The Gospel According To Saint Matthew With An Explanatory And Critical Commentary by Rev. A.J. Maas S.J.

Jesus shown as the Messias in his Infancy cc. 1, 2


a. By his Genealogy, 1:1–17

1. The book of the generation.] There are authors who regard these words as the title of the whole gospel [Chrys. Euth. Alb.], or of the first two chapters, or of the first chapter [Schanz]. They base this opinion a. on the word “book,” which appears to demand a rather lengthy treatise; and b. on the signification of the whole phrase in Gen. 2:4; 5:1; 6:9; etc., where it means “history” rather than “pedigree” [Maldon. Sylv. Calm. Keil]. c. Besides, as in Genesis the phrase applies to the whole book because the creation of heaven and earth is the foundation and source of the whole course of nature, so in Matthew it must apply to the whole gospel, because the generation of Jesus Christ is the foundation and source of the whole supernatural dispensation [Chrys.]. d. Euth. and Alb. add that the generations [incarnation] of Jesus Christ is the source of our supernatural life, because this latter has its origin in the waters of baptism, which were sanctified by their contact with the most pure flesh of Jesus incarnate.

But on the other hand, there is a greater amount of authority for the opinion that the title refers only to the first seventeen verses [Salm. Bar. Jans. Sa, Est. Mar. Lap. Men. Tir. Schegg, patr. Reishcl, Bisp. Fil. Weiss]. The following are the principal reasons: a. In v. 18 we find a new title that applies to the subsequent section exclusively (cf. 2:1); a similar application may therefore be assumed for the title in v. 1. b. The Hebrews denote by “book” even very short writings, such as letters of divorce, purchase contracts, etc. (cf. Deut. 24:1, Is. 37:14; 32:10; etc.). Since St. Matthew wrote for Hebrews, he may have called the brief pedigree of Jesus “book”. c. Even though “book of generation” signifies “history” in Genesis, its primary meaning refers to origin or, in the case of men, pedigree. It refers here to pedigree exclusively, because. α. “of Jesus Christ” stands in the immediate context, and β. “Jesus who is called Christ” closes the list; γ. that the Jews carefully kept the lists of their ancestors may be inferred from Esdr. 2:26; 1 Mach. 2:1; cf. Euseb. H. E. i. 7; iii. 12, 19, 20. d As St. John opposes the beginning of the new dispensation to the beginning of the old, so St. Matthew opposes the origin of the new Adam to that of the old; the first Adam, having no pedigree, the account of his origin is called “history”, but there is no good reason for thus interpreting “the book of generation” of the second Adam, since he has a pedigree.

Jesus Christ.] The name Jesus will be considered in v. 21. Christ or Messias in Hebrew “Mashiach,” means “anointed.” It is applied to kings, priests, and prophets (cf. Lev. 4:3, 16, 6:15; 1 Kings 24:7, 11; 2 Kings 1:14; 3 Kings 19:16], but especially to the great Deliverer expected to found the Kingdom of God [cf. Ps. 2:2; Is. 61:1; Dan. 9:25, 26; Pss. Sol. 17:36; 18:6; Onkel. and Jonath. in Gen. 49:10; Num. 24:17; Is. 4:2; 9:6; 11:1, 6, 15:2; 16:5, 28:5, 42:1, 43:10; 23:5; 30:21; 33:13; Os. 3:5; 14:8; Schürer. The Jewish People in the Time of Jesus Christ, div. ii. vol. ii. pp. 127 ff.). It is here used in the sense in which it does not occur outside the prefatory parts of the gospels [cf. Mt. 1:1, 16, 17; Mk. 1:1; Jn. 1:17], except in Mt. 1:18, Jn. 17:3 (where our Lord himself uses the word) [Jn. 4:2; 2 Jn. 7]. Concerning Mt. 27:17, 22, see the note.

the son of David.] This refers to the promises of eternal kingship made to David [2 Kings 7:14; Ps. 89:3], and to the prophetic expressions “branch of David” or “David” [cf. 23:5; 33:14; Ez. 34:23; 37:25; Os. 3:5]; hence the name “son of David” with which the Jews designated the Messias [cf. Mt. 9:27; 12:23; 15:22; 20:30; 21:9, 15; 22:42; Mk. 10:47; 12:35; Lk. 18:38; Jn. 7:42] is accounted for. The name is common even among the Talmudists.

son of Abraham.] There is a twofold explanation: a. Son refers back to Jesus Christ immediately, so that he is called both son of David and son of Abraham [Jer. Theoph. Rab. Pasch. Bed. Alb. Thom. Dion. Bar. Sylv. Calm. Reischl, Alf. etc.]. Two principal reasons are advanced for this opinion: 1. David and Abraham had been the principal recipients of Messianic promises. While the other patriarchs and kings obtained mostly only confirmations of these promises [cf. Gen. 12:3; 18:18; 22:18; 26:3; Pss. 88:39; 131:11; etc.]. 2. As in the sonship of David the royal and prophetic dignitaries of Jesus were implied, so his sonship of Abraham implied his sacerdotal and prophetic offices, since Abraham exercised both these functions [Gen. 15:9; 22:2, 13]. b. Son refers immediately to David, and David the son of Abraham [Euth. Caj. Jans. Schegg, patr. Schanz, Fil. Keil, Weiss, Knab. etc.]. For this also two reasons are alleged: 1. The Hebrews commonly refer “son” in their genealogical lists to the last preceding person [cf. 1 Kings 1:1; 1 Par. 4:37; 5:8, 14; 6:8, 14; 6:34–50]. 2. David is called the son of Abraham in the pedigree of Jesus in order to show that the promises according to which kings should go forth from Abraham [Gen. 27:6] had been fulfilled in David. It is with some reluctance that we subscribe to this second opinion, because it appears to neglect, to a certain extent, the sacerdotal character of Jesus which the evangelist wishes to inculcate.

2. Abraham begot Isaac.] With regard to the genealogy of Jesus, as contained in the Gospel of Matthew, we may reduce our observations to the following heads: a. Its main parts; b. its selective character; c. its additions; d. its omissions; e. its seeming contradictions; f. its summary.

a. The main parts of the genealogy are three series of names, the first of which contains patriarchs, the second kings, and the third private individuals. In the pedigree of Jesus we find, therefore, a summary of the history of the Jewish people: its special election, its continuous growth, its greatest prosperity, its fall and state of humiliation.

begot Isaac.] b. Selective character. Though St. Matthew refers in the genealogy to carnal generation, using the verb “begot” [St. Luke uses the expression “was of”], he does not give a full list of all the progeny of Abraham: Ismael and the other sons of the patriarch are omitted, not because they or their descendants were sinners or infidels [Alb. Thom.],—for the list contains other sinners,—but because they do not belong to the chosen people of God [Chrys. Theoph. Pasch. Mald. Jans. Sylv.]. This special divine selection is hinted at in Gen. 21:12, and is confirmed by St. Paul [Rom. 9:7]. On the same principle Esau has been omitted, but the brethren of Judas are included, because they are the forefathers of the chosen people, though they are not all the carnal progenitors of Jesus Christ [Mald. Euth. Caj. Rom. 9:5]. Judas is named in preference to Ruben, because he was the special bearer of the Messianic promises [Gen. 49:10; Apoc. 5:5; Heb. 7:14; Jud. 1:2; 1 Par. 28:4; 5:2; Ps. 59:9].

3. Phares and Zara.] c. Additions. 1. The history of the twins Phares and Zara is told in Gen. 38:13–30, and is alluded to in 1 Par. 2:4. Since they had been so marvellously united in the hour of their birth, the evangelist mentions them both in the pedigree of Jesus; some writers see in these two brothers types of the Jewish and the Christian dispensations. The spirit of Christianity appeared in the time of Abraham, but was withdrawn like the protruding hand of Zara, and brought forth after the Jewish dispensation prefigured by Phares [Euth.].

of Thamar.] 2. Another addition to the genealogical list of Jesus is formed by the names Thamar, Rahab, Ruth, and by her that had been the wife of Urias. (1) It is strange that these women are mentioned, since females were usually excluded from the Jewish genealogical lists. (2) The wonder increases because these four individuals entered among the ancestors of Jesus in an extraordinary manner [Gen. 38:13–30; 1 Par. 2:4; Jos. 2:1 ff.; 6:25; Heb. 11:31; Jam. 2:25; Ruth; 2 Kings 12:25; 3 Kings 9:5; 1 Par. 22:9, 10; 28:5]. α. It cannot be said that their extraordinary election is the reason why St. Matthew mentions the four; Lia and Rebecca were surely chosen in a most remarkable manner, and still they are omitted in the pedigree. β. Curci has suggested that these four are mentioned because they conceived their offspring out of wedlock, and were therefore not inscribed in the legal registers. But whatever may be said of Thamar, there is no reason for this statement in the case of Ruth, Rahab, and Bethsabee. γ. Harduin believes that St. Matthew names these four women because they are strangers. This is not certain in the case of Bethsabee; besides, Naama the mother of Roboam was a stranger, and is not mentioned in the pedigree. δ. St. Jerome is of opinion that the four women were mentioned by St. Matthew because they were notoriously sinful, in order to show that Jesus came to save sinners and destroy sin; but Athalia the wife of Joram, and Maacha the wife of Abias and mother of Asa, were surely greater sinners than the four women mentioned in the gospel. ε. It is hard to assign any reason for the occurrence of the four women in the pedigree of Jesus that is valid for all equally, unless we say with Patrizi that their notoriety among the Jewish people was the cause of their being mentioned by the evangelists. This celebrity they acquired in divers ways and for divers reasons, as is evident from their respective histories. 3. Jechonias and his brethren will be considered under the head of omissions.

4. Aram begot Aminadab.] d. Omissions in the pedigree. 1. The son of Aminadab, Naason, was the leader of the sons of Juda at the time of the exodus [Num. 1:7; 1 Par. 2:10;], and Aminadab’s daughter was the wife of Aaron [Ex. 6:23]. Hence Aminadab must have been the carnal father of Naason. But between Aminadab and Juda there are only Phares, Esron, Aram; so that in all we have only four generations for the time of the Egyptian captivity. This agrees with Gen. 15:16, where God promises to lead Israel back in the fourth generation; but according to Gen. 15:13 a generation embraces a century, which hardly agrees with a carnal generation. If the scriptural generations about this time are taken in their proper and literal sense, Levi is father of three sons [Num. 3:17], and great-grandfather of 22,300 [Num. 3:22, 28, 34]; Caath is father of four sons, and grandfather of 8600 [Num. 3:27 f.]; Gersom is father of two sons, and grandfather of 7500 [Num. 3:21 f.]. Omissions in the genealogical tables must be admitted in other places, as appears from 1 Par. 26:24; Esdr. 7:3; 1 Par. 6:7–14; Num. 3:24, 30, 32; etc. In the case of St. Matthew the omission is explained by his wish to reduce the generations in Egypt to four, according to Gen. 15:16.

5. And Obed begot Jesse.] 2. The second omission is based on the following data: Salmon must have been the real father of Booz, and Booz of Obed; otherwise they could hardly be said to have begotten “of Rahab” and “of Ruth.” Booz, Obed, Jesse are, therefore, the only three links between David and Salmon. Now we know that Naason, the father of Salmon, was prince of the tribe of Juda at the time of the exodus [Num. 1:7], and that Salmon married Rahab the harlot of Jericho [Jos. 2:1ff.]. According to 3 Kings 6:1, Solomon began to build the temple in the fourth year of his reign, 480 years after the children of Israel came out of Egypt. Adding then the 4 years of Solomon to the 70 of David, and to the 40 of the wandering in the desert, and subtracting these 114 years from the above 480, we find that 366 years intervened between the time of Salmon and that of David. The stated three links [Booz, Obed, Jesse] correspond therefore to these 366 years.

Explanations. α. Some authors have endeavored to explain the foregoing difficulty by contending that Salmon married not Rahab the harlot of Jericho, but another unknown Rahab. This supposition does not substantially lessen the difficulty we are now considering, while it increases the one previously discussed [cf. Rosenmüller, Masius, Harduin, etc.]. β. Others suppose that Naason was only twelve years old at the time of the exodus, and that he begot Salmon twenty-two years after the destruction of Jericho [Harduin]. This hypothesis (1) renders Rahab too old for marrying Salmon; (2) it implies that a boy of twelve years was the leader of the tribe of Juda on leaving Egypt; (3) it contradicts the implied statement of the Book of Numbers that Naason had died in the desert [Num. 14:29, 30; 26:64, 65; 32:10–13]. γ. A third class of authors believe that since there is an implied contradiction between chronology and genealogy, we must suppose that the chronology is at fault; they subtract 200 years from the number 480 given in 3 Kings 6:1. According to them, the genealogy cannot be incorrect because (1) it is repeated four times over without any variation [Ruth 4:18–22; 1 Par. 2:1–15; Mt. 1:2–5; Lk. 3:31–33], and (2) it is supported by eight other genealogies, which all contain about the same number of generations from the Patriarchs to David, as David’s own line does (those of Sadoc, Neman, Ahimoth, Asaph, Ethan, in 1 Par. 6; that of Abiathar, made up from 1 Reg.; of Saul from 1 Par. 8, 9, and 1 Kings 9, of Zabad from 1 Par. 2). δ. A fourth class of commentators maintain that the genealogies and not the chronology must be corrected. (1) They point first of all to the eight other genealogies alleged by the patrons of the preceding opinion, and show that only one of them contains 11 generations between the patriarchs and David, like David’s own; five contain 14 generations, and two 15 for the same period. (2) Moreover, the increase of generations does not fall before the return from the Egyptian bondage, but in the period from Salmon to David. It is therefore necessary to increase David’s ancestral generations for that period so as to bring them into conformity with seven other genealogies [cf. 1 Par. 2:1–15; 6:1–8]. (3) Add to this that the chronology is too distinctly stated to be contradicted without necessity, and (4) that the repetition of the same genealogy four times over, without variation, is sufficiently explained by admitting its existence in the public records of the time. We are therefore justified in admitting a “lacuna” between Obed and Jesse.

