250px-Isaiah_(Bible_Card)Mt. 1:22 And this all happened that it might be fulfilled what was said from the Lord by the prophet:

We might think the theme has to do with the conception and birth of Christ, but it is not. Wait a minute, isn’t the story about the baby Jesus who was born to be a Savior? Yes, but the theme is not about the birth.  The central theme of verses Mt. 1:18-25 can be found by looking at the chiastic structure.

299px-CheeseburgerChiastic structure is a literary device using symmetrical patterns in ancient writing to point the reader to what is important. You might say it was similar to putting the important point in bold print. Besides, the Scriptures weren’t organized in verses in ancient times. In other words, chiastic structure is like a hamburger. The top and bottom layers contain the bun. Layered inside is the lettuce, onions, pickles, tomatoes, cheese, and condiments on either side of the bun. The innermost part contains the meat or the theme of the sandwich, called the central axis or climax.[1]


Chiastic Mt 1 18 25

So, looking at the chiastic structure of this passage in Matthew, the outer layers address the sexual purity, conception and birth, and divorce and marriage. Layered inside is the Lord’s name as Jesus or Emmanuel, with the interpretation. The innermost layer contains the theme: “And this all happened that it might be fulfilled what was said from the Lord by the prophet.”

Because as our culture is focused on the introduction and ending of this passage, we miss the point. Remember, Matthew was written in ancient times specifically to the Jews, so he uses chiastic structure to point to the theme, which is about the fulfilling of prophecy. In fact, Matthew doesn’t need to name the prophet, because the Jews would have known the reference was from Isaiah. So, why is Mt 1:22 so important? Because Matthew is saying that Scripture is being fulfilled, a very important point for a Jew to consider. Truth must be validated.

Once we understand that the point of this passage concerns the fulfillment of prophecy, we should be able to perceive the rest of the passage in its proper perspective of supporting the chiastic theme.

Copyright by Beth Piepenburg, 2013. All rights reserved.

[1] For basic information about chiasms, see

Comments on: "PROPHECY FULFILLED by Beth Piepenburg" (2)

  1. Hi Beth,
    Thank you for referencing my “What is a Chiasm (or Chiasmus)?” article at the end of this blog entry. In my Bible I had identified the same chiasm but had never mentioned that to anyone. So let that be a confirmation to you – good job.

    My only addition is what I call a “synthesis” – if a synthesis appears, it is generally at the end of the chiasm. In this case, the synthesis reads, “And he called his name Jesus.” In other words, the synthesis complements and confirms the center point of the chiasm. Or putting it another way, when verse 22 states that all this took place to fulfill the prophecy, the synthesis identifies by name how it is fulfilled.

    I have not written about the “synthesis” effect on chiasms before and should probably do so. I find them most often in the books of Matthew and John.

    Be blessed and Merry Christmas to you, your family and your congregation.
    In Christ,

    • Beth Piepenburg said:

      You’re very welcome. I referenced your blog, because you have simplified the explanation of chiastic structure for the average person to grasp on your blog.

      I’m not sure there is a “synthesis” line like a modern concluding paragraph. If the last line is the synthesis, shouldn’t the 1st line be doing the same? As you already know, in chiastic structure the second half of an expression balances the first. Yes, it is characteristic that the first and last lines often repeat the theme of the climax, located in the center.

      While analysis is separating the whole into its constituent elements, synthesis is combining the constituent elements into a single unity. Maybe the whole chiasmus allows the understanding reader to do both, reflectively.

      Because most of the English Bibles separate the clause “and he called his name Jesus” from the first part of the verse by a colon or worse by a period, it is easy for the reader to think that clause/sentence is the concluding and most important point. The Greek ‘kai’ here is used to separate clauses not sentences.

      As I had stated in another post, Matthew’s gospel, being the first, was written to the Jews in Hebrew Aramaic, before it was translated into Greek. So, the climax or most important theme that Matthew wanted to convey to the Jews is v22. This amazing story has to line up with OT Scripture, from a Jewish perspective, or else it is invalid.

      The second most important point are the boundary lines, the first and the last lines, which are supporting the central axis. Four important facts are mentioned which I will be readdressing with my next writing:
      1) birth of Jesus Christ — she called him Jesus
      2) Mary espoused but had not come together with Jesus — he knew her not
      3) impregnated by the Holy Spirit — firstborn son
      4) Joseph thinking of divorce — Joseph took Mary as his wife

      Thanks for comments.
      Merry Christmas to you and your family, too.

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