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Matthew 2

Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New TestamentMeyer's Commentary

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Matthew 2:8 . ἀκριβ . ἐξετάσατε ] According to B C* D א , 1, 21, 33, 82, 124, 209, Copt. Sahid. It. Vulg. Syr. p. Eus. Aug., we must read ἐξετάσατε ἀκριβῶς , with Lachm. and Tisch.

Matthew 2:9 . ἔστη ] B C D א , 33, 209, Or. Eus. read ἐστάθη . So Lachm. and Tisch., of the nature of a gloss; for the more precise definition of the conception in the passive, as in Matthew 27:11 , in almost the same manuscripts.

Matthew 2:11 . εἶδον ] Elz.: εὗρον , against decisive testimony.

Matthew 2:13 . φαίνεται κατʼ ὄναρ ] C K Π , Curss. Theophyl.: κατʼ ὄναρ φαίνεται , Β : κατʼ ὄναρ ἐφάνη . So Lachm. Latter reading is derived from Matthew 1:20 , which passage also led to the κατʼ ὄναρ being placed first. The Received reading is therefore here to be retained, and Matthew 2:19 , after B D Z א , Curss. Verss., to be changed into φαίνεται κατʼ ὄναρ (with Lachm. and Tisch.).

Matthew 2:17 . ὑπό ] B C D Z א , Curss. Verss. Chrys. Jer. read διά . Corresponds to the standing style of quotation in Matth., therefore rightly approved (comp. on Matthew 3:3 ) by Griesbach and Schultz, after Gersdorf; adopted by Lachm. and Tisch.

Matthew 2:18 . θρῆνος κ . κλαυθμός ] B Z א , 1, 22, Verss. and Latin Fathers have merely κλαυθμός . So Lachm. and Tisch. The Received reading is an extension from that of the LXX.

Matthew 2:21 . ἦλθεν ] B C א : εἰσῆλθεν . So Lachm. and Tisch. 8, correctly: the compound was easily neglected.

Matthew 2:22 . ἐπί ] is wanting in B א , Curss. Eus. Deleted by Lachm. and Tisch. 8. But it was all the more easily omitted as unnecessary, because the syllable El preceded it.

The genuineness of the whole of the first and second chapters has been controverted, or at least suspected, by Williams ( A Free Inquiry into the Authenticity of the First and Second Chapters of St. Matthew’s Gospel , Lond. 1771, enlarged, 1790), by Stroth (Eichhorn’s Repert . IX. p. 99 ff.), Hess ( Biblioth. d. heil. Gesch . I. p. 208 ff.), Ammon ( Diss. de Luca emendatore Matthaei , Erl. 1805), J. Jones ( Sequel to Ecclesiastical Researches , etc., Lond. 1813). In answer to Williams, Flemming wrote a work ( Free Thoughts upon a Free Inquiry , etc., Lond. 1771) and Velthusen ( The Authenticity of the First and Second Chapters , etc., Lond. 1771); in answer to Stroth, Henke ( de ev. Matth. integritate , etc., Helmst. 1782); to Hess, Rau ( Symbola ad quaestionem de authentia , etc., 1793). Amongst the defenders are Griesbach ( Epimetron ad Comment. crit. in Matth . II. p. 47 ff.), Schubert ( de infantiae J. C. historiae authentia atque indole , Gripeswald 1815), Kuinoel ( Proleg . § 6), Fritzsche ( Commentar. Excurs . III.), Müller ( üb. d. Aechth. der ersten Kapitel des Evang. nach Matth ., Trier 1830). Amongst the writers of Introduction , Eichhorn and Bertholdt have gone over to the side of the opponents.

Both chapters are genuine that is, they were integral portions of the Hebrew Gospel writing, of which our Matthew is the translation, and consequently belonged to the latter from the very beginning. For (1) all the Codices and Versions contain them, the Fathers of the second and third centuries (Irenaeus, iii. 9. 2 f., Clement of Alexandria, and others) also quote passages from them, and Celsus has made reference to them (Orig. c. Cels . i. 28, ii. 32); (2) their contents are highly appropriate to the beginning of a gospel writing composed for Jewish Christians; (3) the beginning of ch. 3 is connected with Matthew 2:23 , where the residence of Jesus at Nazareth is mentioned; Matthew 4:13 also manifestly refers to Matthew 2:23 . The construction and style of expression are in keeping with the character of the whole Gospel. See Griesbach, Epimetr . p. 57; Gersdorf, Beitr . p. 38 ff.; Credner, I. p. 62 ff.; Fritzsche, l.c. p. 850 ff.

The main argument of those who oppose the genuineness is, that our chapters were wanting in the Gospel of the Ebionites (Epiph. Haer . xxx. 13). But on a correct estimate of the Gospel secundum Hebraeos in its relation to the Gospel of Matthew, that counter argument can be of no weight (see Introduction, § 2); and, in accordance with Ebionitic views, it is very conceivable that they did not admit the miraculous preliminary history, and made their Gospel (according to Epiphanius), in keeping with the original gospel type, begin at once with the appearance of the Baptist. It is also related of Tatian (Theodoret, Haeret . fab. i. 20): τάς τε γενεαλογίας περικόψας καὶ τὰ ἄλλα , ὅσα ἐκ σπέρματος Δαβὶδ κατὰ σάρκα γεγεννημένον τὸν κύριον δείκνυσιν . But Tatian was a disciple of Docetism, and his treatment was determined by dogmatic considerations. As, moreover, the genealogy contained in ch. 1 implies the use of a piece of writing already in existence, so also the legendary character of both chapters in general, and the certainly peculiar manner in which the third chapter is connected with them, which, amid all its literal connection with what has preceded it, passes over the whole history of the youth of Jesus, appear to point to this, that the portions composing both chapters were originally special gospel documents . Ch. Matthew 1:1-16 appears to have been one such document by itself, then Matthew 2:18-23 a second , and ch. 2 a third , in which are now found for the first time the locality and time of the birth of Jesus. The unity of the Greek style of expression with that in the other parts of the Gospel is not opposed to this (Ewald, Bleek, Holtzmann), but is to be explained from the unity of the translator. How much, however, considering the free style of quoting Old Testament passages, is to be set down to the account of the first author of these documents, or to that of the Hebrew editor of the Gospel, or to the translator, cannot be determined.

Verse 1

Matthew 2:1 . [366] Γεννηθέντος ] The star is to be considered as appearing contemporaneously with the birth (Matthew 2:7 ). But how long it was after the birth when the Magi came, is ascertained approximately from Matthew 2:16 , according to which, even taking into account all the cruelty of Herod, and his intention to go to work with thorough certainty, the arrival of the Magi is most probably to be placed somewhat more than a year after the birth.

[366] See on the history of the Magi, Thilo, Eusebii Emeseni oratio περὶ ἀστρονόμων , praemissa de magis et stella quaestione , Hal. 1835; Münter, Stern der Weisen , 1827; Roth (Catholic), de stella a magis conspecta , 1865. In reference to chronology based upon astronomical observation, Ideler, Handb. d. Chronol . II. p. 339 ff.; Anger in the Zeitschr. f. histor. Theol . 1847, p. 347 ff.; Wieseler, chronol. Synopse u. Beiträge z. Würdigung d. Evang ., 1869, p. 149 ff.; also in Herzog’s Encykl . XXI. p. 543 f.; Seyffarth, Chronol. sacr . 1846; Weigl, üb. d. wahre Geburts- u. Sterbejahr J. Chr. I., Sulzbach 1849; Keim, Gesch. J . I. p. 375 ff.

