Matthew 2

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Matthew 2 is the second chapter of the Gospel of Matthew in the New Testament. It describes the events after the birth of Jesus. The first section deals with the visit of the magi and the attempt by King Herod to kill the infant messiah. The second portion deals with Jesus' Flight into Egypt, and his later return to Nazareth.

Analysis[edit]

The Adoration of the Magi by Bartolomé Estéban Murillo

The chapter is often divided into four sections. The visit of the Magi from 1-12; the flight into Egypt from 13-15; the Massacre of the Innocents from 16-18; and the move to Nazareth from 19-23. Each of these sections is centred on a quotation from the Old Testament, that Matthew sees Jesus fulfilling. The last portion of Matthew 1 is similarly written, and is often seen as part of this same section. Stendhal notes that each of the four quotes in this chapter contain place names, and sees this entire chapter as an apology for why the messiah moved from the important centre of Bethlehem to the minor one of Nazareth.

France notes that the Old Testament quotations in this chapter are "notoriously obscure and unconvincing."[1] Many of them are heavily modified from the originals, with some passages being reversed in meaning. Almost all of them are taken out of context, and presented as prophecy when they were not in the original. The most confusing is that cited in Matthew 2:23, which doesn't seem to exist anywhere in the Old Testament, though Jerome associates it with Isaiah 11:1 where the etymology of Nazareth is derived from the Hebrew word for branch (ne'tser).[2] That the quotations have been so contorted to fit the narrative, is to France and others, clear evidence that the narrative came first, and the quotations were added after. The author of Matthew firmly believed in the accuracy of the narrative he was recording, and would not alter it to make it better fit the prophecies.

As with Matthew 1 most scholars see this chapter as geared towards proving that Jesus is the messiah who was foretold by the prophets. The chapter contains five references to the Old Testament, a greater density than anywhere else in the New Testament. The author of Matthew uses them to try and demonstrate that Jesus matches the predictions of the prophets. Schweizer sees the chapter as being divided into five subsections, each ending with an Old Testament quotation.[3] As with the genealogy of Matthew 1 many scholars feel that this chapter is trying to portray Jesus as the culmination of Jewish history with the author of Matthew relating events in Jesus' life to important ones in history. The author of Matthew is paralleling Exodus in this chapter with Jesus as Moses and Herod as Pharaoh. The Gospel also takes care to mention a sojourn by the Holy Family in Egypt that is mentioned nowhere else. Through a quote from Jeremiah the Massacre of the Innocents is linked to the Babylonian Captivity, and Jesus being born in Bethlehem echoes King David who was also born in that village.

At the same time this chapter also contains several passages that are often seen as anti-Semitic. Matthew 2:3 and Matthew 2:4 both show the Jewish leaders and people of Jerusalem acting in lockstep with the tyrant Herod who tries to kill the infant. The historicity of this is dubious as other sources show great rivalry and animosity between the two. Gundry notes that persecution is an important theme of Matthew, who was writing at a time when a number of forces were working to crush the new religious movement.[4]

Most of what is in this chapter is found in no other gospel and differs sharply from the infancy narrative in Luke 2. Evangelical scholars have developed theories to explain these discrepancies that allow them to stand by the inerrancy of the Bible. Most other scholars feel that this part of the Gospel of Matthew is not a literal work of history. Robert H. Gundry sees Matthew as a heavily embellished version of Luke with the humble shepherds transformed into the more exotic magi, for instance.

Verses[edit]

Full text[edit]

In the King James Version this chapter reads:

1 Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,
2Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.
3When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.
4And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born.
5And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet,
6And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.
7Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared.
8And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.
9When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.
10When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.
11And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh.
12And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.
13And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him.
14When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt:
15And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son.
16Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men.
17Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying,
18In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.
19But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph in Egypt,
20Saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel: for they are dead which sought the young child's life.
21And he arose, and took the young child and his mother, and came into the land of Israel.
22But when he heard that Archelaus did reign in Judaea in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither: notwithstanding, being warned of God in a dream, he turned aside into the parts of Galilee:
23And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ France, R.T. The Gospel According to Matthew: an Introduction and Commentary. Leicester: Inter-Varsity, 1985. ISBN 0802800637.
  2. ^ Jerome, "Letter 57—To Pammachius on the Best Method of Translating"
  3. ^ Schweizer, Eduard. The Good News According to Matthew. Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1975. ISBN 0804202516.
  4. ^ Gundry, Robert H. Matthew a Commentary on his Literary and Theological Art. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1982. ISBN 080283549X.

References[edit]

  • Albright, W.F. and C.S. Mann. "Matthew." The Anchor Bible Series. New York: Doubleday & Company, 1971.
  • Brown, Raymond E. The Birth of the Messiah: A Commentary on the Infancy Narratives in Matthew and Luke. London: G. Chapman, 1977.
  • Carter, Warren. Matthew and Empire. Harrisburg: Trinity Press International, 2001.
  • Clarke, Howard W. The Gospel of Matthew and its Readers: A Historical Introduction to the First Gospel. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2003.
  • France, R.T. "The Formula Quotations of Matthew 2 and the Problem of Communications." New Testament Studies. Vol. 27, 1981.
  • Hill, David. The Gospel of Matthew. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1981
  • Levine, Amy-Jill. "Matthew." Women's Bible Commentary. Carol A. Newsom and Sharon H. Ringe, eds. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1998.


Preceded by
Matthew 1
Chapters of the New Testament
Gospel of Matthew
Succeeded by
Matthew 3