8. And Joram begot Ozias.] 3. Here we meet a third omission, for we read in 1 Par. 3:11, 12 that Joram begot Ochozias, Ochozias begot Joas, Joas begot Amasias, and Amasias begot Azarias or Ozias. Ochozias, Joas, and Amasias are therefore lacking in the evangelist’s genealogy of our Lord, (a) We need not infer from this that either St. Matthew was an inaccurate historian, or that he used the verb “to beget” in a false sense; because (1) for his purpose it was enough to give a summary account of Jesus’ pedigree, showing that he was the son of David; and (2) the meaning of the words “father” and “son,” and of the verb “to beget,” is wide enough to allow their application in a mediate sense. (b) But why did the evangelist omit these three names in preference to others, supposing that some had to be passed over in order to reduce the number of ancestors to fourteen? α. Possevinus, Papebroch, Lamy, Zaccaria, and others are of opinion that these three names had been omitted in the public registers, and that St. Matthew strictly adhered to the latter. But (1) it is unknown in history that any one’s name was omitted in the registers on account of his vices, and (2) even if immoral conduct had been the motive for the omission, Achaz, Joram, and Manasses would have deserved this punishment much more than Ochozias, Joas, and Amasias. β. St. Jerome [Comm. in Matt. i. 8] attributes this omission on the part of St. Matthew to Joram’s union with Athalia, the daughter of Achab [4 Kings 8:18; 26]. Thus God’s threat is literally verified that he will visit the sin of the fathers on the sons down to the fourth generation [Ex. 20:5].

11. And Josias begot Jechonias.] 4. In 1 Par. 3:15 we read: “And the sons of Josias were, the first-born Johanan, the second Joakim, the third Sedecias, the fourth Sellum; of Joakim was born Jechonias and Sedecias; the sons of Jechonias were Asir, Salathiel,” etc. Even Porphyry urged the discrepancy between the Gospel of St. Matthew and the Book of Paralipomenon against the Christians. To answer him satisfactorily, we must investigate whether according to St. Matthew the Jechonias begotten of Josias is the Jechonias who begot Salathiel [cf. 4 Kings 23:34, 24:5, 6, where Josias begets Joakim, Joakim begets Joachin or Jechonias].

a. There is only one Jechonias. α. St. Augustin believes that the evangelist knows of only one Jechonias, the names Joakim and Joachin being so much alike that they must signify the same individual [De consens. evang. xi. iv. 10; Serm. li. de concord. Matt. et Lk. 7:12]. But similarity of name alone does not prove an identity of person, unless it be supported by reasons from other sources. β. Harduin, too, believes that Jechonias the son of Josias is identical with Jechonias the father of Salathiel; and this person is not identical with Joachin, but with Johanan among the sons of Josias. (1) He must be different from Joachin, because his son and grandson, Salathiel and Zorobabel, are different from Joachin’s son and grandson of the same name. (2) He can be identical with Johanan, because this name can be inverted into Jechonias as easily as Joachin can. But (a) not to speak of the logical mistake that infers “a posse ad esse,” (b) the identification of the son of Josias with the father of Salathiel gives us only 13 names in one of the three series of the ancestors of Jesus; (c) it necessitates also the admission of a number of brothers of Jechonias, for which there is no warrant outside 1 Par. 3:16, where, however, only one brother is assigned him.

b. Other writers, therefore, distinguish between the son of Josias and the father of Salathiel, but they again differ in explaining the text of the gospel according to this distinction.

α. Knabenbauer admits the distinction, and thinks that St. Matthew has omitted the name of the son of Josias, giving only that of the father of Salathiel. (1) The motive of the evangelist was the circumstance that Joakim the son of Josias was not appointed king in the ordinary manner [4 Kings 23:34]. (2) This opinion gives only 13 members to one of the ancestral series; (3) it also supposes that Jechonias had several brothers, without having a historical foundation for the supposition [cf. Pasch. Thom. Salm.].

β. Mill enumerates 12 codices in which we read: “Josias begot Joakim; and Joakim begot Jechonias.” But (1) all these codices are very late, the oldest hardly belonging to the ninth century; besides, (2) they are manifestly altered by unskilful scribes, since they assign Joakim’s brothers to Jechonias.

γ. St. Ambrose, St. Jerome, and probably also St. Irenæus are of opinion that in its first occurrence Jechonias stands for Joakim, in its second for Joachin. But (1) such an application of a name to two different persons is unsupported by example, and (2) contrary to the usage of the genealogy. (3) Still, when we consider that the genealogy is broken, in a manner, by the Babylonian transmigration, so that the evangelist continues after it as if he were starting anew, the double meaning of Jechonias is not surprising. (4) The same reason frees us from the necessity of supposing that St. Matthew continues the genealogy so as to make the son of the preceding link the father of the following; in other words, the Jechonias of verse 11 is not necessarily Joakim, the father of the Jechonias in verse 12. It is only necessary that in verse 11 Joakim be included in the number of the “brethren.”

δ. Hence several authors, following St. Clement of Alex. [Strom. i. 21], believe that Jechonias of verse 11 applies to Joachaz the eldest son of Josias. This opinion is confirmed by 3 Esdr. 1:34 [graec. vat. 1 Esdr.], where Joachaz is called Jechonias [4 Kings 22:3, 4]. Against the opinion it is urged (1) that Joachaz had the surname Sellum [1 Par. 3:15; 22:11, 12; 4 Kings 23:33, 34]; for though cases are not wanting in which a person had three names, this was not of frequent occurrence. (2) A graver difficulty is found in the historical inaccuracy of which 3 Esdr. is accused [Calmet, diss, in 3 Esdr.].

ε. Patrizi prefers to identify Jechonias of verse 11 with Johanan. (1) It has already been noted that the two names are equivalent; (2) since, then, St. Matthew in his genealogy follows either the Book of Paralipomenon or the source from which that Book was drawn, we may justly suppose that the evangelist follows the chronicler in this case too, naming him in the genealogy who is first named among the sons of Josias.

in the transmigration of Babylon.] 5. The difficulties connected with this passage may be classed under the head of omissions, since they will be best explained by admitting its language to be elliptic or, at least, most concise. (a) The preposition “in” corresponds to the Greek ἐπὶ with the gen., the primary meaning of which is that of local juxta- or super-position; applied to time, it signifies “about” or “towards.” This answers the question, how Josias can have begotten Jechonias and his brethren in the transmigration of Babylon, though he died four years before the captivity and deportation, (b) But there is another answer to the question which is probably the true one: the phrase “in the transmigration of Babylon” does not qualify the verb “begot,” but the noun “brethren,” so that the sentence means: Josias begot Jechonias and his brethren [who lived or reigned] in the transmigration of Babylon. (c) The noun “transmigration” may mean (1) the Babylonian captivity, which lasted 70 years, beginning at about 606 B. C.; or (2) the deportation of the Jews to Babylon, which took place in the years 606 B. C., 598 B. C., and 588 B. C.; or (3) the destruction of the temple and of Jerusalem which occurred in 588 B. C. (1) It is plain that the sentence “Josias begot Jechonias in the transmigration” does not refer to the destruction of the city and the sanctuary; (2) the words of verse 12 “and after the transmigration of Babylon” show that the captivity is not meant by transmigration. (3) The events of history agree, therefore, with the words of St. Matthew in the following manner: Josias begot Jechonias [Johanan] and his brethren [who reigned] about the time of the deportation of the Jews to Babylon: Joachaz or Sellum for three months in 608 B. C., Joakim for 11 years, from 608 to 597 B. C., [Jechonias the son of Johanan for three months in 597 B. C.], Sedecias (?) or Matthanias for 11 years, from 597 to 588 B. C.

12. Jechonias begot Salathiel.] e. Apparent contradictions. 1. The statement that Jechonias begot Salathiel apparently contradicts. α. the condition of Jechonias as a captive in Babylon. For we have seen that the phrase “after the transmigration of Babylon must mean “after the deportation” of the people to Babylon, and cannot mean “after the Babylonian captivity.” But from 4 Kings 24:15 it follows that Jechonias was deported together with his wives, so that his captivity cannot have excluded his family life in Babylon. β. A more serious difficulty springs from 22:30: “Thus saith the Lord: Write this man barren, a man that shall not prosper in his ways; for there shall not be a man of his seed that shall sit upon the throne of David and have power any more in Juda.” But these words must be understood as they are explained in their context: “barren” means that no man of his seed shall prosper, sitting upon the throne of David and ruling in the kingdom of Juda. “The throne of David” must be taken as meaning the temporal kingdom of the tribe of Juda; if it were taken in its general meaning, it would exclude the Messias from the seed of Jechonias. γ. A third apparent contradiction arises from the Gospel of St. Luke [3:27], where Salathiel is said to be the son of Neri. Here we may have recourse to a levirate marriage between Jechonias and the widow of Neri, so that Salathiel is the carnal son of Jechonias, the legal son of Neri. This agrees (1) with the supposition that St. Matthew refers only to the carnal generation of Jesus, and (2) with 1 Par. 3:17, where Jechonias is given as the father of Salathiel.

Salathiel begot Zorobabel.] 2. 1 Esdr. 3:2; 2 Esdr. 12:1; Agg. 1:1; and Lk. 3:27 agree with the statement of St. Matthew according to which Salathiel is the father of Zorobabel; but according to 1 Par. 3:19 Zorobabel is the son of Phadaia. The following are some of the more probable answers to this difficulty: α. Some deny the existence of the difficulty by assuming that the Salathiel of Matthew is different from the Salathiel of Paralipomenon. Though this opinion eliminates also the seeming discrepancy between St. Matthew and St. Luke, who give Jechonias and Neri respectively as the father of Salathiel, it makes the evangelists’ genealogies from David down to Joseph disagree in every single link, and renders their comparative study practically impossible. β. Others suggest that St. Matthew and the genealogies agreeing with him omit a generation between Salathiel and Zorobabel. Though we have admitted several such omissions, we cannot do so in the present case, because according to 1 Par. 3:18, Phadaia is both father of Zorobabel and brother, not son, of Salathiel. γ. Others again have recourse to a levitate marriage between Salathiel and the widow of Phadaia, or between Phadaia and the widow of Salathiel. In the latter case, Zorobabel would be only legal son of Salathiel, while St. Matthew seems to give the natural generations. In the former supposition, Phadaia’s other son Semei should have died before the birth of Zorobabel, while in Paralipomenon he is placed after his brother [cf. Schanz, Cornely, Introd. iii. p. 199]. δ. Others again admit an error of the scribes, who have, by mistake, inserted the name of Phadaia [Knab.]. This supposition appears to be too violent. ε. The simplest solution of the difficulty seems to be that adopted by Patrizi [iii. diss. ix. c. xvi. 6], who suggests that the Zorobabel mentioned in Par. is different from the Zorobabel of the gospel. The chronicler gives the genealogy down to Salathiel and his brothers, one of whom is Phadaia; then, instead of giving the offspring of Salathiel, as the gospel does, he gives that of Phadaia, one of whose sons was named Zorobabel, thus agreeing in name with one of Salathiel’s sons.

13. And Zorobabel begot Abiud.] 3. Here St. Matthew appears to contradict again both the chronicler and the evangelist St. Luke. α. The writer of Paralipomenon who does not enumerate Abiud among the sons of Zorobabel (1) may speak of a different Zorobabel, as we have pointed out above; or (2) he may simply omit Abiud; or (3) call him by another name; or (4) Abiud may be the grandson of Zorobabel, St. Matthew omitting a link in the genealogy.

β. St. Luke mentions Resa as the son of Zorobabel; here again (1) some think that the Zorobabel of the first gospel is different from the Zorobabel of the third; if they be identical, which is more likely, then (2) Resa may be another name for Abiud; or (3) both Resa and Abiud may be sons of Zorobabel, the two evangelists tracing the genealogy through different lines. (4) Again, Resa may have slipped into the text from the margin where a Jewish convert had noted it opposite the name of Zorobabel; for Resa is the Chaldee title of the princes of the captivity, who at the end of the second and through the third century after Christ rose to great eminence in the East, assumed the state of sovereigns, and were considered to be of the house of David. If this solution be accepted, (5) St. Luke gives Joanna as the son of Zorobabel, and agrees with 1 Par. 3:19, where Hananias is named among his sons. Matthew may be assumed to have omitted this link. In the following generation, St. Matthew’s Abiud may then be identified with St. Luke’s Juda, and both with Oduia [?] in 1 Par. 3:24, supposing that the Semeia of verse 22 is identical with the Semei of verse 19.

4. Another great difference between St. Matthew and St. Luke is that the former enumerates only 9 generations between Zorobabel and Joseph, while the latter names 18. (1) It must be kept in mind that Matthew’s 9 generations are, absolutely speaking, sufficient to fill the space of time between the two progenitors of our Lord, amounting to about 530 years, or to about 50 years for each generation. (2) But considering the usual course of things, it is more probable that some links have been omitted in the first gospel. The discrepancy between the list of Matthew and Luke will be found less striking if we advert to the fact that (a) some persons had two names, (b) that some names are identical either in form or derivation, (c) that some names may have been designedly omitted, (d) that the MSS. of St. Luke are far from being uniform. These data will furnish as many principles for solving the difficulty.