δέ is continuative , leading on to another history connected with the birth of Jesus which has just been related.

Βηθλεὲμ (house of bread) τῆς Ἰουδαίας , to distinguish it from Bethlehem in the tribe of Zabulon, Joshua 19:15 . Our village (Bethlehem Ephrata, Genesis 35:16 ; Genesis 35:19 ), designated in John 7:42 as κώμη , was situated in the tribe of Judah (Judges 17:9 ; Judges 19:1 ; 1 Samuel 17:12 ), six miles to the south of Jerusalem, now the little manufacturing town Beit lachm . See Robinson, Pal . II. p. 379 ff.; Tobler, Bethl. in Paläst . 1849, and the relative articles in Herzog and Schenkel.

ἐν ἡμέραις ] כִּימֵי , Genesis 26:1 ; 2 Samuel 21:1 ; 1 Kings 10:21 .

Ἡρώδου ] Herod the Great, son of Antipater, received in the year 714 U.C. from the Senate the dignity of king through the influence of Antony, by whom he had been not long before made tetrarch, but first came into the actual possession of his kingdom after the capture of Jerusalem by himself and Sosius in the year 717, and died, after a brilliant and flagitious reign, in 750. See concerning the whole family of Herod, Schlosser, Gesch. d. Fam. Herodes, Lpz. 1818; Ewald, Gesch. d. Volks Isr. IV., and Gesch. Chr. p. 95 ff. Exodus 3:0 ; Gerlach in the Luther. Zeitschr. 1869, p. 13 ff.; Hausrath, neut. Zeitgesch. I. and II.

μάγοι ] The Magi ( מָגִים ) constituted, amongst the Persians and the Medes, of whom they formed, according to Herod. i. 101, one of the six tribes, a distinguished priestly caste, and occupied themselves principally with the knowledge of the secrets of nature, astrology, and medicine. Herod. i. 32; Xen. Cyr. viii. 3. 6; Diog. Laert. i. 1 9; Aelian. V. H. ii. 17; Porphyry, de abst. an. iv. 16; Cic. de div. i. 41; Plin. N. H. xxiv. 29, xxx. 2; Curt. iii. 3. 8. Amongst the Babylonians also (Jeremiah 39:3 ) there was, at the time when the Chaldean dynasty was in power, such an order, of which Daniel became the president (Daniel 2:48 ). The name of Magi was then generally transferred, without distinction of country, to all those who had devoted themselves to those sciences, which, however, were frequently also accompanied with the practices of magic and jugglery (Acts 8:9 ; Acts 13:6 ; Acts 13:8 ). See Wetstein, and Müller in Herzog’s Encykl. VIII. p. 675 ff.

ἀπὸ ἀνατ .] belongs to μάγοι , Magi from the East that is, Oriental Magi. The position of the words most naturally suggests this connection; but the article ( οἱ ἀπὸ ἀνατ .) is not required, because μάγοι is without the article (in answer to Fritzsche, who connects it with παρεγένοντο ). The indefinite expression, eastern lands (Matthew 8:11 , Matthew 24:27 ; Luke 13:29 ; Revelation 21:13 ), is to be left in its indefiniteness, and in so doing we are to assume that the evangelist himself had no more precise information at his command. If Arabia has been thought of (Justin. c. Tr. 77 f.; Epiphanius, Tertullian, Maldonatus, Jansen, Cornelius a Lapide, Grotius, Lightfoot, Michaelis, Kuinoel, de Wette, Wieseler), or Persia (Chrysostom, Theophylact, Euth. Zigabenus, Calvin, Beza, Calovius, Petavius, Casaubon, Wolf, Olshausen), or Parthia (Hydius), or Babylonia (Paulus), or even Egypt (Möller, neue Ansichten in loc.), yet we have no sure hold, even in a slight degree, either in the very indefinite ἀνατολῶν , or in the nature of the presents in Matthew 2:11 . It was entirely baseless to determine their number from the threefold gifts, and to regard them as kings [367] on account of Psalms 68:30 ; Psalms 68:32 ; Psalms 72:10 ; Isaiah 49:7 ; Isaiah 60:3 ; Isaiah 60:10 (especially since the fifth century; yet Tertullian, c. Marcion , already takes this view). Are we to think of heathens (so most expositors, including Olshausen, Krabbe, B.

Crusius, Lange, de Wette, Ewald, Hilgenfeld, Bleek, Keim), or of Jews (v. d. Hardt, Harenberg in the Bibl. Brem . VII. p. 470 ff.; Münter, Paulus, Hofmann, L. J. von Strauss geprüft , p. 249; Rettig in the Stud. u. Krit . 1838, p. 217)? In favour of the first, the question, Where is the new-born King of the Jews? is decisive. And how appropriate was it to the idea of Messiah, that the very first-fruits of the distant heathen appeared to do homage to the King of the Jews (Isaiah 60:3 ff.)! The expectation of the Jews, that their Messiah was to rule over the world , might at that period have been sufficiently disseminated throughout the foreign countries of the East (Sueton. Vesp . iv.; Tac. H. v. 13; Joseph. B. J. vi. 5. 4) to lead heathen astrologers, for the object in question, to the Jewish capital. Comp. Dio Cass. Hist. R. xlv. 1; Suet. Oct . xciv.

Ἱεροσόλυμα ] In the capital they expected to find, if not the Babe Himself, at least the most certain information regarding Him.

[367] According to Bede, their names also have been commonly given as Caspar, Melchior , and Balthasar (see Petr. Comestor. Hist. schol . 8), but also differently. See Beza in loc ., and Paulus, exeget. Handb . I. p. 204.

Verse 2

Matthew 2:2 . Γάρ ] Reason of the question. “De re deque tempore ita certi sunt, ut tantum quaerant ubi ,” Bengel.

αὐτοῦ τὸν ἀστέρα ] that is, the star which indicates Him . We are to think of a strange star, which had not previously been seen by them, from the rising of which they had inferred the birth of the new King of the Jews, in accordance with their astrological rules. Here we must observe the emphasis on the αὐτοῦ , which is placed first, the star which refers to Him , and to no other. From the word ἀστήρ (not ἄστρον ) it is indisputably certain, Matthew 2:8 , that it is not a constellation which is meant. This is in answer to Kepler, de J. Chr. servator. nostri vero anno natalitio , 1605; Münter, Ideler, Paulus, Neander, Olshausen (with hesitation), Krabbe, Wieseler, Ebrard, who think of a very close conjunction, which occurred in the year 747 U.C., of Jupiter and Saturn in the sign of the fishes; where Ebrard, however, keeping more closely to the word ἀστήρ , is of opinion that it is not that constellation itself, but the new star of the first magnitude, which Kepler saw appear in the year 1604 at the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn, and again disappear in 1605; whilst Wieseler summons to his aid a comet which was observed in China in 750. The Jew Abarbanel in his Commentary on Daniel (1547) inferred, from a similar conjunction in the year 1463, that the birth of the Messiah was at hand, and indicates the sign of the fishes as that which is of importance for the Jews. If Matthew 2:9 , however, points only to a miraculous star, to one that went and stood in a miraculous manner, then it is evident that neither a comet (Origen, Michaelis, Rosenmüller), nor a fixed star , nor a planet , nor even a meteor , is what is meant, which ἀστήρ by itself might signify (Schaefer, ad Apoll. Rh . II. p. 206). The Fathers of the church (in Suicer, sub ἀστήρ ) thought even of an angel. The glory of the star is wonderfully portrayed in Ignatius, Eph . 19 (sun, moon, and stars, illuminated by it, surround it as a choir), Protev. Jac . xxi. See Thilo, ad Cod. apocr . I. p. 390 f. The universal belief of antiquity was, that the appearance of stars denoted great changes, and especially the birth of men of importance. Wetstein in loc . The Jews in particular believed, in accordance with the Messianic passage, Numbers 24:17 (see Baur, alttest. Weissag . I., 1861, p. 346 ff.), in a star of the Messiah; Bertholdt, Christolog. Jud . p. 55 ff.

