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Hermeneutics of the Gospel of Matthew

  • August 26, 2020
  • By Ben van Noort
Hermeneutics of the Gospel of Matthew

Hermeneutics of the Gospel of Matthew

A former proposition considered that the hermeneutics of a biblical book and each book in general is revealed in the first sentence of that particular book.

Matthew’s First Sentence
The importance of this phenomenon is that the meaning of a book is much closer than is usually thought. The first sentence of the Gospel of Matthew and also of the New Testament is as follows: “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Matthew 1:1). Indeed, nobody will be surprised that the content of this book will be about Jesus, about his meaning as the Christ and about his descent from David and Abraham.

What did it mean for Matthew to write this? He did it with joy. His name was at first Levi, the tax collector, later he received the name Matthew, gift from God. His life had a real change (spiritual birth) since the day he had met Jesus. He was not provoking his Jewish fellow citizens with this first sentence, he pronounced a deep unshakable conviction.

Jesus’ Divine Character
This is also clear from his story telling about the birth of Jesus how Joseph received the certainty about Mary’s pregnancy that it was from the Holy Spirit. He was in everything more than human he was divine and Matthew had seen that again and again. Besides he was without sin. He saw from where Jesus could get his wonderful power and wisdom in the midst of suffering of men and women, coupled together with his fearless attitude in all circumstances. From there we find the fearless first statement of his gospel. The Spirit would do his work of conviction as he had done unto Jesus.

Four Missing Names
Every reader was, is, or will be confronted with the strange reality that the genealogy delivered by Matthew seems to bring more problems than convincing evidence. There are four names missing in this genealogy Ahaziah, Joash, Amaziah and Jehoiakim. Many commentators point to this with the argument that the Bible is self-contradicting. Believing Christians remain silent, very silent, as in so many theological discouraging problems.

Three Series of Fourteen Generations
In Matthew 1:17 we read:
“So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations.”

Often, Matthew is supposed to have left out the four names to make Jesus’ birth a real divine plan: after 3 (divine figure) series of 14 (2×7=2x divine figure) generations. This odd explanation says more about the commentators than about Matthew. They don’t have any feeling for Bible reading, how theological their training might be. The reason is: with these series of 14 Matthew could prevent people to insert any missing name in copied manuscripts.

Why Are They Missing?
Ahaziah, Joash and Amaziah were the sons of king Joram. This man dared to kill all his brothers—six in number—as soon as he became king. This had never occurred in Israel and it never occurred again after him in the royal house of David. After the exodus out of Egypt, the Israelites received the commandment to not allow Egyptians to enter into the assembly of the Lord during three generations (Deuteronomy 23:8). Apparently a comparable punishment was laid on the royal family of David by the priests right after Joram’s murders. Three generations of kings were not permitted to be registered in the lineage of the Messiah of Israel.

Jehoiakim was one of the sons of king Josia. Why is he missing in the series of Judean kings? He was the man who destroyed the role with Jeremiah’s prophesies and—as a young prince—he probably committed incest with Hamutal, a spouse of his father Josiah. Probably the reasons for the priests to exclude also Jehoiakim from mentioning in the lineage of the Messiah.[1] This lineage ended before the exile with Jojachin, also named Jechoniah (Matthew 1:11).[2]

Gospel Hermeneutics: Early Publishing
There were many descendants of David in Jesus’ time and this state of affairs was certainly well known in the Jewish culture before AD 70 and Matthew was not compelled to give any apology about the missing names in his list. Everybody in the Jewish culture knew about this state of affairs. Strong evidence that Matthew’s gospel was written very early (shortly after Jesus’ death).

That is what hermeneutics is supposed to do: to bring clarity instead of blaming the Bible due to blunt ignorance. In this case the clarity is the early publishing of the book which was possible through documentation, and why the gospels form the Testament of Jesus: reports were written before his death, and published in books shortly thereafter.

[1] More about this on the site Contradicting Bible Contradictions

[2] The remark that Josia generated Jechoniah while Jojakim was the actual father was acceptable by the rule “The son of a son is a son.”

By Ben van Noort, August 26, 2020