The Birth Narratives

The scroll of the genesis of Iēsous Anointed son of Dauid son of Abraam.

Abraam fathered Isaak,
and Isaak fathered Iakōb,
and Iakōb fathered Ioudas and his brothers,
and Ioudas fathered Phares and Zara by Thamar,
and Phares fathered Hesrōm,
and Hesrōm fathered Aram,
and Aram fathered Aminadab,
and Aminadab fathered Naasōn,
and Naasōn fathered Salmōn,
and Salmōn fathered Boes by Rachab,
and Boes fathered Iōbēd by Routh,
and Iōbēd fathered Iessai,
and Iessai fathered Dauid the king,
and Dauid the king fathered Solomōn by the wife of Ourias:

And Solomōn fathered Roboam,
and Roboam fathered Abia,
and Abia fathered Asaph,
and Asaph fathered Iōsaphat,
and Iōsaphat fathered Iōram,
and Iōram fathered Ozias,
and Ozias fathered Iōatham,
and Iōatham fathered Achas,
and Achas fathered Hezekias,
and Hezekias fathered Manassēs,
and Manassēs fathered Amōs,
and Amōs fathered Iōsias,
and Iōsias fathered Iechonias and his brothers at the deportation to Babylon.

After the deportation to Babylon Iechonias fathered Salathiēl,
and Salathiēl fathered Zorobabel,
and Zorobabel fathered Abioud,
and Abioud fathered Heliakim,
and Heliakim fathered Azōr,
and Azor fathered Sadok,
and Sadok fathered Achim,
and Achim fathered Elioud,
and Elioud fathered Eleazar,
and Eleazar fathered Matthan,
and Matthan fathered Iakōb,
and Iakōb fathered Iōsēph the husband of Maria,
of whom Iēsous was born, who is called ‘Anointed’.

All the generations therefore from Abraam to Dauid: fourteen generations,
and from Dauid until the deportation to Babylon: fourteen generations,
and from the deportation to Babylon until the Anointed: fourteen generations.

And of Iēsous Anointed, the birth was as follows: his mother Maria having been engaged to Iōsēph, before their coming together she was found to be having in the belly by the holy Spirit; and Iōsēph her husband being righteous, and not wanting to make her a public example, planned to privately dismiss her away. But on his thinking of these – behold! – a messenger of the Lord in a dream appeared to him, saying, “Iōsēph, son of Dauid, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which was conceived in her is from the holy Spirit; and she will bear a son, and you will call his name ‘Iēsous’, for he will save his people from their sins.”

Now all this happened that it may be fulfilled what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Behold, the virgin will have in the belly and bear a son, and they will call his name ‘Emmanouēl’ (which is, being translated, ‘God is with us’).” Then Joseph, having got up from the sleep, did as the messenger of the Lord commanded him and took his wife, and was not knowing her until she bore her son, the firstborn, and he called his name ‘Iēsous’.

And Iēsous having been born in Bethleem of Ioudaia in the days of Hērōdes the king, behold, mages from the east came to Hierosolyma, saying, “Where is he who was born king of the Ioudaians? For we saw his star at the rising, and have come to homage him.” And Hērōdes the king, having heard, was agitated, and all Hierosolyma with him; and having gathered together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he was inquiring from them where the Anointed is born, and they said to him, “In Bethleem of Ioudaia, for thus it has been written through the prophet, ‘And you, Bethleem,’ the land of Iouda, ‘are by no means the least among the leaders of Iouda, for out of you will come one leading, who will shepherd-rule my people Israel.’” Then Hērōdes, privately having called the mages, determined from them the time of the appearing star, and having sent them to Bethleem, he said, “Go, search out carefully for the child, and when you may have found, bring me word so that I also, having come, may homage him.”

And they, having heard the king, went, and behold! The star which they saw at the rising went ahead of them until having come, it stood above where the child was. Now having seen the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy, and having come to the house, they saw the young child with Maria his mother, and having fallen down they homaged him, and having opened their treasure-boxes, they presented to him gifts: gold and frankincense and myrrh.

