Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Matthew 1 and 2

Matthew 1.

The Geneaoogy of Jesus Christ

Keeping track of lineage. 42 generations from abraham to christ with 2 stops in the middle for symmetry I guess. I guess someone might care about such things

The Birth of Jesus Christ

Mary & Joseph get engaged, then it turns out Mary is pregnant and Joseph is going divorce her. An angel tells him in a dream that she is pregnant from the holy spirit, so he decides to marry her. They don’t have sex until after she gives birth to Jesus.

-It seems strange to me that the angel would visit Joseph in a dream. How can he tell whether it is really an angel manipulating his dreams or simply a normal dream?

Matthew 2.

The Visit of the Wise Men

Wise men follow a star to worship jesus as he will be king of the Jews. King Herod got wind of this and was worried. He told the wise men to tell him when they find Jesus so he can also come worship. The wise men continue on, find jesus, give him gifts and worshipped him. They are warned by an angel in a dream not to return to Herod so they went back home on a different path.

-Another dream communication by angels, *shrug*.

The Flight to Egypt

An angel appears to Joseph in a dream again, and tells him to take Jesus and Mary to Egypt because Herod is going to try to kill Jesus. They stay in Egypt until Herod dies. This fulfils the prophecy “Out of Egypt I called my son”

-I wonder if Joseph was aware of that prophecy. He might have been thinking about it before he went to sleep.

Herod Kills the Children

Herod learns that he was tricked by the wise men and orders the killing of all male children in Bethlehem 2 years and younger. Another prophecy is fulfilled.

-I don’t think I really understand this passage. I don’t get how he was tricked, did he know Jesus was gone or just that the wise men didn’t return? If he knew Jesus was gone he wouldn’t have to kill the children like he did. Also, if he was willing to kill all the male children in Bethlehem why wait until now? He knew it was Bethlehem before according to verse 2:5

The Return to Nazareth

When Herod died, an angel told Joseph in a dream to go to the land of Israel. Herod’s son was ruling there so Joseph went to Nazareth instead because he was warned in another dream. This fulfilled another prophecy.

-It sounds like whoever is writing this is just trying to justify some old prophecy. I suppose an alternate interpretation would simply be that the author is trying to track the prophecy being fulfilled.


  1. Most of the following is based on previous notes and highlighted stuff from previous bible studies.
    The genealogy. I don't understand how he can have two almost completely different genealogies. (see Luke) I've heard someone try to explain this away by saying that one is Mary's genealogy. However, only a man's genealogy was important in those days. It also would specifically say that it was Mary's genealogy. The savior was supposed to come along David's seed. This was shown by drawing the genealogical lines through David. However, if Joesph was NOT the father, why have his line in there? This has always puzzled me. Maybe someone else can answer this for me. :) Also, why in 1 Timothy 1:4 and Titus 3:9 do say that you should ignore genealogies, so does it even matter in the first place? Then again, in Acts 2:30, 13:23, Romans 1:3, 2 Timothy 2:8, Hebrews 2:16, Revelation 22:16 all seem to point that Joesph WAS the father. I'm confused. =/
    In verse 19 it says that Joesph was a righteous man for not letting her be punished for being pregnant. I see him as being righteous and not letting her be stoned to death according to the law. Disobeying the law sounds like it would be "UNrighteous." Ecclesiastes 7:20 says that there has NEVER been a righteous man.
    Verse 23: The original Greek does not use the word for Virgin. A blatant mistranslation. Also, why is this the only appearance of Immanuel? Jesus was his name if I recall.
    Verse 23-24: If you look back to what this was referring too, it was Isaiah 7:14. If you look at the context of Isaiah, it was dishonestly taken out of context. Another failed prophecy.
    We celebrate Christs' birth on December. It must be a traditional birth date for the Gods..
    Here is a list of other Gods' born on December 25th.

    Chapter 2:
    Verses 5-7 refer to the Bethlehem prophecy. If you look in Micah 5:2, Bethlehem, in my opinion can only be read as a tribe and not a city. At least in my translation anyway.
    Verse 14-15: refers to Hosea 11:1. It's not really a prophecy. It's referring to the exodus of the jews.
    Verse 17: Refers to Jeremiah 31:15. This is not a prophecy.
    I'm not quite sure but verse 23 seems to refer to Samson in Judges 13:5 and seems to be referring to Samson and the philistines and not Jesus and the Romans. Can someone clarify this?
    There seems to be a lot of passages that appear to be written in order to fulfill prophecies after the fact, yet not written by anyone with good knowledge of the old writings.
    Also, the time line doesn't really match up with the accounts of Jesus' birth etc. This topic is covered elsewhere in other articles.

  2. That is an interesting point about the genealogy, either it matters and Joseph is the father or it doesn't matter and Joseph is not the father, but it can't be both.

    "Verse 23: The original Greek does not use the word for Virgin. A blatant mistranslation."

