Matthew 1:18

The birth of Jesus Christ (tou [Ihsou] Cristou h genesi). In the Greek Jesus Christ comes before birth as the important matter after Galatians 1:16 . It is not certain whether "Jesus" is here a part of the text as it is absent in the old Syriac and the Old Latin while the Washington Codex has only "Christ." The Vatican Codex has "Christ Jesus." But it is plain that the story of the birth of Jesus Christ is to be told briefly as follows, "on this wise" (outw), the usual Greek idiom. The oldest and best manuscripts have the same word genealogy (genesi) used in Galatians 1:1 , not the word for birth (begotten) as in Galatians 1:16 (gennhsi). "It is in fact the word Genesis. The evangelist is about to describe, not the genesis of the heaven and the earth, but the genesis of Him who made the heaven and the earth, and who will yet make a new heaven and a new earth" (Morison).

Betrothed to Joseph (Mnhsteuqeish twi Iwshp). Matthew proceeds to explain his statement in Galatians 1:16 which implied that Joseph, though the legal father of Jesus in the royal line, was not the actual father of Mary's Son. Betrothal with the Jews was a serious matter, not lightly entered into and not lightly broken. The man who betrothed a maiden was legally husband ( Genesis 29:21 ; Deuteronomy 22:23 ) and "an informal cancelling of betrothal was impossible" (McNeile). Though they did not live together as husband and wife till actual marriage, breach of faithfulness on the part of the betrothed was treated as adultery and punished with death. The New Testament in Braid Scots actually has "mairry't till Joseph" for "betrothed to Joseph." Matthew uses the genitive absolute construction here, a very common Greek idiom.

Of the Holy Ghost (ek pneumato agiou). The discovery that Mary was pregnant was inevitable and it is plain that she had not told Joseph. She "was found with child" (eureqh en gastri ecousa). This way of putting it, the usual Greek idiom, plainly shows that it was the discovery that shocked Joseph. He did not as yet know what Matthew plainly asserts that the Holy Ghost, not Joseph and not any man, was responsible for the pregnancy of Mary. The problem of the Virgin Birth of Jesus has been a disturbing fact to some through all the ages and is today to those who do not believe in the pre-existence of Christ, the Son of God, before his Incarnation on earth. This is the primal fact about the Birth of Christ. The Incarnation of Christ is clearly stated by Paul ( 2 Corinthians 8:9 ; Philippians 2:5-11 ; and involved in Colossians 1:15-19 ) and by John ( John 1:14 ; John 17:5 ). If one frankly admits the actual pre-existence of Christ and the real Incarnation, he has taken the longest and most difficult step in the matter of the supernatural Birth of Christ. That being true, no merely human birth without the supernatural element can possibly explain the facts. Incarnation is far more than the Indwelling of God by the Holy Spirit in the human heart. To admit real incarnation and also full human birth, both father and mother, creates a greater difficulty than to admit the Virgin Birth of Jesus begotten by the Holy Spirit, as Matthew here says, and born of the Virgin Mary. It is true that only Matthew and Luke tell the story of the supernatural birth of Jesus, though John 1:14 seems to refer to it. Mark has nothing whatever concerning the birth and childhood of Jesus and so cannot be used as a witness on the subject. Both Matthew and Luke present the birth of Jesus as not according to ordinary human birth. Jesus had no human father. There is such a thing in nature as parthenogenesis in the lower orders of life. But that scientific fact has no bearing here. We see here God sending his Son into the world to be the world's Saviour and he gave him a human mother, but not a human father so that Jesus Christ is both Son of God and Son of Man, the God Man. Matthew tells the story of the birth of Jesus from the standpoint of Joseph as Luke gives it from the standpoint of Mary. The two narratives harmonize with each other. One credits these most wonderful of all birth narratives according as he believes in the love and power of Almighty God to do what he wills. There is no miracle with God who has all power and all knowledge. The laws of nature are simply the expression of God's will, but he has not revealed all his will in the laws that we discover. God is Spirit. He is Person. He holds in his own power all life. John 3:16 is called the Little Gospel because it puts briefly the love of God for men in sending his own Son to live and die for us.