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New Testament Lesson 2 (KD): Matthew 1 & Luke 1

Posted by Karl D. on January 2, 2011

Gospel Doctrine
Lesson: Matthew & Luke 1
Reading: Matthew 1, Luke 1

PDF Version of Notes

1 A Note

My notes don’t cover very much of Luke which I am sure will be the focus of the lesson for many if not most. Unfortunately, I am out of prep time for this week. My apologies.

2 Approach

These represent the notes I made during my reading of the scriptural text for this lesson. It is not a lesson outline or a lesson plan but really notes about issues and questions that struck me as interesting during my reading. Consequently, the notes do not have a conclusion and very little mention of application. I like to let those things arise while I teach.

3 The Gospel According to Matthew

Traditional attribution (from the second century) names Matthew, the tax collector and member of the twelve, as the author of this gospel.1

Modern scholarship is skeptical of the traditional attribution. In part, I think, scholars feel that the author detectable from the contents is unlikely to be someone like Matthew. Raymond Brown, in his introductory commentary on the New Testament, summarizes the scholarly consensus about what kind of author is detectable from the content of the book as follows:2

A Greek-speaker, who knew Aramaic or Hebrew or both and was not an eyewitness of Jesus’ ministry, drew on Mark, and on a collection of sayings of the Lord [(usually called Q)] …, as well as other available traditions, oral or written. Probably a Jewish Christian.

Brown also suggests that some who are skeptical of the traditional attribution do allow for the possibility that some material from Matthew may have found its way into the gospel we call Matthew.3

Personally, I don’t think it is hugely important whether Matthew did or did not write the gospel. On the other hand, I do think there is one potentially important and I think devotionally useful aspect to the modern scholarly view of Matthew’s sources. I think it is potentially useful (from a devotional and spiritual perspective) that Matthew uses Mark as a source.

  • Suppose Mark is a source for Matthew. How might that affect how you read or approach the gospel of Matthew?
  • Personally, it reminds me to look for differences and not always harmonize the accounts. I think one can often see Matthew’s unique perspective, witness, and testimony of Jesus Christ when we focus on the material that is unique to Matthew. I think we gain a better appreciation for Matthew’s overall message when we examine how he structures his account. I think focusing on deviations from the Markan account can yield interesting insight about Jesus and his ministry.

4 The Genealogy of Jesus in Matthew

Read Matthew 1:1-2:

1 The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. 2 Abraham begat Isaac; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat Judas and his brethren;

  • As we encountered last week, John 1:1 starts off with “in the beginning” which certainly reminds the reader of Genesis. What about in Matthew? Do the opening verses of Matthew call to mind any other scriptural accounts?
  • Do you get a Genesis vibe here as well? Is it fair to say that Matthew is describing the Genesis of Jesus?
  • What is Matthew’s goal here? After reading the genealogy what should the reader know?
  • Is it important that in these first two verses Matthew informs us that Jesus is the Christ, The Son of David, and Son of Abraham?
  • Why is it important that Jesus is the Son of David? Why does Matthew want the reader to know that from very beginning? How is the designation of Jesus as the Christ related to being a son of David?
  • One important consideration is what “son of David” meant in the first century. Consider the following verse from the non-canonical Psalms of Solomon (probably written sometime in the first century BCE):4

23 Behold, O Lord, and raise up unto them their king, the son of David, At the time in the which Thou seest, O God, that he may reign over Israel Thy servant 24 And gird him with strength, that he may shatter unrighteous rulers, 25 And that he may purge Jerusalem from nations that trample (her) down to destruction. Wisely, righteously 26 he shall thrust out sinners from (the) inheritance, He shall destroy the pride of the sinner as a potter’s vessel. With a rod of iron he shall break in pieces all their substance, 27 He shall destroy the godless nations with the word of his mouth;

  • The preceding verses are not from a scriptural text. However, I think these verses do give us some insight into what the phrase, “Son of David”, meant around the time of Christ. Based on these verses, what do you think the phrase, “Son of David”, means here in this context?
  • Is it important that Jesus is the “son of Abraham?” Is Matthew trying to connect Jesus to the covenant? Is it hinting at Jesus as the ultimate fulfillment of the covenant or is that overreaching? Is it simply to emphasize Jesus’ Jewishness and his prominence as a Jew genealogically speaking (look, he can trace his genealogy back to Abraham)?
  • Some commentators see a correspondence between the beginning and end of Matthew and the book of Chronicles. Malina and Rohrbough explain the connection as follows:5

Matthew’s work likewise follows the pattern of the last book of the Hebrew Bible, Chronicles. For Chronicles (called in Hebrew “The Book of Days” = genealogy) begins with a genealogy and ends with an edict from one with power over “all the kingdoms of the earth” (2 Chron 36:22-23; used by Ezra 1:1-2) …

  • Suppose, the connection between Matthew and Chronicles is real. Does that affect how we should read or understand the gospel of Matthew?