    This is very interesting to me. As I don't speak Greek there is no way I can verify this myself, but are you sure of this? Do you have any source on this I could look at? The reason I find it so surprising is this seems like such a big deal. Mary having been a virgin and God being the father of Jesus is pretty fundamental to the Christian religion. Is my perception of this wrong? Was it mistranslated really early in the history of the Christian church and built upon? I feel like there is more here. Or perhaps are there multiple interpretations of it? Is it possible it could mean virgin but it could also mean something else? What does the word more appropriately translate to?

    "Also, why is this the only appearance of Immanuel?"

    Is that true? I always assumed it came up fairly often. What does it mean? Is it perhaps a title or nickname or something? It does say "they shall call his name Immanuel". Strange.

    What you say about the prophecies is pretty interesting too. I must say, as I was reading the "this fulfills a prophecy" passages was the most difficult to understand. It always felt a little bit shoehorned in and clumsy. Generously I can say it is maybe a translation issue, or perhaps the fact that I don't know the old testament well makes it more confusing.

  3. I've heard and read this in quite a few places, but off of my bookshelf, I will quote a paragraph from Dan Barker's "Losing Faith in Faith" page 187. "A deeper problem with this prophecy (the virgin mary sic) though is the word "virgin." The writer of Matthew was likely working from the Greek Septuagint translation of the Hebrew writings which has the word parthenos, which does mean "virgin." But the original Hebrew word here is almah, which means "young woman" or "maiden." It is the feminine of elem, which means "young man" (not "young virgin man" if there were such a concept). The Hebrew word for virgin is bethulah (which often appears in the old testament as a spoil of Jehovah's holy wars). The Greek translators goofed, innocently or deliberately, and Matthew simply relayed the mistranslation, innocently or deliberately. Either way, the writer of Matthew was a sloppy scholar." I've seen the comparison elsewhere that compares mistaking young maiden for virgin. They are pretty similar but very different at the same time. It's been a long running thing with Jewish people to point this out.. When I say that, I mean I've seen it as a "casual topic of discussion" in movies while something else was happening. I think Snatch is a good example.

    If you search Immanuel or Emmanuel in the bible, the only other reference comes from Isiah. 7:14. At face value, "Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel" it seems pretty dead on. However, when you read the context, its not discussing a future messiah. In this part of the bible, there is a war going on between Israel and Judah. Isaiah was saying that the baby wo9uld be a "sign," as a confirmation that a planned siege of Jerusalem would fail. I would read the rest of that chapter as well as chapter 8. When this was pointed out to me, I really had to read it for myself. Isaiah 8:3-4 he tries to fulfill his prophecy. " Then I made love to the prophetess, and she conceived and gave birth to a son. And the LORD said to me, “Name him Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz. 4 For before the boy knows how to say ‘My father’ or ‘My mother,’ the wealth of Damascus and the plunder of Samaria will be carried off by the king of Assyria.” I have the NIV translation btw. You will want to take a look at it yourself of course. Your opinion might differ from mine.

  4. It really does sound like the author or Matthew is deliberately trying to write in a way that fulfills prophecy. I definitely got that sense as I was reading it as well. I would love to hear a christian's perspective on this.

  5. Something about this discussion of the mistranslation of the word virgin has bothered me, and this morning I think I figured out what it is. Your quote of Dan Barker's book includes the following

    "The writer of Matthew was likely working from the Greek Septuagint translation of the Hebrew writings"

    So you are saying the original Greek did not say virgin. But then you say the author of Matthew is working in a Hebrew translation of the Greek bible. It sounds like Matthew was written in Hebrew then. Is this correct?

    To expand slightly, it sounds like the prophecy (that it seems the author was trying to fulfill) was written in Greek but Matthew was originally written in Hebrew, with the proper word for virgin in place. If (and this is a big if) I am correct, it seems unfair to say that the word for virgin was never in the original. If I am incorrect, I would like the quote from Dan Barker's book explained as it doesn't make sense to me at the moment.

  6. Some translations have corrected this, like the New Revised Standard Version which is supposedly favored by scholars. http://www.biblestudy101.org/hbgen/transtest1.html

    "Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel. NRSV"

    This book also quotes the NRSV with that quote (published in 1992), but strangely when I try to search it, it comes up with Virgin again on other sites.

    I also wiki'd (not the best reference of course) the gospel of Matthew and it said (under the authorship and sources section):

    "Authorship and sources
    The Gospel of Matthew does not name its author. The Christian bishop, Papias of Hierapolis, about 100–140 AD, in a passage with several ambiguous phrases, wrote: "Matthew collected the oracles (logia—sayings of or about Jesus) in the Hebrew language (Hebraïdi dialektōi—perhaps alternatively "Hebrew style") and each one interpreted (hērmēneusen—or "translated") them as best he could."[4] On the surface this implies that Matthew was written in Hebrew and translated into Greek, but Matthew's Greek "reveals none of the telltale marks of a translation."[5] Scholars have put forward several theories to explain Papias: perhaps Matthew wrote two gospels, one, now lost, in Hebrew, the other our Greek version; or perhaps the logia was a collection of sayings rather than the gospel; or by dialektōi Papias may have meant that Matthew wrote in the Jewish style rather than in the Hebrew language.[4]"

    I guess it really is hard to say since we will never have the "true originals" but copies of copies of copies etc. A great author and biblical scholar on the subject of the bible as well as early christian history is Bart Ehrman. The first book of his I read was "misquoting Jesus." Around the time the earliest gospels were written (90AD) the main language spoken in that part of the world was Greek.