ἐν τῇ ἀνατολῇ ] Several commentators (Hammond, Paulus, Fritzsche, Ebrard, Wieseler, Ewald) translate: in the rising . Comp. Luke 1:78 ; Wis 16:28 ; 2Ma 10:28 ; 2 Maccabees 3 Esdr. Matthew 5:47 ; Plat. Polit . p. 269 A; Locr. p. 96 D; Stob. Ecl. Phys . i. 20; Polybius, xi. 22. 6. In this way the ἀνατολή corresponds to the τεχθείς . And as the ordinary explanation, “ in the East ” (Luther), in accordance with Matthew 2:1 , and especially with the current usage of the word, which in the singular only rarely denotes the East (as in Herodian, iii. 5. 1, ii. 8. 18), would lead us to expect the plural (Genesis 2:8 ; Judges 8:11 ; Ezekiel 11:1 ; Ezekiel 47:8 ; Bar 4:36 f.; 3Ma 4:15 ; Herod. iv. 8; Polyb. xi. 6. 4, ii. 14. 4), the first rendering is to be preferred. Comp. regarding the use of the word to denote the rising of stars, Valckenaer, ad Eur. Phoen . 506.

προσκυνεῖν ] הִשְׁתַּחֲוָה , to show reverence and submission to any one by bowing down with the face toward the ground. Genesis 19:1 ; Genesis 18:2 ; Genesis 42:6 ; Genesis 48:12 ; Herod. i. 134; Nep. Con. iii.; Curtius, v. 2, vi. 6. See Hoelemann, Bibelstud. I. p. 96 ff. To connect it with the dative (instead of the accus.) is a usage of the later Greek. Lobeck, ad Phryn. p. 463.

Verse 3

Matthew 2:3 . Herod was afraid, because he dreaded the overthrow of his throne; the inhabitants of Jerusalem, however, not so much on account of the times of misfortune which were expected to precede the Messiah (Lightfoot on Mark 13:19 ; Bertholdt, Christol . p. 45 f.), but in keeping with their special circumstances, because they dreaded the adoption by the tyrant, in the maintenance of his rule, of measures hostile to the people.

Ἱεροσόλυμα ] Feminine form, occurring only here and in Matthew 3:5 , and without any various reading in the Codd. It is found also in Latin (Tac. Hist . v. 2; Sueton. Aug . xciii.). To take the name as neuter , and to supply πόλις (Wetstein, Grimm, Buttmann, neut. Gr . p. 16 [E. T. 18]), is not grammatically possible. The feminine form must have been in actual use, although the neuter, as in Matthew 2:1 , and Ἱερουσαλήμ , were and remained the prevailing forms.

Verse 4

Matthew 2:4 . Πάντας … λαοῦ ] is regarded, after Grotius, by Fritzsche, Arnoldi, Lange, not as an assembly of the Sanhedrin (so commonly ), but an extraordinary convocation of all the high priests and learned men. This explanation, in which, moreover, πάντας is not to be taken literally, is the correct one. Indeed, οἱ ἀρχιερεῖς καὶ γραμματεῖς , even without adding the third element of the Sanhedrin, the πρεσβύτεροι , may denote the Sanhedrin (Matthew 20:18 , Matthew 21:15 ; while, on the other hand, elsewhere, as in Matthew 26:47 , Matthew 27:1 , the γραμματεῖς are not mentioned along with them). But here πάντας is decisive, which would designedly draw attention to a full sitting of the high council, and therefore would have made it necessary not to omit an entire class of the members, but to mention in full all the three classes, as in Matthew 16:21 , Matthew 27:41 ; τοῦ λαοῦ also stands opposed to the common interpretation, as the latter, in designating the Sanhedrin in Matthew, serves only to denote the πρεσβύτεροι more precisely (Matthew 21:23 , Matthew 26:3 ; Matthew 26:47 , Matthew 27:1 ). Herod summoned together all the theologians of the nation , because he wanted a theological answer; τοῦ λαοῦ belongs to both words; observe the non-repetition of the article after καί .

ἀρχιερεῖς ] certainly comprises partly the actual ruling high priest ( ὁ ἀρχιερεύς , כֹּהֵן הַנָּרוֹל , Leviticus 15:10 ), partly those who had formerly held this high official post, which very often changed hands under the Herods. See Schürer, Stud. u. Krit. 1872, p. 593 ff. That the presidents of the twenty-four classes of priests are also to be understood (Bleek, Ewald), is nowhere certainly attested, and has against it the designation of the office itself, ἀρχιερεῖς . Both reasons, moreover, are in opposition to our including, with Wieseler, the priestly nobles, or, with Schürer, the members of the at that time privileged high-priestly families (Joseph. Bell. iv. 3. 6), which is not justified by Acts 4:6 , and cannot be proved by a few individual names mentioned in Josephus, whose relation to the high-priesthood is otherwise unknown (Schürer, p. 638 f.). The last high priests who ruled before the death of Herod were Matthias (5 B.C.), and Jozarus, who soon after followed him (Joseph. Antt. xvii. 4. 2, xvii. 6. 4).

γραμματεῖς ] corresponds to the Hebr. מוֹפְרִים that is, first, writers, then learned men (Ezra 7:6 ; Ezra 7:11 ; Nehemiah 8:1 ; Gesenius, Thes. II. p. 966). This was the name specially of the expositors of the divine law, who, as Jewish canonists and learned councillors, belonged chiefly to the sect of the Pharisees, and in part to the Sanhedrin, and were held in great respect. See Lightfoot on the passage, and on Matthew 23:13 ; Leyrer in Herzog’s Encykl. XIII. p. 731 ff.

γεννᾶται ] not in the sense of the future, but purely present: where is the Messiah born? The theologians were to tell what they knew concerning the birthplace of the Messiah. By this question Herod leaves it quite undetermined whether the birth had already taken place, or was still to come.

Verse 6

Matthew 2:6 . In Micah 5:1 the sense is: Although Bethlehem is too unimportant to be reckoned among the cities of the district, yet a ruler in Israel will come forth from it . In Matthew this thought is, with a slight deviation, changed into: Bethlehem is undoubtedly an important place, because , etc. It is therefore unnecessary, with Grotius, to take the passage in Micah as interrogative: “Art thou, then, Bethlehem, too small,” etc., and to derive the turn of the thought with οὐδαμῶς from this interrogative interpretation (Hilgenfeld). But the Ruler to whom Micah alludes is none other than the Messianic King of David’s race (see Ewald, Proph .), so that in the birth of Jesus this prophecy receives its complete historical fulfilment. Comp. John 7:42 .