16. And Jacob begot Joseph.] 5. A new difficulty rises from the discrepancy between the first and third gospel concerning the father of Joseph, who was Jacob according to St. Matthew, and Heli according to St. Luke. The two chief solutions of this difficulty are the following:—

α. St. Matthew gives the pedigree of St. Joseph, St. Luke gives that of the Blessed Virgin. The principal reasons for this opinion are the following: (a) It has been propounded as early as the fifteenth century by Annius of Viterbo, and had been alluded to by St. Augustin. (b) It shows satisfactorily how Jesus descended from David through Nathan on his mother’s side and through Solomon on his father’s. (c) The name of Mary’s father given in the third gospel agrees with the traditional one; for Heli [Heliachim] is only a variation of Joachim. (d) The text of St. Luke may be so explained as to make Heli the father of the Blessed Virgin; for we may interpret: “Jesus … being the son [as it was supposed of Joseph] of Heli”; or “Jesus …, being the son of Joseph as it was supposed, the son of Heli, the son of Mathat” [Lightfoot, Bengel, etc.]; or “Jesus … being as it was supposed the son of Joseph, who was [the son-in-law] of Heli” [Jans. Harduin, Calm. Raphel, Voss. etc.].

β. The second answer supposes that both evangelists give the genealogy of St. Joseph; it is based on the following reasons: (a) It is the common opinion, held by the Fathers, and by nearly all the commentators: Hugo a Sancto Charo, Thom. Lyran. Gerson, Tost. Caj. Erasm. Est. Salm. Mald. Baron. Nat. Alex. Zaccar. patr. Curci, etc. (b) It is demanded by the text of the gospels: with regard to the text of Matthew all agree; with regard to St. Luke, it has been seen that any other interpretation necessitates the supposition that Heli is called the father-in-law of Joseph, or that the word “son” is repeated before each proper name, or that the definite article stands before every name—all of which assumptions are false. (c) This opinion involves no great difficulties: Matthan descending from Solomon begot Jacob; after Matthan’s death Mathat descending from Nathan married his widow, and begot Heli. Jacob and Heli were therefore brothers by the same mother. Heli left a childless widow, by whom Jacob raised up seed to him, begetting Joseph. Joseph is therefore the natural son of Jacob, the legal son of Heli, but in any case the descendant of David [cf. Deut. 25:5–10]. (d) The foregoing solution is given by Africanus [cf. Euseb. H. E. i. 7]; the statement that St. Augustin alluded to the first solution of the present difficulty has not been proved by Maldonatus. It is also incorrect that the name Heli of Luke’s genealogy is identical with Joachim, the name of the father of our Blessed Lady, since Heli and Eli are wholly distinct [cf. Patrizi, diss. ix. c. xix.]. As to the heretical character of the Sinai MS. of the Syriac Gospels and its readings, see Amer. Cath. Quarterly, 1895, pp. 543–556, and references cited there.

17. So all the generations.] In this summary of the evangelist we have to consider first the individuals that make up the three tessaradecades; secondly, we must assign the reason for the division of the whole series into three parts; thirdly, the reason for the number fourteen. 1. Various computations of the tessaradecades: a. From Abraham to David; from David to Josias; from Jechonias to Jesus Christ [Harduin, Alf.]. The fact that David is thus counted twice is said to be founded on the words of the evangelist: “from Abraham to David … from David to the transmigration … from the transmigration to Christ.” b. Jans. patr. and others divide in this way: from Abraham to David; from Solomon to Jechonias the elder; from Jechonias the younger to Jesus Christ. Thus repetition of the same name is avoided. Jechonias the elder is, of course, identified according to the different views above stated with Joakim, Joachaz, or Johanan. c. St. Augustin and his followers divide thus: from Abraham to David; from Solomon to Jechonias; from Jechonias to Jesus Christ. Here Jechonias is counted twice, because he enters first as king at the end of the second division, then as a private person at the beginning of the third division. d. Others exclude our Lord from the series, thus: from Abraham to David; from David to Josias; from Josias to Joseph. This division has at least the merit of uniformity.

2. Why has the series been divided into three parts? a. The history of the people exhibits three states [Pasch. Bed.], that of judges, of kings, and of priests [Euth. Theoph. Jans. Sylv. Schanz], and in each of these conditions the people showed its need of a Messias [Chrys. Theoph.]. b. Mald. applies the parable of Luke [20:9–14] to the three different states of the people, in which the lord sent first three servants, and in the fourth place his son. c. Sylv. draws attention to the fact that in each part of the genealogy the promise of the Messias is repeated: in the first to Abraham, in the second to David, in the third to Zorobabel through the prophets Aggeus and Zacharias.

3. Why does the evangelist enumerate fourteen generations in each division? Different authors assign different reasons: a. Calm, and patr. see in it an aid of memory and perhaps an adaptation to the tastes of the Jews; b. Caj. and Sylv. regard it as a means adopted by the evangelist to show that he did not omit any of the generations unintentionally; c. Lap. and Knab. believe that St. Matthew prepares the mind of the Jews in this manner for the reception of Jesus Christ: for after showing that at the end of the two preceding fourteen generations a new social state began,—first the authority of the judges changed to royalty, then the royal authority changed to that of the priests,—the readers would be apt to expect a new social condition also at the end of the fourteen generations that followed the extinction of the royal power, to look for the Messianic times. d. Aug. Rab. Thom. Pasch. Mald. and others see a mystery in the very number fourteen; Pasch. Lap. and Schanz draw attention to the fact that fourteen is twice seven; Orig. [hom. 27 in Num.] Jer. [Ep. ad Fabiol. 78] Bed. Pasch. Alb. Mald. Lap. compare the forty-two generations from Abraham to Jesus to the forty-two halting-places in the desert, at the end of which Israel was led by Josue into the promised land; in the same manner Jesus came to lead Israel to the enjoyment of the Messianic promises after the fort-two preparatory generations enumerated by St. Matthew. e. Again, the number forty-two is explained by Pasch. as signifying the present state of the church; for since the number is six times seven, it includes both the idea of labor, signified by six, and that of rest, signified by the mystic number seven.

b. By his Birth, 1:18–25

18. Now the generation of Christ.] The following paragraph of the gospel gives first the reason why Jesus is said to be born of Mary; secondly, it tells of Joseph’s doubt and its solution; in the third place, it shows the fulfilment of a prophecy in the birth, or rather in the conception, of Jesus.

a. Why is Jesus said to be born of Mary? In verse 16 the evangelist breaks his genealogical chain; for instead of saying “and Joseph begot Jesus,” he continues, “Joseph the husband of Mary of whom [Mary] was born Jesus who is called Christ.” That the evangelist is going to give the reason for this special expression, he indicates in the words: “Now (for) the generation of Christ was in this wise.” This phrase must not, therefore, be understood as referring merely to the genealogy [Jer. Orig.], or as referring cither to the genealogy or the description of the conception that follows [Rab. Bed.], but it refers wholly to the manner of the conception of Jesus [Chrys. Knab.]. The words constitute, as it were, a new heading of the following paragraph, in which we must consider: (1) the name Mary; (2) the verb “was espoused”; (3) the phrase “before they came together”; (4) the expression “she was found with child”; (5) the words “of the Holy Ghost.”

(1) Mary has been variously interpreted by different authors: my illuminatrix, illuminating them, myrrh of the sea, star of the sea, enlightened, enlightening, bitter sea, drop of the sea, mistress, bitter one, fat or strong one, afflicted one, exalted one, contumacy, are some of the explanations of the name [cf. Bardenhewer, Der Name Maria, Freiburg, 1895; de Lagarde, Onomast. s. xiv. 7; lxx. 1; lxxiv. 21; cciii. 14; xiv. 8; Zeitschr. d. d. m. Gesellsch. 1877, p. 183; Linzer Quartalsch. 1880, pp. 58–64; Innsbrucker Zeitsch. 1880, p. 387; Isidor. Hispal. etymol. vii. 10; Jer. in Exod.; in Mt.; etc.]. Knabenbauer is of opinion that the explanations of the name which regard it as compound with the Hebrew word meaning “sea” should be abandoned; he eliminates also the renderings “contumacy,” “afflicted one,” “bitter one,” as being unlikely to be given to a newly born child; the meanings “exalted one,” “mistress,” “myrrh,” he admits as probable, since names of this meaning might be given to a child. It is clear that absolute certainty as to the meaning of the name cannot with our present data be expected.

(2) The word “espoused” [μνηστευθείσης] signifies properly “to be promised in marriage,” “to be betrothed”; but the meaning of betrothment according to the Hebrew law differs essentially from the idea usually connected with that term in our day. It is not a mere promise to marry, but it is the very initiation of marriage. The betrothed parties are really married, though by custom they are not yet entitled to the marital rights, nor bound to fulfil any of the mutual duties of conjugal life. The betrothment is dissolved only by death or a bill of divorce; faithlessness on the part of the betrothed female is treated as adultery. Without obtaining a formal divorce, she cannot enter a marriage contract with another person, and if she does so, it is void. The betrothed parties are called “Arus” and “Arusa” respectively, the state of being betrothed is called “Arusin,” and the act of betrothing, “Kiddushin.” The mode of betrothal is either by money [Kaseph], or by a written document [Sh’tar]. Between the betrothal and the nuptials an interval elapses, varying from a month for widows to a year for virgins. The nuptials are termed Chuppa [bridal chamber] or Nissuin [taking]. The essence of the nuptial ceremonies consists in conducting the bride from her home to that of the bridegroom, or a place representing his home. After this they are considered in all respects as husband and wife, though no conjugal intercourse has actually taken place [cf. Mielziner, The Jewish Law of Marriage and Divorce, pp. 76 ff.; Patrizi, De Prima Angeli ad Josephum Mariæ Sponsum Legatione, nn. 4, 5, 17; Deut. 22:23, 26; 1 Kings 18:25; Gen. 34:12; 29:18, 20, 25, 27; 31:4; Deut. 20:7; 2 Kings 3:14; etc.].

To distinguish, therefore, between marriage and the use of marriage: Christians have after betrothment a “jus ad rem” with regard to marriage, and after the nuptials a “jus in re,” while the Jews had no “jus ad rem,” but only a “jus in re”; with regard to the use of marriage, the Jews had a “jus ad rem” after the betrothment, and after the nuptials a “jus in re,” but Christians have a “jus in re” only, after the nuptials.

Still, as now we apply the terms “bride” and “bridegroom” to newly married persons, so does St. Luke [2:5] use the word “espoused” of Mary even after her nuptials with St. Joseph. The question to be decided here is whether “espoused” in the present passage of St. Matthew must be taken in the Christian meaning of the term, or in its legal Jewish meaning, or again in its metaphorical meaning in which the third evangelist employs it. The first signification is excluded by the nationality of the author and by the nature of the case. The third signification is excluded by the context, according to which St. Joseph had not yet “taken” Mary unto him, so that the nuptials had not yet taken place [verses 20, 24]. St. Matthew uses the term, therefore, in its second, strictly literal, meaning.

The only difficulty is to explain how God, according to this opinion, attained the four ends for which he wished Mary to be joined in marriage to St. Joseph. He intended a. to conceal for a time the mystery of the incarnation which could not then be understood; b. to shield the honor of Mary; c. to give Mary a helper and consoler, and a guardian of her virginity; d. to conceal the miraculous conception of Jesus from the devil. This last reason was first stated by Ign., and has been repeated by Ambr. [lib. ii. n. 3], Thom. [p. iii. qu. 29 a. 1], Sylv. and Suar. [in p. iii.]; but Scot, [in 4, sent. dist. 30, qu. 2], Tost. [in Mt. i. qu. 31], Salm. and Mald, appear to be right in rejecting it. Even though Mary was espoused to St. Joseph, the devil, if not impeded by God’s special intervention, could naturally know whether Jesus was conceived and born in the ordinary way or not. Besides, commentators do not tell us that God prevented the devil from perceiving other signs that proved the Messiasship of our Lord more clearly than his virginal conception and birth do; why, then, assert such a preventive action of God in this latter case? Thom. [l. c] assigns also a fifth reason for the marriage of Mary: God wished to honor in her both the state of virginity and of matrimony against the false teaching of future heretics.

To return to the foregoing difficulty, the first, the third, and the fifth purpose of God in causing Mary to enter the married state do not require that “espoused” in the passage of St. Matthew should refer to the Virgin’s state after her nuptials; but the second end, or the inconvenience that would follow if the Virgin Mary appeared pregnant before her nuptials, seems at first sight to demand the metaphorical meaning of “espoused,” found in Luke 2:5. Still, even if “espoused” be taken in its Hebrew signification as explained above, Mary did not become pregnant before her marriage, but only before her solemn passage into the house of her husband. The exercise of the marriage rights before this period was not forbidden by the law of Moses, but only by tradition; an offence against the latter was not considered as adultery or fornication, though it was punished, if it had taken place in the house of the bride’s father, and was denounced to the judges; the offspring was considered illegitimate only when the husband testified that there had not been any marital intercourse. We may suppose that Mary went to visit Elisabeth almost immediately after conceiving of the Holy Ghost; and it is not improbable that the mystery was made known supernaturally to her parents after her return, as it had been made known to Zachary and Elisabeth, and to St. Joseph. The marriage festivities might take place almost immediately after her return to the parental home, and it does not seem difficult to conceal at such an early period the state of pregnancy, especially in the case of a person so retiring as Our Blessed Lady. The circumstance that she gave birth to Our Lord when away from home, and that she probably did not return to Nazareth until after her flight to Egypt, would shield her against any suspicions and obloquies of her neighbors [cf. patr., De Prima Angeli ad Josephum Mariæ? Sponsum Legatione Commentation. 2 sqq. 17, 39]. This opinion is held by Bas. Epiph. Baronius, Salm. Calm. Lam. patr. Bisp. Curci, Knab. and others.

before they came together.] (3) This phrase may, according to the meaning of the verb συνέρχεσθαι refer either to marital intercourse or to the solemn introduction of the bride into the house of the bridegroom. In the former sense the Greek verb is used by Xenophon [Mem. II. ii. 4] and Origen [c. Celsum, i. 17], but never either in the Septuagint or the New Testament, except 1 Cor. 7:5, where, however, the Vatican Cod. has ῆτε, which reading is approved by Griesbach, Lachmann, and Tischendorf. Helvidius argued from this meaning of the word against the perpetual virginity of Our Lady, and St. Jerome in his answer did not deny the sense Helvidius had given to the passage [Adv. Helvid. 4]. But this argumentative concession of the Saint does not prove that he adhered to his adversary’s interpretation, though he refutes the heretic’s argument thoroughly.

