Sunday, November 30, 2008

Advent Study- 30 November- Updated

Day 1 can be found here.

As threatened, er, I mean, promised, today begins our Advent Study on Matthew 1:1-17.
First, an introduction to Matthew and the reading itself and then every day we will look at the individuals in Matthew's genealogy and focus on the following questions:

  1. - who are they?
  2. - where are they from?
  3. - what place they have-
  • in the Biblical text,
  • in the story of salvation
  • and in relation to Jesus specifically.

Each day we will look at three of the individuals in the genealogy. I will take information from Eastern Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant sources. You are welcome to join us with your discussion and thoughts. Hopefully you will find something that is of interest along the way. You might also enjoy this link highlighted from the folks at MereComments on the subject of Advent.

Background Information

Matthew (meaning “gift of God”) is identified as a tax collector (9:9, 10:3) In other accounts of his meeting with Jesus he is called Levi. This double naming has lead some to believe there were two different persons. Also, because Matthew was written in Greek and because there are certain references that point to a date of writing between 80-90 C.E. some believe the book was written by an unknown Greek-Speaking Jewish Christian. (Harper Collins Study Bible) Still, many point to the Jewish tradition of “double naming” (e.g. Simon/Peter, Saul/Paul) and when Jesus called Matthew in 9:9 he renounced his old profession a(tax collector) and became a disciple. (Orthodox Study Bible) Also the dates do not exclude the writing of this Gospel by Matthew himself as tradition holds. (Harper Collins) None of this is particularly important to our study but is presented for the sake of informational purposes only.


Matthew divides the genealogy lit. “origin” (Greek- Genesis) into three sections:

a. Abraham to David
b. David to the Babylonian captivity
c. Babylonian captivity to Jesus

Abraham, David and the Babylonian captivity are key figures/points in Jewish history. The coming of Messiah is another very important event.

"The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham."

Three purposes of Matthew are reflected in this opening line:

1. Jesus is the authentic and legitimate king of God’s people.

a. Genealogies were especially important to the Jewish people. Israel’s king had to be a Jew, and not a foreigner (Deuteronomy 17:15). Later on it was revealed that he must be a descendant of David (2 Samuel 7:14). When the Jews returned from the Babylonian captivity, it was important for these returned exiles to show that their roots were Jewish and could be traced through the genealogies. No one could serve as priest whose name could not be found in the genealogical records (Ezra 2:62). Bruner writes that the famous rabbi Hillel was proud that he could trace his genealogy all the way back to King David. He further indicates that Josephus began his autobiography with his own pedigree. Then there was Herod the Great, who was half-Jew and half-Edomite. Obviously his name was not in the official genealogies, and thus he ordered that the records be destroyed. If he couldn’t be found there, he did not want to be upstaged by anyone else.
b. Divides ancestors into three groups of fourteen to symbolically denote the Royal descent from King David
Wordplay – The Hebrew letter “D” stands for the letter 4, the “V” represents the number “6” thus DaViD has the numerical value of 14 (4+6+4) (Douglas R.A. Hare – Interpretation)

2. Jesus was a Jew-
a. Son of David but also Son of Abraham. The “ultimate Jew” in whom Israels deepest hopes would find fulfillment.
Abraham was the ancestor of the Jews but also “a multitude of nations.” i.e Gentiles
b. Inclusion of Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and Bathsheba. Two were obviously non-Jewish and two were regarded so in Jewish tradition- Gentiles and/or sinners

3. New Genesis-
Matthew begins, “This is the record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Matthew 1:1). The expression, “the record of the genealogy” in the Greek text reads, somewhat literally, “the book of the genesis of Jesus Christ.” It is nearly identical with the Greek translations of Genesis 2:4 and 5:1:
This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created—when the Lord God made the earth and heavens (Genesis 2:4).
(More literally from the Greek: “This is the book of the genesis of the heavens and the earth … .”)
This is the record of the family line of Adam. When God created mankind, he made them in the likeness of God (Genesis 5:1).
(More literally from the Greek: “This is the book of the genesis/generations of mankind/Adam … .”)This seems very similar to John’s introduction to his Gospel in the first verse of chapter 1: “In the beginning was the Word… .” Surely John is linking the beginning of his Gospel (and, more importantly, our Lord) with Genesis 1 and the creation. Here in our text, Matthew’s words appear to point us to the first genealogy in the Bible which is recorded in Genesis 5. In Genesis 5, Adam has just sinned. God warned Adam that if he (they) ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil he (they) would die (Genesis 2:17). One purpose of the first genealogy, then, is to dramatically underscore the truthfulness of God’s Word. Everyone in Adam’s genealogy died, just as God said. Now, in almost identical words, Matthew introduces his Gospel with the first genealogy of the New Testament. Not only are we reminded that all in this genealogy died; Matthew’s words seem to hint that in Jesus there begins a whole new race of people who will never die. Genealogies almost always contain the record of those who have died. Our Lord’s genealogy is that, but it begins a new line, the line of all who are “in Christ” by faith, who thereby possess the gift of eternal life. (more)

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