ἐν τοῖς ἡγεμόσιν ] בְּאַלְפֵי , LXX. ἐν χιλιάσιν . The Hebrew אֶלֶף denotes the subdivision of the tribes (the thousands, see Ewald, Alterth. p. 323 f.; Keil, Arch. II. p. 223), which had their principal places and their heads ( אַלּוּף ). See Gesenius, Thes. I. p. 106. The translation by ἡγεμόσιν (Chrysostom: φυλάρχοις ) clearly shows that either the evangelist himself had read the word in question not בְּאַלְפֵי , but בְּאַלֻפֵי , or that his translator had committed this mistake. In the Septuagint also אַלּוּף is rendered by ἡγεμών , Genesis 36:15 f.; Exodus 15:15 ; 1 Chronicles 1:51 f.; Psalms 55:14 . According to the words as they stand in Matthew, Bethlehem, the town, appears personified in the midst of the heads of families (Ewald, “amongst the princes of Judah”), amongst whom it had by no means the lowest position. Fritzsche conjectures ταῖς ἡγεμόσιν , in primariis familiarum in Judaea sedibus. But even thus the sense of אֶלֶף is not yet obtained. How easily, on the contrary, might the evangelist or his translator derive אלפי from אלוף , as the ἡγούμενος which follows must have been before him!

γῆ ] not city, but strip of land, province, which includes the same, 1Ma 5:68 . Often likewise in the tragic writers. See Fritzsche in loc. Comp. Seidler, ad Eurip. Troad. iv.; Ellendt, Lex. Soph. I. p. 361.

ἐξελεύσεται ] will come forth, namely, by birth. Thus יָצָא , Genesis 17:6 . Comp. Hebrews 7:5 ; Malachi 1:10; Malachi 1:10 .

ποιμανεῖ ] Comp. the Homeric ποιμένες λαῶν . In like manner רָעָה is used of rulers, 2 Samuel 5:2 ; 2 Samuel 7:7 ; Jeremiah 23:2 ff.; Micah 5:3 .

Verse 7

Matthew 2:7 f. Λάθρα ] Inconsistently enough, as that could only arouse suspicion; but to adopt secret measures is natural to wickedness!

The question after the time of the appearance [of the star] has its reason in this, that the mistrustful Herod already thinks of the possibility of his not seeing the Magi again, and that he will then still have a hold for taking further proceedings against the mysterious child (Matthew 2:16 ).

ἠκρίβωσε ] with the accusative does not mean: he investigated minutely ( ἀκριβόω περί τινος may mean this), but: after he had made them come to him secretly, he obtained from them a minute knowledge , and so on. Vulgate appropriately says: “Diligenter didicit.” Comp. Plat. Charm . p. 156 A; Xen. Mem . iv. 2. 10; Eur. Hec . 1192; Lucian, Jov. trag . 27, Piscat . xx.; Herodian, i. 11. 14. But the passages where it means to make exact (Aquila, Isaiah 49:16 ; Simonides, lxxxiv.; Xen. Cyr . ii. 1. 26) do not apply here. Euth. Zigabenus rightly says: προσεδόκησε γὰρ , ὅτι ὅτε οὗτος (the star) ἐφάνη , τότε πάντως ἐγεννήθη καὶ ὁ Χριστός .

τοῦ φαινομένου ἀστέρος ] Grotius: “Non initium, sed continuitas .” Herod asked: How long does the star appear? how long does it make itself visible? namely, since its rising in the east, where ye saw it arise (Matthew 2:9 ). Thus the present is not to be taken either in the sense of the aorist or of the imperfect (de Wette, Bleek).

πέμψας ] not contemporaneous with the εἶπε (de Wette), but prior to it; comp. Matthew 11:2 . After he had directed them to Bethlehem (in consequence of Matthew 2:5 f.), he added the commission, etc. Otherwise it would have been ἔπεμψεν … εἰπών .

Verse 9

Matthew 2:9 . Ἀκούσαντες τοῦ βασιλ .] After they had heard the king , they set off on their journey. Description of their unsuspicious behaviour. Comp. Theophylact.

καὶ ἰδοὺ , ὁ ἀστήρ , κ . τ . λ .] They travelled by night, in accordance with Eastern custom. See Hasselquist, Reise nach Paläst . p. 152. Bengel appropriately remarks on ἰδού : “Toto itinere non viderant stellam.”

ὃν εἶδον ] The aorist in the relative sentence, where we use the pluperfect . See Kühner, II. 1, p. 145; Winer, p. 258 [E. T. 343].

προῆγεν ] is the descriptive imperfect , not praecesserat (Hermann, Süskind, Paulus, Kuinoel), as if the star had again first shone upon them after they had come to Bethlehem. This explanation is ungrammatical (Buttmann, neut. Gr . p. 173 [E. T. 200]), and serves only to help to diminish the miraculous element, which is quite opposed to the character of the narrative. The common view alone is in keeping with the words: the star , which they had seen in its rising, went before them on their journey from Jerusalem to Bethlehem, and took up a position over the place (the house) where the child was . Amongst the Greeks also stars are mentioned as extraordinary guides, Elsner, p. 5 f.; Wetstein on the passage.

ἐπάνω οὗ ἦν ] See Matthew 2:11 , τὴν οἰκίαν . The going and standing of the star is miraculous; hence also the manner in which the particular house is indicated is left undetermined.

Verse 10

Matthew 2:10 . Ἐχάρησαν ] Euth. Zigabenus correctly says: ὡς εὑρόντες τὸν ἀψευδέστατον ὁδηγόν · ἐπληροφορήθησαν γὰρ λοιπόν , ὅτι καὶ τὸ ζητούμενον εὑρήσουσι .

σφόδρα ] Adverbs at the end; comp. Matthew 4:8 ; Schaefer, ad Demosth . V. p. 367; Bornemann, ad Xen. Anab . ii. 6. 9; Mem . iii. 5. 17.

ἐχάρ . χαρ .] “Etenim ubi nomen per se ipsum verbi significationem neque circumscribit neque intendit, adminiculo opus est vel adjectivi vel pronominis vel articuli, quo rerum genus certum designatur,” Lobeck, Paralip . p. 507. Therefore here χαρὰν μεγάλην σφόδρα . Comp. Mark 5:42 b ; Wilke, neutestam. Rhetor . p. 380. The opposite, μεγάλην λύπην λυπεῖσθαι , John 4:11 ; φοβεῖσθαι φόβον μέγαν , Mark 4:41 .

Verse 11

Matthew 2:11 . Εἰς τὴν οἰκίαν ] As the Magi did not arrive till some time after the birth (Matthew 2:1 ), it does not follow indeed from εἰς τ . οἰκ . in and by itself that the evangelist makes Jesus be born not in the stable of a friend (Luke), or in a cave (Justin and Apocrypha), but in Joseph’s house . Certainly, however, the latter follows from this, that, according to Matthew, Bethlehem is the dwelling-place of Joseph; see Remark after Matthew 2:23 .

τὸ παιδίον μετὰ Μαρίας ] The non-mention of Joseph is not to be ascribed to any design.