Verses 20, 24 show plainly that the “coming together” refers to the solemn introduction of Mary into the house of Joseph. This is confirmed by the fact that the evangelist expresses marital intercourse by the verb “to know” in verse 25, and also by the list of the most illustrious commentators who favor the foregoing interpretation: Hil. Cat. Aur. Br. Salm. Mar. Calm. Lam. patr. Schegg, Bisp. Arn. Meyer, Grimm, Reischl, Schanz, Fil. Keil, Weiss, Knab.; it is true that the meaning “conjugal intercourse” was more commonly admitted by the older commentators: Chrys. Ambr. Jer. Pasch. Euth. Mald. Bar. Tost. Jans. Lap. Sylv. Sa, Est. and Men. But then they had to solve the above mentioned difficulty against the perpetual virginity of Our Blessed Lady, without gaining any additional argument for the virginal conception of Our Lord. This dogma is as clearly implied in the statement that Jesus Christ was conceived before the solemn passing over of Mary into the house of Joseph, as in the statement that Jesus was conceived before any marital intercourse took place; for Joseph being a just man, such intercourse was out of the question while Mary still lived in the house of her parents.

she was found with child.] (4) After her return from Zachary’s house, where she had spent three months, the signs of Mary’s condition became apparent. Br. remarks that the members of her family noticed her pregnancy, but did not consider it strange, since they knew her to be espoused to Joseph; only the latter was surprised at the fact which he could not help noticing. “To find out accidentally,” “to notice without scrutiny,” is said to be the true meaning of the Greek verb by Chrys. Theoph. Thom. Mald., who differ in this point from Jer.

of the Holy Ghost.] (5) There are two ways of construing these words: a.] They must be taken together with the preceding, so that the object of Joseph’s discovery was Mary’s pregnancy by the Holy Ghost. The principal reasons for this view are the following: α. The extrinsic authority of its defenders: Ps. Bas. Eus. Ps. Orig. Rab. Theoph. Salm. Richard of Saint-Victor, Gerson, Eckius, Catharinus, St. Brigitta, Turrecremata, Major, Soto, Rossignol, Paludanus, Druthm. Busto, Isolani, Natalis, Canisius, Morales, Grimm, etc.; β. the wording of the text which does not allow a separation of the clause “she was found with child” from the words “of the Holy Ghost”; γ. St. Joseph cannot have remained in ignorance of the mystery after the occurrences in the house of Zachary; δ. the Blessed Virgin cannot have concealed from her husband what she had publicly acknowledged in her solemn hymn of thanksgiving, the “Magnificat”; ε. St. Joseph thought of separating from Mary through motives of humility, as St. Peter afterwards asked Our Lord to go away from him.

b.] According to the second view, the words “of the Holy Ghost” are an addition of the evangelist declaring a matter of fact, and do not belong to the object of the discovery. The following are the main reasons for this view: α. It is the more common view of the Fathers and commentators, so that even Orig. Bas. and Hil., who were quoted by Grimm in support of his interpretation, have had to be abandoned by the learned writer, while Pasch. Thom. Alb. Bar. Jans. Mald. and the majority of commentators follow the lead of the Fathers in believing that Joseph did not discover the pregnancy of Mary and its divine origin at the same time. β. The context almost forces us to this interpretation, since in verse 20 the angel admonishes Joseph to take unto him Mary his wife, alleging as a reason that “that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost,” or the very fact on account of which Joseph wished to send Mary away, if we believe the interpretation of our opponents. γ. Mary’s fear that she could not easily convince Joseph of the mystery, or her humility, or her complete self-surrender into the hands of divine providence, or all three motives together, sufficiently explain the difference between her behavior towards her husband and that towards Zachary and Elisabeth, in whose society the Spirit of God had inspired her with that most sublime canticle of thanksgiving; δ. St. Matthew adds the words “of the Holy Ghost,” either by way of prolepsis or, more probably, in order to prevent in the reader a doubt which in the case of Joseph had to be removed by the ministry of an angel. These reasons serve also to refute those for the preceding view.

As to the meaning of the phrase “of the Holy Ghost,” it does not differ from what is said in Lk. 1:35; the Holy Ghost supplied by his creative power and virtue what was needed for the conception of Jesus in the womb of Mary, and God taught us by the words of the angel and the evangelist the proper mode of expressing this divine action. But was not this an external act of God, and are not all of God’s external acts common to the three divine persons? why then attribute it to the Holy Ghost? The following are the principal reasons for this manner of expression: 1.] On the part of God, the incarnating action was the height of divine love for man, and the Holy Ghost is the substantial love of God; 2.] on the part of man, human nature was assumed into hypostatic union with the divine word, and grace is attributed to the Holy Ghost; 3.] on the part of Jesus Christ, his sanctity is rightly ascribed to the action of the Holy Ghost, to whom all sanctification is attributed; 4.] on the part of the Holy Ghost, he is the substantial divine love completing and perfecting the eternal divine processions, and therefore God’s chief work of love is fitly attributed to him; 5.] with regard to the world, the Holy Ghost is regarded as its breath and vivifying principle [Gen. 1:2; 2:7; Ps. 103:30; Jn. 6:63], and therefore, again, the incarnation which is the principle of all supernatural life and fecundity is aptly ascribed to the Holy Ghost; 6.] finally, since to the third person the work of grace is commonly attributed, he is rightly represented as the author of the incarnation too, because this is the source and fountain of all grace [Thom. p. iii. q. 32, a. 1; Suar. in h. l.; Rab. Bed. Salm. Mald.].

19. Whereupon Joseph.] b. The second part of the present section considers 1. the doubt of Joseph; 2. the manner in which God delivered him from his doubt.

1. The doubt of Joseph. In order to understand the first of these points, we shall explain: 1.] the expression “her husband”; 2.] the phrase “being a just man”; 3.] Joseph’s intended private separation from Mary.

1.] Though the expression “her husband” may be fairly urged to show that Mary and Joseph were married before this period, it does not necessarily imply that Mary had been solemnly taken into Joseph’s house [cf. Gen. 29:21; Deut. 22:24]. At any rate, the word implies the vital interest Joseph took in Mary’s condition, α. We have had occasion already to mention one view of Joseph’s attitude under the present circumstances, defended by all those who maintain that Joseph learned at the same time Mary’s pregnancy and its real cause. We have rejected this view as improbable. β. A second view of Joseph’s attitude under the present circumstances makes him suspect Mary of adultery [Just. Ambr. Aug. Chrys. Euth. Pet. Chrysol. Br. Tost. Caj. Jans. Bar. Sa, Est. Mald. Schanz, Fil.]. But this opinion strikes us as harsh, injurious to Mary, unworthy of Joseph, offensive to Jesus Christ, and as not required by the context. γ. The third view regards Joseph as thrown into and overwhelmed by the pains of doubt: on the one side he feels certain of Mary’s innocence and blameless conduct; on the other he cannot deny the fact of her pregnancy, of which he himself is surely not the cause [Jer. op. imp. Pasch. Haym. Alb. Bernardin. Bonavent. Sylv. Lap. Tir. Men. Calm. Schegg, Meschl. Keppler, Knab. etc.]. This opinion satisfies the requirements of the context, and at the same time avoids the extremes of the two preceding views.

being a just man.]. 2.] The meaning given by commentators to the phrase “being a just man” depends to some extent on their interpretation of the attitude of St. Joseph during the period of his trial, α. Those who think that he knew already the whole truth place his justice in his humility which prompted him to consider himself unworthy of Mary’s society. β. Chrys. and patr. are of opinion that Joseph is called a just man because he patiently bore the injustice that might have been done him, and he complied with the law in putting away his wife. This last reason is not wholly valid, because the husband was not bound to bring a charge of infidelity against his spouse or wife, no matter how clear her guilt, nor to give a bill of divorce, except when the wife or spouse was seduced before her espousals; in that case the seducer was bound to marry her [Ex. 22:16; Deut. 22:28]. It had, however, become customary (perhaps on account of Prov. 18:22, Lev. 5) to regard it as strict duty to put away the faithless wife or spouse in every case, though no such obligation can be proved from the law. The wording of the Greek text is also appealed to in favor of this meaning of “just.” It may be rendered “being a just man, and [yet] not willing to expose her,” so that the second part of the sentence forms a contrast with, and is no mere explanation of, the first part. γ. Mald. and Jans. are of opinion that Joseph’s justice consisted in his meekness and charity, so that according to them the phrase “being a just man” is further explained by the subsequent words “and not willing publicly to expose her.” Pasch. Euth. Eus. Salm. appear to favor this view; the Greek text does not exclude it, whatever may be said to the contrary by the patrons of the foregoing opinion.

to put her away privately.] 3.] α. Tost. Mald. Lap. Tir. Men. Calm. Grimm believe that Joseph intended to leave Mary privately, by retiring to a foreign and unknown country; they deny that before the spouse had been solemnly led into the house of the husband, a bill of divorce was needed to effect the separation. It is true that in the Rabbinic writers the law of Deut. 24:1 is so explained as to comprise the case of merely betrothed persons; but the foregoing writers contend that we cannot infer from this that the same interpretation of the law was given at the time of Jesus Christ. β. Salm. Bar. Jans. Lam. patr. Schegg, Bisp. Fil. Wuensche, think that the separation had to be effected by a bill of divorce even before the spouse had been solemnly transferred into the house of the husband, but they maintain at the same time that this ceremony might take place either before judges or before two witnesses. In the specimen of a bill of divorce, found in Surenhusius [Mischn. iii. 323, 325, Tract. Git.], no cause for the separation is mentioned. It appears, therefore, that even according to this opinion strict privacy might be secured as to the real motive of the separating parties.

20. But while he thought.] 2. The anxiety of Joseph is allayed: 1.] by the ministry of an angel; 2.] by the promised companionship of Mary; 3.] by the honor God conferred on his wife; 4.] by the promised paternity of Mary’s and God’s son; 5.] by the Messianic office of his son.

behold the angel.] 1.] An angel. α. Chrys. Tost. Moral. Knab. believe that the angel appeared almost immediately after the doubt began to afflict Joseph, probably in the first night after Mary’s return. This seems to agree best with God’s merciful providence, and also with the words of the evangelist: “but while he thought on those things, behold.” β. It is not improbable that Br. Thom. Salm. Knab. are right in supposing that the angel appearing to Joseph was Gabriel, the angel of the incarnation; he appeared to Daniel, Zachary, and Mary. γ. The translation “in his sleep” renders the meaning of the Greek text [κατʼ ὄναρ; cf. ὄναρ καὶ ὕπαρ] faithfully; the view of Bisp. Meyer, Sevin that we ought to translate “after the manner of a dream” is inadmissible [cf. Gen. 20:3, 6; 31:10, etc.; Mt. 2:12, 19, 22; 27:19; Deut. 22:4; 23:32; 29:8]. δ. Tost. Jans. Bar. are of opinion that the angel did not appear in visible form, nor in person, but only in pictures of Joseph’s imagination. The wording of the gospel “the angel of the Lord appeared” seems to exclude this view.

Joseph, son of David.] 2.] Companionship of Mary. α. The consolation of the angel is prefaced by the title he gives to Joseph; according to the common interpretation, Joseph was thus reminded of the promises made to David and his royal house, and this the more vividly since the fulfilment of the Messianic promises was then most eagerly expected. β. The angel claims authority for his mission and his words by the fact that he is fully acquainted with the interior of Joseph’s soul, with his doubts and perplexities; and he confirms this sign by the prophecy he utters, γ. Instead of giving way to doubt and fear, Joseph is bidden to follow the inclination of his heart, and complete his engagement with Mary by solemn nuptials, taking her into his own house. This passage shows both that Mary was really married to Joseph before this period, and that she had not yet been solemnly introduced into his house: the former fact follows from the word “thy wife” which the evangelist applies to Mary both according to the Greek text and its English translation; the latter is necessarily implied in the words “fear not to take unto thee.” The various subterfuges suggested by the writers who believe that Mary had been before solemnly wedded to Joseph show this more plainly than any positive proof could do. According to them, the phrase “take unto thee” means “receive into thy house [after her three months’ absence],” or “keep with thee,” or “take unto thee [anew after being separated from her in thought].” And after all their labor, they have not been able to explain the text without doing violence to its plain meaning. We believe, therefore, that the opinion of Thom. Salm. patr. Schegg, Schanz, Knab. Fil. on this point is preferable to that of Chrys. Euth. Mald. Jans. Bar. Sylv.

3.] Mary’s exalted dignity. α. Joseph’s doubt or ignorance concerning the cause of Mary’s pregnancy had been more painful to him than the thought of his coming separation from her; and as the angel changed the pain of separation into the joy of union, so he changed the pain of ignorance or doubt into the most sincere exultation over Mary’s innocence and ineffable dignity: “that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost,” or as the Greek text more properly reads: “that which is begotten in her.” β. Besides all this, the angel shows that the Holy Ghost and Mary have not been causes in the same way: it is begotten IN Mary, but OF the Holy Ghost, γ. Had Joseph known the whole truth before, he might have answered the angel: “It is for this very reason that I intend to separate from Mary.” But the text plainly demands that the reason which the angel gives Joseph for taking Mary unto him must be one that he had not considered before.

