"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Monday, March 1, 2010

Matthew 1

Finally my study of Matthew begins! I've actually been reading and taking notes on the first three chapters for a few days now, but since it's March and I promised a March/Matthew thing, here ya go! First I wanted to copy this so we'd kind of keep in mind what is generally considered Matthew's target audience and purpose of writing. At this time most people accepting Jesus were Jews so it makes sense that Jewish Matthew would write with a Jewish flavor. He was a Jew writing to Jews afterall! It's like Christians writing fellow Christians or Muslims writing Muslims and all using appropriate-to-the-writer-and-readers terms and illustrations. Hallelujah or Insh'allah, anyone?

Purpose of Writing: Matthew intends to prove to the Jews that Jesus Christ is the promised Messiah. More than any other gospel, Matthew quotes the Old Testament to show how Jesus fulfilled the words of the Jewish prophets. Matthew describes in detail the lineage of Jesus from David, and uses many forms of
speech that Jews would have been comfortable with. Matthew’s love and concern for his people is apparent through his meticulous approach to telling the gospel story. Source

And keeping that purpose in mind, I will begin my study and record some notes. Please chime in with your own observations, thoughts and questions in the comment section.

Matthew 1 begins with a lineage which includes four women being mentioned. I believe this is significant since I get the impression that women weren't always as important as men in those ancient cultures. I hear even today that women's nationalities don't count in some regions as their children are only counted as the nationalities of their fathers. So mentioning Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and "she who had been the wife of Uriah" (Bathsheba) is perhaps an oddity for that time. Some have noted that two of the women were Gentiles (non Jews). Rahab had been a prostitute saved from destruction after helping the Israelite spies when they were in Jericho. Ruth was a Moabite who'd chosen to follow the God of Israel. Tamar had a lot of bad luck with men in this one Jewish household. Her story is clever if not rather disgusting by most of our standards today.

Also King David's sin is recorded although not in a blatant way. I suppose those unfamiliar with the Old Testament story wouldn't know, but "David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah's wife" makes a casual reader wonder if David married a widow or if he'd fathered a child with another man's wife. Actually he did both with Bathsheba. When I read Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, author Kenneth Bailey suggested that Matthew did not like Bathsheba and that's why he refers to her the way that he did. He mentioned Tamar, Rahab and Ruth by name, but Bathsheba was known only by her connection to David, Solomon and Uriah. Perhaps Matthew held Bathsheba responsible somehow for seducing their beloved king.

I noted the part about the Babylonian captivity mentioned so that shows some in Jesus' ancestry were taken off to Babylon and likely slaves or second-class citizens in a foreign land.

Joseph was the earthly father of Jesus. In most of the Jews' eyes, Joseph would be Jesus' dad, his legal father. I noted how the Bible referred to Joseph as either "just" or "a good man" and then told how he didn't want to disgrace his fianceƩ for her unfaithfulness (she was pregnant and it wasn't his baby!), but chose instead to divorce her secretly. Back then the Jewish Law said adulterers should be stoned so Joseph could have demanded harsh punishment for Mary's (seeming) infidelity. Instead he showed mercy and kindness ... at least that's how I see it. Surely he was sad and angry when he found out, but it's interesting to note that he chose not to act on his anger, but instead figure out a way to not publicly disgrace or punish Mary when he could have if he demanded his legal rights. And you know if he'd divorced her there would be questions. So he'd still face some humiliation in the community. What man wants to admit his loved one cheated on him?

I think I'm delving way too much into the psychological stuff now, huh? I was initially just going to jot down skimpy notes!

Dreams -- Joseph received instructions from God in a dream. He was told it was OK about Mary's pregnancy, that the child was conceived by the Holy Spirit and for Joseph to marry her. He was even instructed on what to name the baby.

Note in this book how God communicated with people especially in the next chapter. (Notes to come.)

Baby Names -- 21"She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."

"...they will call him Immanuel"—which means, 'God with us.'"

Are these names and meanings significant to us as it appears they were to Matthew?

OT references/prophesies -- 22All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23"The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel"—which means, "God with us." --- refers back to Isaiah 7:14

What is the significance of the Jewish Messiah? Why were they awaiting his arrival? What did they believe he was going to do for them?

What questions or observations do you have from either this chapter or my notes posted here? Or anything else from other sources that you want to add to the discussion? Please do!


Wrestling said...

Great stuff! I think I always skimmed the genealogies and didn't think to spot things like there being 4 women mentioned.

Do you have any idea what the significance is of there being 14 generations between Abraham - David, David - Babylonian captivity, Babylonian captivity - Jesus? Is it just neat, or something special about the number?

I have read this chapter, and will try to at least keep up with you and hopefully have more things to say as we go along!

Carmen said...

I found this on the number 14.

FOURTEEN: 7 x 2 = double measure of spiritual perfection. 7 is the number of covenant and divine perfection and 2 is the number of the Incarnation.

* The genealogy of Jesus in St. Matthew's Gospel is divided into three sets of 14 generations [Matthew 1:1-17]
* The gematria of David's name is 14


I like reading what you're writing and I LOVE that you brought up that Matthew mentioned women. :)

Louai said...

I have to say good luck, not going to hate anyone !

Susanne said...

Sarah, thanks for your comments on the chapters so far. Here is what my Bible says about the significance of 14...as you can tell it's speculation.

"Perhaps Mathew used it because it is a multiple of seven - a number that symbolized completeness. He skipped over some generations in order to achieve this literary order."

Good question. I wondered that as well. :)

Carmen, thanks for what you added about 14! It seems there is a lot of significance in numbers, huh?

Yes, I love that Matthew mentioned women in the genealogy as well. :)

Louai. :-P ... welcome and please comment more if you have things to say. :)

Amber said...

re: the women being listed:

Perhaps Rahab, Ruth, and Tamar were all listed by name while Bathsheba is not is because she committed a grevious sin (for which we're never shown her repenting), while the other three did not.

Bear with me. I know Rahab was a prostitute, but we don't know that she didn't become Jewish and thereafter keep the Law. Whether or not she did, she was clearly an instrument of God's Will - helping out the Jews, hiding the spies, and she was rewarded by being taken with them, her and her whole family. Ruth adopted the God of her husband (and her mother in law) as her own. She kept the Law (as far as we can see) so she can be counted as a righteous woman. And Tamar, while yes, the story is...uncomfortable, from a modern perspective, really the crime, the sin, was in the men of the family she married into. Everything she did was done to force Judah to act righteously. To do something which by Law he should have done in the first place.

Bathsheba, on the other hand, willingly committed adultery. David's sin is just as much hers as it is his.

re: St. Joseph. The leaps of faith he had to take are amazing.

Susanne said...

Amber, yay, I love when you add things to my posts! Great points about the women - so true! Thanks for sharing what you did about Bathsheba vs. the other 3 mentioned!