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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges

Matthew 1




κατὰ ΄αθθαῖον is adopted in preference to κατὰ ΄ατθαῖον by the best recent editors on the authority of א BD. The evidence, however, is not conclusive, for in the text even these MSS. admit the other forms in some instances. See Scrivener’s . p. 488.

Verse 1

1. Βίβλος γενέσεως, ‘Book of generation,’ i.e. the pedigree extracted from the public archives which were carefully preserved and placed under the special care of the Sanhedrin. The expression recalls, perhaps designedly, Genesis 5:1 αὕτη ἡ βίβλος γενέσεως ἀνθρώπων.

[1] The genealogy is an answer to the question which would be asked by every Jew of any one who claimed to be the Messiah, ‘Is he of the house of David?’ for by no name was the Messiah more frequently spoken of by Jews and by foreigners (see ch. Matthew 15:22), and designated in the Talmud, than by that of the Son of David.

[2] Both this genealogy and that in St Luke’s Gospel trace Joseph’s descent. But see below, Matthew 1:16.

[3] St Matthew traces the pedigree from Abraham, the Father of the Chosen Race, through David, from whose house the Messiah was expected; St Luke, true to the scope of his Gospel, traces it from the common Father of Jew and Gentile.

[4] St Matthew gives the royal succession, St Luke, the family lineage. This accounts for many variations in names.

[5] This genealogy descends from father to son, and is therefore probably the more exact transcript of the original document. St Luke’s ascends from son to father.

Verse 2

2. τὸν Ἰσαάκ. The article is generally used with indeclinable proper names for the sake of perspicuity. See Winer, p. 141.

Verse 3

3. Θάμαρ. St Matthew also differs from St Luke in naming women in the genealogy. Of the four mentioned two—Rahab and Ruth—are foreigners, and three—Thamar, Rahab and Bathsheba—were stained with sin. The purpose of the Evangelist in recording their names may be to show that He who came to save ‘that which was lost,’ the Friend of sinners, does not scorn such descent.

Verse 5

5. ΣαλμὼνἸεσσαί. According to the received chronology the space of time between Salmon and Jesse was not less than 400 years. In that space there are only four generations recorded in the text. Either then the received chronology is wrong or the genealogy not complete. In all probability the former is at fault, and the shortening of the period named would bring ‘Jewish history into harmony with Egyptian and with the internal evidence of the Israelitish history itself.’ See Art. ‘Genealogy’ in Bib. Dict. for this and other points.

Verse 6

6. Δαυεὶδ τὸν βασιλέα. A special hint of Christ the king, of whom David was the type.

ἐκ τῆς τοῦ Οὐρίου. For the omission of γυναικὸς cp. ‘Hectoris Andromache,’ Æn. III. 319: such ellipse is natural where there would be no difficulty in supplying the missing word.

It is at this point that St Luke’s genealogy branches off. According to natural descent Joseph was a descendant of Nathan, not of Solomon. The genealogies meet again in the names of Zorobabel and Salathiel. See below, Matthew 1:12.

Verse 8

8. Ἰωρὰμ δὲ ἐγέννησεν τὸι Ὀζείαν (Uzziah). The names of Ahaziah, Joash and Amaziah are here omitted; see note, Matthew 1:17.

Verse 11

11. Ἰωσείας δὲ ἐγέννησεν τὸν Ἰεχονίαν (Jehoiakim); but in the next v. Jechonias = Jehoiachin. A step is thus wanting in the genealogy, which is supplied by a very early though probably not genuine reading: Ἰωσείας δὲ ἐγέννησεν τὸν Ἰωακείμ· Ἰωακεὶμ δὲ ἐγέννησεν τὸν Ἰεχονίαν (Jehoiachin). The insertion would make fifteen steps in this portion of the genealogy and would not remove the difficulty unless τοὺς ἀδελφοὺς were placed after Ἰωακείμ.

Ἰεχονίαν καὶ τοὺς ἀδελφοὺς αὐτοῦ. No brethren of Jehoiachin are mentioned, but Jehoiakim had three (1 Chronicles 3:15): a further indication that Ἰεχονίας in this verse = Jehoiakim.