τοὺς θησαυρούς ] the chests which held their treasures , Xen. Anab . v. 4. 27; 1Ma 3:29 ; Malachi 4:4; Malachi 4:4 . See Wetstein and Valckenaer, ad Herod . iv. 162. To find symbolical references in the individual presents is arbitrary. Tertullian and Chrysostom: Incense and myrrh they presented to Him as to a God; Irenaeus, Origen (in answer to Celsus, who ridiculed the divine worship of a νήπιος ), Theophylact, Euth. Zigabenus, Erasmus, Luther: as a king, they presented Him with gold; as a God, with incense and with myrrh, ὡς μέλλοντι γεύσασθαι θανάτου . Comp. the Christian Adamsbuch in Ewald, Jahrb . V. p. 81, which makes the three gifts and their meaning to be derived from Adam.

It was and still is the Eastern custom not to approach princes without presents, Genesis 43:11 ; 1 Samuel 10:27 ; 1 Kings 10:2 ; Aelian, V. H. i. 31; Harmar, Beobacht. üb. d. Orient , II. p. 1 f. That the gifts of the Magi are said to have enabled the poor parents to make out their journey to Egypt (Wetstein, Olshausen, and others), is a strange conceit.

Verse 12

Matthew 2:12 . χρηματισθέντες ] Vulgate correctly renders: responso accepto: passages in Wetstein, Kypke, Krebs, and Loesner. The question that preceded is presupposed , Luke 2:26 ; Hebrews 11:7 . Comp. on Acts 10:22 . Bengel well says: “Sic optarant vel rogarant.” The passive is found in this meaning only in the New Testament and in Josephus ( Antt . iii. 8. 8, xi. 8. 4).

ἀνακάμψαι … ἀνεχώρησαν ] The latter is not: they turned back (Matthew 2:13-14 ; Matthew 2:22 ; Matthew 4:12 ), but they withdrew , went away, made off; ἀνακάμψαι is “ cursum reflectere .” They were not to turn back to Herod, from whom they had come hither, and that with the instruction, Matthew 2:8 , but were to select another way to their home, Luke 10:6 ; Acts 18:21 ; Hebrews 11:15 ; Herod. ii. 8; Plat. Phaed . p. 72 B; Diod. Sic. iii. 54.

The divine direction had for its object, that Herod should not at once take measures against the true Child who was pointed at .


The narrative regarding the Magi, as it bears in Matthew the stamp of real history, has its profound truth in the ideal sphere, in which the Messianic idea, which was afterwards set forth, realized in all its glory in the historical life of Jesus, surrounded the little known childhood of this life with the thoughtful legends its own creation preserved in Matthew and Luke. The ideal truth of these legends lies in their corresponding relation to the marvellous greatness of the later life of the Lord and His world-embracing work; they are thereby very definitely distinguished from the legendary poetry, which assumed various shapes in the Apocryphal narratives of the infancy. Whether, moreover, any real fact may have lain at the basis of the narrative of the Magi, [368] and what the nature of this is, cannot be more minutely ascertained. Certainly Eastern astrologers may, according to the divine appointment, have read in the stars the birth of the Jewish Messiah, who was to be the light of the heathen, and with this knowledge have come to Jerusalem; but how easily did the further miraculous formation of the history lay hold of the popular belief in the appearance of a miraculous star at the birth of the Messiah (see Fabricius, Cod. pseudepigr . I. p. 584 f.; Schoettgen, II. p. 531; Bertholdt, Christol . § 14), a belief which probably had its basis in Numbers 24:17 compared with Isaiah 60:1 ff. (Schoettgen, II. p. 151 f.), as well as in the Messianic expectation that foreign nations would bring gifts to the Messiah (Psalms 72:0 ; Isaiah 60:0 ), as on other occasions, also, rich temple gifts had arrived from the East (Zechariah 6:9 ff.). It was easy to connect with this, by way of antithesis to this divine glorifying of the child, the crafty and murderous interference of Herod as the type of decided hostility, with which the ruling power of the world , necessarily and conformably to experience, entered with cunning and violence the lists against the manifested Messiah (Luke 1:51 f.), but in vain. If we were to regard the whole narrative, with its details, as actual fact (see amongst the moderns, especially Ebrard and Gerlach), the matter would be very easily decided; the difficulties also which have been raised against so extraordinary an astral phenomenon, both in itself and from the science of optics, would be authoritatively removed by means of its miraculous nature (Eusebius, Demost. ev . 9; John of Damascus, de fide orthod . ii. 7), but there would still remain unexplained the impolitic cunning and falsehood of the otherwise so sly and crafty Herod, who allows the Magi to depart without even a guide to make sure of his designs, and without arrangements of any other kind, his expenditure of vigilance and bloodshed, which was as unnecessary as it was without result, and the altogether irreconcilable contradiction between our account and the history narrated by Luke, [369] according to which the child Jesus received homage of an altogether different kind, and is not threatened by any sort of persecution, but at the date when the Magi must have arrived, had been for a long time out of Bethlehem (Luke 2:39 ). Considering the legendary character of the star phenomenon, it is not adapted to serve as a chronological determination of the birth of Christ, for which purpose it has been used, especially by Wieseler and Anger, who calculate, according to it, the beginning of the year 750 as the date of that birth. (Ideler, Münter, Schubert, Huschke, Ebrard, 747; Kepler, 748; Lichtenstein and Weigl, 749; Wurm, 751; Seyffarth, 752.)

[368] Schleiermacher, Schr. d. Lukas , p. 47, L. J. p. 75, assigned a symbolical character to the narrative. According to Bleek, the symbolical point of view (“the first destinies of the Christian church being, as it were, reflected”) predominated at least in the mind of the first author; but the preference in point of historical truth is due to Luke. According to de Wette, the narratives contained in ch. 2 are to be regarded more with a dogmatico-religious than with a strictly historical eye; the dangers surrounding the child Jesus are a type of the persecutions awaiting the Messiah and His church, and an imitation of the dangers which threatened the life of the child Moses, and so on. According to Weisse, what is set forth is the recognition which Christianity met with amongst the heathen , the hatred it experienced amongst the Jews , and then how it took refuge amongst the Hellenists in Egypt. According to Ewald, the inner truth of the narrative is the heavenly Light , and the division amongst men , on the other hand, into the faith of the heathen and the hatred of the Jews. According to Hilgenfeld, it is the expression of the world-historical importance of Jesus, and of the recognition which, amid the hostility of the Jews, He was to find precisely amongst the heathen. According to Köstlin, the narrative has an apologetic object, to declare Jesus in a miraculous manner to be βασιλεὺς τῶν Ἰουδαίων , at the basis of which, perhaps, was the constellation of the year 747. According to Keim, it is an ideal history, the true form of which stands before the eyes of the Christians of all ages, and which proceeded from the fundamental thought of the conflict of the Messiah with the pseudo-Messias (Herod).

[369] The assumption (Paulus, Olshausen, Wieseler, Lichtenstein, Ebrard) that the presentation in the temple took place before the arrival of the Magi, breaks down at once before Luke 2:39 . See, besides, Strauss, I. p. 284 ff. The accounts in Matthew and Luke are irreconcilable (Schleiermacher, L. J. pp. 65 ff., 75). This is also recognised by Bleek, who gives the preference to Luke.

