The author of the first of the four canonical gospels has occasionally been referred to as ‘meticulous Matthew’. He regularly displays intentional precision in his account of Jesus’ earthly life and ministry. This he does in order to accentuate truths that are both relevant and vital to the believer’s life and doctrine. This precision is very apparent in the genealogy Matthew constructs to present Jesus as the Christ at the beginning of his gospel. Consideration has already been given in part 1 [below] to the punning allusions of a ‘new scripture’ etc. Here then are some further considerations.
When Matthew constructs his genealogy of Jesus he says ‘….and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ’. [Matt 1:16, NIV]. To whom do the italicised words ‘of whom’ refer? Is it to Joseph as father? Mary as mother? Both Joseph & Mary as parents?
Clearly it is possible for the English word ‘whom’ to fit any of the 3 above possible meanings. Behind the English words ‘of whom’ however, stands the Greek relative pronoun h|s. The feminine gender of the relative pronoun points specifically to Mary as the one from whom Jesus was born. The genealogy regularly emphasises the male who fathers a child, but here ‘meticulous Matthew’ delivers a precise statement of the relationship of Jesus Christ to Joseph & Mary. While the genealogy establishes that Joseph is the legal father of Jesus, Matthew emphasises that Mary is the biological parent ‘of whom’ Jesus was born. Further, the passive voice of the verb ‘egennhqh‘ [was born] – the only passive among the forty occurrences of the verb gennaw in the genealogy – prepares for Matthew’s emphasis upon divine action in the conception and birth of Jesus [1:18-25]
The feminine gender of the pronoun then, prepares for the virgin birth by empathically shifting the attention from Joseph to Mary. He intentionally stresses that Mary is the mother of Jesus, and later will clarify that the conception is miraculous, brought about by the Spirit of God. Jesus Christ is indeed the son of David, the son of Abraham [1:1] but he is also the Son of God, Immanuel, ‘God with us’ [1:23]. This is no ordinary man in the line of David. This is our Saviour and Lord – fully man and fully God. Amen.