6 Surprising Things You Need to Know about Matthew’s Christmas Story
There are two versions of the Christmas story: the one reflected in Christmas carols and pageants; the other version most forget—Matthew’s Christmas story.
“Matthew’s version of our favorite holiday,” Rodney Reeves explains in his new Matthew commentary (SGBC series), “is hardly recognizable except for the star and the three wise men. Joseph nearly divorcing Mary, Herod’s diabolical ploy, the slaughter of the innocents, the flight to Egypt, waiting for a wicked king to die—none of these things make the cover of Christmas cards” (61).
Yet we need this story for the things Matthew wants to tell us about Immanuel’s story.
In his commentary on Matthew 1:18–2:23, Reeves outlines several important insights into the passage. Below we’ve given you six surprising things you need to know about Matthew’s Christmas story this…
Man, a Man, Men, at Familymas (Matt 9:8) — Mondays with Mounce 244
It is amazing what difference a little word like “a” can make. Since Greek does not have the indefinite article, we primarily use it according to English style; but it can still seriously impact the meaning of a sentence.
Jesus has just finished healing the man with paralysis. In Matt 9:8 we read, “When the crowds saw it, they were afraid, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to men” (ESV, see also the NASB, NET, HCSB). “Men” is the translation of the plural τοῖς ἀνθρώποις; and at first glance this seems fine, especially if you think “word-for-word” is the best. But in this case, it seems to me that word-for-word seriously miscommunicates.
Why? Simple. Was the power at work in Jesus given to “men”? Of course not. It was given to Jesus, unless you want to argue…
Hebrew and You with Lee M. Fields — A Postscript and a Christmas Note
Postscript: LXX and Masoretic Text
Last month’s post generated some interest from readers on the Septuagint (LXX). Some may wonder whether the LXX or the Hebrew is more reliable — or perhaps another text tradition, for that matter. The LXX does indeed represent a different tradition of the Hebrew Bible text. The Dead Sea Scrolls at times agree with MT, at others with the LXX, and sometimes vary from both. I conclude that the Masoretic Text (MT) tradition of the Hebrew Bible should be the basis for study and translation.
Why should the MT tradition be preferred? The bottom line for me is that the Jews themselves set out to wade through the various traditions 2,000 years ago, and their conclusions have come down to us as what we call the Masoretic Text. So, most Protestants,…
Why a Virgin Birth?
"What is the theological significance of the virginal conception? Some have argued it was necessary to protect Jesus’ sinless nature, but the narratives themselves do not indicate this purpose. The Messiah could have entered human life free from sin with or without a virginal conception…
In the final analysis, the details remain a mystery. What is certain from the text is that the conception of Jesus was a supernatural act of God, confirming that God himself was about to accomplish the salvation which no human being could achieve.”
– from Four Portraits, One Jesus by Mark L. Strauss
What about you? What do you say when someone asks why a virgin birth?
The Beauty of the Incarnation
As we reflect on the Incarnation during this Advent season we can easily fall into focusing exclusively on one of two realities, realities that the Church has wrestled to hold in tension from its earliest history.
On the one hand, we can look at the manger and see a baby who isn’t really a baby at all but God merely appearing as a baby, leading us to sing “the little Lord Jesus no crying he makes” and similar verses.
On the other hand we can see a baby who is simply another baby, another child born into a hurting world who may provide a cute picture in the manger, and later bring a message of love, but ultimately in no different than…
The Zondervan Encyclopedia of the Bible: It’s In There (Magi Edition)
But these are simply corrections to popular images of the nativity. More important for our understanding of the text is another question, who exactly were the Magi anyway?
Turning to The Zondervan Encyclopedia of the Bible entry on Magi I found a number of interesting details about these elusive men from the East.
Did you know that Magi were originally a Median tribe who gained great religious power and became an important hereditary priesthood in the…
Was there really no room at the Inn?
We are accustom to Christmas plays and TV specials which feature Joseph and Mary being told “there is no room at the inn” by a burly looking innkeeper who seems insensitive to their situation. As the birth of Jesus comes closer, they make the best of it and hunker down in a stable.
But were there really inns in Bethlehem at all?
“The ‘inn’ (katalyma) was probably not an ancient hotel with an innkeeper, since a small village like Bethlehem would not have had such accommodations. Luke uses a different Greek word in Luke 10:34 for a roadside inn (pandocheion).
The word katalyma normally means either a guest room in a private residence or a caravansary, an informal public…
(Re)Telling the Christmas Story
None of those things are inherently bad, actually some are quite good in and of themselves. But do you ever feel like there is a disconnect between what we do leading up to Advent and those things we profess about it?
I often feel that way. I love the Christmas season, but at times the materialism that defines it is quite disheartening. We do things in our churches to shove down this contradiction, buying goats for villages in Africa or sending out shoeboxes of toys, but in the end the narrative we hear around the Holidays remains the same.
According to the authors of Advent Conspiracy there is another way to approach our celebration of the Messiah’s birth.
What Christmas Is All About — By Ajith Fernando
I have just returned from a year-end programme at one of our centres. Though a majority of those at the programme were youth, there were also parents, children, neighbours and friends of the ministry. This is the time when gifts of school supplies for the New Year are given to the students in our education programmes. It was in the open air and, for the first time in several days, there was no rain. Over 250 people were there. My job was to give a Christmas message towards the end of the four-hour programme. I was extremely nervous!
During the programme, I talked to many people. I had a nice chat with the father of one of our volunteers. He had been a gang member and had first come to us for protection after an incident about 30 years ago when there were people wanting to kill him. He hid in our farm, and I will never forget my terror as I drove him to the courts fearing that someone would shoot at us. He told me how he had recently visited his old gang friends to tell them about Jesus and urge them to turn to him. He was one of the honoured guests who distributed gifts to the children. His three older children had grown up in YFC and now the youngest was a volunteer in the work.
Then I talked to a young person who came from a family ruined by alcohol. She had met Christ in our ministry, and she is now active in her church, and so is her mother who was also at the programme (Recently it has been a joy to see several parents of our youth following their children in making commitments to Christ). They had come to see the younger sister perform in our dance troupe. Then I talked to a young man who had met Christ and had been very active in our work but had fallen into a trap of Satan and moved away. I have been praying for him for several weeks and now I was delighted to see that he was making a comeback.