1. Prologue, 1:1-2:23

ii] God's call to Joseph


In this passage Matthew recounts the story of the birth of Jesus, and this as the result of a supernatural act of God.


The incarnation of Jesus, God's Davidic Messiah, is realized through divine intervention.


i] Context: See 1:1-17


ii] Background: Historical authenticity: Although the virgin birth sounds like a fable to modern ears, the virgin birth is supported by scripture and is accepted without question by Matthew. Given Jesus' miraculous three year ministry, his resurrection and ascension, a miraculous birth is by no means incongruous. None-the-less, questions have been raised, given that in the New Testament letters no mention is made of it. Some have suggested that the idea grew out of Old Testament scriptures, eg., Isaiah 7:14, "the virgin will conceive and bear a son."


iii] Structure: God's call to Joseph:

Circumstances, v18-19;

Appearance of the angel, v20-21:




Text, v22-23;

Response, v24-25.


Similar elements are evident in the other two infancy stories, 2:1-12, 2:23-23.


iv] Interpretation:

This narrative deals with Jesus' origin and name. The focus is on Joseph, while Mary remains incidental to the story. The story relates how Joseph comes to marry Mary, someone who is already pregnant, and how through this marriage, Jesus is included in the Davidic line. The story explains the origins of Jesus and how he got his name, not as an apologetic for unbelievers, but rather to inform believers.


v] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage can be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

Text - 1:18

The birth of Jesus, v18-25. i] The circumstances, v18-19: Mary is engaged to Joseph. In Jewish custom this includes all the responsibilities of marriage, except that the girl stays in her parents' home for about a year before the marriage and its consummation. During this time, Mary conceives through the action of the Holy Spirit. A divine creative act inaugurates the messianic age through the agency of the Spirit, so identifying Jesus' divine origin. Joseph responds to the situation in a kindly manner. Originally, stoning was the punishment for unfaithfulness, but by this time, public humiliation and divorce was the usual method. Joseph kindly set about to divorce Mary privately.

de "-" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step in the narrative, so "now the birth of Jesus ...", ESV.

ouJtwV adv. "this is how" - [the birth of jesus christ was] in this way, thus. The adverb is modal, modifying the verb to-be; "was / took place in this way / thus", but note BDF 434.1. As with the NIV, the sense is general and is not pointing to the specific event of the birth itself.

Ihsou Cristou (oV) gen. "[the birth] of Jesus Christ" - The genitive is adjectival, epexegetic, limiting "the birth" by specifying what birth is in mind, but of course, it could also be classified as possessive, "Jesus' birth."

MariaV (a) gen. "[his mother] Mary" - [the mother of him] mary. Standing in apposition to "mother", genitive by agreement with "mother".

tw/ Iwshf dat. "to Joseph" - [being engaged] to joseph. Dative of indirect object after the passive verb mnhsteuqeishV, "being engaged." Betrothal is as good as marriage in Jewish society, such that Mary, having fallen pregnant apart from Joseph, could suffer stoning had not Joseph acted on her behalf.

mnhsteuqeishV (mnhsteuw) gen. aor. pas. part. "was pledged to be married" - being engaged. This participle, in a genitive absolute construction, introduces a temporal clause; "when his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph", TNT. Mary was promised to Joseph in marriage and this promise was binding.

prin h] + inf. "before" - before [they came together]. This construction introduces a temporal clause, subsequent time. Indicating that the action of the verb "came together" occurs after the main verb "was pledged."

sunelqein (sunercomai) aor. inf. "[they] came together" - Used with prin h]; "Just before their marriage", Phillips.

euJreqh (euJriskw) aor. pas. "she was found" - Note how the NEB opts for an active voice, "she found that she was with child", which makes better sense. Obviously, Mary was the person who worked this out.

en gastri ecousa "to be with child" - in womb having. The idiomatic phrase "having in the womb" is similar to our phrase "to be with child", or simply "pregnant"; "she was going to have a baby", TEV. The preposition en + dat. is local, while the nominative participle ecousa, "having", is the nominative complement of the subject of the passive verb "to be found"; "she having was found in the womb" = "she was found to be with child", ESV.