And having been warned in a dream not to turn back to Hērōdes, by another way they returned to their own country. Now, on their having returned, behold, a messenger of the Lord appears in a dream to Iōsēph, saying, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and be there until I speak to you, for Hērōdes is about to seek the child to destroy him.” And he, having got up, took the child and his mother by night, and withdrew to Egypt, and he was there until the death of Hērōdes, that it might be fulfilled that was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt I called my son.

Matthew’s gospel begins by announcing the “The scroll (traditionally “the book;” i.e. the record) of the geneseōs” (biblos geneseōs) of Jesus. There are many ways of understanding this word. In many translations, geneseōs is usually translated as ‘genealogy’, understanding the phrase to be the heading of the genealogy in 1:2-17. It could also be understood as ‘birth’ (as in 1:18) or the ‘origin’ or ‘beginning’ and be taken as the introduction to 1:2-25 or 1:2-2:23 or or even 1:2-4:16.

Another possibility is that geneseōs is a conscious allusion to the book of Genesis. In other words, Matthew begins his work - rather properly, one could say - at the ‘beginning’: he apparently considers the story of Jesus as the story of a new Genesis creation. This particular phrase itself, biblos geneseōs, appears within that book two times in the Greek Septuagint (Genesis 2:4; 5:1-2):

Αὕτη ἡ βίβλος γενέσεως οὐρανοῦ καὶ γῆς, ὅτε ἐγένετο, ᾗ ἡμέρᾳ ἐποίησεν ὁ Θεὸς τὸν οὐρανὸν καὶ τὴν γῆν καὶ πᾶν χλωρὸν ἀγροῦ πρὸ τοῦ γενέσθαι ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς καὶ πάντα χόρτον ἀγροῦ πρὸ τοῦ ἀνατεῖλαι· οὐ γὰρ ἔβρεξεν ὁ θεὸς ἐπὶ τὴν γῆν, καὶ ἄνθρωπος οὐκ ἦν ἐργάζεσθαι τὴν γῆν, πηγὴ δὲ ἀνέβαινεν ἐκ τῆς γῆς καὶ ἐπότιζεν πᾶν τὸ πρόσωπον τῆς γῆς.

This is the book of the origin of heaven and earth, when it originated, on the day that God made the heaven and the earth and all verdure of the field before it came to be upon the earth and all herbage of the field before it sprang up, for God had not sent rain upon the earth, and there was not a human to till the earth, yet a spring would rise from the earth and water the whole face of the earth.

Αὕτη ἡ βίβλος γενέσεως ἀνθρώπων· ᾗ ἡμέρᾳ ἐποίησεν ὁ Θεὸς τὸν ᾿Αδάμ, κατ᾿ εἰκόνα Θεοῦ ἐποίησεν αὐτόν· 2 ἄρσεν καὶ θῆλυ ἐποίησεν αὐτοὺς καὶ εὐλόγησεν αὐτούς· καὶ ἐπωνόμασε τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ ᾿Αδάμ, ᾗ ἡμέρᾳ ἐποίησεν αὐτούς·

This is the book of the origin of human beings. On the day that God made Adam, he made him according to divine image; male and female he made them, and he blessed them. And he named their name “Adam” on the day that he made them.

Peter Leithart writes:

Dale Allison argues that Matthew’s opening words, BIBLOS GENESEOS, should be translated as “Book of the Genesis,” a translation ambiguous enough to capture all that Matthew intended – an allusion to the first book of the Bible, a new creation theme, an introduction to the genealogy or birth story, etc. GENESIS was, he argues, established as the title of the first book of the Bible by Matthew’s time. He suggests that Matthew 1:1 is a title: “Book of the New Genesis of Jesus Christ….”

He and WD Davies also note (in their jointly authored ICC volume) how the phrase is used in the LXX of Genesis 2:4 and 5:1. There, the phrase does not, as in Matthew 1:1, introduce a genealogy; rather, BIBLOS GENESEOS in Genesis 5:1 introduces a list of descendants and in 2:4 does not (on their reading) introduce any sort of ancestry or genealogy at all.

Let’s assume, though, that Matthew meant to draw a very direct link between his use of the phrase and that of Genesis 2:4 and 5:1. What would that mean?