5 There are Ladies in the Genealogy

One of the odd features of Jesus’ genealogy in Matthew is that four woman besides Mary are mentioned:6

  1. Tamar (Thamar)
  2. Rahab (Rachab)
  3. Ruth
  4. Bathsheba the wife of Uriah

Matthew could have written the genealogy without mentioning these women so their inclusion strikes me as important. Why mention these women?

  • What do these women have in common? Is Mary being compared to these women? Is Mary like them over some dimension? Does the inclusion of these women tell us something important about Jesus and his mission?
  • Potential commonality of the women:
    1. Sinners
    2. Gentile or foreigner
    3. Weird marriages
    4. Sacrifice
    5. Initiative
    6. Each with a connection to Jesus or Mary
    7. All God’s instruments in bringing about the “salvation” of his people

5.1 Sinners

Brown7 mentions that this is the first known proposal or explanation for the inclusion and commonality of these women (it goes all the why back to Jerome).

  • Does this work? Do all the women have this in common? Do any of the woman have this in common?
  • I actually don’t think this one works well. While it is certainly possible to describe each of the women as sinners, it is never the point or the focus of their narratives in the Old Testament. For example, it is certainly not the focus of the Tamar narrative. Judah even admits her relative righteousness towards the end of the narrative (Genesis 38:26):

(26) And Judah acknowledged them, and said, She hath been more righteous than I; because that I gave her not to Shelah my son. And he knew her again no more.

  • Additionally, most Mormons will reject this possibility because it is rather uncommon for Mormons to read Ruth in a scandalous way.
  • Suppose that was Matthew’s understanding of the commonality. Why would Matthew explicitly mention a group of women sinners in the genealogy?
  • It could certainly point to the atonement of Jesus Christ. It is kind of a cool image; Jesus was sent to redeem his very family. In other words, the family of Jesus is a family of sinners both in a narrow genealogical sense and in the broader sense of all of us.

5.2 Gentile or Foreigner

Martin Luther seems to have favored this possibility:8

  • Does this work? Do all the women have this in common?
  • Rahab was a Canaanite and Ruth is Moabite. I think most scholars believe Tamar was a Canaanite. Bathsheba is not a foreigner, but Uriah is at least associated with foreigners by the Hittite label even though his name is a good Israelite name: “The Lord is my Light.”
  • Problems: How does this relate to Mary? She is not a foreigner. Also, all of these women might be better thought of as converts rather than foreigners. On the other hand, Mary probably did feel like an outsider (or foreigner) in some sense of the word at this point in her life.
  • Suppose that was Matthew’s understanding of the commonality. Why would Matthew include a group of women gentiles in the genealogy? What if they are all converts and that is the commonality?
  • Is it a foreshadowing of Jesus’ universal mission?

5.3 Weird Marriages

Another possibility is that all these women experience strange unions or marriages.

  • Does this work? Do all the women have this in common?
  • Tamar’s marriage with Judah could easily be described as weird or unusual. Rahab was a prostitute so any union involving her would be unusual. Even if you don’t read it scandalously, Ruth’s marriage certainly has something irregular about it (Ruth used her initiative, etc, etc). Bathseba, I can definitely see the weird angle.
  • Suppose that was Matthew’s understanding of the commonality. Why would Matthew include such women? What would this commonality teach as about Jesus or his mission?

5.4 Initiative

Another possibility is that all these women showed great initiative and that initiative ultimately allowed them to play important roles in God’s plan for Israel.

  • Does this work? Do all the women have this in common?
  • Tamar, lots of initiative. Ruth, ditto, Rahab, ditto. Bathsheba, her initiative ensures that Solomon gets the throne. Their stories are all remarkable.
  • Suppose that was Matthew’s understanding of the commonality. Why would Matthew include such women? What would this commonality teach as about Jesus or his mission?

5.5 Sacrifice

The women all sacrifice greatly.

  • Does this work? Do all the women have this in common?
  • Suppose that was Matthew’s understanding of the commonality. Why would Matthew include such women? What would this commonality teach as about Jesus or his mission?

5.6 Each With A Connection to Jesus or Mary

Maybe each apply to Jesus or Mary in a uncommon but important way.