21. And she shall bring forth a son.] 4.] Joseph shall be father of Mary’s son. α. There is a new cause of joy in the promise of a son; but this son is not promised to Joseph in particular as John the Baptist had been promised to Zachary, for according to Is. 9:5, Mary’s son must be born for the whole world [Thom. Salm. Jans. Bar.]. β. Joseph is, however, to be considered as the real father of Mary’s son, since he is to name the child [cf. Gen. 4:1; 5:29; 19:37; 21:3; 29:32–35; 30:6 f.; Ex. 2:22; etc.]. Another title to Joseph’s real fatherhood of Mary’s son is implicitly indicated by the angel: Joseph’s wife has lawfully conceived of the Holy Ghost; but the lawful fruit of the wife’s womb belongs to the husband. γ. The name of the child is no matter of indifference; since Jesus as God has a proper name [Word], so he must have a proper name as man. It must not be a mere appellative as is the name “Christ”; nor a metaphorical name, such as Pastor or Door; but it must express his essence as closely as it can be expressed. That the holy name Jesus has these requirements follows from the fact that it was given by God himself, who knew his Son perfectly, and loved him with an infinite love. This “a priori” reason is confirmed by the meaning of the word Jesus, “salvation of the Lord” or “Saviour.” As the nature of a mechanical instrument is fully determined by the work it has to do, so is the essence of Mary’s child fully manifested by the mission for which God has fitted him; if the mission of “Saviour” requires a God-man, a natural son of God, endowed with substantial sanctity, then the child that is named by God “Saviour” infallibly possesses all these qualities. Others had borne the name Jesus before [Eccli. 46:1; 1 Mach. 2:55; 2 Mach. 12:15; Acts 7:45; Heb. 4:8; Agg. 1:1, 12; Zach. 3:1; 6:11; Esd. 2:2, 30; 3:2; 8:33; 2 Esd. 7:7, 39; 8:17; 12:1, 10, 26; 1 Par. 24:11; 2 Par. 31:15; etc.], but they had been intended as saviours only in some one respect or another, while Jesus is the Saviour of all men in the full meaning of the word.

for he shall save his people.] 5.] The mission of Jesus. α. The next consolation offered by the angel to Joseph is derived from the office of the son of Mary. He shall be a Saviour not in a partial sense of the word, but he shall deliver us from sin, which is the root and the cause of all evil. After sin has been taken away, that peace and abundance of all blessings shall come which the prophets predicted for the Messianic age [Is. 9:7; 11:5; etc.]. β. Chrys. and Pasch. remark that in the case of the Messias “his people” comprises all men, as may be inferred from the words of the prophets: Ps. 2:8; 21:2–8; 71:8–11; 86:4, 6; Is. 11:9, 10; 42:4; 49:6; 52:15; 60:6; etc. Chrys. Jans. Bar. Sylv. infer the divinity of Jesus from the two facts that he is to save us from sin, and that his people is God’s people. γ. Chrys. and Mald. draw also attention to the circumstance that whereas the God-man might have assumed a name indicative of his divine majesty, he preferred a title that breathes nothing but mercy and love.

22. Now all this was done.] c. The third part of the present section contains (1) an introductory statement; (2) a prophecy; (3) Joseph’s action subsequent to the solution of his doubt.

(1) In the introductory statement the following points deserve our attention: a. Iren. Chrys. Euth. Theoph. patr. Arn. Weiss, Mor. Grimm, and others arc of opinion that the words introducing the fulfilment of the prophecy were uttered by the angel. Not all the evangelist has said, they argue, was done to fulfil the prophecy, but all the angel has said; as if the evangelist might not sum up all the angel said, in the words “all this.” Rab. Haym. Salm. Sylv. and most of the recent commentators maintain that the evangelist adds the words, “now all this.” They appeal to the usual formula in which St. Matthew shows the fulfilment of prophecy, to the unsuitableness of the words in the mouth of the angel, and to their agreement with the whole scope of the first gospel. β. Chrys. Theoph. Tost. Dion. Mald. Calm. Kuinoel, Berlepsch, and others are inclined to render here “and so was fulfilled the saying of the Lord by the prophet,” arguing that God predicted the future event because he had predetermined its futurity rather than predetermined its futurity because he had predicted it. But Pasch. Thom. Salm. Bar. patr. Haym. Knab. and many other commentators render the passage “that it might be fulfilled”; while these writers grant to their opponents that God predicted the event because he had predetermined it, they at the same time insist on the fact that the event with all its circumstances came to pass in order that God’s prediction might be sensibly verified, and his divine foreknowledge proved. γ. Again, we may remind the reader that the evangelist here suggests the true idea of Scriptural inspiration; “the Lord spoke by the prophet,” as he speaks through all inspired authors.

(2) As to the prophecy itself, α. the evangelist follows the text of the Alexandrian version, differing from it in three points: (a) he substitutes “a virgin shall have in her womb” for “a virgin shall receive in her womb”; (b) he writes “they shall call his name” instead of “thou shalt call his name”; (c) he adds “which being interpreted is God with us.” β. The explanation of the prophecy may be seen in any commentary on Is. 7:14. Here it must suffice to prove its literal reference to the Messias. This may be established from the fact that Emmanuel refers literally to Jesus Christ; for the Emmanuel of Is. 7:14 is identical with the person described in Is. 8:8, 10; 9:6, 7; 11:1–10, and the latter can be no other than the Messias. We are then warranted in maintaining with nearly all Catholic commentators and several Protestant writers the literal Messianic sense of the prophecy to which St. Matthew refers. γ. The passage shows also that the Virgin in the prophecy was to be Virgin “in sensu composito,” both Virgin and mother. δ. Theoph. and Chrys. have explained the name Emmanuel or “God with us” as signifying Christ’s divine nature: Theoph. maintains that Sacred Scripture takes its names of persons from their works, and the works of Jesus showed his divinity; Chrys. places the names of persons in Scripture on a level with their being, so that the name “God with us,” applied to Jesus, implies that Jesus is God.

24. And Joseph rising up from sleep.] (3) In the concluding part of the section, the evangelist insists on the obedience of Joseph, on his continency, and on the accomplishment of the angel’s words. α. Theoph. and Alb. call Joseph’s obedience prompt; Pasch. and Thom. further explain it as fulfilling the angel’s injunction both with regard to its matter and manner. Joseph solemnly introduced Mary to his own home as soon as circumstances would permit. This passage is another proof that Joseph not merely kept Mary as his wife, nor took her back after her stay with Zachary, nor gave her back his affection. β. In order to emphasize the virginal conception and birth of Jesus, the evangelist asserts that there was no intercourse between Joseph and Mary; for we need not mention the interpretation of op. imp. and gl. ord. according to which “to know” means “to know intellectually” or “to see”; Mary was therefore a virgin not only when conceiving, but also when bringing forth Jesus Christ. The words “till she brought forth” have been added, (a) because the evangelist had the birth of Jesus principally in view; (b) again, there was no need of adding anything of this nature regarding the period after Christ’s birth, since it was well known among the Jews that Mary did not conceive or bring forth a second time; (c) from this limitation in the evangelist’s words we cannot infer that Joseph knew Mary after the time of Jesus’ birth, just as we cannot conclude from Gen. 8:7 that the raven returned to Noe’s ark after the earth was dry, or from 2 Kings 6:23 that Michol brought forth after her death. The word “until” neither affirms nor denies anything after the limit of time to which it refers. (d) Even prescinding from the strict meaning of the words, it is not at all probable that Joseph should have known his spouse after witnessing all the miraculous signs at the time of Christ’s birth, if he had observed continency till then on account of the angel’s words. (e) That Mary observed perpetual virginity follows from her words in Luke 1:34, which have no meaning at all, if they are limited to the time before Christ’s birth. (f) Nor is the phrase Mary’s “first-horn son” conclusive against her perpetual virginity; for that term only denies that she gave birth to other sons before Jesus, without affirming that others were born after Jesus [cf. Ex 34:19, 20; Num. 18:15, where God himself defines the “first-born” as signifying him that opens his mother’s womb—Br. Pasch. Haym. Alb. Thom. etc.]. (g) Bed. Rah. Haym. Pasch. Alb. Sylv. Grimm, explain the word “first-born” as meaning what is meant by the predicate of Wisdom in Eccli. 24:5 [cf. Col. 1:15], while others interpret it as referring to Jesus’ brethren by adoption, or to his resurrection from the dead, or to similar relations. Though all these considerations are worthy of regard, they do not answer the difficulty of the present passage. γ. Finally the evangelist states the accomplishment of the angel’s words: Mary brought forth her first-born, and Joseph named the child according to the angel’s command.

d. St. Matthew then proves the Messiasship of Jesus from his virginal conception, and this he establishes by three arguments: 1. Christ’s virginal conception is revealed by the angel; 2. it had been predicted by the prophet; 3. it is confirmed by Joseph’s obedience to the angel; for Joseph would not have taken Mary to his house, had he not believed the angel’s testimony concerning her manner of conception. As the doubt of St. Thomas confirms us in our faith of the resurrection, so the doubt of Joseph confirms us in our faith of the virginal conception of Jesus.


a. Among the Gentiles, 2:1–12

1. When Jesus therefore was born.] In this section the evangelist describes a. the arrival of the Wisemen; b. the subsequent consultation of Herod and the Jews; c. the charge of Herod to the Wisemen; d. the adoration of the Wisemen; e. their return.

α. Treating of the arrival of the Wisemen, St. Matthew considers 1. the time of the event; 2. the persons; 3. the place; 4. its object; 5. its motive.

1. The time of the arrival of the Wisemen may be considered relatively to its contemporary history, and relatively to other events in the life of Jesus. α. The first point is determined by the evangelist’s words “in the days of king Herod”; for though this indication does not give the precise year of Christ’s birth and the Wisemen’s arrival, it assigns at least a limit after which those events cannot have occurred. This limit may be determined in the following manner: a.] The evangelist speaks of king Herod, who must be well distinguished from Herod Antipas, the tetrarch of Galilee; b.] Josephus [Ant. XVII. ix. 3; B. J. II. i. 3] testifies that Herod died shortly before a Passover,—therefore in March or April,—thirty-seven years after his appointment, and thirty-four years after his conquest of Jerusalem [Antiq. XVII. viii.1; B. J. I. xxxiii. 8]. Now he was appointed king of Judea by Antony and Augustus A. U. C. 714, and conquered Jerusalem A. U. C. 717. Supposing, then, that Josephus counts portions of a year as a year [cf. Ant. XIV. xvi. 4; XX. x.; XV. v. 2; B. J. I. xix. 3], a practice that prevailed in Egypt and from there extended over the neighboring countries, and that he reckons from Nisan to Nisan [cf. Mishna, Rosh hashana, I. 1], we must conclude that Herod died between the 1st and 14th day of Nisan A. U. C. 750. c.] Again, Josephus [Antiq. XVII. vi. 4] states that shortly before Herod’s death an eclipse of the moon occurred, and astronomy tells us that such a phenomenon took place on March 12–13, A. U. C. 750, and that no eclipse occurred in the two years following. d.] Thirdly, Dio Cassius [lv. 27] and Josephus [Antiq. XVII. xiii. 2; Vit. 1; ibid. he corrects B. J. II. vii. 3] relate that during the consulship of Æmilius Lepidus and L. Arruntius, in the 10th year of his reign, Archelaus was deposed by Augustus A. U. C. 759; hence he must have begun his reign in 750, and consequently his father must have died either before or in that year. e.] Antipas was deposed by Caligula A. U. C. 792; but we have coins dated the forty-third year of his reign; hence he must have begun to rule in 750 at the latest [cf. Schürer, History of the Jewish People, I. i. p. 466; I. ii. p. 36]. f.] The above result, as far as the year of Herod’s death is concerned, is now accepted by most modern scholars: Fréret, Sanclemente, Ideler, Wieseler, Gumpach, van der Chijs, Lewin, Sevin, Schegg, Sattler, Memain; Wurm, Quandt, and Kellner approach nearly the same conclusion, while Caspari, Riess, and Seyffarth diverge farther. Thus far it is clear that Christ must have been born at the latest A. U. C. 749, and that our Christian era which begins with A. U. C. 754 or 753 must be carried back a few years.

β. The second point of time is concerned with the relation between the arrival of the Wisemen and the other incidents in the history of Christ’s childhood. Both St. Matthew and St. Luke mention five incidents of the holy infancy: St. Matthew: 1.] the nativity; 2.] the adoration of the Wisemen; 3.] the flight into Egypt; 4.] the slaughter of the Holy Innocents; 5.] the return of the Holy Family to Nazareth. St. Luke: 1.] the nativity; 2.] the adoration of the shepherds; 3.] the circumcision; 4.] the purification of the B. Virgin Mary and the presentation of the child in the temple; 5.] the return of the Holy Family to Nazareth. All agree that the evangelists coincide in n. 1, and that nn. 2, 3 of St. Luke precede n. 2 of St. Matthew; the difficulty begins with the adoration of the Magi, and extends over the subsequent occurrences.

Solutions. α. The adoration of the Magi, the flight into Egypt, and the slaughter of the Innocents must be placed between the circumcision and the purification. According to Bergier, the purification was delayed till after Herod’s death, but this cannot be reconciled with St. Luke’s account [2:22 ff.]; others suppose that Christ was born shortly before Herod’s death, so that though the Holy Family returned from Egypt within the space of forty days, the king had died in the mean time, and the purification took place on the legal day as described by St. Luke,—this is improbable, and contradicts the current tradition.

β. According to another supposition, the events occurred in this order: Adoration of the Magi [Aug. on Jan. 6], purification and presentation, flight into Egypt, slaughter of the Innocents. But it is improbable that Herod should have waited full twenty-seven days before taking action in a matter of such vital importance to him, and St. Matthew seems to say that the angel bid the Holy Family to flee into Egypt immediately after the leaving of the Wisemen. Though these difficulties disappear, if we suppose that the Magi came only a few days before the purification, it is hard to see why the Holy Family should have offered the offerings of the poor after being enriched by the gifts of the Wisemen, and St. Luke (2:39) appears to exclude the adoration of the Wisemen from between the purification and the return to Nazareth.

