriarch of the whole race and, in particular, royal Davidic descent. But the singular manner of our Lord’s conception, 18-25, introduced a special difficulty: though Mary was evidently of Davidic family herself (cf.Romans 1:3; Prat, I, 77), ancient (and particularly Jewish) genealogical usage ignored descent from’ the female line. Mt, therefore, gives the ancestry of Joseph, reputed and legally registered father through whom alone the Davidic descent of Jesus could be juridically established. (b) The term ’begot’. Used of mediate natural generation in e.g. 8 (’Joram. begot Ozias’) and possibly of legal (’levitate’; 22:25 note) generation in 12 (’Salathiel begot Zorobabel’ cp. Esd 3:2 with 1 Par 3:19). (c) The women in the genealogy. Contrary to usage and therefore with a purpose four women are named: Thamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bethsabee; cf.Gen 38; Jos 2; Ru 1-4; 2 Kg 11, Their common quality is apparently that of alien blood: Rahab Canaanite, Ruth Moabite, Thamar probably Canaanite, Bethsabee probably ’Hittite’ like her first husband. Their mention prepares us for an association of the Gentiles with God’s designs—an association subsequently emphasized by the incident of the Magi (ch. 2). (d) Fourteen generations. The number is taken from the OT record of the first series and deliberately, 17, applied to the second and third as a symmetrical aid to memory. It may have been a further recommendation (or happy accident?) that 14 is the first multiple of the sacred number 7 (favoured by Mt) and the numerical equivalent of the Hebrew consonants of David’s name (DWD, 4 + 6 + 4). (e) Defect of the third series. The third series apparently one name short unless we count Jechonias twice—as king, 11, and as dethroned civilian, 12, Augustine, PL 34, 1076 and WV note to. Matthew 1:17. Alternatively (Buzy) Jechonias need not be counted as beginning the third series if Mary be reckoned one of the fourteen; this is not improbable in view of the singular quality of her motherhood. A third solution (*Allen; Lagrange) reads Joaqim for Joakin (Jechonias) in 11 (translator’s carelessness?). Besides solving the numerical question, this gives point to the mention of ’brethren’, 11, since two of Joaqim’s brothers reigned. (f) The conclusion of the genealogy. The evangelist studiously avoids the phrase ’Joseph begot Jesus’: Joseph figures only as the legal husband of Mary. The text is critically certain. The Syriac variants (all careful to insert the word ’virgin’ with ’Mary’) are the result of subsequent effort to combine the legal paternity of Joseph and the virginal motherhood so clearly asserted in 18-25. The Sinaitic Syriac reads ’Joseph to whom was betrothed Mary the virgin begot Jesus’. That it intends no more than a legal begetting is clear from its care to render the Greek of 1:18 (’before they came together’) by ’at a time when they had not come together’, thus safeguarding the perpetual virginity of Mary even more scrupulously than the Gk; cf. RB 19 ( 1920) 349-52. (For the conciliation of Mt’s genealogy with Lk’s, Schmid [Das Evangelium nach Matthaüs, Regensburg 1948] rejects the ’levitate law’ solution and invokes the defects in the family tables implicitly cited by Mt and Lk.)

18-25 The Virginal Conception of the Messlas— This passage more clearly explains the’ situation suggested in 16. Joseph appears as witness of two things : first, of his own assumption of legal paternity (this fact alone justifies the presence of Joseph’s genealogy, in Mt); second, of his virginal relationship with Mary and of his heaven-sent conviction of the virginal conception. 18. Betrothal (qiddûšîn) in Jewish law conferred the status of husband and wife (hence the terms of 19f.). A child conceived during this period was regarded as legitimate unless disowned, but the marriage was regarded as incomplete until the husband formally took possesion’ (the nissû’în) of his bride by taking her to his home. This he was free to do at any time, 2 Kg 3:14; cf. Edersheim, I, 353-5. After Mary’s return from her cousin’s house, Luke 1:39-56, but before Joseph had taken her to his home her condition became clear (’she was found’ or, in the weakened sense of the Heb. verb, ’she became’, Joüon). Mt adds with reverent haste what was revealed later, 20, that the child was God-begotten.