  • Suppose that was Matthew’s understanding of the commonality. Why would Matthew include such women? What would this commonality teach as about Jesus or his mission?

5.7 Salvation

Maybe the point is that all these women were God’s instruments in bringing about the “salvation” of his people. Given the status of women in this time period, this serves to remind the reader that God works for “salvation in surprising ways.”9

  • What do you think of this possibility?

5.8 Other

Maybe the commonality is simply that they are women and this previews or hints at the role of women in the gospel of Matthew. Women are important witnesses of Christ in the gospel of Matthew.10

  • What do you think about this possibility?

6 Joseph

Read Matthew 1:18-25

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. 19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily. 20 But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. 21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. 22 Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, 23 Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. 24 Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: 25 And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS.

  • The genealogy serves to inform the reader who Jesus is. How do the rest of these verses (18-25) further inform the reader about Jesus and his identity?
  • One thing that we learn from these verses is that Joseph was a righteous man. Do you think it is important that we know that Joseph was righteous?
  • Do you think that one of the primary messages of this pericope is that “God is with us” now in a way that he wasn’t before? Is that a misreading or not quite right? Why or why not?
  • Is it important that Joseph is called a “son of David?” Does it help explain why Matthew included this story where Joseph is the focus of the narrative?

7 The Gospel According to Luke

Traditional attribution (from the second century) names Luke, a physician and occasional missionary companion of Paul, as the author of this gospel.

Modern scholarship, like with the gospel of Matthew, is skeptical of the traditional attribution. Raymond Brown, in his introductory commentary on the New Testament, summarizes the scholarly consensus about what kind of author is detectable from the text as follows:11

An educated Greek-speaker and skilled writer who knew the Jewish Scriptures in Greek and who was not an eyewitness of Jesus’ ministry. He drew on Mark and a collection of the sayings of the Lord (Q), as well as some other available traditions, oral or written. Probably not raised a Jew, but perhaps a convert to Judaism before he become a Christian. Not a Palestinian.

Note also that modern scholarship seems to reject the notion that there is internal textual evidence (i.e., the vocabulary of the author) supporting the hypothesis that the author was a physician.12

8 Luke’s Dedicatory Preface

Read Luke 1:1-4:

1 Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us, 2 Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word; 3 It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, 4 That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed. (King James Version)

1 Since many have undertaken to set down an orderly account of the events that have been fulfilled among us, 2 just as they were handed on to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, 3 I too decided, after investigating everything carefully from the very first, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 so that you may know the truth concerning the things about which you have been instructed. (NRSV)

  • Note: Theophilus means “friend of God.”
  • Why did Luke write his account? What is his goal or purposes?
  • Why does Luke write his gospel despite the fact that he refers to the existence of other accounts? Why weren’t the other accounts sufficient? How does Luke feel about the accounts that have preceded him? Does he think their quality is poor?
  • What does the preface tell us about Luke’s approach?
  • What other sources was Luke aware of? What is the relation between these existing accounts and the eyewitness report?

Footnotes:

1 Powell, Mark Allan, 2000, “Matthew” in HarperCollins Bible Commentary, Harper & Row, 868.

2 Raymond, Brown E., 1997, An Introduction to the New Testament, Doubleday, 172.

3 Raymond, Brown E., 1997, An Introduction to the New Testament, Doubleday, 172.

4 Brown, Raymond, E., 1979, Birth of the Messiah: A Commentary on the Infancy Narratives in Matthew and Luke, Image Books, 67.

5 Malina, Bruce J. and Richard Rohrbaugh, 2003, Social Science Commentary on the Synoptic Gospels, Fortress Press, 29.

6 It is not entirely without precedent in the Old Testament. For example, Tamar is mentioned in a genealogical list in 1 Chr 2:4.

7 Brown, Raymond, E., 1979, Birth of the Messiah: A Commentary on the Infancy Narratives in Matthew and Luke, Image Books.

8 Brown, Raymond, E., 1979, Birth of the Messiah: A Commentary on the Infancy Narratives in Matthew and Luke, Image Books.

9 Powell, Mark Allan, 2000, “Matthew” in HarperCollins Bible Commentary, Harper & Row, 871.

10 Powell, Mark Allan, 2000, “Matthew” in HarperCollins Bible Commentary, Harper & Row, 868.

11 Raymond, Brown E., 1997, An Introduction to the New Testament, Doubleday, 226.

12 Craddock, Fred B., 2000, “Luke” in HarperCollins Bible Commentary, Harper & Row, 925.

2 Responses to “New Testament Lesson 2 (KD): Matthew 1 & Luke 1”

  1. Rosebud said

    Thanks again!

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