γ. A third solution arranges the events in this manner: The circumcision, the adoration of the Magi, the purification, the return to Nazareth, the flight into Egypt, the slaughter of the Innocents, and the return from Egypt. This satisfies, indeed, the words of the third gospel, but those of the first are not sufficiently considered,—Herod would have waited, at the least, nine days after dismissing the Wisemen on their search, and the angel would not have appeared to Joseph immediately after the return of the Magi into their country; besides, the offering of the poor in spite of the presents received from the Magi remains unexplained.

δ. A fourth solution suggests the following series of events: The circumcision, the purification, the adoration of the Magi, the flight into Egypt, the slaughter of the Innocents, the return to Nazareth. Eus. Epiph. Juvenc. Metaphrast. believe that a space of about two years intervened between the birth of Christ and the adoration of the Magi; but this does not well agree with the words of St. Matthew, which imply that the Wisemen arrived almost immediately after Christ’s birth, and that they left their home as soon as they saw the wonderful star; again, according to this opinion Christ would have been born A. U. C. 747 or 746. Nor does the opinion of Papebroch that the Magi arrived a year and thirteen days after Christ’s birth satisfy the words of the first gospel, though they explain why the feast of Epiphany is celebrated on Jan. 6. Patrizi’s view that the Magi arrived about the middle of February seems to satisfy all exigencies of the first and third gospels and of tradition [Grimm, Corn. Knab. Fab. Est.]. After the purification the Holy Family settled in Bethlehem [Mt. 2:22], whither they returned from Nazareth [Lk. 2:39]. Thus the Wisemen had time to come from the East after the appearance of the star, and Herod could direct them to search in Bethlehem. Nor can it be said that the common tradition of the church, as represented by Aug. Pasch. Thom. Tost. Mald. Jans. Suar. Bar. Lap. is against this opinion; because nearly all of these writers are induced to place the adoration of the Magi before the purification, because the feast of Epiphany falls on Jan. 6; that this reason does not prove the point at issue is evident from the circumstance that on the same day the baptism and the first miracle of Jesus are commemorated, events that cannot be placed on the same day.

2. Concerning the persons of the Wisemen we must inquire: a.] who were they? b.] what were they? c.] how many were they? d.] how were they named? a.] Theodotion renders the Hebrew word “ashshaphim” of Dan. 1:20; 2:2, 27; 4:4; 5:7; 5:11, 15, by Magi, and the Septuagint version agrees with that of Theodotion in Dan. 2:2. Now the Hebrew term thus rendered applies to a class of persons at the court of Nabuchodonosor, renowned for their wisdom, their investigation of secret things, and the power of their charms. The Venet. renders the word by “astronomers,” and the Rabbis Abulwalid and Kimchi agree in this explanation with the Venet. In Wisd. 17:7 the signs of the Egyptian charmers are assigned to “Magic” art, and Acts 13:6, 8 the word Magi applies to false prophets. The Greek and Latin writers call Magi the priests and wise men of the Persians, who were at the same time counsellors of the kings, students of natural sciences, and knowers of the divine will; again, the name was applied to all kinds of jugglers and enchanters. The same name occurs among the Medes and Babylonians, and according to the common opinion, 39:3 refers to the chief of the Magi. In Plato, Porphyry, and Apuleius the Magi are described as knowing things divine, and as worshippers of the gods. St. Jerome [Dan. ii. 2] says that in common language Magi are wizards, but that among their own people they are not regarded as such, because they are the philosophers of the Chaldees, whose kings act always according to the direction of witchcraft. The opinion that the Wisemen were wizards is expressed by a number of the Fathers: Justin, c. Tryph. n. 78; August. Serm. xx. 3, 4; De Epiph. 2; Jer. in Is. 19:1; Orig. c. Cels. i. 60; Thom. iii. q. 36, a. 3, ad 2. St. Thomas, however, adds that, according to some writers, the Wisemen were not wizards, but learned astrologers, called Magi among the Persians and Chaldeans. In point of fact, there is nothing except their name that can prove their superstitious practices, while several reasons demand their moral integrity: God deems them worthy of his call; they do not only understand, but also follow the divine light; they overcome numerous difficulties in their search of Jesus; they offer him generously of what they possess; and they are instructed by an angel as to their manner of return. We cannot, therefore, be far from the truth, if we suppose that the Wisemen were members of the Persian Magi, belonged to the king’s council, wielded among their fellow citizens the greatest authority, and were wholly devoted to the study of the natural sciences, especially of astronomy.

b.] What were the Wisemen? Popular belief, which on good authority [cf. Baron. 30 ad 1 ann. Christi; Suarez, in 3 p. disp. 14, sec. 2, n. 7] ought to be defended as pious and probable, has it that they were kings. But weighty reasons militate against this tradition: α. The evangelist never calls them kings, though he gives that name constantly to Herod, and though their royal rank would have contributed much to the glory of Jesus Christ. β. Again, in the ancient monuments the Wisemen are never represented with the royal ensigns, but they always wear the headgear that is now used by the Persian Magi [patr. de Evang. pp. 318, 320; Garrucci, Storia dell’ arte Christiana, 213, 455; Kraus, Realencyclopædie der christlichen Alterthümer, ii. 350]. γ. No argument for the royal dignity of the Wisemen can be advanced from the writings of the earlier Fathers: Tertullian [Adv. Jud. 9; c. Marc. iii. 13] calls them almost kings; St. Ephrem names thorn according to the Syriac text only princes [Hymn. 15 in Epiph.], and Magi [Serm. 4 in Natal. Dni.]. They are named kings in the two homilies falsely attributed to Athanasius [Migne, 38, 961] and Chrys. [Montfauc. vi. p. 393], and in a sermon formerly attributed to August. [Migne, 39, 2018]. δ. patr. is of opinion that perhaps Cæsarius of Aries is the first to name the Wisemen kings; but even here we cannot claim more than a probability, both because the authorship of this latter document is not certain, and because the word “kings” has been marked as suspected by its learned editors [ed. Maur. t. 5, app. serm. p. 321]. ε. It is true that, later on, this opinion concerning the royal dignity of the Magi became quite common [gloss, ord. Pasch. Theoph. Arnald. Ps. Chrys. etc.]. But it must be remembered that the belief rested mainly on a misinterpretation of Ps. 71:10, the fulfilment of which was seen in the adoration of the Magi [cf. Christ in Type and Prophecy, i. h. l.]. ζ. The opinion has been abandoned by a number of the more recent commentators: Lam. says that they are renowned on account of their wisdom rather than their sceptre; Jans, thinks they can be called kings only because they were powerful and wise, and assistants of the king; Mald, calls them small kings or princes; Sylv. small kings; Est. powerful men, but not kings proper; patr. says that their royal dignity rests on no solid argument [cf. Schanz, Fil. Knab.].

c.] Number of the Wisemen. α. Most writers contend that the Wisemen were most probably three in number [Orig. Maxim. Leo, Pasch. Thom. Suar. Baron. Mald.]. This opinion is confirmed by the ancient representations of Christian art [cf. Garrucci, l. c. i. p. 365]. β. On the other hand, the Fathers of the earliest times are silent about the number of the Wisemen, and in the writings of the subsequent centuries we find a variety of opinions, among which the one that favors the number twelve is quite prominent [op. imp. Jacob. Edess. menol. arm. Jan. 6]. It is at least certain that the opinion in favor of the number three may have originated from the three gifts presented to the infant Jesus, or from this number together with the mystery of the Holy Trinity [cf Knab.].

d.] Names of the Wisemen. The names found on the earliest documents are Bithisarea, Melchior, Gathaspa [Schanz]; the names Gaspar, Melchior, Balthasar occur first in the lib. pontifical, of Agnellus; in Syriac writers we find the names Zarvandad, Hormisdas, Guschnasaph, Arsehac, etc. [Castello, Lexicon heptaglotton, ii. col. 1980, 1991]; the Armenian writer Vardapet Vardan gives the Syriac or Chaldee names Badadilma, Kaghba, Badadakharida; Salmeron gives the Hebrew names Magalath, Galgalath, Sarakin, or the Greek names Appelius, Amerins, Damascus. All this shows that the Bollandist writer is warranted in pronouncing this question wholly uncertain [Act. Sanct. i. Maii, pp. vii, viii]. This uncertainty does not affect the veneration of the Wisemen; for we venerate other Saints under the names given them by the Church [cf. Adauctus].

3. Home of the Magi or “Magi from the East.” a.] It has been repeatedly observed that “from the East” may be regarded as either qualifying “Magi” or as belonging to the verb “there came”; Knab. is of opinion that this second manner of construing the phrase is preferable and more commonly accepted; but Schaff, Alf. Lam. Weiss, etc. adopt the former explanation, and their reasons appear to be the weightier ones. De Wette points out that if “from the East” belonged to “there came,” it would probably follow the verb in the Greek text. Not to speak of the parallel construction in Lk. 11:6, we draw attention to the observation of Alf. that the same Greek verb which we have in the present passage occurs in the New Testament twelve times with a preposition and a noun, and in no case are they prefixed.

b.] The “East” has been variously interpreted as meaning Arabia, Persia, Chaldea, or Parthia with the provinces adjacent; for there were Magi in all these countries. The wording of v. 2 excludes, however, the possibility that the Magi should have been either from the eastern part of Palestine, or of Jewish nationality; for in that case they would have hardly spoken of the “king of the Jews,” instead of inquiring after “the king of Israel” [Judg. 6:3; Is. 41:2; 46:11; Num. 23:7; Philo, Leg. ad Cai. 34].

c.] Just. Tert. etc. fix on Arabia as the home of the Magi; Chrys. Theoph. etc. on Persia; others specify Parthia, Babylonia, Egypt, or Ethiopia. Others again have recourse to the traditional names of the Wisemen in order to determine their home and nationality: Volkmar and Knab. explain Caspar as pointing to the Caspian Sea or to the Aryan family, the Japhetites; even if we adopt other explanations of the name according to which Caspar was king of Sipara (Kas-sipar) or of a part of India [cf. Schanz], the national character of the Saint does not change; Melchior, meaning king of light, points to the south, to Egypt and Ethiopia, and thus represents the Chamites; finally, Balthasar (bel-sar-usar or balatsu-usar), being a Chaldee name [Dan. 5], points to the countries around Babylon, the home of the Semites.

d.] The evangelist adds that the Wisemen came “to Jerusalem.” At the capital they naturally looked for the king or for tidings of him.

4. The object of the visit of the Magi is expressed by St. Matthew in the words, “where is he that is born king of the Jews? [we] are come to adore him.” In the East homage was paid to kings by prostration [cf. Gen. 23:7; 19:1; 42:6; etc.]. But in the present case there is hardly question of mere homage such as subjects paid to sovereigns. This follows (a) from the character of the king whom the Magi expected to find. α. The prophecy of Balaam [Num. 24:17] could hardly be unknown in the East [Orig. Ambr. Jer. Leo, Rab. Pasch. Bed. Euth. Theoph. Alb. Thom. Tost. Dion. Mald. Jans. Lap. Lam. etc.]. β. Suetonius [Vesp. c. 4] and Tacitus [Hist. v. 13] testify to the general expectation in the East that, about the time of Christ, men coming from Judea would gain supremacy. γ. Then, there was the prophecy of the seventy weeks of Daniel, which can hardly have been unknown to the eastern nations [cf. Grimm, i. p. 334]. δ. Again, the Hebrew Scriptures had been translated into Greek, and had in this version found a very large circulation; besides, about 140 B. C. the Sibylline prophecies began to spread [Sibyll. iii. 652–794; 36–92], and the Book of Henoch together with the Solomonic Psalms created an expectation of Jesus Christ [cf. Schürer, History of the Jewish People, II. ii. 137 ff.]. All this shows that the child sought for by the Magi was not regarded by them as a common king. (b) We shall see in v. 11 that the Wisemen, in point of fact, did more than pay merely royal homage to the child, and hence we rightly infer that they intended to do more.

5. Reason or motive of the Wisemen. The evangelist gives this in the words “for we have seen his star in the East.” We must consider first the literal meaning of the passage, secondly the influence of the star on the Wisemen, thirdly the nature of the star. α. The words “in the East” may belong either to the Magi, so that they being in the East saw the star [Sylv. Grimm, Keil, etc.], or they may qualify the star, so that it is said to have been in the eastern part of the heavens [Mald. Lap. Lam. etc.], or again they may be rendered “at its rising,” so that the Wisemen testify their observation of the star at its rising [Ed. Weiss, etc.]. Alf. observes that if the words meant “at its rising,” the pronoun “its” would have been added by the evangelist, if not here, at least in verse 9. That the observation had been made in the eastern country follows from verse 1; probably, it was also made in the eastern quarter of the heavens.

β. Many commentators believe that the star observed by the Magi in the East accompanied them on their way to Jerusalem [Chrys. Bed. Euth. op. imp. Haym. Thom. Fab. Tost. Dion. Sylv. Lap. Suar. Bisp. Reischl, etc.]. But Pasch. Jans. Caj. Sa, Lam. patr. Arn. Fil. Grimm, Knab. etc., deny that the star went before the Wisemen; these authors appeal to the words of the evangelist, “we have seen his star in the East,” not on the way; again, they would have hardly rejoiced so much at its reappearance [2:10], if it had been visible all the time of their journey; then, the evangelist says that the star they had seen in the East reappeared [2:9], not the star which had led them to Jerusalem.

γ. Opinions on the nature of the star that appeared to the Magi. (1) It was the bright phase of a variable star. (2) It was a new star that had never before been observed by the Wisemen. (3) Roth, Est. and Schegg insist on the fact that the star must have been among the heavenly ones.

