Archive for the ‘Matthew’ Category

Joseph and Mary


“Adoration of the Shepherds” by Gerard van Honthorst, 1622

by Beth Piepenburg

24 Now when Yoseph arose from his sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and he took his wife, 25 and he did not know her until she had given birth to her first-born son and she called his name Yeshua.

Joseph, who had been contemplating on divorcing his espoused wife, had an angel appear in a dream. When Joseph arose from his sleep, he did several important things expressed by Matthew in four subordinate clauses, which are not always translated well in most English translations.

First, Joseph did as the angel of the Lord commanded him. I’ve heard some indicate Joseph was a mediocre step-father whom God needed to hit over the head by an angel so God’s plan could move accordingly. I disagree! Scripture says Joseph was righteous, and I think he was God’s best man for the calling. Desiring his actions to be done God’s ways, Joseph sought the Lord for help, and he was very much in tune with God’s plans. Because of Joseph’s receptivity, the Lord sent an angel to Joseph on three different accounts to confirm or prepare Joseph for the next major changes that would affect the life of Jesus. Most of all, Joseph was obedient and full of faith.

Second, Joseph took his wife. Since Mary was espoused to Joseph, they had already entered into a written agreement of marriage called a ketubah. Having believed that Mary had violated the contract by becoming pregnant from another man, Joseph would have been justified to seek for a divorce.  However, the angel of the Lord confirmed Mary’s story that her pregnancy had come from the Holy Spirit, and validated the event as prophesied by Isaiah. Therefore, instead of “putting her away”, he took her into his home as his wife fulfilling the legal contract.

Third, Joseph did not know Mary until she had given birth to her firstborn son. Although Matthew had already written they had not come together previous to Joseph taking her as his wife, the gospel account continued to emphasize their celibacy status after marriage. Apparently, the angel must have conveyed that they were to remain celibate until the birth of the Lord. However, the word until does not necessarily mean that they did or did not have marital relationship after the birth. If a parent tells a child that he/she cannot legally vote until he/she is eighteen years old, it does not mean that the child will ever vote in an election, but that age is no longer a restriction. Likewise, Joseph and Mary would be free to fulfill intimate relationship towards each other. However, did they?[1]

In the Jewish culture, firstborn does not mean that others siblings follow. Primogeniture is right of the one who is first to come forth from the uterus to have a title of preeminence, and to receive the double inheritance.  The firstborn had first place among his siblings (Gen. 43:33, Deut. 21:17), and held some authority over his siblings (Gen. 37:21-30). Before the Law was established, the firstborn included a right to the priesthood. In Ex. 13:2, the Lord tells the Israelites that the firstborn were to be sanctified. In Ex 34:19-20, the Lord tells the Israelites that the firstborn were to be redeemed. In Num. 18:15-16, every firstborn male was to be redeemed for 5 shekels. So, Joseph and Mary would have had to pay this redemption price for Jesus.

Fourth, she named him Jesus, as translated from the Aramaic Peshitta. The angel had already told Joseph that Mary was to call the name of the baby Jesus (Yeshua). Thus, Joseph is obedient to angel’s words. Why? Mary is the woman chosen by God to bear the Seed of salvation promised after the fall of mankind (Gen. 3:15). As Eve birthed sin into the world by her act of disobedience, Mary has to be responsible to speak the name of the child as Jesus (Yeshua), a savior for mankind. As Adam had supported Eve in their disobedience, Joseph is to support Mary in their obedience to God.

Therefore, Joseph was obedient to the angel’s directive by taking Mary as his wife, by protecting her virgin status, and by allowing her to name the baby Jesus.

Copyright by Beth Piepenburg, 2014. All rights reserved.


[1] As a Protestant, I have researched this topic and have found some surprising conclusions. From the time of the early church until the last century, the Christian Church comprised of Protestants, Oriental Orthodox, Eastern Orthodox, and Catholic believed that Mary remained celibate. With exception of the Roman Catholic Church, everyone else believed Mary was born with a sinful nature and was in need of a Savior. From early writings, both Joseph and Mary believed that her female anatomy had become too sacred to enjoy a normal marriage relationship as a result of what God had done in the conception and birth of Jesus. Remember, Joseph was much older, and references to brothers and sisters could be children born to Joseph from a previous marriage or just cousins. It’s a topic worth researching with open eyes, mind, and heart.


