Unpacking a Verse: Matthew 1:1

Posted by on 11/13/2017 in:

“The book of the story of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” — Matthew 1:1

Within the first verse of Matthew, there are 5 hints to Jesus being the Messiah.

Leon Morris wrote the Pillar New Testament Commentary‘s Matthew Volume, and he did a great job unpacking this verse. Here’s what I discovered from his writing!

1. BOOK

Some scholars have wondered if this word refers to the Gospel as a whole or simply to the nativity stories.

In this case, Morris looks Walter Bauer’s, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature for clarification. It appears that in later writings, this word was especially used for a “sacred, venerable book.”

Evidence leans toward the belief that this one-sentence header for the entire book of Matthew.

2. STORY

The translation of Matthew 1:1 found above was written by Morris himself. Why did he use the word “story” when so many other translations use “history” or genealogy”?

The original term is used of birth or origin or existence… but none of these concepts are easy to see in the passage. But, there’s evidence that the word was already used as the title of the first book of the Old Testament in LXX (the Septuagint, or Greek rendering of the Hebrew Old Testament).

Matthew was beginning to tell a new creation story: the new creation in Jesus Christ.

3. JESUS CHRIST

Matthew doesn’t use the full name Jesus Christ very often. In fact, this is the only location of the term in his book that isn’t disputed.

Typically, Matthew uses the personal name Jesus (̓Ιησοῦς, Yahweh is salvation). In fact, he uses this name 150 times!

Why is there such a contrast? The title Jesus Christ was not popular during Jesus’ lifetime, but grew as people came to know him as their Messiah.

4. SON OF DAVID

This tagline quickly reveals Jesus’ royal lineage and prophetic fulfillment. The expression “son of David” is probably a messianic title. Together, we can further confirm that Matthew’s book is about the one who fulfilled all that is meant in being the descendant of Israel’s greatest king.

5. SON OF ABRAHAM

All Israelites took pride in being descendants of the great patriarch, and the Christians were especially fond of him as the classic example of one who believed. In combining David and Abraham, Matthew is drawing attention to two strands in Jesus’ Hebrew ancestry.

That means, with this one, very short sentence, Matthew has bluntly stated Jesus’ qualifications for being the Messiah.

LEARNING MORE ABOUT MATTHEW

While looking through Morris’ commentary, I was really impressed with the information he shared in the introduction. He gives careful consideration to all the arguments, breaks down concepts into easy-to-understand sections, and gives great references.

This is the level of scholarship in the entire Pillar New Testament Commentary Set, edited by D. A. Carson. If you want to learn more about this series, visit our website.

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