ek + gen. "through [the Holy Spirit]" - from [holy spirit]. Source may be the intended sense, "from, out of", or as NIV, means, agency, "by"; "through the miraculous power of the Holy Spirit.". Luke handles this fact with a little more sensitivity, cf. Luke 1:35, although Matthew may not like Luke's description of the Holy Spirit coming "upon" Mary. The agency of the Spirit in Jesus' birth is best viewed in light of his agency in creation, Gen.1:2.


de "-" - but, and. Indicating a step in the narrative.

w]n (eimi) pres. part. "because ...... was" - [joseph the husband of her] being righteous [and not wishing to disgrace her]. The participle of the verb to-be is adverbial and best taken to introduce a causal clause modifying the verbal action of the participial phrase "not willing to disgrace her", by providing background information, as NIV.

oJ anhr (hr roV) "[her] husband" - Nominative, standing in apposition to "Joseph". As noted above, Mary is only betrothed to Joseph, but this is as good as being married.

dikaioV adj. "was a righteous man / was faithful to the law" - righteous, just. Predicate adjective. Joseph was someone who "always did what was right", TEV; "who was a good man", Phillips, ie., "compassionate", yet the sense of "just man" means a man who complies with the law, and the law in this matter required him to put Mary aside / divorce her, and this before two witnesses. That he didn't take the matter further indicates that he is merciful, as well as just.

kai "and" - and. Morris argues that the sense is "and yet" because he reads "just" in the sense of someone who obeys the regulations of the law, "and yet did not want ....."

mh qelwn (qelw) pres. part. "he did not want" - not wishing. The participle is adverbial, best treated as causal; "because he willed."

deigatisai (deigmatizw) aor. inf. "public disgrace" - to disgrace, shame, expose publicly. The infinitive is complementary, complementing the action of the verbal aspect of the participle "willing"; "he was unwilling to bring shame on her", TNT. Of course, since the verb qelw is cognitive, the infinitive can be classified as introducing a dependent statement of perception expressing what Joseph willed, namely, "that she not be put to shame." Joseph did not want Mary shamed publicly. This intention indicates that he is a "compassionate" man.

apolusai (apoluw) aor. inf. "to divorce" - The infinitive as above.

laqra/ adv. "quietly" - [he decided] secretly. The adverb is modal, expressing manner. Joseph dealt with Mary in-house, "privately", better than "quietly".


ii] The appearance of an angel, v20-21: In typical Old Testament style, God conveys his word to his people through a "messenger (angel) of the Lord." In Joseph's case, God's word comes to him in a dream, certainly not an unusual means for an Old Testament saint. Joseph must marry Mary, for the child must be included in the Davidic line. In Jewish custom, for Joseph to acknowledge the child as his, makes the child his, a "son of David". Such acknowledgment fully includes the child in the family. The angel then instructs Joseph to name the child "Jesus", and goes on to explain what this will mean. In the Old Testament, the giving of a name, particularly a name given by God, is full of meaning. The name "Jesus" is Greek for Joshua, which in Hebrew means "Yahweh of salvation." The people Jesus will save is Israel, but this does not exclude the Gentiles who will inevitably join with remnant Israel to stand before the presence of God. Although the people of Israel expect the salvation of the nation, this messiah brings a salvation from sin, cf. Is.53, Je.31:31-34. He does not restore Israel, but rather restores Israel's relationship with God.

de "but" - but/and. Transitional, possibly adversative, as NIV, or just indicating another step in the narrative.

enqumhqentoV (enqunomai) aor. part. "after he had considered [this]" - [these things] he was thinking, reflecting. The genitive absolute participial construction forms a temporal clause, as NIV; "while/after considering these things." Possibly as a direct statement expressing completed action; "he had resolved on this", NEB, "he had made up his mind", Morris.

kuriou (oV) gen. "[an angel] of the Lord" - The genitive may be adjectival, possessive, "the Lord's angel", or ablative, source / origin, "an angel from the Lord."

efanh (fainomai) aor. "appeared" - [in a dream] revealed, showed, appeared.