Was Mary a Virgin?

by Beth Piepenburg

220px-Giorgione_045Mt. 1:23 Behold a virgin will conceive and give birth to a son and they will call his name Emmanuel which is interpreted, ‘Our God is with us’.

Some say that the word virgin in Isaiah 7:14 was mistranslated as young maiden, and was fulfilled shortly thereafter. If so, then why does Matthew use this particular Scripture in reference to Mary? By looking at historical context, language, and Biblical astronomy, we can validate Matthew’s use of the word virgin.

Why did Isaiah prophesy this verse? When King Rezin of Syria and King Pekah of Northern Israel conspired against King Ahab of Judah, the prophet Isaiah meets Ahab and gives him a word to not fear these two kings. Isaiah informs Ahab that these two kings have conspired against Ahab to set a puppet king to him, and that it won’t stand nor come to pass. Being a critical time for the Davidic dynasty, Isaiah gives a prophetic word to Ahab that if he would trust the Lord, then he would be established. Ahab fails to trust the Lord, and used the temple gold and silver to request help from Tiglathpileser III of Assyria for help. Although Syria and eventually Northern Israel would be destroyed, Ahab’s reign held many problems including his pagan worship.

When Isaiah delivers the prophetic word to Ahab, the Lord challenges Ahab to ask for a sign, which Ahab refuses to do. Then Isaiah turns to everyone present, and addresses the House of David, to give them a sign of hope, “Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” Fifteen year old Hezekiah, Ahab’s son, would one day rule and continue the lineage of David. God’s purpose of a future Savior could not be thwarted by the fickleness of Ahab.

almah = young female, maiden (H.)
bethulah = a virgin (H.)
parthenos = a virgin maiden (G.)
virgo = virgin (L.)
ܒܬܘܠܬܐ = chaste girl, virgin (S. Peshitta.)

Concerning whether the word virgin or young maiden is correct, some claim the Hebrew word almah was originally used and mistranslated by the Greek Septuagint. While almah means young maiden, the high expectation of a young maiden entering marriage would be to keep her virginity before marriage. In one sense, the difference of the words is a minor point, but in the sense of a prophetic word given centuries beforehand and referenced by Matthew, the difference is a moot point. Because scribal copies of prophetic Writings were less scrutinized than the Torah, variant copies surfaced. Although the Great Isaiah scroll from the 1st century BC and the Masoretic Text of the 9th century AD uses almah, yet the Greek Septuagint had translated this passage with the word parthenos. Was the Greek Septuagint translation, which was agreed upon by seventy Jewish scholars and approved by the High Priest, correctly rendering parthenos from an earlier Hebrew text using bethulah? Were the later editions of the Hebrew/Aramaic substandard? Or did these Jewish scholars feel that parthenos would convey the best context of the original Hebrew word?

 To further validate the point, both Mt. 1:23 and its chiastic counterpart Mt. 1:18 indicate that Joseph and Mary abstained in their marriage relationship prior to the birth of Christ, because of the importance of Mary remaining a virgin. Since Matthew would have access to the commonly used Septuagint and the Aramaic scrolls, he would be aware of any differences. Remember, Matthew’s audience is the Jewish nation.

From an astronomical position, the first sign of the Jewish Mazzaroth is Bethulah or Virgo, as we know the constellation. Bethulah is the Virgin holding the ear of barley (firstfruits) in her left hand and the Branch in her left hand. The dominant star in the ear is Spica, the Seed, which can mean stream, or ear of grain, usually barley. The other stars in the Branch are Zavijava = the gloriously beautiful, Subilon = a spike of corn, and Vindemiatrix = the son or branch who comes. So, the stars and grain symbolism in the constellation of Virgo, which validates a Son who will be the firstfruits.