Verse 13

Matthew 2:13 . Ἀναχωρ . δὲ αὐτῶν ] The divine direction and flight into Egypt must be conceived as taking place immediately after the departure of the Magi.

Matthew 2:16 . φαίνεται ] historic present.

The continuation of the narrative in connection with the legend of the murder of the children by Herod makes Jesus take refuge in Egypt , not because it was near at hand, not subject to Herod, and inhabited by many Jews, but because a residence in Egypt, and that as an antitype to that of the Israelites in that country, was in accordance with the passage in Hosea 11:1 (Matthew 2:15 ). A later age named Matarea , near Leontopolis, as the locality (see Paulus, Merkw. Reisen in d. Orient , III. p. 256; Schubert, Reise in d. Morgenl . II. p. 170).

ἕως ἂν εἴπω σοί ] until I shall have told thee ( ἄν , of a case occurring), that is, that thou shouldst come back again. Ellipsis of the common “ it ” is, since the time of Homer (Nägelsbach on the Iliad , pp. 60, 120, Exodus 3:0 ), in universal use.

τοῦ ἀπολέσαι ] Expression of the intention; see Kühner, II. p. 204; Buttm. neut. Gr . p. 232 [E. T. 270].

Verse 15

Matthew 2:15 . Τὸν υἱόν μου ] refers in Hosea 11:1 (quoted according to the original text) to the people of Israel (Exodus 4:22 ; Jeremiah 31:9 ). The Septuagint has τὰ τέκνα αὐτοῦ (Israelis). Upon the ἵνα πληρωθῇ , see on Matthew 1:22 . Here it refers to the arrival of Jesus in Egypt and His residence there , which could not but take place as an antitype to the historical meaning of Hosea 11:1 , in order that that declaration of the prophet might receive its Messianic fulfilment.

Verse 16

Matthew 2:16 . Ἐνεπαίχθη ] mocked , made a fool of. Sophocles, Ant . 794; Lucian, Trag . 331; Jacobs, ad Anthol . XI. p. 108; Luke 18:32 ; and frequently in N. T., LXX., and Apocrypha. The words are from Herod’s point of view.

ἀπὸ διετοῦς ] Whether this is to be taken as masculine, a bienni, from two years onwards (Syr., Ar., Erasmus, Beza, Bengel, Fritzsche, Bleek), or as neuter, a bimatu, from the age of two years (Vulg., Castalio, Calvin, Er. Schmid, Rosenmüller, Gratz), is not determined by the similar passages, Numbers 1:3 ; Numbers 20:29 ; Numbers 3:0 Esdr. Mat 8:1 ; 1 Chronicles 27:23 ; 2 Chronicles 31:16 . It is in favour, however, of the latter view, that although several are spoken of, yet the singular always stands (not ἀπὸ διετῶν ); so likewise the analogy of ἐπὶ διετές , Dem. 1135. 4; Aesch. in Ctes . 122; ἐπὶ τριετές , Arist. H. A. v. 14. Comp. likewise Arist. H. A. ii. 1, and ἀπὸ τριετοῦς , Plat. Legg . vii. p. 794 A.

καὶ κατωτέρω ] (beginning) from two years old and (continuing) downwards . The opposite expression is: καὶ ἐπάνω (Numbers 1:3 ; 2 Chronicles 31:16 ). The boys of two years old and younger, in order the more unfailingly to attain his purpose.

ἠκρίβωσε ] he had obtained precise knowledge (Matthew 2:7 ). He had therefore ascertained from the Magi that, agreeably to the time of the appearance of the star, the child could not be more than two years old at the most.

ἐν πᾶσι τοῖς ὁρίοις αὐτ .] The houses and courts outside of Bethlehem which yet belonged to its borders.

Verse 18

Matthew 2:18 . Jeremiah 31:15 (freely quoted according to the Septuagint) treats of the leading away of the Jews to Babylon, whose destiny Rachel, the ancestress of the children of Ephraim, bewails. According to the typically prophetic view in Matthew , the lamentation and mourning of Rachel, represented by the prophet, has an antitypical reference to the murdering of the children of Bethlehem, who are her children, because she was the wife of Jacob, and the mother of Joseph and Benjamin (Genesis 35:18 ). And this reference was all the more obvious that, according to Genesis 35:19 , [370] Rachel was buried at Bethlehem (Robinson, I. p. 373). According to Chrysostom, Theophylact, Euth. Zigabenus, Piscator, Fritzsche, Rachel is regarded as the representative of Bethlehem, or of the mothers of Bethlehem. But why, in keeping with the antitypical view of the prophet’s words, should not Rachel herself appear as lamenting over the massacre of those children? Rama , however, where, according to the prophet, that lamentation resounded, is here the type of Bethlehem .

Regarding the position of Rama (now the village er Ram ), near to Gibeah, two hours to the north of Jerusalem, belonging at one time to Ephraim, at another to Benjamin, and on its identity, which is denied by others, with the Ramah of Samuel (Gesenius, Thes . III. p. 1275; Thenius, Winer, von Raumer, Keim), see Graf in the Stud. u. Krit . 1854, p. 858 ff.; Pressel in Herzog’s Encykl . XII. p. 515 f. There the exiles were kept in custody, Jeremiah 40:1 .

ΚΛΑΊΟΥΣΑ ] The participle , which in general never stands for the finite tense (in answer to de Wette), has here its government either with ἠκούσθη (Fritzsche) or with οὐκ ἤθελε , where καί is to be translated “ also ” ( Rachel weeping … was also inaccessible to consolation; on the distinction between καὶ οὐκ and οὐδέ , see Hartung, Partikell . I. p. 212 f.). The first is to be preferred as the most natural and most appropriate to the emotional style, so that ῬΑΧῊΛ ΚΛΑΊΟΥΣΑ links itself on as an apposition , and then the author “sequentium sententiarum gravitate commotus a participio ad verbum finitum deflectit,” Kühner, ad Xen. Mem . ii. 1. 30.

On the tragic designation ΟὐΚ ΕἾΝΑΙ , mortuum esse , comp. xlii. 36; Thuc. ii. 44. 2; Herod. iii. 65; Wetstein in loc .; Ellendt, Lex. Soph . I. p. 515.

[370] Where, however, the words הוא בית לחם are to be regarded as a gloss. See Thenius on 1 Samuel 10:2 ; Graf in the Stud. u. Kritik. 1854, p. 868.


The slaughter of the children at Bethlehem is closely connected with the appearance of the Magi, and was in its legendary character already extended as early as Justin ( c. Tr . 78) to all the children of Bethlehem. Josephus, who makes such minute mention of the cruelty of Herod ( Antt . xv. 7. 8, xvi. 11. 3, xvii. 2. 4; see Ottii Spicileg . p. 541), is silent regarding this event, which, had it been known to him as a matter of history, he would most probably have mentioned on account of its unexampled brutality . The confused narrative of Macrobius ( Sat . ii. 4) [371] can here determine nothing, because it first proceeded directly or indirectly from the Christian tradition. Finally, the slaughter of the children itself appears not only as an altogether superfluous measure, since, after the surprising homage offered by the Magi, the child, recently born under extraordinary circumstances, must have been universally known in the small and certainly also provincial village of Bethlehem, or could at least have been easily and certainly discovered by the inquiries of the authorities; but also as a very unwise measure, since a summary slaughter of children could by no means give the absolute certainty which was aimed at. To understand the origin of the legend, it is not enough to point back to the typical element in the childhood of Moses, or even to the dangers undergone in childhood by Romulus, Cyrus, and so on (Strauss); but see the Remark after Matthew 2:12 . It is arbitrary, however, to exclude the flight of Jesus into Egypt from this cycle of legends, and to explain it historically in an altogether strange fashion, from the terrible commotion in which, after the death of Herod, Jerusalem and the surrounding localities were plunged (Ammon, L. J. I. p. 226 f.). It is indissolubly connected with the slaughter of the children, and stands or falls with it; in the preliminary history of Luke there is no place whatever for it.