First, I think it likely that the phrase in Genesis 2:4 does in fact introduce a series of “generations.” This is the use of the similar phrases throughout Genesis. 10:1, for instance, introduces the “generations of Shem, Ham, and Japheth,” and then goes on to list those who are born from them, and the events generated by those generations. In 2:4, the “heavens and earth” are the “parents” who generate (though God’s work) plants, mist, a garden, a man, etc. Adam’s mother is the earth, as his father is the God of heaven; he is taken from the dust, and his Father breathes life into Him from heaven. Genesis 5:1 definitely introduces a list of those “generated” by Adam. Thus, in both places where Genesis uses the same phrase as Matthew, the text goes on to describe those things that come from the one named.

If this is correct, and if Matthew is using the phrase in the same sense, then Jesus is being presented not only as the descendant of those named (though he is that, 1:16) but also as the progenitor of those listed. Israel’s history is initiated by Jesus, even as it also climaxes in Jesus. He is the Alpha and the Omega of this genealogy, the first Man and the Last Man, the beginning Israelite and the final Israelite. This is neatly captured by the chiastic structure of Matthew’s genealogy – moving from Jesus-David-Abraham [v. 1] and then through Abraham [v. 2]-David [v. 6]-Jesus [v. 16].

Jesus is the heavens-and-earth that generates a new world, a new Adamic race, a new Bride; Jesus is the Adam who gives birth to a race of true Sethites.

What’s the question?:confused:

No question. Sorry for not indicating that. :blush:

The very first names which appear in 1:1 (Jesus, David, Abraham) also appear in 1:2-16, but in reverse order. So the very first verse offers a triad and the front half of a chiasmus, as Leithart has explained:

a.) Jesus Christ (1:1b)
[INDENT]b.) David (1:1c)
[INDENT]c.) Abraham (1:1d)
c.) Abraham (1:2)
b.) David (1:6)[/INDENT]
a.) Jesus who is called Christ (1:16)[/INDENT]

The most notable feature of the Matthean genealogy is its carefully-ordered structure. Fourteen generations fall (inclusively) between Abraham and David, between David and the Babylonian captivity, and (at least according to 1:17) between the Babylonian captivity and Jesus. How are we to account for this triadic scheme?

1.) One possibility is to tie the (supposedly) fourteen generations between the captivity and Jesus with Daniel 9:24-27, which prophesies that seven weeks of years will pass between the ‘going forth of the word to restore and build Jerusalem’ and the coming of an anointed one, a king. This explanation however necessitates that the length of a generation be set at thirty-five years in order to work (35 x 14 = 490), which some see as gratituous.

2.) Another connects it with the lunar cycle, which consists of fourteen days of the moon waxing and another fourteen of the moon waning. The idea then is that the period between Abraham and David is that of waxing, with David’s era being the high point; next, the period after David is that of waning, with the Babylonian captivity being the low point; the final period is again that of waning, with its zenith coming with the birth of Jesus. This scheme is attested in Exodus Rabbah on 12:2. There, however, the cycles of the moon, given as 15 + 15 = 30, are explicitly cited.

3.) Because seven but not fourteen is a prominent number in the Bible, a third possibility regards the three fourteens as the equivalent of six sevens, in which case Jesus would stand at the head of the seventh seven, the seventh day of history - in other words, the eternal sabbath. This has a parallel in the Apocalypse of Weeks in 1 Enoch (93:1-10; 91:12-17). In this salvation history is divided into ten weeks: three before Abraham, seven after Abraham, the seventh being the messianic age (cf. Paralipomena of Jeremiah 3.10). However, the counter-argument is that Matthew expressly speaks of three fourteens and not six sevens.

4.) An idea connects the scheme with the pattern found in 2 Baruch 53-74 (the ‘Messiah Apocalypse’), which partitions history into twelve plus two or fourteen epochs of alternating bright and black waters. The problem here is that it is difficult to see how Matthew’s forty-two generations can be linked to a division of history into fourteen epochs.

