Matthew 1:1 Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament

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Matthew 1:1. Βίβλος γενέσεως] Book of origin; מֵפֶר תּוֹלְדוֹת, Genesis 2:4; Genesis 5:1, LXX.; comp. Genesis 6:9; Genesis 11:10. The first verse contains the title of the genealogy which follows in Matthew 1:2-16, which contains the origin of Christ from the Messianic line that runs on from the time of Abraham (genitive of contents). So Beza, Calvin, Grotius, Bengel, Wetstein, Paulus, Kuinoel, Gratz, de Wette, Baumgarten-Crusius, and others. The evangelist adopted the genealogical piece of writing (βίβλος), and which “velut extra corpus historiae prominet” (Grotius), without alteration, as he found it, and with its title also. Others (Bede, Maldonatus, Schleussner) take γένεσις as meaning life, and regard the words as a superscription to the entire Gospel: commentarius de vita Jesu. Contrary to the usage of the language; for in Judith 12:18, and Wisdom of Solomon 7:5, γένεσις denotes the origin, the commencing point of life; in Plato, Phaedr. p. 252 D, it means existence; in Hierocles, p. 298, the creation, or that which is created; and in James 3:6, τροχὸς τῆς γενέσεως is the τροχός which begins with birth. And if we were to suppose, with Olearius (comp. Hammond and Vitringa, also Euthym. Zigabenus), that the superscription liber de originibus Jesu Christi was selected first with reference to the commencement of the history, to which the further history was then appended with a distinctive designation (comp. Catonis Censorii Origines), as תּוֹלְדוֹת also confessedly does not always announce a mere genealogy (Genesis 5:1 ff; Genesis 11:27 ff.), nay, may even stand without any genealogical list following it (Genesis 2:4; Genesis 37:2 ff.),—so the immediate connection in which βίβλος … Χριστοῦ stands with υἱοῦ Δαυ., υἱοῦ Ἀβρ., here necessitates us to think from the very beginning, in harmony with the context, of the genealogy merely; and the commencement of Matthew 1:18, where the γένεσις in the narrower sense, the actual origination, is now related, separates the section Matthew 1:18-25 distinctly from the preceding genealogical list, so that the first words of chap. 2, τοῦ δὲ Ἰησοῦ γεννηθέντος, connect themselves, as carrying on the narrative, with Matthew 1:18-25, where the origin of Jesus, down to His actual birth, is related. This is, at the same time, in answer to Fritzsche, who translates it as volumen de J. Christi originibus, and, appealing to the words in the beginning of ch. 2, regards βίβλος γενέσεως, κ.τ.λ., as the superscription of the first chapter (so also Delitzsch), as well as to Olshausen (see also Ewald and Bleek), who takes it as the superscription of the two first chapters.

If the Israelite set a high value, in his own individual instance, upon a series of ancestors of unexceptionable pedigree (Romans 11:1; Philippians 3:5; Josephus,c. Ap. ii. 7; Lightfoot, Hor. Heb. p. 178), how much more must such be found to be the case on the side of the Messiah!

Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ] The name יְהוֹשׁוּעַ (Exodus 24:13; Numbers 13:16), or, after the exile, יֵשׁוּעַ (Nehemiah 7:7), ܢܶܫܘܶܓ was very common,(350) and denotes Jehovah is helper. This meaning, contained in the name Jesus (comp. Sirach 46:1), came to full personal manifestation in Christ, see Matthew 1:21. Χριστός corresponds to the Hebrew מָשִׁיחַ, anointed, which was used partly of priests, Leviticus 4:3; Leviticus 5:16; Leviticus 6:15, Psalms 105:15; partly of kings, 1 Samuel 24:7; 1 Samuel 24:11, Psalms 2:2, Isaiah 45:1, comp. Daniel 9:25-26; as a prophet also, according to 1 Kings 19:16, might be an anointed person. From the time of the Book of Daniel—for throughout the whole later period also, down to the time of Christ, the Messianic idea was a living one amongst the people(351)—this theocratic name, and that as a king’s name, was applied, according to the Messianic explanation of the second Psalm, to the king of David’s race, whose coming, according to the predictions of the prophets, was ever more ardently looked for, but with hopes that became ever purer, who was to raise the nation to its theocratic consummation, to restore the kingdom to its highest power and glory, and extend his blessings to the heathen as well, while, as a necessary condition to all this, He was, in a religious and moral respect, to work out the true spiritual government of God, and bring it to a victorious termination. See on the development of the idea and hope of the Messiah, especially Ewald, Gesch. Christ. p. 133 ff., ed. 3 [E. T. by Glover, p. 140 ff.]; Bertheau in d. Jahrb. f. D. Th. IV. p. 595 ff., V. p. 486 ff.; Riehm in d. Stud. u. Kritik. 1865, I. and III. [E. T., Clark, Edinburgh, 1876]. According to B. Bauer (comp. Volkmar, Rel. Jesu, p. 113), Jesus is said to have first developed the Messianic idea out of His own consciousness, the community to have clothed it in figures, and then to have found these figures also in the Old Testament, while the Jews first received the idea from the Christians! In answer to this view, which frivolously inverts the historical relation, see Ebrard, Kritik. d. evang. Gesch., ed. 3, § 120 ff. [E. T. 2d ed., Clark, Edinburgh, p. 485 f.]; and on the Messianic ideas of the Jews at the time of Christ, especially Hilgenfeld, Messias Judaeorum libris eorum paulo ante et paulo post Christum natum conscriptis illustratus, 1869; also Holtzmann in d. Jahrb. f. D. Theol. 1867, p. 389 ff., according to whom, however, the original self-consciousness of the Lord had been matured at an earlier date, before He found(352) for it, in His confession of Himself as the Messiah, a name that might be uttered before His contemporaries, and an objective representation that was conceivable for Himself.

The official name Χριστός, for Jesus, soon passed over in the language of the Christians into a nomen proprium, in which shape it appears almost universally in the Epistles and in the Acts of the Apostles, with or without the article, after the nature of proper names in general. In the Gospels, Χριστός stands as a proper name only in Matthew 1:1; Matthew 1:16-18; Mark 1:1; John 1:17; and appropriately, because not congruous to the development of the history and its connection, but spoken from the standpoint of the much later period of its composition, in which ἸΗΣΟῦς ΧΡΙΣΤΌς had been already long established as a customary name in the language of Christians; as here also (comp. Mark 1:1) in the superscription, the whole of the great name Ἰησοῦς Χριστός is highly appropriate, nay, necessary.

Further, Jesus could be the bearer of the idea of Messiah, for the realization of which He knew from the beginning that He was sent, in no other way than in its national definiteness, therefore also without the exclusion of its political element, the thought of which, however,—and this appears most fully in John,—was transfigured by Him into the idea of the highest and universal spiritual government of God, so that the religious and moral task of the Messiah was His clear aim from the very outset, in striving after and attaining which He had to prepare the way for the Messiah’s kingdom, and finally had to lay its indestructible, necessary foundation (founding of the new covenant) by His atoning death, while He pointed to the future, which, according to all the evangelists, was viewed by Himself as near at hand, for the final establishment, glory, and power of the kingdom, when He will solemnly appear (Parousia) as the Messiah who is Judge and Ruler.

υἱοῦ Δαυείδ] for, according to prophetic promise, He must be a descendant of David, otherwise He would not have been the Messiah, John 7:42; Romans 1:3; Acts 13:22 f.; the Messiah is called pre-eminently בֶּן דָּוִד, Matthew 12:23; Matthew 21:9; Matthew 22:42; Luke 18:38. Comp. Wetstein, and Babylon. Sanhedr. fol. 97. David is designated as Abraham’s descendant, because the genealogical table must begin nationally with Abraham, who, according to the promise, is the original ancestor of the series of generations (Galatians 3:16), so that consequently the venerable chiefs of this genealogy immediately appear in the superscription. Luke’s point of view (Matthew 8:23) goes beyond the sphere of the nation, while Mark (l.c.) sets out from the theocratico-dogmatic conception of the Messiah.

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