Posts Tagged ‘Matthew’

Apostles Creed: Born of the Virgin Mary,

April 22, 2014

Was the Bible truly talking about a virgin birth? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

“The virgin shall be with child.” So reads the passage in Isaiah 7:14 and immediately many Christians see this as talking about Jesus. Is this the case? Well, no.

So Matthew got it wrong?

Also, no.

Then how can both of those be accurate?

In Isaiah, Isaiah was telling King Ahaz that the king should not join a group of other nations in uniting against the enemy of Assyria. He was so insistent that the king should not do this that he even told the king to ask God for a sign, something that would not normally be encouraged. Ahaz seeks an excuse then and says “I will not put God to the test.” Isaiah then tells Ahaz that he’s going to get a sign anyway. What is that sign? The virgin will be with child!

What does he mean by virgin?

The Hebrew word is Almah and yes, it does mean a young woman. It does not necessitate that the woman is a virgin, but in many cases the woman actually is a virgin. Isaiah at this time is referring to a woman who was known and is saying that that woman will give birth to a child. It is quite likely someone who Isaiah himself would be marrying. The sign would be that by the time this child was old enough to choose right from wrong, in other words, an age of moral accountability, the team of nations together would have already fallen.

Indeed, this is what happened. Therefore, we have a fulfillment of prophecy.

So no, this is not talking about Jesus.

Yet when the Scriptures are translated into Greek, when the translators got to this verse, they chose to translate Almah as Parthenos, which is the word for a virgin. Therefore, when Matthew uses the word, it does indeed a woman who has not had sexual intercourse and when he writes out his Gospel, he sees the virgin birth of Jesus as a fulfillment of this prophecy.

But how can this be?

Remember, for other objections to the virgin birth, one is encouraged to go here. What Matthew is doing is taking an event in the past and saying that he sees a reenactment as it were of what happened in the past. This is actually a way of giving honor to the account. It was important to find past precedent for current events.

An example in Matthew’s Gospel is when Jesus tells the Pharisees that Isaiah was right when he prophesied about them saying “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.”

What was going on? Jesus was looking at an event in the prophet’s time and seeing a reenactment of that same event in his time. For the Jews, Scripture was always speaking and it was honorable to find parallels to past events being going on in the lives of the people of the time.

So was Isaiah prophesying about Jesus? No.

Was Matthew wrong in using this passage? No.

What was right is how a fulfillment was going on.

Those interested in seeing more are recommended to check Richard Longenecker’s “Biblical Exegesis in the Apostolic Period” and Sandy and Walton’s “The Lost World of Scripture.”

In conclusion, Matthew saw the event in his time and thought of the passage in the past. Even if it was not what Isaiah had in mind, it would have been perfectly acceptable to exegetes of his day to interpret Scripture in this way.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

She Who Must Not Be Named

December 3, 2012

Why does Matthew not like her? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

The women in the genealogy of Jesus so far have been named, but when we come to verse 6, we meet an exception. We are told that David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife.

Oh we’ve read that story several times! We all know that that woman is Bathsheba!

Do we?

It is my contention that Matthew did not think highly of Bathsheba. In fact, it could be the Old Testament writers didn’t either. The name Bathsheba could be a placeholder in fact. It literally means “Daughter of an oath.” What oath? We don’t know. This could be a name given to avoid giving her real name. She had to be addressed in some way. In fact, the entire account in 2 Samuel 11-12 is meant to be a shameful one. Let’s go back and look at it.

The writer starts off that saying it was spring when kings go off to war, since battle in the snowy conditions was much more difficult. Yet immediately, we see that David is not going to war. David sends out all the king’s men, but he himself stays behind in Jerusalem. The writer wants you to know that David is not where he is supposed to be. A king is meant to act likea king and David is not doing that. Will this lead to any sort of disaster on his part?

As the king is on the roof, he sees a woman bathing and notes how beautiful she is. This is Bathsheba. There were numerous places where a woman could have bathed and not been seen, and yet this woman chose to bathe near the king’s palace, where there would be several men who could see her. Matthew and the author of 2 Samuel likely see this the same way as not an innocent action. This is the case of someone trying to gain reputation using her body. Of course, in our modern world, we no longer have any idea what it would be like for a woman to use her body to try to get something and certainly not in the public eye.