[371] Ed. Bipont. p. 341 of Augustus: “Cum audisset, inter pueros, quos in Syria Herodes, rex Judaeorum, intra bimatum jussit interfici, filium quoque ejus occisum, ait: melius est Herodis porcum ( ὗν ) esse quam filium ( υἱόν ).” A confusion of the murder of Antipater (Joseph. Antt . vii. 7) with our history, as if a son of the king himself (in answer to Wieseler, Beitr . p. 154) had been among the murdered Syrian children.

Verses 20-21

Matthew 2:20-21 . Τεθνήκασι … ζητοῦντες ] is to be understood simply of Herod . The plural is very often used where the conception of a species is to be expressed, and then denotes the subject, not according to number , but chiefly according to the category to which it belongs. Reisig, ad Soph. Oed. C . 966, and Conject. in Aristoph . p. 58; Wunder, ad Soph . O. R. 361; Elwert, Quaestion. ad philolog. sacr . 1860, p. 10 f.; Winer, p. 165 [E. T. 219]. Frequently, particularly in the tragic writers, it contains a special emphasis, Hermann, ad Viger . p. 739, which also announces itself in the present passage. Others (Euth. Zigabenus) regard it as including Herod and his councillors or servants . Matthew 2:19 is decisive against this view. Others (Gratz, B. Crusius, de Wette): the plural is put, because the words are taken from Exodus 4:19 . But there the plural is required not only by the πάντες , which stands in the text, but likewise by the whole connection. The resemblance to Exodus 4:19 is either accidental, or, more probably, intentionally selected in the consciousness of being a historical parallel.

εἰς γ . Ἰσρ .] Note the extent and indefiniteness of the designation; Joseph could thus afterwards turn his steps to Galilee without acting in opposition to the instruction. Comp. 1 Samuel 13:19 ; Ezekiel 11:17 .

ζητεῖν τὴν ψυχήν ] בַּקֵּשׁ אֶח־נֶפֶשׁ , seek the soul that is, seek after one’s life (Romans 11:3 ). The present participle with the article used as a substantive, see Winer, p. 103 f. [E. T. 219]. Comp. Dissen, ad Dem. de cor. p. 238.

Herod died in Jericho (according to Gerlach, in Jerusalem) in the year 750, his genitals and bowels being eaten up of worms (Joseph. Bell. i. 33. 1, 5; Antt. xvii. 6. 5; Euseb. H. E. i. 68), in the thirty-seventh year of his reign, and in the seventieth of his age, Josephus, Antt. xvii. 8. 1, xvii. 9. 3. The tyrant became a prey to despair at his death, an attempt at suicide having failed in his last extremity.

Verse 22

Matthew 2:22 . Augustus, after the death of Herod and the complications connected with it, [372] divided the kingdom amongst his three sons in such a manner that Archelaus received the half of the four quarters of the kingdom, namely, Judea, Idumaea, and Samaria; Antipas , Galilee and Perea; Philip , Batanea, Trachonitis, and Auranitis. Both the latter were called Tetrarchs , but Archelaus obtained the title of Ethnarch , Josephus, Antt . xvii. 8. 1, xvii. 11. 4, which was to be exchanged for the title of king should he prove worthy of it. But after nine years he was banished by Augustus on account of his cruelty to Vienne (Josephus, Antt . xvii. 13. 2; B. J. ii. 7. 3), and died there. His territory was added to the province of Syria, and placed under the administration of a procurator.

βασιλεύειν is therefore here taken generally: regnare , as it often is in the classics. On ἀντί , compare Herod. i. 108; Xen. Anab . i. 1, iv. 2; 2 Chronicles 33:20 ; 1MMalachi 3:1 ; 1Ma 9:31 ; 1Ma 13:4 .

ἐφοβήθη ] for Archelaus resembled his father in his suspicious and cruel temper, Josephus, Antt . xvii. 11. 2 f.

ἐκεῖ ἀπελθεῖν ] a well-known attraction: adverbs of rest with verbs of direction, Matthew 17:20 ; John 7:35 ; John 8:21 ; John 11:8 ; John 18:3 ; Romans 15:24 ; LXX. Deuteronomy 1:37 ; 2 Samuel 17:18 ; Winer, p. 439 [E. T. 591]; Bernhardy, p. 349 f. ΓΑΛΙΛΑΊΑς ] in the portions of his district belonging to Galilee , (Matthew 15:21 , Matthew 16:13 ; Acts 2:10 ), so that he avoided Judea, and did not return to Bethlehem. The voluptuary Antipas was known to be more humane than Archelaus.

[372] Comp. Schneckenburger, neutest. Zeitgesch . p. 201 ff.; Hausrath, neut. Zeitgesch . I. p. 284 ff.; Keim in Schenkel’s Bibellex .

Verse 23

Matthew 2:23 . Ἐλθών ] to Galilee.

εἰς πόλιν ] εἰς does not belong to ἐλθών (Fritzsche, Olshausen), but to κατῴκησεν , beside which it stands in Genesis 13:18 ; κατῴκ . includes the movement connected with the settlement, and that in such a way that the latter was the predominating element in the thought of the writer: he went and settled at Nazareth . Comp. Matthew 4:13 ; Acts 7:4 ; 2 Chronicles 19:4 . See Kühner, I. p. 471.

Nazareth [373] ] in Lower Galilee, in the tribe of Zabulon, situated on a hill (Luke 4:20 ), with pleasant environs. Robinson, Paläst . III. p. 419 ff.; Ritter, Erdk . XVI. p. 739 ff.; Furer, Wander, durch Paläst . p. 267 ff.; Tobler, Nazar. in Paläst ., 1868. Mentioned neither in the O. T. nor in Josephus.

ὅπως ] in order that . See Matthew 1:22 .

διὰ τῶν προφ .] not the plural of category (Matthew 2:20 , so Fritzsche), according to which Isaiah only could be meant, but the prophets generally , Luke 18:31 ; Romans 1:2 .

ὅτι ] not the Recitativum , although its use in the Gospel of Matthew cannot be denied, Matthew 7:23 , Matthew 9:18 , Matthew 14:26 , Matthew 27:43 ; Matthew 27:47 , but “ that ,” as no individual express statement is quoted.