Virgo Yom Teruah 3 bc

At sunset on September 11, 3 BC, the seventh Chodesh (new moon) of the year appeared, situated in the constellation of Virgo. With this particular Chodesh came the celebration of Yom Teruah, the Day of Trumpets. Before dawn arrived, Jupiter was very close to Regulus in the Constellation of Leo, creating an effect of a very bright “star”. On this day, Mary would have most likely conceived the Lord Jesus Christ. As the last three fall feasts conclude the end of the agricultural season of farming, so the sounds of the trumpets on this particular Yom Teruah would announce the end of the age of Old Testament times.

Leo Yom Teruah 3 bcWhile some focus on nitpicking over the word virgin and guessing at interpretations, we can be assured that Matthew’s use of the word virgin can be validated by historical context of Isaiah, language, and Biblical astronomy.Virgo2 Yom Teruah 3 bc





Copyright by Beth Piepenburg, 2013. All rights reserved.


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


474px-'Joseph's_Dream',_painting_by_Gaetano_Gandolfi,_c._1790Mt 1:20-21. But while he pondered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, the son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife: for he who is begotten in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she shall bring forth a son, and she shall call his name JESUS (YESHUA), for he shall save (yawshah) his people from their sins.”

What was Joseph to do? As his weary mind was overwhelmed with his predicament, he fell asleep while seeking God’s help. Surely, you have had life situations that left you tossing and turning during the night, too. Lo and behold, an angel appeared in his dream! The angelic message served two purposes, one of which is to help Joseph understand his immediate circumstances, and the other will be captured in my next story.

Whenever the word, behold, is used in Scripture, it is a signal for the reader to pay attention. Recognizing the word behold is not just some kind of archaic introductory word, but rather the word is alerting the reader that an angel of the Lord has appeared to Joseph. Angels are very important to Jewish culture, because they are sent from God to deliver a special message. Interestingly, Matthew records four angelic appearances. Three times an angel appeared to Joseph concerning the Christ child, and the fourth time an angel appeared to the women who came to the tomb of Jesus. However, the focus isn’t upon the angel, but the message.

First, the angel addresses Joseph by his name, and then by his ancestry since Joseph is the son of David. Now that the angel has Joseph’s full attention, he addresses Joseph’s problem. Fear! Although I think this was a cautious fear on Joseph’s part, he needed to be assured that God was involved in his and Mary’s lives in a unique way. The reason he was not to fear is that the conception was the work of the Holy Spirit.

Then, the angel foretells that Mary will have a son and that she is to name him Jesus (Yeshua)[1]. Depending on the community, Jewish naming of the firstborn could be done by either the father or the mother. However, the angel Gabriel had already told Mary that she was to call the baby’s name, Jesus[2]. The reason his name is to be called Jesus (Yeshua) is that He shall save (yawshah) his people from their sins. Notice the Hebrew word play between Jesus (Yeshua) and save (yawshah).

Another reason the angel is specifically saying that Mary is to call the name of the baby Jesus (Yeshua) has to do with her significant role. Besides needing a personal Savior, she is the woman chosen by God to bear the Seed of salvation promised after the fall of mankind[3]. As Eve birthed sin into the world by her act of disobedience, Mary has to be responsible to speak out the name of the child as Jesus (Yeshua), a savior for mankind. As Adam had supported Eve in their disobedience, Joseph is to support Mary in their obedience to God. Also, Mary, the Elect Lady (2 John), symbolizes those who would recognize their own necessity for a personal savior and become future members of the universal Church, the body of Christ[4].

For Joseph to understand his role as protector of Mary and Jesus, he needed to seek the Lord. However, what God had planted in Mary, the promise to Adam and Eve for the redemption of mankind, was so much greater than Joseph could have imagined.

Copyright by Beth Piepenburg, 2013. All rights reserved.

[1] Since the Gospel of Matthew was written in the Aramaic Hebrew, I reference the oldest Aramaic Peshitta copies. Older Greek and Latin variants are divided as to the use of the pronoun, she or you, because of the ambiguity in the Aramaic. The only clues to what is correct is context.

[2] Luke 1:31

[3] Gen 3

[4] As a Protestant, my research using ancient Christian writings broadens my understanding of the Orthodox.