  7. Ehrman writes on the topic while talking about mistranslations on page 96-97:

    “Sometimes scribes altered their text to ensure that a favorite doctrine
    was duly emphasized. We find this, for example, in the account
    of Jesus's genealogy in Matthew's Gospel, which starts with the father
    of the Jews, Abraham, and traces Jesus's line from father to son all the
    way down to "Jacob, who was the father of Joseph, the husband of
    Mary, from whom was born Jesus, who is called the Christ" (Matt.
    1:16). As it stands, the genealogy already treats Jesus as an exceptional
    case in that he is not said to be the "son" of Joseph. For some scribes,
    however, that was not enough, and so they changed the text to read
    "Jacob, who was the father of Joseph, to whom being betrothed the
    virgin Mary gave birth to Jesus, who is called the Christ." Now Joseph
    is not even called Mary's husband, but only her betrothed, and she is clearly stated to be a virgin—an important point for many early scribes!”

  8. Mark and John make no mention of Jesus' birth, so we can't really compare those directly. There were also many different takes and competing doctrines of Christianity in the early church. Only a few survived to what we see today. Ehrman gives a good example on page 155-157:

    Early Christian Adoptionists
    We know of a number of Christian groups from the second and third
    centuries that had an "adoptionistic" view of Christ. This view is
    called adoptionist because its adherents maintained that Jesus was not
    divine but a full fleshandblood
    human being whom God had
    "adopted" to be his son, usually at his baptism. 4
    One of the bestknown
    early Christian groups who held to an
    adoptionistic Christology was a sect of JewishChristians
    known as
    the Ebionites. We aren't sure why they were given this name. It may
    have originated as a selfdesignation
    based on the Hebrew term Ebyon,
    which means "poor." These followers of Jesus may have imitated the
    original band of Jesus's disciples in giving up everything because of
    their faith, and so taking upon themselves voluntary poverty for the
    sake of others.
    Wherever their name came from, the views of this group are
    clearly reported in our early records, principally written by their enemies
    who saw them as heretics. These followers of Jesus were, like
    him, Jews; where they differed from other Christians was in their insistence
    that to follow Jesus one had to be a Jew. For men, this meant
    becoming circumcised. For men and women, it meant following the
    Jewish law given by Moses, including kosher food laws and the observance
    of Sabbath and Jewish festivals.
    In particular, it was their understanding of Jesus as the Jewish
    messiah that set these Christians apart from others. For since they
    were strict monotheists—believing that only One could be God—
    they insisted that Jesus was not himself divine, but was a human being
    no different in "nature" from the rest of us. He was born from the sexual
    union of his parents, Joseph and Mary, born like everyone else (his
    mother was not a virgin), and reared, then, in a Jewish home. What
    made Jesus different from all others was that he was more righteous
    in following the Jewish law; and because of his great righteousness,
    God adopted him to be his son at his baptism, when a voice came from
    heaven announcing that he was God's son. From that moment on,
    Jesus felt called to fulfill the mission God had allotted him—dying on
    the cross, as a righteous sacrifice for the sins of others. This he did in
    faithful obedience to his calling; God then honored this sacrifice by
    raising Jesus from the dead and exalting him up to heaven, where he
    still waits before returning as the judge of the earth.

  9. According to the Ebionites, then, Jesus did not preexist; he was not
    born of a virgin; he was not himself divine. He was a special, righteous
    man, whom God had chosen and placed in a special relationship
    to himself.
    In response to these adoptionistic views, protoorthodox
    insisted that Jesus was not "merely" human, but that he was actually
    divine, in some sense God himself. He was born of a virgin, he
    was more righteous than anyone else because he was different by nature,
    and at his baptism God did not make him his son (via adoption)
    but merely affirmed that he was his son, as he had been from eternity
    How did these disputes affect the texts of scripture that were in
    circulation in the second and third centuries, texts being copied by
    nonprofessional scribes who were themselves involved to a greater or
    lesser degree in the controversies? There are very few, if any, variant
    readings that appear to have been created by scribes who held to an
    adoptionistic point of view. The reason for this lack of evidence
    should not be surprising. If an adoptionistic Christian had inserted his
    views into the texts of scripture, surely they would have been corrected
    by later scribes who took a more orthodox line. What we do
    find, however, are instances in which texts have been altered in such a
    way as to oppose an adoptionistic Christology. These changes emphasize
    that Jesus was born of a virgin, that he was not adopted at his baptism,
    and that he was himself God.”

    Many differences when compared side by side of Jesus' stories in the gospels. When read side by side, it's hard not to think about the analogy of the jury holding pause at different stories of what “happened.”

    This all based off of what I've read, but you will definitely want to do more research for yourself. I don't know Greek or Hebrew and have not studied the oldest manuscripts myself. I don't really know if I responded to your question. =/

  10. That's a lot of really interesting stuff. Thanks JKerber :)


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