David sends people to find out about her. Note this might sound private, but it is not. Privacy was not the norm in the ancient world. The right to privacy that we claim would make no sense to them. This would be the word that would be spreading all around the palace. Everyone would know “David wants to know about Bathsheba.” Word comes to him and he sends for her and Bathsheba dutifully comes to the king and does not have any problem with sleeping with him. (Strange that a woman who was concerned about monthly uncleanness would not mind that little weightier matter in the law about adultery)

David’s had his fun however. All is taken care of. Right?

Well, until word comes that the woman is pregnant. Note that this would have been a number of months later at least and no one has confronted David on this. David knows that this will lead to his shame if it is found that he committed adultery. What does he do? He orders Uriah to be brought back to the palace to see David with the hopes that he can entice Uriah to sleep with his own wife so everyone will think the baby belongs to Uriah. Note that Uriah is a gentile as well, a Hittite, and he is going to be acting more honorably to the God of Israel than the king is, something even more shameful to David.

The first night of his visit, Uriah refuses to go home to Bathsheba. What does he say to David when David asks why he didn’t?

““The ark and Israel and Judah are staying in tents, and my commander Joab and my lord’s men are camped in the open country. How could I go to my house to eat and drink and make love to my wife? As surely as you live, I will not do such a thing!””

Ouch! We can miss all that is said in here and see it as just a statement of facts, but Uriah has essentially slammed the king. Let’s look at the points.

First, the ark of Israel and Judah are staying in tents. That’s right. That which was to represent the manifest presence of God to the people is in a tent. Where is the king? He’s in a palace! The king should be out there with the ark and he is not. Why does the king get better treatment than the ark of God does?

Second, Joab is referred to as the commander of Uriah and not David. This is saying that Joab is playing the role of a real king going out and leading the people into battle. Why is David not being the king? In fact, these are camped in the open country. They are placing themselves in a position of danger. Why is the king not doing the same thing?

Therefore, Uriah will not enjoy the pleasures of home and at this point, it is quite likely that he knows all about what David has done and that David is trying to cover his own tail. Uriah is not going to do it. David tries again even getting Uriah drunk, and yet Uriah is more righteous when he’s drunk than David is when he’s sober.

David now has to try something else. He sends Uriah back with his own death warrant. At this point, David is endangering the army of Israel in a raid, all to cover his own sin. We say Uriah died, and rightly we do, but let’s be clear that the text tells us that some of the other men in the army died. There were other casualties to this action besides Uriah. In fact, David doesn’t really care about this. All that matters to him at the time is that Uriah is dead. David can take Bathsheba and no one will be the wiser.

David is fine with what has happened because no one exposes him. In the ancient world, there was not an internal conscience of guilt. Instead, your actions were shown to be right or wrong based on what others told you. That is why David is completely caught off-guard when Nathan confronts him on the matter and only then does he repent. Let’s be clear. This is something important about David that makes him a righteous man. When he’s called out, he does repent.

We know that the child born first to David and Bathsheba died, and that later there was a son born to them whom God loved and that one was named Solomon. As we see later in chapter 12, Joab continues attacking the city that they had been at war against and sends words to David to muster the troops for the final confrontation or else he will take over the city and name it after himself. In other words, Joab also wants David to act like a king as well.

Matthew refuses to name Bathsheba in his account. It is quite likely that he did this to remove honor from her. He sees her as one who vaunted herself to get into the royal family. Bathsheba must not be named and if a theory like this is correct (Which more can be found about this in “Misreading Scripture With Western Eyes”) then the writer of 2 Samuel had a similar position.

What can we get out of this for Christmas?

Most of us can look back at stupid decisions we’ve made in our lives. Note that God took no doubt a wicked act, what happened between David and Bathsheba, and stil used it in his plan of redemption. We know that God redeems us as sinners, but we do not realize often times that He also redeems our actions. Anything that we do, He will use towards His good. We should not see this as a license to sin, but we should not on the other hand view our sins as the end of everything. We can never ruin God’s plans by them and He has already taken them into account and will use them for good.

And let’s keep in mind that that good was once the birth of the Messiah.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

The Truth on Ruth

December 2, 2012

The third woman in the genealogy of Jesus? Let’s talk about her on Deeper Waters.

