Commentary on St. Matthew - Introduction

As we will be using commentary from the Fathers & Doctors of the Church, we should start off with written permission -

Divino Afflante Spiritu (P. Pius XII, 1943)

"28. In the accomplishment of this task (Biblical interpretation) the Catholic exegete will find invaluable help in an assiduous study of those works, in which the Holy Fathers, the Doctors of the Church and the renowned interpreters of past ages have explained the Sacred Books. For, although sometimes less instructed in profane learning and in the knowledge of languages than the scripture scholars of our time, nevertheless by reason of the office assigned to them by God in the Church, they are distinguished by a certain subtle insight into heavenly things and by a marvelous keenness of intellect, which enables them to penetrate to the very innermost meaning of the divine word and bring to light all that can help to elucidate the teaching of Christ and promote holiness of life.

29. It is indeed regrettable that such precious treasures of Christian antiquity are almost unknown to many writers of the present day, and that students of the history of exegesis have not yet accomplished all that seems necessary for the due investigation and appreciation of so momentous a subject. Would that many, by seeking out the authors of the Catholic interpretation of Scripture and diligently studying their works and drawing thence the almost inexhaustible riches therein stored up, might contribute largely to this end, so that it might be daily more apparent to what extent those authors understood and made known the divine teaching of the Sacred Books, and seek suitable arguments."

St. Matthew wrote his Aramaic Gospel before the other evangelists wrote theirs; the estimated date is around the year 50. We don't know the exact date of the Greek version of this text, but tradition holds it could have been copied from the Aramaic by one of the other Apostles.

This particular compilation of commentary is copyright 1999, Sarah Gildea. All Rights Reserved. Private use permitted. Sources used are: Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas, Catena Aurea, a collection of commentaries of the Fathers & Doctors of the Church on the Gospels compiled by St. Thomas Aquinas, The Great Commentary of Cornelius a'Lapide (similar to the Catena) and various "Life of Jesus" books by reputable authors.

Chapter 1

Verse 1: Moses calls his first book of the Old Testament (Gen. 5), "This is the book of the generation of Adam", which is why the first book is called "Genesis", from the Greek (Septuagint).

1. Matthew writes of the genealogy of Christ "the son of David, the son of Abraham", starting from Abraham, the father of the faithful, because to him the promise was first made, that all generations should be blessed in his seed. Matthew was writing to the Jews and Jewish/Christian converts.

2. Mark wrote the beginning of the Gospel "of Jesus Christ the Son of God", because he wished to assert the divinity of Jesus.

3. Luke wrote the genealogy of Christ (in chap. 3:23) because he was writing for the Gentiles, and was careful to give a natural and priestly descent. He was able to follow the lineage of Jesus easily enough, as from the days of Moses the Jews kept in the Temple the Yachas, genealogies, birth and marriage records of Aaron's family. (Compare Luke's 3:32-33 to Ruth 4:18-21) They consulted these lists when electing the high priest and clergy. The local Sanhedrin or court, found wherever one hundred and twenty families lived, kept the records. This may also be considered the Catholic Church's foundation for keeping ordination and parish records, as well as records of births, deaths, confirmations, etc.

4. John doesn't write a genealogy in the usual sense, but starts off his Gospel with the divinity of Christ. The two genealogies (the divine promise from Abraham, and natural from Adam) were necessary in order to prove that Jesus was true God and true Man. The Ebionites and Adoptionists of the 2nd century denied the divinity of Christ. So did the Arians in the 4th century. The Manicheans (3rd c.) held that Christ had no real body (not truly man).

Verse 6: 3 of the women mentioned were harlots - Thamar, Rahab and Bethsabee (verse 6). Ruth was a pagan convert from the Moabites. Rahab was also a pagan from Jericho. Thamar is mentioned from Gen. 38:6, Rahab in Joshua 2:6-17; 6:17-25, Ruth in the Book of Ruth, and Bethsabee in 2 Samuel [2 Kings] 11:12-24.

Why were women mentioned in the genealogy? Sts. Jerome, Chrysostom, Ambrose answer, because Christ would signify that "He who came for the abolishing and putting away of sins wished to be born of sinners." This is the allegorical reason, and is often used because St. Matthew was a public sinner yet was called by Jesus. The literal reason is that these women were united to their husbands, not in the ordinary way, but after a new and extraordinary manner; and so they became types of the Church of Christ, which, when the Jews rejected, was gathered out of the Gentiles by a new vocation, and after a new manner.

Thamar, a Canaanite, because her marriage to Shelah (Sela, the youngest) was denied or held off, she, using deceit, prostituted herself to Judah.

Rahab, also a Canaanite, married Salmon (note: the Old Test. does not state this - Matt. 1:5 alone does) after she had hospitably received and protected the Hebrew spies who were sent by Joshua to Jericho, and so she became a convert to the faith and religion. (Psalm 86 - see Douay footnote [Ps 87 in NAB & RSV])

Ruth, a Moabite, married Boaz (Ruth 4:13) after she had moved with her future mother-in-law, Naomi, from Moab into Judaea.

Bathsabee, probably a Hittite, the wife of Uriah, was united to David, first by adultery, then in marriage. Bathsabee is not mentioned by name like the other women in this genealogy (ver. 6), because the others, though deserving of much blame, were yet commendable for many virtues. But Bathsabee was not only consenting in the adultery, but in having her husband killed.

St. Ambrose states Luke doesn't mention these names so he might set forth the series of the priestly race immaculate.