(4) It was a comet; according to the Chinese astronomical tablets a comet appeared A. U. C. 750 in February, March, and April. This must have been visible at Bethlehem too, and may have pointed out the habitation of the Holy Family by the direction of its tail [patr.]. Roth explains the manner in which the star pointed to the place of the child in this way: when the Wisemen came near the place, the star suddenly and unexpectedly reappeared, so that they inferred the child’s presence from this extraordinary fact.

(5) Kepler observed in December, 1603, a conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn; Mars acceded in the following spring, and in autumn a very splendid star, much resembling a fixed star, was added. It occurred to the devout astronomer that the Wisemen might have witnessed a similar phenomenon, and on calculation he found that Jupiter and Saturn had been in conjunction A. U. C. 747, and that Mars had made his approach the following February and March; later on, the Sun, Venus, and Mercury were added, so that in March, April, and May A. U. C. 748 there was a perfect conjunction [cf. Sepp, Leben Jesu, I. 1, p. 107; Grimm, i. p. 348; Friedlieb, Leben Jesu, 2 ed. p. 308; Ed. i. p. 212 f.]. Kepler did not, however, explain the star of the Magi wholly by means of this conjunction; he thought that the Wisemen, like himself, must have observed a new star in the place of the conjunction, which first excited their curiosity, and when it descended into the lower regions of the air and finally disappeared in the West, it recalled the memory of Balaam’s prophecy, and inspired them with the wish to follow its westward course [Kepl. oper. vi. 346].

(6) Kepler’s opinion has been the occasion of an explanation of the Wisemen’s star that eliminates the miraculous from the event. C. Pritchard, in a paper read before the Royal Astronomical Society, has collected the following calculations of the times and nearnesses of the conjunctions as verified by the Astronomer Royal at Greenwich. A. U. C. 747, May 20 [29, Pritchard], there was a conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in the 20th degree of the sign Pisces, close to the first point of Aries, the part of heaven in which the signs denote the greatest and most noble events. On Oct. 27 [Sept. 29, Pritchard], in the same year, another conjunction of the same planets took place in the 16th degree of Pisces; and on the 12th of November [Dec. 5, Pritchard], a third in the 15th degree of the same sign [Ideler, Handbuch der Chronologie, ii. 329 ff.; Winer, Realwörterbuch, under “Stern der Weisen”]. With these data, the following theory has been proposed: on May 29, the conjunction would rise 3½ hours before sunrise, and consequently would be seen by the Magi in the East. After a journey of five months from Babylon to Jerusalem [cf. Esd. 7:9], the Magi might perform the route from Jerusalem to Bethlehem in the evening, as is implied, and thus behold the December conjunction in the direction of Bethlehem [1½ hours east of the meridian at sunset, Pritchard]. This explanation of the phenomenon is further confirmed by the following observations: the sacred text nowhere necessitates a miracle; the supposed appearance of the conjunction in the direction of Bethlehem satisfies the plain words of vv. 9, 10, importing its motion from S. E. towards S. W., the direction of Bethlehem; the expression “star” can be used of the united stars of Jupiter and Saturn, because such a phenomenon would be, astrologically considered, the star of the new-born Saviour; Pritchard’s calculation that B. C. 7 the two planets were not in complete conjunction, nor even “within double the apparent diameter of the moon,” does not destroy the astrological significance of the phenomenon; Abarbanel testifies to the Jewish tradition that no conjunction could be of mightier import for his people than that of Jupiter and Saturn, which had been in conjunction A. M. 2365 before the birth of Moses, and the repetition of this phenomenon in his own time [A. D. 1463] he regarded as betokening the approaching birth of the Messias (cf. Münter, Wieseler).

(7) The preceding explanations are open to the following exceptions: even Alf., one of the most zealous adherents of the last theory, grants that if vv. 9. 10, must be understood literally, so that the star led the Wisemen to the spot where was the object of their search, and not merely to Bethlehem in general, the whole incident is miraculous. That a natural star or a comet’s tail (patr.) cannot point out a single house is plain to every observer. To say that the star pointed out the child’s presence by its sudden and unexpected appearance, when the Magi were near his place, does not sufficiently satisfy the words of the evangelist. Besides, not to mention the almost unanimous tradition holding the miraculous nature of the occurrence, the time of the conjunction does not fully agree with the time of the Magi’s visit. Whatever extraordinary natural phenomenon may have occurred, therefore, about the time of Christ’s birth, the literal meaning of the gospel and its traditional interpretation require an additional miraculous appearance of a star in the lower region of the atmosphere.

b. The evangelist reduces the effects of the Magi’s arrival in Jerusalem to three heads: 1. the terror of the persons in the Holy City; 2. the gathering of the chief priests and scribes; 3. the official answer of this assembly.

3. And king Herod hearing this.] 1. The persons terrified by the arrival of the Wisemen are: a.] King Herod; b.] all Jerusalem. a.] That the king should have been terrified is easily explained from his history: B. C. 47, when Herod’s father Antipater, the Idumean, was made Procurator of Judea, Herod himself, then in his fifteenth year, was made Governor of Galilee; B. C. 41 Herod and his brother Phasael were named Tetrarchs of Judea by Antony, but were driven out of the country the next year by the Parthians, who had been invited by Antigonus, the Machabean claimant of the throne of Judea. Herod fled to Rome, and was made king of Judea by the Roman Senate [B. C. 40]. Returning to Palestine, he conquered Jerusalem by the aid of the Roman troops, B. C. 37; after this, his reign may be divided into three periods: B. C. 37–25, the consolidation of his power; B. C. 25–13, the period of prosperity; B. C. 13–4, the time of domestic trouble. Keeping these periods before our mind, we understand the fatal events that marred especially the first and last part of Herod’s reign: A. U. C. 717 he executes 45 Jewish nobles; 719, soon after the Feast of Tabernacles, Aristobulus III., the youthful high priest, is, by Herod’s order, drowned in his bath at Jericho; 720, Joseph, the husband of Herod’s sister Salome, is executed; 722, after the battle at Actium on Sept. 2, Herod attaches himself to the party of Augustus; 724, in spring, Hyrcanus II is executed; 725, towards the end of the year, Herod’s favorite wife, Mariamne, is executed; 726, Alexandra, Herod’s mother-in-law, is put to death; 729, Costobar, the second husband of Salome, is condemned to death. After this begins what is called the period of peace in the reign of Herod; 731, Aristobulus and Alexander, Herod’s sons by the first Mariamne, the Asmonean princess and daughter of Alexandra, are sent to Rome to complete their education; 734, Augustus visits Syria and is welcomed by Herod, who begins the building of the temple in the same year; Aristobulus and Alexander are summoned back from Rome; 740, Antipater, Herod’s son by Doris, the first of his ten wives, accuses Aristobulus and Alexander of conspiracy, and the next year he is sent to Rome; 742, Herod himself accuses his two sons by Mariamne before the court of Augustus, and though he does not obtain their condemnation, he brings another charge against them A. U. C. 744, but is again reconciled with them. Meanwhile the third period of Herod’s reign had begun, in which his domestic troubles embittered the rule of the tyrant beyond description. In 746 the slaves of Aristobulus and Alexander were put to the torture, and gave evidence against their masters; the case was again laid before Augustus, who now authorized Herod to treat his sons according to his wishes. After a trial they were condemned and put to death in Samaria A. U. C. 747, and in the same year a number of Pharisees were executed. Antipater again went to Rome, and Herod made a will [A. U. C. 748], in which he left his kingdom to his absent son. The latter’s secret treachery was, however, detected; he was recalled from Rome, convicted of treason, accused before Augustus, and in his place Archelaus, Antipas, and Philip were named heirs to the divided kingdom, the former two being Herod’s sons by Malthace, and the third by the second Mariamne, daughter of Simon [749]. Towards the end of the year, in March, there happened an insurrection in Jerusalem on account of a Roman eagle that had been fastened over the temple gate and was torn off at the instigation of two celebrated Rabbis. These were burned alive, and the following night an eclipse of the moon was observed, and interpreted by the common people as a manifestation of the divine wrath. Herod, now afflicted by his last illness, went to the baths at Calirrhoe, and from thence to Jericho, whither he summoned the Jewish nobles, giving orders to his sister Salome that all should be put to death after his own decease, so that the land might be put in a state of mourning, worthy of a king. Augustus sent his answer concerning Antipater, who was executed a few days before his father’s death. The tyrant died so long before the Pasch that the week of mourning and the funeral could take place before the Feast, at which Archelaus was present after the obsequies. This sketch suffices to show the nature of Herod’s trouble on hearing the news of the newly born king of the Jews, whose kingdom was, according to the current opinion, both a temporal and a spiritual one, or a restoration of the theocracy.

b.] The trouble of the people of Jerusalem must have been due to various causes: curiosity, anxiety for the welfare of the child, hope of deliverance, piety and gratitude, fear of the troublous times that were expected at the coming of the Messias, anxiety for Herod and his royal house. If we regard the result of the coming of Christ on the Jews, we have reason to believe that a great number, especially of the upper classes, had become fast friends of the Herodians and the Romans, so that the coming of Christ aroused in their hearts a feeling akin to that excited in many of us by the thought of Christ’s second advent.

4. And assembling together.] 2. The evangelist names two classes of persons called together by king Herod in order to be consulted about the particulars concerning the promised Messias: a.] the chief priests; b.] the scribes of the people. Since the same classes of men will recur constantly in the gospel, we briefly explain their standing in the Jewish community, a.] Among the chief priests must be numbered first the high priest proper, who was during the period subsequent to the exile both the religious and the political head of the nation, and though somewhat restricted in his authority by the Greek suzerains and the gerousia, possessed an almost unlimited influence by the fact that his office was hereditary and tenable for life. After the Romans came upon the scene, and still more under the Herodian princes, the principle of life-tenure and inheritance was done away with, and high priests were appointed and deposed at pleasure by Herod and the Romans alike. Between B. C. 37 and A. D. 68 as many as 28 high priests are said to have held office [Joseph. Antiq. XX. x. passim]. These deposed high priests form the second class of persons designated by the chief priests of the gospels. But thirdly, there are chief priests mentioned [Acts 4:6; 19:14; Joseph. B. J. II. xx. 4; IV. ix. 11; V. xiii. 1; VI. ii. 2; Vit. 39] that are not found among the 28 foregoing. These are most probably either members of the high priestly families,—practically the office of high priest was confined to a few privileged families,—[Joseph. B. J. VI. ii. 2], or, what is less probable, they were the heads of the twenty-four courses of priests that had been rearranged after the exile according to the pattern of the division made at the time of David on account of the fact that sixteen of the priestly families traced back their pedigree to Eleazar and eight to Ithamar, both sons of Aaron [cf. Schürer, The Jewish People, etc. II. i. pp. 195–206, Edersheim, The Temple, etc. p. 75 f.]. It should, however, be added that patr. Arn. Reischl, Bisp. Fil. Bleek, Ewald, Sevin adhere undoubtingly to the opinion that chief priests were the heads of the twenty-four priestly courses; Schanz adheres to it doubtingly, while Schürer, Keil, and Weiss reject it.

b.] The Latin “scriba,” the Greek γραμματεύς, and the Hebrew סו̇פֵר are derived respectively from scribo, γράφειν, and סָפַר, to engrave. Though writing was the first occupation of the scribe [cf. Ps. 44:2; Ezech. 9:2], the Hebrew word applied to any one professionally occupied about books, e.g. as writer [Shabbath xii. 5; Nedarim ix. 2; Gittin iii. 1; vii. 2; viii. 8; ix. 8; Baba mezia v. 11; Sanhedrin iv. 3; v. 5] or as bookbinder [Pesachim iii. 1]. The Greek expression signifies “one learned in Scripture,” “a learned man,” “a literary man.” Men of this description were found already in David’s household [3 Kings 8:17; 20:25; 1 Par. 18:16; cf. Cicero in Ver. Ac. v. c. 59], and their chief duty was to keep an account in writing of the most important public events, and to guard the public records. That their chief occupation should be the study and explanation of the law is self-evident. Hence we meet frequently the names νομικοί or “jurists” [Mt. 22:35; Lk. 7:30; 10:25; 11:45 f., 52; 14:3], νομοδιδάσκαλοι or “teachers of the law” [Lk. 5:17; Acts 5:34], “expounders of the ancestral laws” [Joseph. Antiq. XVII. vi. 2; XVIII. iii. 5], “sophists” [Joseph. B. J. I. xxxiii. 2; II. xvii. 8. 9], “learned in sacred literature” [Joseph. B. J. VI. v. 3]. It is also on this account that in the Mishna the expression “scribes,” סוֹפְרִים, is applied only to the jurists of former generations, who had already become an authority in the times of the Mishna, while the contemporary jurists are always named חֲכָמִים. This meaning of the word “scribe” explains also the extraordinary respect paid to the men of this class by the common people, as is shown by the titles of honor bestowed on them: רַבִּי [my master], and the still more honorable רַבָּן or רַבּו̇ן, an enhanced form of רַב [Rabban, or Rabbon, from Rab]. In the New Testament we find the expressions “Rabboni” [Mk. 10:51; Jn. 20:16], “lord” [Mt. 8:2, 6, 8, 21, 25, etc.], “master” [in the sense of teacher. Mt. 8:19; and passim], “master” [in the sense of lord, Lk. 5:5; 8:24, 45; 9:33, 49; 17:13], “father” [Mt. 23:9], “master” [in the sense of guide, Mt. 23:10]. The honor paid to the scribes by their fellow-citizens was not confined to mere titles; the reverence for the scribe exceeded the reverence for the father, and bordered upon the reverence for God, so that the scribe could claim with impunity the chief seats in the synagogue and the greetings in the market-place [Aboth iv. 12; Kerithoth vi. 9; Baba mezia ii. 11; Mt. 23:6, 7; Mk. 12:38, 39; Lk. 11:43; 20:46].