ἐπὶ τῆς μετοικεσίας Βαβυλῶνος. ‘At the time of the migration or transportation to Babylon’ (606 B.C.). For ἐπὶ in this sense cp. ἐπὶ Κλαυδίου, Acts 11:28; ἐπὶ ἀρχιερέως Ἄννα, Luke 3:2. This use of the preposition comes from the conception that one event rests on, but not wholly on, a person or other events. μετοικεσία, the LXX. word for the Babylonish exile, for which the classical μετοικία is also used. For the genitive Βαβυλῶνος see Winer, p. 234. Cp. French ‘chemin de Paris,’ road to Paris.

Verse 12

12. Ἰεχονίας ἐγέννησεν τὸν Σαλαθιήλ. Jehoiachin had no children of his own, ‘write ye this man childless’ (Jeremiah 22:30). Salathiel was the son of Neri (Luke), but heir to Jehoiachin.

Verse 13

13. Ζοροβάβελ δὲ ἐγέννησεν τὸν Ἀβιούδ. Here a step is omitted, Abiud—the Hodaiah of 1 Chronicles 3:24—being the grandson of Zerubbabel. Rhesa, who is named as Zerubbabel’s son (Luke 3:27), is conjectured to be a title (Rhesa or Rosh = a Prince): in that case the text in Luke should run, ‘which was the son of Rhesa Zorobabel.’ The Juda of Luke is the same as Abiud.

Verse 16

16. Ἰακὼβ δὲ ἐγέννησεν τὸν Ἰωσήφ. ‘Joseph which was the son of Heli’ (Luke), see last note; probably Joseph was the son of Heli and the heir to Jacob. It is conjectured with much probability that Jacob was Mary’s father. In that case, although both genealogies show Joseph’s descent, they are in fact equally genealogies of Mary’s family.

Verse 17

17. This division into three sets, each containing fourteen steps of descent, is an instance of a practice familiar to readers of Jewish antiquities. Lightfoot says, ‘They do so very much delight in such kind of concents, that they oftentimes screw up the strings beyond the due measure and stretch them till they crack.’ Such a system necessitates the omission of steps in the descent: see notes Matthew 1:8; Matthew 1:13.

Verse 18

18. Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ. See Matthew 1:21.

Χριστοῦ. As a classical word χριστὸς is very rare (Æsch. Prom. Vinct. 480 and Eur. Hipp. 516 are among the few instances where it occurs) and thus belongs to a class of words that have passed into Christian use without any debasing pagan associations. In the LXX. it is frequent as a translation of the Hebrew Mashiach (anointed). To the Jew it would suggest the thought of [1] Prophet, μὴ ἅψησθε τῶν χριστῶν μου καὶ ἐν τοῖς προφήταις μου μὴ πονηρεύεσθε, Psalms 104:15; [2] Priest, καὶ εἰσοίσει ὁ ἱερεὺς ὁ χριστὸς ἀπὸ τοῦ αἵματος, Leviticus 4:16; [3] King, ποιῶν ἔλεος τῷ χριστῷ αὐτοῦ τῷ Δαβίδ, Psalms 18:50. As a proper name it was the Messiah, the Χριστὸς ἡγούμενος of Daniel 9:25—the only passage where the term Mashiach is applied directly to the coming Deliverer. In the N.T. the Hebrew form is used twice (John 1:41; John 4:25), where it is explained: εὑρήκαμεν τὸν ΄εσσίαν ὅ ἐστιν μεθερμηνευόμενον χριστός (ch. John 1:42) and οἶδα ὅτι ΄εσσίας ἔρχεται ὁ λεγόμενος χριστός. Note that one title—Messiah or Christ—has been adopted almost to the exclusion of others quite as common in the O.T., ‘The Branch,’ ‘He that cometh’ (ὁ ἐρχόμενος, Hebr. Habba), ‘The Prophet.’ This is partly due to the great influence of Daniel’s prophecy, partly to the appropriateness of the title to the Son of David.

μνηστευθείσης, ‘betrothed.’ Among the Jews the betrothal took place a year before marriage, and during the interval the betrothed maiden remained with her own family. But from the day of betrothal the pair were regarded as man and wife. For the genitive absolute μνηστ.… ΄αρίας instead of the nominative as subject to εὑρέθη see Winer, p. 260.

΄αρίας. The Hebrew form is Miriam.

