Confessions of a Questioning Christian

Posts Tagged ‘Matthew 1

Matthew 1

Posted on: January 30, 2012

I’m going to start with the New Testament, since I’m a Christian and I’m trying to figure out what that means. Might as well start at the beginning of Christ’s life on Earth, right?

Verses 1:1-17 are all about Jesus’ genealogy. My first question was, who cares? I looked that answer up online:

Interpretation principals
To better understand the genealogy of Jesus, it is important to know some of the notions Jews had regarding ancestral records. This section discusses property rights, prophecies, and Jewish use of the word son.

Property rights
Jews carefully maintained accurate genealogical records. They did so primarily because property rights in Israel were linked to family heritage.
When the Jews settled in Israel, the tribes were given portions of the land as an inheritance. Families within each tribe were given parcels of that land. The land could be farmed, developed, or sold. Every 50 years a dispossessed family could lay claim to the parcel of land which their ancestors had received when it was originally distributed.
Individuals who could not trace their family had no inheritance in the nation of Israel. They were treated as dispossessed foreigners. This factor alone contributed strongly to the Jewish preoccupation with genealogies.

Prophecies also contributed to Jewish interest in genealogies. God had promised several people that the messiah would be one of their descendants. To prove this descent, it was important to maintain accurate genealogical records. The table below shows the promises and their fulfillment.


Person Promise Fulfillment
Adam Genesis 3:15 Luke 3:38
Abraham Genesis 22:18 Matthew 1:1-2, Luke 3:34
Judah Genesis 49:10, Micah 5:2 Matthew 1:2-3, Luke 3:33
Jesse Isaiah 11:1, 10 Matthew 1:5-6, Luke 3:33
David 2nd Samuel 7:12-13 Matthew 1:1 & 6, Luke 3:31 


Of course, Matthew was a Jew, so it would be seem important to him to make sure to point out this information. Jesus was born into the right family to fulfill all the prophesies, and the prophesies in turn prove that he is (or at least could be, if there hasn’t been one yet) the Messiah the Jews have been pining for.

Okay, moving on. Matthew 1:18: Mary and Joseph are engaged, and Mary gets knocked up by the Holy Spirit. I think at one point in high school I was pretty sure I knew what the Holy Spirit was. But I can’t remember, so let’s find out (again).

When I typed, “What is the Holy Spirit?” into google, I obviously got lots of answers. Here are a few:

  1. The Holy Spirit is the third person in the Trinity.  He is fully God. He is eternal, omniscient, omnipresent, has a will, and can speak.  He is alive.  He is a person.  He is not particularly visible in the Bible because His ministry is to bear witness of Jesus (John 15:26). –
  2. For the majority of Christians, the Holy Spirit (prior English language usage: the Holy Ghost from Old English gast, “spirit”) is the third person of the Holy Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and is Almighty God.[7][8][9] The Holy Spirit is seen by mainstream Christians as one Person of the Triune God, who revealed His Holy Name YHWH to his people Israel, sent His Eternally Begotten Son Jesus to save them from God’s wrath, and sent the Holy Spirit to sanctify and give life to his Church.[10][11][12] The Triune God manifests as three Persons (Greek hypostases),[13] in One Divine Being (GreekOusia),[14] called the Godhead (from Old English: Godhood), the Divine Essence of God.[15] –
  3. The Holy Spirit is a real person who came to reside within Jesus Christ’s true followers after Jesus rose from the dead and ascended to heaven (Acts 2). Jesus told His apostles…“I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not behold Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you, and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” (John 14:16-18)The Holy Spirit is not a vague, ethereal shadow, nor an impersonal force. He is a person equal in every way with God the Father and God the Son. He is considered to be the third member of the Godhead. –
  4. “The Holy Spirit is the bridge to God within you. It is the part of your mind—the part of your Spirit—that is joined with the Mind of God. The Holy Spirit is the Voice for God and acts as a reminder to all of God’s children of the unconditional love that God has for them. –