800px-Familienkirche_-_Fassade_-_Mosaik_Heilige_Familie_-_JosephMaybe Joseph wondered why God seemed to be throwing him a curve ball. Having sought the Lord about marrying Mary, now he was seeking the Lord about a divorce. To understand his predicament beyond what seemed to be betrayal of the heart, some cultural background is beneficial.

Mary had agreed to be betrothed to Joseph, her older cousin. From traditional writings, Mary supposedly was orphaned. Established in life, Joseph could provide for Mary, a young lady between 14 to 16 years of age. While he could have arranged for her to marry a suitable younger man, he must have known that the Lord was calling him to marry her. She could have declined, but understood God’s will for her life. In Middle Eastern culture, marrying paternal cousins was considered an honorable choice. Their betrothal would have been culturally acceptable and even honorable.

A betrothal was a period of time when a man and a woman pledged themselves to marriage. Along with their families, they entered into a written agreement of marriage called a ketubah. Each party contributed financially. While the groom’s father gave a mohar, a bridal price or ransom, to the father of the bride, the groom gave a matttan, a gift, to the bride, and the bride’s father provided her with a shiluhim, a dowry, for her future security. If she died before having children, the dowry was returned to her father; otherwise, her children inherited it. To terminate a betrothal required going through a legal divorce. Ideally, this marriage contract protected both parties. Though the betrothal period was flexible, the average time was a year. Until they united in marriage, celibacy was expected during the betrothal period. Marriage was a covenant sealed by the purity of the partners on their marriage night.

If the woman broke the agreement by infidelity during the betrothal period, the man could seek a divorce, recover the mohar and keep her shiluhim by proving her unfaithfulness in a public trial. Standing trial before the Sanhedrin, she would be exposed before all. The priest would tear her clothing to reveal her bosom, undo her hair, and tie an Egyptian robe above her chest. If the man chose a private trial, he would still need two witness to sign and validate the divorce. So, complete secrecy of the situation would be near impossible.

When wrestling with circumstances, we ask questions and desire a remedy. Definitely, Joseph had struggled with how best to handle the situation concerning his betrothed, who had become pregnant. Because she had negated her betrothal duties, the righteous thing required by the Law would be for him to divorce her. Yet compassionate, he could not see her humiliated in Jerusalem by obtaining a public divorce. Surely, Joseph wondered what had happened and was shocked to hear her story of becoming pregnant from the Holy Spirit. Unwavering with her tale, he probably thought she feared to divulge the truth. Sweet Mary! Her heart had always been to love the Lord! Who would have taken advantage of her or perhaps convinced her that he was too old.

On the other hand, Mary had had a spiritual encounter that left her physically pregnant. How would Joseph handle the news that she was pregnant by the Holy Spirit? Would he believe her?  If not, how would he respond? Would he file for public divorce? Could the presence of the Lord in her life give her a peace that defied her circumstances?

Once we understand the cultural significance, Joseph’s anguish and fear holds a deeper meaning. Now, what was he to do?

Copyright by Beth Piepenburg, 2013. All rights reserved.

14 x 3 = 41 or 42 by Beth Piepenburg


One problem of fourteen generations thrice should give forty-two names, and yet traditional translations give us forty-one names. However, the Aramaic states: “Jacob fathered Joseph, the kinsman of Mariam, from whom was born Yeshua who is called the Messiah.” The proper translation now gives us forty-two names with Mary listed as part of the lineage of Christ.

Copyright by Beth Piepenburg, 2013. All rights reserved.

JOSEPH’S & MARY’S LINEAGE by Beth Piepenburg

Because the Gospel of Matthew was written to the Jewish people, Matthew traces the lineage of Jesus through his mother Mary by her kinsman Joseph. In fact, Matthew’s Gospel story of the nativity of Christ was the one in circulation for at least a decade before Luke wrote his Gospel. In 1 Sam. 7:12-13 the Lord had promised David that after his death the Lord would set up David’s seed after him and establish his kingdom, which was fulfilled as Peter explained in Acts 2:30. The seed had also been promised through Abraham. Because the seed would come through a woman, Gen. 3:15, Matthew traces the lineage through Mary as prophesied and recorded in history.