Verses 18-25


Luke 1:26-56; Luke 2:4-7

St Mark and St John give no account of the birth of Jesus, St Luke narrates several particulars not recorded by St Matthew, [1] the annunciation, [2] Mary’s salutation of Elizabeth in a city of Juda (or Juttah), and [3] the journey from Galilee to Bethlehem.

Verse 19

19. δίκαιος ὤν, ‘since he was a just man,’ i.e. one who observed the law, and, therefore, feeling bound to divorce Mary. But two courses were open to him. He could either summon her before the law-courts to be judicially condemned and punished, or he could put her away by a bill of divorcement before witnesses, but without assigning cause. This is meant by λάθρα ἀπολῦσαι αὐτήν, the more merciful course which Joseph resolved to adopt. The tradition of mediæval art that Joseph was an old man at this time rests on no scriptural evidence, but the fact that he disappears from the Gospel history after Luke 2:51, and the inference that he died before our Lord’s ministry began are adduced in support of that view.

καὶ μὴ θέλων. καὶ appears to have a restrictive force and to be equivalent to καίτοι. See Jelf, 759. 3, and Campbell’s Soph. Introd. § 25. 2. 6. Cp. ὦ στέφανε χαίρων ἄπιθι καί σʼ ἄκων ἐγὼ | λείπω, Aristoph. Eq. 1250, and καὶ θεὸς ἐμμὶ καὶ οὐ δύναμαί σε διώκειν, Bion, Id. I. 53. In all these passages, however, it is better to see the restrictive or adversative force not in the connecting particle but in the contrasted clauses and to regard καὶ as simply conjunctive. See Winer, 545.

μὴ θέλων, ‘since he was unwilling,’ quum nollet. In modern Greek μὴ is always the negative used with participles. Perhaps the origin of the usage may be traced to the fact that the participle generally explains the motive or condition of an action and so would require μὴ rather than οὐ. Then from the tendency to grammatical uniformity the usage became universal. In the N.T. there is a close approach in this respect to the rule of modern Greek.

δειγματίσαι, ‘to display,’ ‘exhibit,’ here ‘to expose in open court,’ as opposed to λάθρα ἀπολῦσαι. παραδειγματίσαι—the reading of the received text—is used by Polybius of punishing the guilty for an example to others, II. 60. 7, XV. 32. 5, et alibi, see Schweighäuser sub voc. The simple verb which does not appear to be classical is found in the sense of ‘displaying’ as in a triumph in Colossians 2:15, τὰς ἐξουσίας ἐδειγμάτισεν ἐν παρρησίᾳ, see Bp Lightfoot on the passage. The modern Greek version νὰ θεατρίσῃ conveys the idea of exposure simply.

Verse 20

20. ἰδού. Used like the Hebr. hinneh as a particle of transition. See note ch. Matthew 2:7.

κατʼ ὄναρ for classical ὄναρ.

παραλαβεῖν, the technical word for receiving a bride from her parents: καὶ τί ἄν, ἔφη ὁ Σωκράτης, ἐπισταμένην αὐτὴν παρέλαβες (Xen. Œcon.).

Verse 21

21. καλέσεις τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ Ἰησοῦν. Jesus represents the Greek form, while Joshua represents the Hebrew form of the same name. The same Hebrew root occurs in the salutation Hosanna: see note, ch. Matthew 21:9. Joshua who led the Israelites into the Promised Land, and Joshua or Jeshua, who was high priest at the time of the return from the Babylonish Captivity, are types of Jesus Christ in respect both of work and name.

αὐτός, with some emphasis, he will not only preach σωτηρία, but will himself confer it.

σώσει τὸν λαὸν αὐτοῦ ἀπὸ τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν αὐτῶν. An announcement of a spiritual Kingdom. Contrary to the thought of many Jews the salvation which Jesus brought was not to be a saving from the Roman or Herodian rule, but a life protected from sin.

Verse 22

22. ὅλον. For the Hellenistic use of ὄλος in preference to πᾶς cp. French ‘tout’ from totus, adopted rather than any word derived from omnis. Possibly the similarity to Hebr. col (all) may have influenced the Hellenistic writers in their choice.

γέγονεν, ‘has come to pass.’ The Evangelist speaks as a contemporary. The tense is a note of the early date of this gospel.

