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The Catholic Study Bible A special version of the New American Bible, with a wealth of background information useful to Catholics.

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Commentary on Matthew

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1, 1–2, 23 :

The infancy narrative forms the prologue of the gospel. Consisting of a genealogy and five stories, it presents the coming of Jesus as the climax of Israel's history, and the events of his conception, birth, and early childhood as the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. The genealogy is probably traditional material that Matthew edited. In its first two sections ( 1, 2–11 ) it was drawn from Ru 4, 18–22 and 1 Chr 1–3 . Except for Jechoniah, Shealtiel, and Zerubbabel, none of the names in the third section ( 1, 12–16 ) is found in any Old Testament genealogy. While the genealogy shows the continuity of God's providential plan from Abraham on, discontinuity is also present. The women Tamar ( 1, 3 ), Rahab and Ruth (1, 5 ), and the wife of Uriah, Bathsheba ( 1, 6 ), bore their sons through unions that were in varying degrees strange and unexpected. These “irregularities” culminate in the supreme “irregularity” of the Messiah's birth of a virgin mother; the age of fulfillment is inaugurated by a creative act of God.

Drawing upon both biblical tradition and Jewish stories, Matthew portrays Jesus as reliving the Exodus experience of Israel and the persecutions of Moses. His rejection by his own people and his passion are foreshadowed by the troubled reaction of “all Jerusalem” to the question of the magi who are seeking the “newborn king of the Jews” ( 2, 2–3 ), and by Herod's attempt to have him killed. The magi who do him homage prefigure the Gentiles who will accept the preaching of the gospel. The infancy narrative proclaims who Jesus is, the savior of his people from their sins ( 1, 21 ), Emmanuel in whom “God is with us” ( 1, 23 ), and the Son of God ( 2, 15 ).

1, 1 :

The son of David, the son of Abraham: two links of the genealogical chain are singled out. Although the later, David is placed first in order to emphasize that Jesus is the royal Messiah. The mention of Abraham may be due not only to his being the father of the nation Israel but to Matthew's interest in the universal scope of Jesus' mission; cf Gn 22, 18 , “…. in your descendants all the nations of the earth shall find blessing.”

1, 7 :

The successor of Abijah was not Asaph but Asa (see 1 Chr 3, 10 ). Some textual witnesses read the latter name; however, Asaph is better attested. Matthew may have deliberately introduced the psalmist Asaph into the genealogy (and in v 10 the prophet Amos) in order to show that Jesus is the fulfillment not only of the promises made to David (see 2 Sm 7 ) but of all the Old Testament.

1, 10 :

Amos: some textual witnesses read Amon, who was the actual successor of Manasseh (see 1 Chr 3, 14 ).

1, 17 :

Matthew is concerned with fourteen generations, probably because fourteen is the numerical value of the Hebrew letters forming the name of David. In the second section of the genealogy ( 6b–11 ), three kings of Judah, Ahaziah, Joash, and Amaziah, have been omitted (see 1 Chr 3, 11–12 ), so that there are fourteen generations in that section. Yet the third ( 12–16 ) apparently has only thirteen. Since Matthew here emphasizes that each section has fourteen, it is unlikely that the thirteen of the last was due to his oversight. Some scholars suggest that Jesus who is called the Messiah ( 16b ) doubles the final member of the chain: Jesus, born within the family of David, opens up the new age as Messiah, so that in fact there are fourteen generations in the third section. This is perhaps too subtle, and the hypothesis of a slip not on the part of Matthew but of a later scribe seems likely. On Messiah, see the note on Lk 2, 11 .

1, 18–25 :

This first story of the infancy narrative spells out what is summarily indicated in v 16 . The virginal conception of Jesus is the work of the Spirit of God. Joseph's decision to divorce Mary is overcome by the heavenly command that he take her into his home and accept the child as his own. The natural genealogical line is broken but the promises to David are fulfilled; through Joseph's adoption the child belongs to the family of David. Matthew sees the virginal conception as the fulfillment of Is 7, 14 .

1, 19 :

A righteous man: as a devout observer of the Mosaic law, Joseph wished to break his union with someone whom he suspected of gross violation of the law. It is commonly said that the law required him to do so, but the texts usually given in support of that view, e.g., Dt 22, 20–21 , do not clearly pertain to Joseph's situation. Unwilling to expose her to shame: the penalty for proved adultery was death by stoning; cf Dt 22, 21–23 .

1, 20 :

The angel of the Lord: in the Old Testament a common designation of God in communication with a human being. In a dream: see 2, 13.19.22 . These dreams may be meant to recall the dreams of Joseph, son of Jacob the patriarch (Gn 37, 5–11.19 ). A closer parallel is the dream of Amram, father of Moses, related by Josephus (Antiquities 2, 9, 3 §§212, 215–16).

1, 21 :

Jesus: in first‐century Judaism the Hebrew name Joshua (Greek Iēsous) meaning “Yahweh helps” was interpreted as “Yahweh saves.”

1, 23 :

God is with us: God's promise of deliverance to Judah in Isaiah's time is seen by Matthew as fulfilled in the birth of Jesus, in whom God is with his people. The name Emmanuel is alluded to at the end of the gospel where the risen Jesus assures his disciples of his continued presence, “ … I am with you always, until the end of the age” ( 28, 20 ).

1, 25 :

Until she bore a son: the evangelist is concerned to emphasize that Joseph was not responsible for the conception of Jesus. The Greek word translated “until” does not imply normal marital conduct after Jesus' birth, nor does it exclude it.

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