Matthew 1:1

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A Jesse Tree by the Master of James IV of Scotland illustrates the genealogy that begins in this verse.

Matthew 1:1 is the opening verse of the Gospel of Matthew in the New Testament. Since Matthew is traditionally placed as the first of the four Gospels, this verse commonly serves as the opening to the entire New Testament.

The original Koine Greek, according to Westcott and Hort, reads:

βιβλος γενεσεως ιησου χριστου
υιου δαυιδ υιου αβρααμ

In the King James Version of the Bible it is translated as:

The book of the generation
of Jesus Christ, the son of
David, the son of Abraham.

The modern World English Bible translates the passage as:

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

For a collection of other versions see BibRef Matthew 1:1

Analysis[edit]

The opening of Matthew's Gospel fits with the theory of Markan priority. Scholars believe that the author of Matthew took Mark 1:1 "The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God;" and replaced "the son of God" with the beginning of the genealogy.[1]

The phrase "book of the genealogy" or biblos geneseos has several possible meanings. Most commonly it is seen as only referring to the list of ancestors that immediately follows, and most scholars agree that this interpretation is the most logical. However the phrase could also be translated more generally as "the book of coming" and could thus refer to the entire Gospel. Such opening phrases summarizing an entire work were common in an era before books had titles to serve this purpose. Jerome adopted this translation for the Vulgate. W. D. Davies and Dale Allison consider this to be the most likely meaning. "Book of the genealogy" is not a typical phrasing to introduce a genealogy. This phrase does appear in Genesis 5:1, but there it introduces a list of descendants rather than ancestors. The phrase also appears in Genesis 2:4, and there it has no relation to genealogies. Both 2:4 and 5:1 introduce elements of the creation story, and Davies and Allison feel it is likely that this verse is linked into the notion of a new genesis. They also point out that nowhere else in the New Testament does book refer to anything other than an entire work. Alternatively the phrase could have been deliberately created to serve the dual purpose of both introducing the entire work and the genealogy.[2]

Raymond E. Brown mentions a third translation is "the book of the genesis brought about by Jesus" implying that it discusses the recreation of the world by Jesus. This stretches the grammar considerably, however. The term genesis was at the time the gospel was written already attached as the name of the first part of the Torah, so the use of the term here could be a deliberate reference. Geneseos also appears at Matthew 1:18, but there it is almost always translated as birth.[3]

The now-common phrase "Jesus Christ" is used by the author of Matthew. What exactly is meant by this is much discussed. Christ, the Greek word for messiah, literally translates as "the anointed one". In modern times both titles apply exclusively to Jesus, but Matthew is not specific as to whether Jesus is the Christ or merely a Christ. In fact the form Matthew uses indicates that the word Christ is being used as a title, which is unusual as this is a usage only adopted some time after the death of Christ. Elsewhere Matthew uses "the Christ".[citation needed]

Davies and Allison note that both "son of David" and "son of Abraham" were titles in use in that era. "Son of David" was a common messianic title, while "son of Abraham" was an expression that could refer to any Jew.[4] According to Brown some have theorized that David's name comes before Abraham's as the author of Matthew is trying to emphasize Jesus' Davidic ancestry. Brown doubts this, feeling the arrangement is merely to provide a lead into the genealogy that follows.[5] Robert H. Gundry states that the structure of this passage attempts to portray Jesus as the culmination of the Old Testament genealogies.[6]

Why the author of Matthew chooses to immediately begin his Gospel with a lengthy genealogy is an important question. As Fowler notes, the long list of names is of little interest to modern readers and potentially discourages people from reading further in the Gospel. Many editions of the Gospel essentially present it as beginning at Matthew 1:18 for this very reason. This disinterest would not have been true, however, to the Jewish audience the Gospel was directed to. Lineage and descent were of great importance in Jewish society of the time, and a descent from David and Abraham was crucial to accepting Jesus as the Messiah. The names, at least in the first part of the genealogy, would have been well known to the readers. Some feminist scholars[who?] have posited that the prominent position of the genealogy is also an implicit reinforcement of the patriarchal nature of society. They argue that beginning the Gospel with a long string of "X father of Y" clearly exemplifies the masculine domination. Harold Fowler argues that the genealogy also serves to immediately humanize Jesus, by placing him clearly in the family of men.[7]

References[edit]

  1. ^ William F. Albright and C.S. Mann. "Matthew." The Anchor Bible Series. New York: Doubleday & Company, 1971.
  2. ^ Davies, W.D. and Dale C. Allison, Jr. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel According to Saint Matthew. Edinburgh : T. & T. Clark, 1988-1997.
  3. ^ Brown, Raymond E. The Birth of the Messiah: A Commentary on the Infancy Narratives in Matthew and Luke. London: G. Chapman, 1977.
  4. ^ Davies, W.D. and Dale C. Allison, Jr. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel According to Saint Matthew. Edinburgh : T. & T. Clark, 1988-1997.
  5. ^ Brown, Raymond E. The Birth of the Messiah: A Commentary on the Infancy Narratives in Matthew and Luke. London: G. Chapman, 1977.
  6. ^ Gundry, Robert H. Matthew a Commentary on his Literary and Theological Art. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1982.
  7. ^ Fowler, Harold. The Gospel of Matthew: Volume One. Joplin: College Press, 1968

External links[edit]

  • Matthew 1:1 Compilation of bible manuscripts and versions.


Preceded by
Old Testament
Gospel of Matthew
Chapter 1
Succeeded by
Matthew 1:2