5.) Pointing out how the reckoning of fourteen generations from Abraham to David is traditional (cf. 1 Chronicles 1-2; Exodus Rabbah on 12:2; and possibly Luke 3), an idea has it that Matthew simply imitated this scheme for the others, given his penchant for the number three and for order in general. This is less objectionable than the other possibilities, but there is still a difficulty in that because Matthew repeatedly lays emphasis on the number fourteen throughout 1:2-17, it may have had some sort of intrinsic, symbolic significance for him.

6.) A tradition found in the Talmud (b. Sanh. 105b; b. Hor. 10b), a tradition interprets the total number of sacrifices which Balak and Balaam offered in Numbers 23 as forty-two, this being the product of 3 x 14 (= 7 bulls + 7 lambs). But there is no other connection between this and Matthew’s genealogy aside from the numbers.

7.) The final possibility which is the most popular today holds gematria as a key. David’s name is composed of three consonants in Hebrew (d-w-d), the numerical value of which amounts to fourteen: d(aleth) + w(aw) + d(aleth) = 4 + 6 + 4 = 14. This explanation has an advantage over the others due to the fact that gematria was practiced in both Jewish and Christian circles close to Matthew’s time (cf. Revelation 13:18), and the numerical interpretation of David’s name can account for both the numbers three and fourteen. The interesting thing we should note here is that the one name with three consonants and the value of fourteen is the fourteenth name on the list. In addition, this name is mentioned immediately before the genealogy (1:1), and twice at its conclusion (1:17), and that it is honored by the title “king.” In the eyes of many scholars, this effectively rules out coincidence.

There is the question of how Matthew composed the genealogical list. Fr. Raymond Brown once proposed that Matthew had at his disposal two Jewish genealogies in Greek: one covered the pre-monarchical period and closely resembled the lists in 1 Chronicles 2 and Ruth 4, and the other was a popular genealogy of the royal Davidic line, which contained (with omssions) the names of the Judahite kings and the descendants of Zerubbabel. According to him, Matthew must have noticed that the pre-monarchical list contained fourteen names between Abraham and David, and again that there were fourteen names in the monarchical section. Furthermore, he noticed that if he added Joseph’s and Jesus’ names in the post-exilic list he would arrive at the same number, so Matthew, with his predilection for numbers, and informed by the numerical value of David’s name, adopted the scheme.

W.C. Davies and Dale Allison, however, disagree with Brown’s scenario. They argue that there is no forceful necessity to postulate a pre-monarchical genealogical list and that an editorial use of 1 Chronicles 1-2 suffices to explain Matthew’s list. They also argue that the numerical scheme is of Matthew’s own devising instead of something that he had merely cribbed from his sources. Their theory was that, in agreement with Brown, Matthew had an originally Jewish list of monarchical and post-monarchical Davidids. Contra Brown, however, they also imagine Matthew drawing upon the genealogies of 1 Chronicles 1-2 and the tradition of counting fourteen generations between Abraham and David. Partly out of a fondness of symmetry and again due to gematria, and in the conviction that salvation history could be neatly divided into epochs of equal account (something which, as we have seen in the various theories above, was a common Jewish trope), Matthew imposed the number fourteen upon the list behind 1:6b-16. In doing so, however, Matthew had to excise some names: at least four kings were omitted from the monarchical period (Ahaziah, Jehoash, Amaziah, Jehoiachim) and two seem to have been added to the post-exilic period (Joseph, Jesus).

The artificial manipulation of numbers for edifying ends was already an established practice in Jewish tradition, and Matthew is here doing it himself. The later rabbis themselves had a tendency to reduce and add numbers to the very same to draw out symbolic meanings, especially when they are near alike. In the Mishnah ('Avot 5.1-6) reference is made to the ten sayings by which the world was made, the ten generations from Adam to Noah and another ten from Noah to Abraham, the ten wonders wrought for the Israelites in Egypt, the ten wonders wrought by the sea, the ten plagues of Egypt, the ten instances when the Israelites have tested God, the ten wonders done in the temple, and the ten things created on the eve of the Sabbath.

So… are you having a two part discussion with yourself?:stuck_out_tongue:

He is using this as a forum to post important theoretical data that is used by scholars in the interpretation of Matthew.