Ναζωραῖος ] of Nazareth , Matthew 26:71 . In Isaiah 11:1 , the Messiah, as the offspring of David, is called נֵצֶר , shoot , with which, in the representation of the evangelist, this designation was identified, only expressed by another word, namely, צֶמַח (Jeremiah 23:5 ; Jeremiah 33:15 ; Zechariah 3:8 ; Zechariah 6:12 ; Isaiah 4:2 ); therefore he wrote, διὰ τῶν προφητῶν . In giving this prophetic title of נצר to the Messiah, he entirely disregards the historical meaning of the same (LXX. Isaiah 11:1 : ἄνθος ), keeps by the relationship of the name Nazareth to the word נצר , and recognises, by virtue of the same, in that prophetic Messianic name Nezer , the typical reference to this, that Jesus, through His settlement in Nazareth, was to become a ΝΑΖΩΡΑῖΟς ; the translator therefore, rightly apprehending this typical reference, expressed the Hebrew נצר by ΝΑΖΩΡΑῖΟς , although he may have also found in the original Hebrew draft of the Gospel בן נצר , or, more probably, נצרי . The evangelist must in any case have derived the name Nazareth from נצר , and it is likewise probable in itself; see Hengstenberg, Christol . II. p. 124 ff. “ Eruditi Hebraei ” already referred the ΝΑΖΩΡ . ΚΛΗΘ . back to the נצר ; see Jerome on Isaiah 11:1 , and, more recently, Piscator, Casaubon, Jansen, Maldonatus, Surenhusius, Bauer ( bibl. Theol. I. p. 163), Fritzsche, Gieseler, Kern, Krabbe, de Wette, B. Crusius, Köstlin, Bleek, Hengstenberg, Kahnis, Anger, formerly also Hilgenfeld. But others (Chrysostom, Theophylact, Clericus, Grätz) regard the words as a quotation from a lost prophetical book. But always , where in the N. T. the prophets are quoted, those in the completed canon are meant. Others (Michaelis, Paulus, Kuinoel, Gersdorf, Kaüffer, Olshausen, Ebrard, Lange) are of opinion that Ναζωραῖος refers to the despised and melancholy position of the Messiah depicted by the prophets in accordance with Psalms 22:0 , Isaiah 53:0 . For Nazareth was despised, see John 1:47 ; John 7:52 . But the question here is not as to a prophetic description (of the lowliness of the Messiah), but as to the definite prophetic name ( κληθήσεται ), to which the settlement in Nazareth may correspond; and, indeed, the evangelist must have found the name itself in the prophets, and not have inserted it ex eventu , namely, because Nazareth served to make the Messiah an object of misapprehension (in answer to Hofmann, Weissag. u. Erfüll. p. 66). For that reason also the opinion of others is to be rejected (Erasmus, Beza, Calvin, Grotius, Wetstein, Hilgenfeld), who, after Tertullian and Jerome, take Ναζ . for the Hebrew נָזִיר , that it might be fulfilled … that He shall be (called) a Nazarite . Jesus had neither represented Himself to be such a consecrated person, Matthew 11:19 , nor can any passage in the prophets be pointed out as referring to this; therefore Ewald, in opposition to διὰ τῶν προφ ., assumes the statement to be taken from an Apocryphal book, in which the Messiah, on His first appearance, was represented as a Nazarite , so that the evangelist was led, from the similarity of the word, to infer a reference to Nazareth. If, however, in Ναζωραῖος the Hebrew נֹצֵר , Preserver , has been supposed to be contained, and that in such a way that it had as its basis either Exodus 34:6 f. (Zuschlag in Guericke’s Zeitschr. 1854, III. p. 417 ff.) or Psalms 31:24 (Riggenbach in the Stud. u. Krit . 1855, p. 606 f.), then something entirely foreign is thus imported, as in those passages there is to be found neither a designation of the Messiah nor any prophetic declaration. Still more arbitrary is the reference of Hitzig in the theol. Jahrb . 1842, p. 410, to Isaiah 49:6 , where נְצוּרֵי has been taken as singular , and explained as a predicate of the Messiah, as the leader of those who are saved. Delitzsch has referred to Isaiah 42:6 ; so that Christ is predicted as He who is preserved in dangers ( נָצוּר , Isaiah 49:6 ), whilst Nazareth was His place of concealment .

[373] Upon the form of the name Ναζαρά , which, although attested as ancient in many ways, is yet found only in a few passages in the Mss. of the N. T., and very unequally supported (Tischendorf, 8th ed., has received it into the text in Matthew 4:13 , and in Luke 4:16 ), see Keim, I. p. 319; comp. also Delitzsch, Jesus u. Hillel , p. 13. In the passage before us it is without any support, as well as in Matthew 21:11 , and in the remaining passages of the other evangelists, except Luke 1:26 ; Luke 4:16 . The form Ναζαράθ is often found in Mss., as also Ναζαράτ . But it is the admission of Ναζαρέτ (or Ναζαρέθ ) alone into the text that can be justified, and that as the standing reading, all the more that even in Matthew 4:13 and in Luke 4:16 there is by no means a decisive predominance of testimony for Ναζαρά , which has no support, moreover, in Acts 10:38 . Although Nazara was the original form of the name (see in answer to Ewald’s doubts, Keim, II. p. 421 f.), which is probable, it must notwithstanding have been strange to the evangelists.


The evangelist expresses himself in Matthew 2:23 in such a manner that throughout the narrative Nazareth cannot appear to the reader as the original dwelling-place of Joseph and Mary. Bethlehem rather, according to his account, appears to be intended as such (Matthew 2:22 ), whilst Nazareth was the place of sojourn under the special circumstances which occurred after the death of Herod. The account given by Luke is quite different. This variation is to be admitted, and the reconciliation of both accounts can only be brought about in an arbitrary manner, [374] which is all the more inadmissible that, on the whole, the narratives of Matthew and Luke regarding the birth and early infancy of Jesus in important points mutually exclude each other. Amid all their other variations, however, in the preliminary history in which they are independent of one another, they agree in this, that Bethlehem was the place of birth , and it is in opposition to the history to relegate this agreement to the sphere of dogmatic reflection, and to transport the birth of Jesus to Nazareth (Strauss, Hilgenfeld, Keim), since the designation of Jesus as belonging to Nazareth (Matthew 13:34 ; Mark 6:1 ; Luke 4:19 ) finds its natural and complete explanation in the short and passing sojourn of His parents at Bethlehem after His birth, whereas, had Jesus Himself been a native of Galilee, He would neither have found a believing reception amongst His people, nor, on the other hand, could His Messiahship have been held to be based on a prophetic foundation. Comp. also Luke 2:39 and John 7:42 .

[374] That Joseph, brought to Bethlehem by the census, settled there. Matthew accordingly represents Bethlehem as his dwelling-place . The flight to Egypt, however, again soon broke up the residence in Bethlehem, so that the sojourn was only a passing one, and therefore Luke rightly regarded the subsequent settlement at Nazareth as a return thither. See Neander, Ebrard, Hofmann, Krabbe, Lange. Wieseler’s reasons also ( chronolog. Synopse , p. 35 ff.) against the view that Matthew makes Bethlehem appear as the original dwelling-place of Jesus, will not stand. This view is to be regarded, by the account in Matthew, which is to be looked on as independent , and standing by itself , as a necessary exegetical result by means of ver. 22, and is undoubtedly confirmed by ver. 23, where Joseph’s settlement in Nazareth appears as something new , which must occur in order to fulfil a prophetic prediction , so that consequently no reader of Matthew could come to think that Nazareth had been Joseph’s dwelling-place. Wieseler, however, has, moreover, strikingly demonstrated the unhistorical nature of the view that Jesus was born at Nazareth.

Bibliographical Information
Meyer, Heinrich. "Commentary on Matthew 2". Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/hmc/matthew-2.html. 1832.
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