We’re looking at the Christmas story this month on Deeper Waters and right now we’re going through Matthew’s genealogy and looking at notable mentions in it. I’ve said that women seem to have a tendency to pop up in the genealogies, which is highly unusual for a genealogy of the time. The first and second one have both involved morally questionable situations, but when we get to this third one, she is definitely as pure as the driven snow.

One of my favorite ministries is the Ruth Institute, which is an excellent pro-marriage ministry, and a great place to go to if one wants to know why we should oppose redefining marriage. In talking with the founder of this group, I found that it was named the Ruth Institute because of the character of Ruth in the Bible. Ruth is one of those books not quoted in the Old Testament, but one that is extremely important. How come?

The story starts with a family that leaves Bethlehem and goes into Moabite territory due to a famine. While there, the sons marry two Moabite women. Shortly after that, all the men die. Naomi, the mother, hears that the famine has ended and starts heading back. Her two daughters-in-law come with her and she tells them to go back. One of them agrees but the other says:

“Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.”

This is one determined woman and this is not a simple platitude. With this, she was abandoning her Moabite heritage and saying she wanted to be a part of the people of Israel. That also meant abandoning the religion and living in the service of the God of Israel. We may see this as a small change today as many people change their religions all the time, but in that day and age, your entire identity was being changed. This is no small gesture on Ruth’s part and we should not see it as such.

Ruth and Naomi come to Bethlehem then and in order for them to survive, sends Ruth out in the fields to glean. This was an allowable practice where someone was supposed to leave some food behind in a field so that the poor could come in and get what was left behind. Ruth gets noticed in the field of a man named Boaz. He makes sure she is well provided for. When Naomi finds out, she is overjoyed and says that God is to be praised because He has not forsaken the living or the dead. That is the most important line in Ruth. It is the central one and the rest of the story is built around it. The author of the account wants you to know that God has not forsaken those people who have died and is still fulfilling the covenant. This will become more apparent later on.

Naomi tells Ruth that Boaz is a kinsman-redeemer and thus is eligible to marry Ruth so she can be provided for. Naomi, a crafty mother-in-law, gives Ruth clear instructions. Take a good bath, put on the best perfume, and put on a really good outfit. Why? You are to go down and see Boaz and make an appeal to him to marry you. Ruth does this and she does it in a way that is not immoral at all. It was within the custom of the time. Boaz wakes up to find Ruth at his feet when she makes her request. He tells her there is a kinsman-redeemer closer than he and he must have a chance first, but if he does not accept, then Boaz will marry Ruth. Ruth spends the night at Boaz’s feet and leaves before anyone else wakes up. There is no reason to believe that any sexual activity took place that night.

When the morning comes, Boaz speaks to the other kinsman-redeemer, who is so unworthy in his actions that he is not even given a name in the book. All other individual characters, even those without dialogue, are named. This person is not. He refuses to marry into the family of Naomi and so loses his honor. Boaz takes it upon himself then to marry Ruth and he does so. The elders bless the union and pray that it be as bountiful as that of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah, a name we saw earlier in this blog.

So the family goes back to Bethlehem, (And yes, the Bethlehem Jesus was born at) and there they have a son whose name is Obed. Okay. A lot of you might not have heard of him. He is the father of a man named Jesse. Now the names are starting to seem familiar. Jesse is the father of David. Indeed, God has not forsaken the living or the dead. He has fulfilled His covenant to Israel in David and ultimately, by David’s son, the Christ.

Ruth is a figure that should be upheld and celebrated in the church today. It is also amazing that she is not just a woman and a gentile, but a Moabite, a distant cousin of Israel of whom they weren’t always on best terms. Deuteronomy 23 shows us that. For those concerned, David would qualify to enter the temple on two grounds. First, his father was an Israelite so he would be Israelite by descent. Second, Ruth had been accepted into the people of Israel and forsaken her Moabite heritage.

Ruth gets us from the time of Judges to the time of David with 1 Samuel filling in even more of the information, but though the book of Ruth is not explicitly cited in the NT, we dare not underestimate Ruth’s importance. God is still able to be the God of all who call on His name.

In Christ,
Nick Peters