It’s interesting to me that there are so many definitions. Some Christians insist the Holy Spirit is a person – in which case, did a physical embodiment of God have sex with Mary, that person being the Holy Spirit, making her NOT a virgin? Some people define the Holy Spirit as something more whimsical – a bridge to God, a connection of minds, a ray of light and insight, a reminder of his love for us, a voice in uncertain times. Whatever the case, Christians consider the Holy Spirit as one of the three, creating the Holy Trinity. Three distinct persons that co-exist in unity. Although they are three, they are one (which leaves Jews scratching their heads), and the Holy Trinity is considered a mystery of Christian Faith. If it’s a mystery to them, I guess it shall remain so for me.

Okay, Matt. 1:19 says Joseph was going to divorce her, even though it says they were engaged. I assume this is a cultural thing, wherein being engaged means he already has rights to her as his property, in a sense, but they  had not “sealed the deal.” Whatever the case, they remained together, which is necessary, as it is Joseph’s genealogy that provides the proof of Jesus’ divine lineage.

In Matt: 1:21 and 1:23, I get a little confused about his name. The angel tells Joseph to call the baby “Jesus,” but the prophesy says to call his name “Immanuel.”

Further information: Jesus (name)Holy Name of JesusYeshua (name), and Messiah

“Jesus” is a transliteration, occurring in a number of languages and based on the Latin Iesus, of the Greek Ἰησοῦς (Iēsoûs), itself a hellenization of the Hebrew יְהוֹשֻׁעַ (Yĕhōšuă‘Joshua) or Hebrew-Aramaic יֵשׁוּעַ (Yēšûă‘), both meaning “Yahweh delivers” or “Yahweh rescues”.[35][36]

The etymology of the name Jesus is generally expressed by Christians as “God’s salvation” usually expressed as “Yahweh saves”,[37][38][39] “Yahweh is salvation”[40][41] and at times as “Jehovah is salvation”.[42] The name Jesus appears to have been in use in Judaea at the time of the birth of Jesus.[42][43]Philo‘s reference (Mutatione Nominum item 121) indicates that the etymology of Joshua was known outside Judaea at the time.[44]

In the New Testament, in Luke 1:26-33, the angel Gabriel tells Mary to name her child “Jesus”, and in Matthew 1:21 an angel tells Joseph to name the child “Jesus”. The statement in Matthew 1:21 “you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins” associates salvific attributes to the name Jesus in Christian theology.[45][46]

Christ” (play/ˈkrst/) is derived from the Greek Χριστός (Khrīstos), meaning “the anointed” or “the anointed one”, a translation of the Hebrew מָשִׁיחַ (Māšîaḥ), usually transliterated intoEnglish as “Messiah” (play/mɨˈs.ə/).[47][48] In the Septuagint version of the Hebrew Bible(written well over a century before the time of Jesus), the word “Christ” (Χριστός) was used to translate the Hebrew word “Messiah” (מָשִׁיחַ) into Greek.[49] In Matthew 16:16, the apostlePeter‘s profession “You are the Christ” identifies Jesus as the Messiah.[50] In postbiblical usage, “Christ” became viewed as a name, one part of “Jesus Christ”, but originally it was a title (“Jesus the Anointed”).[51] –

Maybe when the prophesy says “call his name Immanuel,” they don’t mean literally that his name will be Immanuel, just that it is what he will at some point be called.

Lingering Questions

  • I’m still unclear on how the Immanuel part fits into this, so if anyone can explain that, I’d appreciate it.
  • 1:21 says he will save his people. Does that only mean the Jews? I sometimes get the impression that Jesus only came to save the Jews, and that the rest of us were an after thought. Jesus got back to Heaven, looked at the Earth, had a Homer Simpson “D’oh!” moment, then went back and asked Paul and some others to finish up with the rest of the world. What do you think?