autw/ dat. pro. "to him" - Dative of direct object.

kata "in [a dream]" - The actual sense of the preposition here is unclear, but it probably expresses means, "by means of a dream", but possibly temporal, "during a dream", so BDAG. Olmstead suggests it indicates the nature of the angelic appearance, so "in a dream." The phrase "by a dream" is used by Matthew for divine revelations; "a word from the Lord was revealed to him by means of an angelic apparition."

legwn (legw) pres. part. "and said" - saying. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "appeared", "appeared and said", or adverbial, modal, expressing the manner of the angel's appearing, "appeared .... saying."

mh fobhqhV (fobeomai) aor. subj. "do not be afraid" - [joseph, son of david] do not be afraid. A subjunctive of prohibition expressing a negative command. "Fear" in the sense of: "do not hesitate", "do not shrink from marrying her."

paralabein (paralambanw) inf. "to take [Mary] home" - to take, to lead into one's home [mary, the wife of you]. The infinitive may be treated as epexegetic, specifying the nature of the fear, namely that of taking Mary as his wife, but it can also be simply classified as complementary. Referring to the marriage custom of a man taking a women into his home as a sign of their union, therefore simply meaning, "to marry."

gar "because" - for. Introducing a causal clause explaining why Joseph need not fear to marry Mary.

gennhqen (gennaw) aor. pas. part. "what is conceived [in her]" - [the baby in her] having been conceived. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting an assumed "child"; "for the child which is conceived in her."

ek + gen. "from [the Holy Spirit]" - [is] from [holy spirit], cf., v18. In the Gk., "Holy Spirit" is fronted for emphasis.


de "-" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a further step in the narrative.

texetai (tiktw) fut. "she will give birth" - she will bear [a son].

kaleseiV (kalew) sing. fut. "you are to give to" - [and] you will call [the name of him jesus]. An imperatival future. Singular = Joseph. "You should give him the name Jesus."

gar "for" - Introducing a causal clause explaining why his name should properly be Jesus. The Hebrew name "Jesus" means "God / Yahweh of salvation", in Greek "Joshua". In Hebrew, the word "Jesus" actually sounds like "he will save". So, the name is full of meaning; Jesus is the messiah who will save his people. The clause reflects Psalm 130:8.

autoV "he" - Nominative subject of the verb "to save", emphatic by position and use; "he will save, and no other."

swsei (swzw) fut. "will save" - will save [the people of him]. "He will rescue, set free", or for the whole clause, "redeem", or "forgive".

apo + gen. "from" - from. Expressing separation; "away from."

twv aJmartiwn (a) "[their] sins" - the sins [of them]. The genitive "of them" is adjectival, possessive, "their sins", but may be treated as verbal, subjective, "the sins performed by them." The primary meaning of the word is "miss the mark", but came to be used in the LXX and NT for an offense against God.


iii] Textual support, Isa.7:14, v22-23: Although the original Hebrew text has "young woman", the Greek LXX uses "virgin" because Isaiah is pointing to an amazing sign, the birth of a child deliverer. He will gather his people to God such that God will be with them (thus the point of the symbolic name "God with us"). We don't know whether Isaiah did actually mean "virgin", but it certainly took on that meaning in time. The birth of Jesus ("all this" refers to the conception and birth, not just the dream of Joseph) fulfills the Immanuel prophecy in that Jesus "saves his people from their sins" and so "God is with us" again. Jesus the messiah restores the relationship of God's broken people with God.

de "-" - but/and. Note how this particle leads off so many of the verses in this passage. Transitional, indicating a step in the narrative; "now, .....", but better left untranslated.

oJlon (oV) "all" - all, whole, entire, complete [this]. Nominative subject of the verb "occurred"; "this whole occurred" = "all this occurred."

gegonen (ginomai) perf. "took place" - happened, occurred. Note perfect tense; see Olmstead 4:17.

iJna + subj. "to [fulfill]" - that [the things spoken by the Lord through the prophet]. Introducing a purpose clause; "these things happened in order to fulfill ....", "so that prophecy would be fulfilled." It is possible that we have here a consecutive clause expressing consequence / result, "these things happened with the consequence that / with the result that prophecy was fulfilled."

