The Christmas Story in the Gospel of Matthew (Part 1)

 

Can you answer these questions?  Here are my answers from Scripture.

 

  1. Why does the genealogy in Chapter 1 start with Abraham instead of Adam or Noah?

          Matthew is writing particularly for the Jews.  He makes this clear by the way he divides Jewish history into 3 time frames, and his use of Old Testament references.  Abraham is the first patriarch of the Jews.

 

  1. It claims to be the genealogy of Joseph.  What historical evidence does it contain that confirms this?

          Matthew 1:11.  Jer. 22:24-30 declares that no son of Coniah would be a lasting king over Israel; therefore, this must be the genealogy of a parent not related to Christ by blood.

 

  1. What is significant about vv. 3, 5, and 6?  What do they tell us about God?

          They mention women; women with weaknesses and sins; even gentile women.  God loves all people and includes them all in His grand design—not just Jewish males.

 

  1. Verse 17 breaks the genealogy into three groups of 14 generations; but the first group covered about 1000 years; the second about 400; and the third about 600.  Is Matthew being literal, or is there some other explanation for his divisions?

          The Greek word for generation can be translated as a period of time, a nation, a rank of descent (genealogy) or even a group of men sharing something in common.  Matthew mentions 14 men in each grouping—the time of Theocracy, the period of Monarchy, and the post-monarchy period—in order to show the divisions of Jewish history.  He well may have left out fathers or sons in order to standardize the pattern of 14 cited in the first division.

 

  1. What does espoused mean in verse 18?

          Engaged, but with the legal force of marriage.  During this period, often a year, the couple lived separately and maintained chastity, but were each other’s heirs; and the arrangement could only be broken by divorce or completed by the marriage supper.

 

  1. What is the significance of Jesus Christ being “of the Holy Ghost”?  What major doctrines does this relate to?

          Miraculous conception without participation of a man—therefore, no sin nature, allowing Jesus to die for the sins of others, since He had no sins of His own.  This relates to doctrines regarding sin, salvation, the Trinity, prophecy (remember “the seed of the woman”) and others.

 

  1. Did Joseph love Mary?  What does verse 19 indicate on this topic?

          Probably, but this verse does not prove it.  His motives are first to protect his own honor, and secondly to prevent her from experiencing unnecessary humiliation.  Any decent man would have done the same—it does not prove his love for her.

 

  1. Does verse 19 justify divorce?

          Yes—under the specific allowances set out by Moses.  Because Joseph had proof of Mary’s “fornication”, he was justified (though not commanded) to divorce her.  Compare Matthew 5:31-32 and 19:9.

 

  1. Verse 20 says that “the angel of the Lord” appeared to Joseph.  That term usually refers to the pre-incarnate Christ; did Jesus Himself appear to Joseph before He was born?

          It is possible, but unlikely.  It is an unproven assumption that the term “the angel of the Lord” always means a Christophany.  Apart from the irony of the situation, this appearance does not use “the angel of the LORD” as we find in several other places; also, the Greek language does not use the definite article here so it could just as well be translated as “an angel of the Lord”.

 

  1. Why did the angel appear in a dream, instead of face-to-face, as with Mary?  Does this tell us anything about Joseph’s spirituality?

          We may never know for sure, but perhaps Joseph was more receptive to dreams and visions than he was to direct prophetic announcement.  He might have responded in disbelief if confronted by an angel face-to-face, just as Zechariah did.  Regardless, he believed God’s message and responded to it, as a spiritually receptive person should always do.

 

  1. Joseph was told the sex of the baby before it was born.  Is that indirectly a justification for all the prenatal testing and scientific procedures we use today?

          It was a special case, confirming prophecies to him.  It neither commends nor condemns testing for or knowing your unborn child’s gender.  (Obviously, if the knowledge is to be used for the wrong purposes, as it is in China or India, then the wrong motive and subsequent actions would be sinful.

 

  1. In verse 23, does the word “virgin” mean a virgin, or a young lady, as some translations have it?  What doctrinal significance does the answer make?

          When God told Isaiah to write Is. 7:14, He used a Hebrew word that could mean lass or young lady, or possibly virgin.  The Jews did not hold to the tradition of believing that Messiah would be miraculously born of a virgin—but of a young lady.  However, when the Holy Spirit guided Matthew’s writing, He used a Greek word that can only mean virgin.  By using that word, God was establishing the truth of Holy God taking on the form of sinful man, but without the sin nature, so that He could be the sinless sacrifice for the sin of the world.  A man born of an unchaste young woman would have had the stain of Adam’s sin about him, and could only have died for his own sins.  The doctrine of the virgin birth and all that it implies is strictly a New Testament teaching, fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy in a particularly specific and powerful way.

 

  1. What comfort can we take from the fact that all this was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah?

          God has had a plan all along; He has revealed it little-by-little to His servants, and what He has said has come true.  By seeing that God was faithful yesterday in fulfilling His promises, we can trust Him to keep doing what He said He would do today (and tomorrow).

 

  1. If His name is Jesus, why does verse 23 say He will be called Immanuel?  Did anyone in the Bible ever call Him Immanuel?

          No one ever called Him “Mighty Counselor” or “Prince of Peace” either.  These are descriptive terms, not proper names.  All Scripture writers who taught that Jesus was God in the flesh were indirectly calling Him “Immanuel”.  This can be seen in John 1:14, I Tim. 2:5, and many other places.

 

  1. What do we learn about Joseph’s character from verses 24 and 25?

          He was obedient to God’s revealed plan for him, even though the new revelation superseded his Old Testament teaching and sense of honor.  He valued Mary and her condition, and voluntarily refrained from consummating the marriage, though that would have caused consternation among many in the community.  He took on the role of protector and foster father throughout her pregnancy, and only later “knew her as his wife” after the prophecy was fulfilled that “the virgin shall give birth”.

 

  1. If Joseph didn’t consummate the marriage, were he and Mary really married?  Hypothetically, could they have had the marriage annulled?

          Sex does not make a couple married.  The official ceremony (in this case, Joseph’s taking Mary into his home and giving the marriage feast) finalized and solemnized the marriage.  The consummation traditions of the time were more a test of purity than the sealing of the relationship—in fact, the consummation could provide the evidence for a husband to reject his wife and annul the marriage.  The idea that a marriage is not official if not consummated is a medieval tradition intended to justify some arranged marriages (and the related treaties) to be cancelled without a church-forbidden divorce.

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