Verse 8: And Joram begat Ozias not directly, but with three generations intervening (See 1 Chron. 3:12, etc. [1 Paralip.]); Joram was really the father of Ochozias, Ochozias of Joas, Joas of Amasias, Amasias of Azarias or Ozias (Uzziah - NAB), as he had both names. (In 2 Chron. 26:1 [2 Paralip.] Amasias is written as the father of Ozias.)

St. Matthew here omits these three links in the genealogy. Joram had allied himself to the most wicked Jezabel and to Achab, in taking Achab's sister, the impious Athaliah, to wife; for God had sworn that, on account of Ahab's impiety and idolatry (1 Kings 16:31, [3 Kgs]), He would blot out all his posterity:

1 (3) Kings 21:21: "I am bringing evil upon you: I will destroy you and will cut off every male in Ahab's line, whether slave or freeman, in Israel."

Posterity in Scripture is reckoned to the fourth generation. Sts. Hilary & Thomas explain that here, then, in Matthew's geneology, it is blotted out.

Verse 12: Since Jechonias was listed in the previous 14 generations, he shouldn't be counted in this one, which makes only 13 generations counted in this last group. St. Jerome explains that this Jeconias is a different person from Jeconias, the son of Josiah. The former was Jehoiakim, or Jechonias, and Jeconias by a corruption. The son is properly Jehoiachin. "Now Jeconias begat Jechonias," as some Greek and Latin MSS. do read.

1 Chron. 3:15-17: " And the sons of Josias were, the firstborn Johanan, the second Joakim, the third Sedecias, the fourth Sellum. Of Joakim was born Jechonias, and Sedecias. The sons of Jechonias were Asir, Salathiel, "

This geneology is also mentioned in 2 Samuel chapters 23 and 24.

Verse 16: The birth of Jesus is mentioned differently than the other men in the genealogy, notice especially how the women are mentioned. Whereas the others were begotten of the named fathers, Matthew says, "Mary, of whom was born Jesus".

Verse 17: The generations are divided into 14 because of the Jews' fascination and interpretation of numbers. For the Jews, the name David, "DVD" (4+6+4) equalled the number 14.

There are various theories as to what the 3 groups of 14 mean (See the Catena Aurea, Vol., page 38).

Verse 18: Mary was promised in marriage to Joseph, but before they "came together" - lived together.

This is the genealogy of Joseph. Although he was not the true father of Jesus, it was the custom to show the genealogies through the fathers and husbands. He was the true lawful father of Jesus. The Blessed Virgin had to have also been a natural descendant from the tribe of David, since Jesus' human nature was actually coming from her. She had to marry someone of her own tribe not only for the sake of a written genealogy, but also because her father, Joakim, had no male heir. When Jewish women were the only heiress of their fathers, they were obliged to marry husbands of their own tribe, in order that their inheritance might not pass by marriage to another tribe. Sts. Ignatius of Antioch, Irenaeus, Justin and Tertullian mention this.

Numbers 36:6-7 - "Let them marry to whom they will, only so that it be to men of their own tribe. Lest the possession of the children of Israel be mingled from tribe to tribe. For all men shall marry wives of their own tribe and kindred."

Matthew doesn't mention this because it was perfectly well known to the jews at the time he was writing. However, he does mention quickly is that the child was of the Holy Ghost, and moves on to prove this through the actions of Joseph.

Verse 19: Joseph had the choice of having her publicly humiliated and stoned to death as an adulteress. As a just man, he wasn't quick to judge (as he "thought on these things" in the next verse), and didn't seek vengeance.

Verse 20: Joseph, son of David, the angel reminds Joseph that he is the link which joins Jesus with the family of David.

Verse 23: Isaiah 7:14. Some versions of the Bible read, "young woman" and not virgin, which is clearly an incorrect translation (RSV), because being born simply of a "young woman" would not be miraculous and would do nothing to prove the child was from the Holy Ghost.

Verse 25: Some modern commentators on Scripture state "the word till does not direct our attention to what happened afterwards; it simply points out what has happened up to that moment." (Navarre Bible Commentary). Examples of this are seen in Matt. 10:11, 12:20, 14:22, 17:9 - "And as they came down the mountain, Jesus charged them, saying: Tell the vision to no man, till the Son of man be risen from the dead."

St. Jerome answers simply that the word 'until' is to be understood in two senses in Scripture. Until often denotes a fixed period, but often also an infinite time, as in the examples below. "Understand then, those things which, if they had not been written might have been doubted, are expressly declared to us; other things are left to our own understanding. So here the evangelist informs us in this area where there might have been room for error, that she was not known by her husband until the birth, that we might infer that much less was she known afterwards."

Gen. 28:15, "And I will be thy keeper where ever you go, and will bring you back into this land: neither will I leave thee, till I shall have accomplished all that I have said."

Isaiah 46:4, God says, "I am till you grow old."

Matthew 22:44, "God said to his divine Son: Sit on my right hand till I make your enemies your footstool."

Verse 25, cont. - Only begotten son was also called firstborn, because, according to the law, Exodus 13:2, "Sanctify unto me, saith the Lord, every firstborn that opens the womb among the children of Israel." The firstborn had other privileges as well: At a certain age his brethren were to honor him by bowing down (Gen. 27:29), he received a "double portion" for an inheritance (Deut. 21:17), he was to take the role as priest in the family, and he was promised special spiritual blessings and privileges (those who blessed him were blessed, those who cursed him were cursed (Gen. 12:1, & 27:29).

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