plhrwqh/ (plhrow) aor. subj. "fulfill" - may be complete, fulfilled. To realize the promises made by the Lord through the prophets.

to rJhqen (legw) aor. pas. part. "what [the Lord] has said" - the thing being spoken [by Lord]. The participle serves as a substantive.

uJpo + gen. "-" - by [Lord]. Instrumental, expressing agency.

dia + gen. "through [the prophet]" - through, by means of. Instrumental.

legontoV (legw) gen. pres. part. "-" - saying. The participle looks as if it is adverbial, temporal, "when he said", but it is genitive in agreement with "prophet", so probably adjectival, attributive, "the word spoken by the Lord through the prophet who said."


The quotation comes from Isaiah 7:14.

hJ parqenoV (oV) "the virgin" - [behold] the young woman who has not participated in sexual intercourse. The Greek word may be used of a sexually active young woman, but is normally used of a virgin. On the other hand, the Hebrew word used in Isaiah 7:14 simply means a young woman of marriageable age. None-the-less, it is clear that Isaiah is speaking of a birth which serves as a significant sign to the people, and Matthew reveals the true nature of this sign.

en grastpi exei "will conceive" - in the womb have [and she will bear a son]. See v18 for this idiomatic phrase.

kalesousin (kalew) sing. fut. "they will call [him]" - they will call [the name of him]. Isaiah has the singular "ye will call", indicating Matthew's shift to the fellowship of believers who affirm the name of Jesus.

Emmanouhl "Immanuel" - Complement of the accusative object "name" standing in a double accusative construction. The name in Hebrew means "prosperity", the prosperity that comes from God when he stands with a person. This prosperity continues because Jesus is with us always, even to the close of the age, Matt.28:20.

estin meqermhneuomenon (meqermhneuw) pres. pas. part. "[which] means" - [which] is having been interpreted, translated. An idiomatic paraphrastic present construction, "[which] being translated means"; "for that name means [God is with us]", Barclay.

meq (meta) + gen. "with" - [god] with [us]. Expressing accompaniment / association. The sense is either: In Jesus "God is with us", or his name is "God with us."


iv] Joseph's response, v24-25: So, Joseph marries Mary, but restrains from intercourse with her until after the birth of Jesus. As directed, Joseph names him "Jesus".

de "-" - but/and. Again transitional, indicating a step in the narrative; "now".

egerqeiV (egeirw) pas. part. "when [Joseph] woke up" - [joseph] rising up, waking up. The NIV takes the participle as adverbial, temporal, "when/after", best expressed as action completed in time, "on waking from sleep", Moffatt.

apo + gen. "-" - from [sleep]. Expressing separation, "away from"; "when Joseph woke from sleep", ESV.

wJV "what" - [did] as, like [the angel of the lord]. Here serving to express a characteristic quality; "he did as / what / that which the angel of the Lord commanded."

autw/ dat. pro. "[commanded] him" - Dative of direct object after the verb "commanded".

kai "and" - Probably epexegetic here; "namely / that is, he took his wife."

autou gen. pro. "[took] Mary [home as his wife]" - [he took the wife] of him. The genitive is adjectival, relational. As already noted, although only betrothed to Joseph, Mary is considered under law to be his wife.


ouk eginwsken (ginwskw) imperf. "he had no union with / he did not consummate their marriage" - [and] he did not know [her]. A euphemism for sexual relations.

eJwV + gen. "until" - until [she bore a son]. Temporal construction. Often rendered "before", although the sense is probably "until after she gave birth." A negated action ("he had no union"), with this preposition, always implies that the action will follow and not precede the related action ("she gave birth"). None-the-less, the phrase is concerned with the period before the birth and not what happened after. This may help those who promote the perpetual virginity of Mary, although other passages make this a difficult proposition.

ekalesen (kalew) aor. "he gave [him the name]" - [and] he called [the name of him]. "Called" in the sense of "named".

Ihsoun (ouV ou) "Jesus" - Complement of the accusative direct object "name", standing in a double accusative construction.


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