The ancestry given by Matthew is divided into three periods of Jewish history from Abraham unto David, from David unto the exile, and from the exile to Christ. The importance of the ancestry given is not to prove that the kingly line is through David’s son, Solomon, but that Mary’s ancestry can be traced back to King David. Whereas Solomon’s kingdom lasted a few centuries, Christ’s kingdom is eternal. While Solomon and Jeconiah had their moral failures with consequences, we see God’s forgiveness and restoration of this lineage by his promise to Zorobabel[1].

Since the Gospel of Matthew was originally written in Aramaic, I consulted an interlinear Peshitta version[2].  Words and concepts can be lost in translating from one language to another, which proved to be true when Matthew 1:16 was translated from Aramaic to Greek. In the Aramaic translation: “Jacob fathers Joseph, the kinsman of Mary, from whom was born Yeshua who is called the Messiah.”  Although the Greek uses the word husband, aner (ανηρ), in both Mt. 1:16 and Mt. 1:19, the Aramaic distinguishes the difference of kinsman, gawra (kinsman) in Mt. 1:16, from husband, ba’la (her husband) in Mt. 1:19. Matthew is making the point that Jesus’ genealogy is through Mary, by whom Joseph is her kinsman.

To shed further light on the subject, I began researching what the writings of the earlier centuries had to say concerning the genealogy of Mary and Joseph. How I wish I could just walk down to the Temple in Jerusalem, and check out the records. However, they either were destroyed or lost to history since the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans. Recognizing that I may be dealing with lost facts, “historical fiction”, or opinions in some of the early writings, could I find a mutual bit of truth concerning the family of Jesus? Yet, I did find much agreement with the lineage and purpose given of the promised seed of King David.  Since our lack of information concerns the third period, let’s begin with Jeconiah.

Solomon to Eliud

1)      Jeconiah, after being released from prison fathered Salathiel, who fathered Zerubbabel.

2)      Zerubbabel fathered Abiud, who fathered Eliakim.

3)      Eliakim fathered Azor, who fathered Sadok.

4)      Sadok fathered Achim, who fathered Eliud.

Mattan to Jesus

5)      Eliud fathered Eleazar, who fathered Matthan.

6)      Matthan married Estha and fathered twins, Jacob and Joachim[3], and then died. Estha then married Melchi, a descendant of David’s son Nathan, who then fathers Heli. Possibly, Jacob and Joachim are half-brothers to Heli, though there could be two generations between Melchi and Heli.[4]

7)      Heli married, but died childless. Both Jacob and Joachim are near kin. Jacob, married Heli’s wife to produce seed for him. In Luke’s gospel, Joseph is the legal son of Heli; in Matthew’s gospel, Jacob fathered Joseph.

8)      Joachim, Jacob’s twin, had married Anna, a descendant of Aaron. They had a daughter in their old age, whom they name Mariam or Mary. So, Mary is both descended from kings and priests.

9)      Mary is a much younger cousin to Joseph.

Concerning tribal inheritance, Mary will inherit any land owned by her father Joachim, as long as she marries within the tribe of Judah. More than likely, her marriage has been pre-arranged to Joseph, a much older man, by her father Joachim. Because she is able to inherit directly as a female, Matthew lists her along with Joseph, her kinsman rather than husband. This inheritance right also will necessitate her being enrolled personally in the census, which is why she had to make the arduous journey to Bethlehem during her pregnancy.

While Joseph’s genealogy is also traced by Luke, Matthew is giving both the biological lineage of Joseph and Mary, and their kinsman relationship. Can you see why the lineage of Jesus is traced directly from Mary through her kinsman Joseph and her grandfather Jacob to King David? She is the one who is the seed carrier.  Remember, Matthew is presenting the lineage from a Jewish perspective.

Copyright by Beth Piepenburg, 2013. All rights reserved.


[1] Haggai 2:23

[3] Also known as Yonachir or Zadok. Actually, Zadok might be a religious title.  Cave of Treasures (

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