And… :confused:

And that’s a good thing, because presumably some people can benefit from it. This isn’t a forum only for questions and answers. It’s a forum for discussion and sharing of information. That’s why the description of it in the “Apologetics” section says “Bible versions, interpreting passages, study tools, commentaries.”

Pretty much. Which as of late seems to be the only thing I’m good at, if my other threads are of any indication. :stuck_out_tongue:

More specifically, this is a sort of sandbox where I tackle the birth narratives in Matthew and (later) Luke. If anything this is where I share what I’ve found. Might be ultimately useless knowledge, but I’m just a stickler for this kind of stuff. My track record at keeping threads is pretty horrible, but I’ll try my best.

Could this be used as an argument for a Pharisiac Jewish authorship of Matthew?

Jewish authorship maybe. As for ‘Pharisaic’, I don’t think too likely given how “the Pharisees” are not exactly the best of characters in his gospel. (All four record disagreements between Pharisees and Jesus, but they have somewhat of a more negative impression in Matthew and John compared to Mark or Luke.)

That’s the general Catholic reading I think. Most of the content of the gospels is (as it were) written with the OT always consciously in mind as the “backdrop” or default overall context: rarely, if ever, do we find anything contained therein that has no source in or relation to the OT. Certainly that should never be the assumption when interpreting. To claim, e.g., that St. Matthew wrote these words at the introduction of his Gospel without realizing its significance vis-a-vis the OT (which begins with “In the beginning” and has a parallel a little while later that picks up the subject of genealogy spefically (Ch.2, v.4)) is, imho, completely incredible: it’s the line in my mind that divides biblical scholars properly so-called from biblical critics masquerading as scholars.

That the allusion or parallel being drawn is a conscious and deliberate one is, I think, made obvious or rather explicit by the introduction to St. John’s Gospel, which is, practically speaking, another Creation account.


Matthew states that Jesus is the “son of David.” As we’ve seen, for Matthew David is such an important figure that his name is a crucial element in the genealogy, and with good reason: many (but by no means all) messianic ideas in Second Temple Judaism have the messiah being related to David in some fashion, either by being a member of the Davidic line or by being reminiscent of the old king (but not necessarily a descendant). In keeping with this Matthew names David immediately after proclaiming Jesus as “Christ” (i.e. Messiah).

After David comes Abraham. It is slightly confusing as to whether “son of Abraham” refers to Jesus or David, but the overall intent would still be the same. “Son of Abraham” is an identity marker equivalent to ‘Jew’ (cf. Matthew 3:9; John 8:33-41). The inference of Matthew’s incipit is thus that Jesus is the Jewish Messiah.

The term “son of David” was a standard messianic title for the later rabbis (cf. b. Sanhedrin 97a-98a), and a titular use may already be attested in the 1st century BC (cf. Psalms of Solomon 17). Developing out of older expressions such as “sprout of Jesse” (Isaiah 11:10) and “shoot (of David)” (Jeremiah 23:5; 33:15; Zechariah 3:8; 6:12; also 4QPatrBless 3; 4QFlor 1,11-12; 4QpIsa[sup]a[/sup] frags. 7-10, 11-17 for the use of the title in Qumran literature), the title became the focus of a rich tradition. By the time of Jesus, the dominant, although not exclusive, expectation was that the messianic king would be in a way a ‘son of David’. A deliverer was expected who would fulfill the promises in 2 Samuel 7, which accounts for the early Christian emphasis of Jesus’ claimed Davidic lineage; cf. Acts 2:29-36; 13:22-23; Romans 1:3-4; 2 Timothy 2:8; Revelation 5:5; 22:16; Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the Ephesians 18.2; 20:2.

Out of all the evangelists, Matthew lays the most stress on Jesus’ being the “son of David,” a term which appears nine times within his gospel (1:1, 20; 9:27; 12:23; 15:22; 20:30, 21; 21:9, 15). The title and its associations are particularly prominent in chapters 1-2: David is repeatedly mentioned (1:6, 17) and huge importance is laid upon Bethlehem, the city of David (2:1-8, 16).

