Posts tagged ‘Matthew’


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



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.


FIVE WOMEN OF FAITH by Beth Piepenburg

In reading Matthew 1:2-17, avoid losing yourself in the list of names and the begat/father, but rather notice what stands out as if it were typed in bold print. Five women are listed in the patriarchal genealogy of Jesus Christ, not because they represent the ‘skeletons in the closet’ in a pure Jewish genealogy but because their faith commends them.

  • 110_04_0068_BiblePaintings Tamar_aTamar, who had been defrauded by her father-in-law, Judah, contended for what was due her.  By her faith and righteousness, she obtained a double blessing, twins. The red thread tied upon the hand of Zerah by the midwife is a symbol of redemption.
  • 110_06_0015_BiblePaintings Rahab_aRahab, who had heard of the works of the Lord and confessed that the He was God of heaven and earth, by faith received the two spies in peace. Her new found faith and righteousness saved her from annihilation in the doomed Jericho. The red cord dangled from her house not only spared her life, but is a symbol of redemption.
  • 040_01_0041_BSTD Ruth_aRuth, the Moabite, who had lost her Jewish husband, left her people and followed her mother-in-law who had decided to return to Israel. Ruth vowed to stay with her mother-in-law, to choose Israel as her people, and to choose their God as her God. Her faith and righteousness brought blessings for herself and her mother-in-law, which included marriage to Boaz. The barley harvest symbolizes the time of redemption, and Ruth asking Boaz to spread his garment was a request to the kinsmen-redeemer to cover her with his protection, redeem her, and marry her.
  • 040_02_0065_BST Nathan David_a“her of Urias”, also known as Bathsheba, sinned in an adulterous affair with King David. The sin of adultery could not be atoned by the Jewish sacrificial system, but only by a repentant heart having faith in the atonement of a future Messiah. “Purge me with hyssop”, a prayer from the penitent King David, symbolizes cleansing.
  • 110_01_0459_BiblePaintings Mary Annunciation_aMary, because of her purity and faith in God, was chosen to be the young mother of the Lord Jesus Christ in such a miraculous way that is mind boggling. Her strong relationship with God would sustain her through the fateful events of her son. Her virginity is a symbol of spiritual purity.

What is Matthew trying to convey to his audience by mentioning these particular women? Could it be that we can only enter the Kingdom of God by our faith in Jesus Christ and that our redemption is through Him?

Copyright by Beth Piepenburg, 2013. All rights reserved.

THE CHRISTMAS SEED by Beth Piepenburg


Now I mentioned yesterday that Matthew wrote to the Jews for the purpose of showing that Jesus Christ was the Anointed King of the Jews. Matthew introduces this leitmotif in Matthew 1:1, by stating: The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.  Three important points are being made here for the benefit of the Jews.

1)      Generation is the Greek word, γενεσις or genesis, and is referring here to the roots or lineage of Jesus Christ. Actually, the book of Genesis was composed on clay tablets[1] by the various patriarchs and later compiled by Moses[2]. Appended at the end of the clay text would be a colophon, identifying the author, contents, and sometimes a purpose much like the page number and title is listed at the top of the page in a modern book. We can identify the colophons in the book of Genesis by the Hebrew word, תולדת or toledah. Likewise, Matthew, a tax scribe, used this same Hebrew word in the beginning of his gospel and thereby was identifying the true authorship of this gospel as Jesus Christ besides introducing the ancestry of Jesus.

2)      Jesus Christ was a descendant of David. In 2 Samuel 7:12-16, the prophet Nathan gives the word of the Lord to King David that God would set up a Seed coming from David’s lineage and that his Kingdom would be established for eternity.

3)      Jesus Christ was a descendant of Abraham, by whom all the families would be blessed (Gen. 12:3). Although Gen. 15:5 reads that Abraham’s seed or offspring would be numerous like the stars, yet a prophetic word is being foretold here about a future Seed[3]. In context with Gen. 15:1-3, the Lord God is telling Abraham, a skilled astronomer[4], that if he could recount or record the stars, so shall his Seed be. What message is to be recounted in the stars, except the story of redemption pictured in the Mazzaroth, the twelve constellations?

Although the purpose of the colophon used on clay tablets had been lost to history, the Jews would have understand that the word תולדת or toledah signaled ancestors. They would have understand the point being made that Jesus Christ was the son of David and the son of Abraham, both important qualifiers of a Messiah.

Copyright by Beth Piepenburg, 2013. All rights reserved.

[1] Clay was the medium for writing in Babylon and early Canaan, while papyrus was the medium in Egypt.

[2] If I compiled the recipes of all my past relatives and published them as a book, the author would be me. Likewise, in compiling the patriarchal tablets, Moses is deemed the author of Genesis.

[3] Although the word seed, זרע or zehrah, is a collective noun, only the context can give us a clue if the noun is to be understood as a singular or plural entity. In this case, the context doesn’t differentiate between the number.

[4] Josephus’ Antiquities of the Jews, 1.7.2


Tetramorph meteoraMatthew, Mark, Luke, and John wrote their gospels for different audiences in mind.  In order to understand the Christmas story a little better, a brief look to whom and for what purpose each gospel was written will enrich our lives a little, too. Valuing ancient thought and learning, my views differ from modern speculation on unfounded Q documents. Therefore, my research directs me back to ancient literature for understanding.[1]

Initially, Matthew wrote his gospel in the Hebrew Aramaic for the Jewish people with the focus on Jesus Christ being King and Messiah. Loaded with Jewish idioms and culture, the gospel was later translated into Greek, the language for literary writings. Therefore, Matthew’s intention is to explain to his fellow Jews the fulfillment of prophecy.

Mark, writing in Rome, condensed the gospel story for the Roman world with the focus on Jesus Christ being the Servant of God and Son of God. Although written in Greek, this gospel keeps to a Semitic syntax, and yet uses many Latin words and idioms. Therefore, Mark’s intention is to explain to the common culture the story of Christ in a pragmatic manner.

Luke, the beloved physician, wrote his gospel with the focus on Jesus Christ being the Son of Man and the perfect God-Man. Written in Greek, the literary language of the day, the gospel has Greek overtones.  Therefore, Luke’s intention is to explain by Greek expression the human story of Christ in a historical genre.

John wrote his gospel in Greek. His focus is on Jesus Christ being the Son of God and the Revealed Word. John’s gospel is spiritually oriented, and speaks to the heart, whether Jew or Gentile. Therefore, John’s intention is to explain Christ in spiritual terms.

Thus, each Gospel writer had a special mission in presenting Jesus Christ to the world.

Copyright by Beth Piepenburg, 2013. All rights reserved.


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