ἵνα πληρωθῇ. By this formula the Evangelist recognises in the event described a fulfilment of a type or prophecy. It matters little whether we regard ἵνα as [1] final, ‘in order that,’ or [2] by a late use consecutive, ‘so that,’ in other words [1] as marking the conscious intention of the prophet or of God speaking through the prophet, or [2] a reflection of the Evangelist viewing the historical fact in connection with the prophecy—and finding in the prophecy an analogy, if not a definite prediction. For in regard to divine action the intention and result are identical, that is, we cannot conceive of any result being unintentional with God. It has been disputed whether ἵνα is ever used in a consecutive sense. Meyer and Alford deny this use (see his note 1 Thessalonians 5:4), and Winer with perhaps one exception, Revelation 13:13. On the other side see Bp Ellicott on Ephesians 1:17 and Bp Lightfoot on Galatians 5:17, and comp. 1 Thessalonians 5:4. In these and other passages ἵνα undoubtedly marks the result as distinct from conscious purpose. In confirmation of this view take into account [1] The Jewish mode of thought, according to which all results are regarded as purposed by God. The absence of τύχῃ from the N.T. vocabulary is striking evidence of this. [2] The influence of Latin, in which the same particle ut is used to express aim and result. [3] The analogy of the genitive of the infinitive (e.g. τοῦ πιστεύειν) insensibly passing from an idea of aim to that of result. [4] The usage of modern Greek, towards which Hellenistic Greek is a step, which finds νά (ἵνα) too weak to express the idea of purpose and strengthens that particle by the addition of διά, so that διὰ νά = ‘in order that.’ [5] The general tendency of language in a later stage, especially on its popular side, to make special words serve a manifold use.

The use of ἵνα is further extended in Hellenistic Greek

[1] to oblique petition after words of entreaty, command, &c. instead of ὅπως or infinitive. Cp. εἰπὲ ἵνα γένηται, Luke 4:3.

[2] to substantival clauses, where ὅτι or ὡς with the indicative would be the regular classical construction; cp. John 17:3, αὕτη δέ ἐστιν ἡ αἰώνιος ζωή, ἵνα γινώσκωσίν σε κ.τ.λ., and Epict. II. 1. 1, εἰ ἀληθές ἐστι τόδε ἵνα ᾖ ἅμα μὲνπάντα ποιεῖν, si verum hoc est fieri posse &c. (Schweighäuser).

Comp. the indices of Schweighäuser to Epictetus and of Wyttenbach to Plutarch, where examples are given of ἵνα consecutive.

ὑπὸδιά. See note ch. Matthew 2:5.

Verse 23

23. ἡ παρθένος ἐν γαστρὶ ἕξει. Not a Virgin as A.V. but the Virgin: so also the Hebrew, which differs from this quotation only in having the singular ‘she shall call.’ The citation agrees with the LXX. where however the reading varies between ἕξει and λήψεται and between καλέσεις and καλέσουσιν. See Isaiah 7:14.

The historical crisis was this, Ahaz is alarmed by the threatened invasion of Pekah and Rezin—the confederate kings of Samaria and Damascus. Isaiah reassures Ahaz, who hypocritically refuses to ask for a sign. Yet a sign is given. She, who is now unmarried, shall bear a son, probably a scion of the royal house of David; he shall be called Emmanuel, and before he arrives at years of discretion the deliverance shall come, though a heavier distress is at hand.

The prophecy is distinctly Messianic, but the sign in Isaiah is not concerned with the manner of the child’s birth, but with the name, and the deliverance which should happen in his infancy. Therefore, the weight of the reference is to the name ‘Emmanuel’ and to the true Son of David, whose birth was the sign of His people’s deliverance.

μεθερμηνευόμενον, a late word (Polyb. and Diod. Sic.). Cp. τοὺς καλουμένους ἐξτραορδιναρίους ὃ μεθερμηνευόμενον ἐπιλέκτους δηλοῖ. Polyb. VI. 26. 6. The explanation would not of course appear in the original Aramaic gospel.

Verse 25

25. οὐκ ἐγίνωσκεν κ.τ.λ. This expression cannot be considered as in any way decisive of the question, whether the Virgin Mary had or had not children besides our blessed Lord.


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Bibliography Information
"Commentary on Matthew 1:4". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". 1896.

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