See, O Lord, and raise for them their king, the son of Dauid,
at the time which you chose, O God, to rule over Israel your servant.
And gird him with strength to shatter in pieces unrighteous rulers,
to purify Ierousalem from nations that trample her down in destruction,
in wisdom of righteousness, to drive out sinners from the inheritance,
to smash the arrogance of the sinner like a potter’s vessel,
to shatter all their substance with an iron rod,
to destroy the lawless nations by the word of his mouth,
that, by his threat, nations flee from his presence,
and to reprove sinners with the thought of their hearts.

And he shall gather a holy people whom he shall lead in righteousness,
and he shall judge the tribes of the people
that has been sanctified by the Lord, his God.
And he shall not allow injustice to lodge in their midst any longer,
nor shall there dwell with them any person who knows evil;
for he shall know them, that all are their God’s sons.
And he shall distribute them according to their tribes upon the land,
and no resident alien and alien shall sojourn among them any longer.
He shall judge peoples and nations in the wisdom of his righteousness.
[RIGHT]Interlude on strings[/RIGHT]

And he shall have the peoples of the nations to be subject to him under his yoke,
and he shall glorify the Lord in the mark of all the earth,
and he shall purify Ierousalem in holiness as it was at the beginning
so that nations may come from the end of the earth to see his glory,
bringing as gifts her sons who are exhausted,
and to see the glory of the Lord with which God has glorified her.
And he shall be a righteous king, taught by God, over them,
And there shall be no injustice in his days in their midst,
for all shall be holy, and their king the anointed of the Lord.
For he shall not put his hope in horse and rider and bow,
nor shall he multiply for himself gold and silver for war,
nor shall he gather hopes from a multitude of people for the day of war.
The Lord himself is his king, the hope of him who is strong through hope in God,
and he shall have pity on all the nations before him in fear.

For he shall strike the earth with the word of his mouth forever;
he shall bless the people of the Lord in wisdom with joy.
And he himself shall be pure from sin so that he may rule a great people,
that he may rebuke rulers and remove sinners by the strength of his word.
And he shall not weaken in his days, relying on his God;
for God has made him strong in the holy spirit
and wise in the counsel of understanding with strength and righteousness.
And the blessing of the Lord shall be with him in strength,
and he shall not weaken.
His hope shall be in the Lord,
and who can prevail against him?
He shall be strong in his works and mighty in fear of God,
Shepherding the flock of the Lord faithfully and righteously,
and he shall not let any among them become weak in their pasture.
And he shall lead all of them in equity,
and there shall be no arrogance among them,
that any one of them should be oppressed.
This is the majesty of the king of Israel, which God knew,
to raise him up over the house of Israel to discipline it.

His words will be more refined than costly gold, the finest.
In the congregations he will discerningly judge the tribes of a sanctified people;
his words are as words of the holy in the midst of sanctified peoples.
Happy are those who shall live in those days,
to see the good things of Israel that God shall accomplish in the congregation of his tribes.
May God hasten his pity upon Israel;
may he deliver us from the uncleanness of profane enemies.
The Lord himself is our king forever and ever.

  • Psalm of Solomon 17.21-46 (NETS)

I believe the birth narratives are true and really happend.

Is it smart to believe the bible?

The Doctors of the Catholic Church for almost 2,000 years believed the birth narratives.

Who is smarter–them or present day scholars such as Raymond Brown who sometimes sound like they doubt them?

Not exactly on-topic, but this: I understand what you’re saying and agree with it (even if we may have some slight divergences in our reading), but who are you talking to? I don’t know, whenever we meet you seem to say the same thing. Not that there’s anything bad with it, but really.

I hope you don’t mind me asking, but I noticed that you only comment on a certain portion of what I write instead of the whole. I can’t blame you since writing short, concise posts isn’t really my forte (God help me gain that skill), but mind reading the whole thing? Or at least quote that certain portion you’re replying to. Without it (I’ll be frank) your reply at this point almost kinda seems rather abruptly non-sequitur. Please don’t construe this as an angry rant or anything of the sort - I was just wondering is all.

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