19. That denunciation was a legal duty in the circumstances cannot be proved; nor does the text suggest that Joseph sacrificed legal scruples (’and’—not ’but’—’ not willing to make her case public’). It suggests rather (Lagrange) that precisely because Joseph was ’just’ (i.e. aware of duties to God and neighbour and, in this case, to Mary) he did not place the matter before the village-court. Such a course, though not necessarily involving condemnation (a woman might be pronounced blameless in such cases, Deuteronomy 23:25f.) meant publicity for Mary, unwelcome and evidently incompatible with Joseph’s ’justness’. Why incompatible? Presumably because ignorance of the facts coupled with knowledge of Mary’s character made of mere publicity an injustice. St Joseph’s attitude is to be observed: there is no word of complaint or even of inquiry. The evangelist leaves us with the impression of a patient instrument of God. Another course remained open: to give Mary her freedom by a bill of divorce before two witnesses (19:7 note) without the publicity of the court. To this course Joseph was inclining. His delicacy is admirable —communicated to him, no doubt, from his knowledge of Mary. He canot believe her blameworthy; he knows nothing of the Annunciation (Mary had been silent and absent for three months, Luke 1:39 ff.); he can think only of some unknown cause, perhaps supernatural, certainly consistent with Mary’s character.

20. There remained a third possibility: to celebrate the nissû’în and thus acknowledge the child as his own. From this, evidently, Joseph shrank; perhaps because it would put him publicly in a false position. The angel reassured him. He could now without scruple adopt this third course because the child, though not his, was his more than any man’s. It was the child of his. betrothed. His patience and obedience make Joseph a model of Christian men; his unique relationship to the child makes him our powerful intercessor. 21. Joseph is to assume the duties of parent (cf.Luke 1:31, Luke 1:63) and impose the name ’Jesus’ (in Heb. : Yehôšûa’ or Yešûa’) The name means ’Yahweh is Salvation’. The salvation is to be not from Herod nor from Rome but ’from sin’. We are warned from the outset that the child’s kingdom is not of this world, John 18:36, contrary to the popular Messianic idea which our Lord was to find so difficult to eradicate. This same work is assigned to God himself in Psalms 129:8 (Lagrange)—one of many hints (e.g. 23 with note) preparing us for a greater revelation of the child’s true dignity.

22-23. All this has taken place, says Mt (for whom the Incarnation is an abiding thing) in such a way as to fulfill the prophecy of Isaias, Isaiah 7:14. Over seven centurie’s before, the prophet had announced a Davidic king to be born of a young woman (a ’virgin ’ LXX) by divine intervention, Isaiah 7:14. His contemporary, Micheas (Micah 5:3-5, cf. § 535h) had alluded to the same event. Mt recalls this quality of the Messias which had been allowed to fall into the background in Jewish Messianic tradition ( Lagrange, Le Messianisme, 223). The incompatibility of virgin-birth with physical descent from the Davidic male line is resolved in Mt by legal descent through Joseph’s adoption. The child’s name is to be Jesus, but he is to be ’called’ (i.e., in Semitic idiom, the true description of his mission, or even of his personality, is to be) ’Immanû ’El, or ’ With Us (is) God’. Of all the numerous OT theophoric names (e.g. Josue ’Yahweh is Salvation’; Johanan ’Yahweh has been Gracious’) this name, found applied only to the Isaian child, Isaiah 7:14; 8:8, is the one most strangely suitable to describe the real personality of Jesus. In order to bring it down to the level of other theophoric names it has to be reduced by paraphrase (though this is not impossible) to, e.g., ’God is by our side to help’. Mt (for his Aramaic-speaking readers) or his translator (for Greeks) interprets the Hebrew term.

24-25. Though the niššû’în took place very soon, perhaps on the following day, this marriage was not consummated. Mt makes this statement of the period which directly concerns him, his purpose being to safeguard the virginal nature of the conception and birth of Jesus. Of the period following the birth he says nothing. His sentence would be best’ paraphrased: She brought forth a son without having relations with Joseph. The Semitic turn of phrase (DV ’till’) while denying the action for the period preceding the verb ’brought forth’ implies nothing for the period which follows it; cf.Genesis 8:7; 1 Timothy 4:13, etc. ’These words cannot be taken to imply that it (the virginity of Mary) was not afterwards, preserved’, *Green, 106. For the word ’firstborn, unauthentic here, cf.Luke 2:7 note.

Bibliographical Information
Orchard, Bernard, "Commentary on Matthew 1". Orchard's Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/boc/matthew-1.html. 1951.
 
adsfree-icon
Ads FreeProfile