The legal employment of the scribes may be reduced to the following heads: [a] They cared for the theoretic development of the law, carrying on the process of systematizing it in the form of oral discussions. It is owing to this circumstance that they became practically legislators, though they had never been formally appointed as such; especially, after the destruction of the temple, their judgment sufficed to determine what was valid law. [b] The scribes also taught the law; owing to this circumstance we find them surrounded by numerous disciples, who either by way of question and answer, or by repetition, or again by attentive listening, endeavor to memorize not merely the teaching, but also the very words of the masters, at whose feet they are seated, [c] A third employment of the scribes was to pass sentence in the court of justice. Though in the small local centres the courts were composed of laymen, it may be reasonably supposed that those persons should be selected for this employment that were distinguished for the knowledge of the law.

The labors of the scribes, whether educational or judicial, were to be strictly gratuitous, as we may infer both from the Mishna [Aboth iv. 5; i. 13; Bechoroth iv. 6; Aboth ii. 2] and the Scripture [Ex. 23:8; Deut. 16:9]. But that this principle of non-remuneration was not strictly adhered to by the scribes in their labor of teaching is plain from the New Testament [Mt. 10:8, 10; 23:5; Mk. 12:40, 38; Lk. 10:7; 16:14; 20:46, 47; 1 Cor. 9:3–18; 2 Cor. 11:8, 9; Phil. 4:10–18; Gal. 6:6].

Nor must it be supposed that the scribes confined their activity to Judea only, though here was their centre of operations till about 70 A. D.; we meet them in Galilee [Lk. 5:17], in the dispersion, and Jewish epitaphs in Rome of the later imperial period testify to the presence of scribes in the capital of western civilization, while the Babylonian scribes were the authors of the Talmud in the fifth and sixth centuries. Again, though after the separation between the Pharisees and the Sadducees most scribes adhered to the Pharisaic party, the Sadducees too could point to their eminent lawyers, as must be naturally expected [Mk. 2:16; Lk. 5:30; Acts 23:9].

The scribes exercised their influence not merely over all classes, all countries, and all departments of the law, but they controlled also the narrative and didactic parts of Sacred Scripture. Religious history and dogma as well as law were developed in their schools, and the collected results of both may be called the Haggada, as opposed to the Halacha or the rule of conduct. By reason of their proficiency in both legal and dogmatic learning, the scribes were qualified above others to deliver the lectures in the synagogues and to be members of the Sanhedrin cf. Mt. 2:4; 20:18; 21:15; 28:1–4; Mk. 10:33; 11:18, 27; 14:1, 43, 53; 15:1, 31; Lk. 22:2, 66; 23:10]. The care of the text of Scripture as such was naturally joined to the preceding employments. Since Herod called only the chief priests and the scribes, omitting the ancients of the people, the gathering cannot have been that of the Sanhedrin. Herod merely asks where Christ should be born, supposing that the time of the birth had really arrived.

5. But they said to him.] 3. The prophecy cited by the chief priests and scribes is that of Mich. 5:2 with the following differences: The prophet has a.] Ephrata for the evangelist’s “land of Juda”; b.] thousands for princes; c.] “thou art little” for “thou art not least.”

a.] The first of these discrepancies is of no importance, since Ephrata [fruitfulness] is nothing but another name for Bethlehem [house of bread]; the evangelist prefers the addition “land of Juda,” in order to signify that he refers to Bethlehem in Juda, not to Bethlehem in the tribe of Zabulon [Jos. 19:15], while the prophet adds Ephrata to place the joyful birth of Jesus in opposition to the sorrowful birth of Benjamin, which happened near Ephrata [Gen. 35:19; 48:7].

b.] Nor is the second discrepancy between the prophet and the evangelist of much importance: the prophet alludes to the division of the tribes into thousands, probably of fighting men, each thousand having its separate head [cf. Num. 1:16; 10:4; Jos. 22:21, 30; 1 Kings 10:19; 23:23; 1 Par. 23:11]; in the consonant text the same Hebrew word signifies both a thousand and the ruler of a thousand. The evangelist has taken this second meaning of the word, rendering it “princes.”

c.] The third discrepancy between prophet and evangelist presents more formidable difficulties: the former asserts Bethlehem’s littleness, the latter denies it. [1] It is not true that the Hebrew word employed by the prophet means both great and little, and that it must signify “great” in Jer. 48:4; Soph. 3:7; even if this were true, we could not in this manner harmonize Mt. and Mich., since the prophecy, viewed in this light, ought to read “thou art too great to be among the thousands” [against Pococke on the Porta Mosis, Works, i. 134 f.]. [2] The discrepancy cannot be solved by means of the Chaldee, the Syriac, the Septuagint, and a Latin [August. De civit. Dei, xviii. 30] version of the prophecy; for the rendering “it is little that thou shouldst be” does not establish the desired harmony. Besides, the Hebrew word employed by the prophet never has the foregoing meaning, while Is. 49:6 and 2 Kings 7:19 express that idea in another way. [3] The discrepancy disappears satisfactorily in the following manner: the words of both prophet and evangelist are true, the former describing Bethlehem as it is in the eyes of men, the latter viewing it as it is in the sight of God; besides, both meanings are expressed by the prophet, the one, asserting Bethlehem’s worldly littleness, directly, the other, concerning Bethlehem’s divine greatness, indirectly and by antithesis, so that the evangelist is justified in expressing directly what the prophet had expressed by way of contrast; finally, it must be noted that St. Matthew does not intend to give the words of the prophet as found in Sacred Scripture, but as uttered by the chief priests and scribes whom Herod had consulted, and who answered foreign inquirers not acquainted with the old name Ephrata, or the division into thousands, or the mystery of a Davidic Messias [cf. Christ in Type and Prophecy, i. p. 276]. With Chrys. we may reflect on the joy and consolation the Wisemen must have experienced when they discovered that the place of the new-born king whom they had come to worship held such a prominent and definite position in the sacred prophecies.

7. Then Herod privately calling.] c. In the conduct of Herod we must note the following particulars: 1. He calls the Magi privately, so as not to divulge the news they had brought among the people, in order to accomplish his wicked designs more easily. 2. Herod “learned diligently” of the Wisemen “the time of the star which appeared to them.” The tyrant does not seem to have “diligently inquired” of the Wisemen [Chrys. op. impf. Grimm], which would require a different preposition in the Greek text, and might have rendered the Magi suspicious of the king’s real designs; he only listened attentively to what the strange visitors in their simplicity said about the time, i. e. the length of the time, during which the star had appeared to them [cf. Euth. Theoph. Keil, Weiss]. 3. Herod sends the Wisemen to Bethlehem with the monition to inquire diligently after the child; his jealousy does not allow him to call the child by his royal name.

9. Who having heard the king.] d. The evangelist describes the relation of the Wisemen to the infant Christ under two heads: 1. Their immediate guidance by the star; 2. their behavior in presence of the child. 1. The opinion that the Wisemen must have left Jerusalem by night on account of the visibility of the star [Weiss, Keil, Schanz] has been implicitly rejected where we maintained that the star could not be a merely natural phenomenon [Theoph. gloss, ordin. Haym. Anselm.]. The opinion of Chrys. that the Magi entered Bethlehem at bright noonday is therefore not at all improbable. The words “the star … went before them” do not necessarily imply that it showed them the way to Bethlehem: the road from Jerusalem to the city of David could be found without a miracle, and the Greek expression προάγειν τινά often has the meaning of “arriving before some one” [Mt. 14:22; 21:31; 26:32; 28:7; Mk. 6:45; 14:28; 16:7], so that the star may have moved from east to west “until it came and stood over where the child was,” while the Magi journeyed from north to south. That this is the true meaning of the passage follows also from the close connection between vv. 10 and 11; for the Magi “seeing the star rejoiced … and entering into the house.” Here the entrance into the house, not the journey in the direction of the star, appears to be the immediate consequence of its perception. The recourse to a merely internal guidance is not necessary. We need not draw attention to the word “house” used by the evangelist; had the Holy Family still lived in the traditional grotto, St. Matthew would not have spoken of their “house.” The exceeding great joy of the Wisemen at the sight of the star shows that they must not have seen their heavenly monitor for some time previous.

2. α. The evangelist seems to imply that at the arrival of the Magi, St. Joseph was absent, for they found the child with Mary his mother. Joseph’s absence was well calculated to prepare the visitors for the mystery of the child’s virginal conception and birth. β. It may be asked what is meant by the words “and falling down, they adored him”; did the Magi worship the child as their God, or did they pay him a merely royal homage? The Greek word προσκυνεῖν signifies both the homage paid to superiors or kings [Hdt. i. 119, 134; vii. 136; Xen. Cyr. 8, 3, 14; Gen. 27:29; 33:3, 6, 7; 37:7; 42:6; etc.] and the adoration due to God [Hdt. ii. 121; Ex. 4:31; 12:27; 20:5; 23:24; 24:1; 32:8; Lev. 26:1; Num. 25:2; Mt. 4:10; Lk. 4:8; Jn. 4:21; Acts 8:27; etc.]. That the word means in the present case divine worship may be inferred from the manner in which the Magi had been induced to visit Bethlehem, and from the offerings they presented there. For though gold was offered to kings, myrrh to men, it was to God alone that frankincense was presented [Iren. adv. hær. III. ix. 2; Orig. c. Cels. i. 60; Hil. Juvenc. 1. i. v. 285; Jer. Ambr. in Lk. 1. ii. n. 44; Chrys. op. imp. Leo, serm. 33; Maxim. hom. xxii. 26; Prudent, xii. de Epiph. v. 33; Chrysol. serm. 158, 160; Sedat de Epiph.; Greg. hom. in Evang. x. n. 6. Cf. patr. diss. 27, p. 348.] It is true that a few writers see the child’s sacerdotal character typified by the offering of frankincense [Maxim. hom. xxi.; Bed. Serm. de Magis; Schegg]; that St. Bernard, who commonly abounds in the mystical sense, gives a strictly prosaic explanation of the three gifts, seeing in the gold a relief of the child’s poverty, in the myrrh a preservative for his feehle limbs, and in the frankincense a remedy against the fetid odors of the grotto; and it is also true that some writers doubt whether the Magi understood the mystic meaning of their offerings [cf. op. imp. Mald. Schanz]; but these reasons are not of sufficient weight against the foregoing patristic testimony, to render our position untenable.

And having received an answer.] e. The Greek text does not necessarily imply that they had asked God for light [cf. 2:22; Lk. 2:26; Acts 10:22; Heb. 7:5; 11:7]; Theoph. and Euth. interpret the passage in the sense of being warned or instructed by God. The evangelist does not state whether the answer came directly from God [Jer. Pasch. Sylv.], or through the mediation of an angel [Chrys. Thom. Haym. Bar.]. In any case, the communication was a new proof to the Wisemen of the truly divine character of their previous directions; at the same time, it formed as it were the climax of God’s dealings with them: first, he spoke to them by means of the star, then by means of the prophecy and its lawful expounders, finally, by means of an angel or even directly, without any medium [Theoph. Euth.]. That the Wisemen thus avoided the return to Herod, a circumstance which could hardly be accounted for by merely natural means, was a warning to the tyrant that his godless endeavors against the new-born king of the Jews would be fruitless [Jans.].

b. Jesus is the Messias in his Reception by the Jews, c. 2:13–23

The passage contains three incidents: 1. the flight into Egypt; 2. the slaughter of the Holy Innocents; 3. the return out of Egypt. In each of these we shall have to consider the actions or the words of three principal agents: in the first part, those of the angel, of Joseph, and of the prophet; in the second, those of Herod, of the Holy Innocents, and of the prophet; in the third, those of the angel, of Joseph, and of the prophet.

13. And after they were departed.] 1. Flight into Egypt. a. Actions and words of the angel. α. That the angel appeared immediately after the departure of the Wisemen, probably in the night of their leaving, follows from the notoriety of the Magi’s visit in the small town of Bethlehem, where their coming, their stay, and their exit must have been the common topic of conversation. β. It is to the head of the Holy Family that the angel addresses himself [Tost. Bar.], so that our Blessed Lady and her divine son give us an example of obedience. γ. The angel indicates flight as the means by which the child must be saved. The following are the principal reasons assigned for this: (1) God’s power is shown not less by deluding his enemies than by destroying them [Chrys.]; (2) Christ’s humanity becomes thus more evident [Chrys. op. imp. Thom. Bar.]; (3) Jesus thus shows his followers how to practise the precept of fleeing from city to city [cf. Mt. 10:23; op. imp. Rab. Pasch. Thom. Jans. Bar.]; (4) at the same time, this incident foreshadows the future persecution and rejection of Jesus Christ [cf. Lk. 2:34], and teaches us that we have to expect from the start trials and persecutions in the service of Jesus [cf. Jn. 15:20; Chrys. Euth. Jans. Rab.]. δ. The angel bids Joseph to fly into Egypt for the following reasons: (1) it was near, being only a journey of eight or ten days distant [Grimm]; (2) it was independent of Herod; (3) it was much inhabited by Jews, so that St. Joseph was sure to find work among his countrymen; (4) Egypt had been the refuge of the patriarchs, whose flight is rightly considered as a type of that of Jesus Christ [cf. Col. 2:17; Chrys. Br. Jans. Mald. Lap. Grimm]; (5) Egypt and Babylon are the types of impiety, and as Babylon approached Jesus in the person of the Magi, so does Jesus himself visit Egypt, in order to show that be came to save sinners [Chrys. Euth. Theoph. Jans.]; (6) again, Egypt had received Messianic promises in Is. 19:18 f., which had to be fulfilled; (7) Chrys. and Pasch. point out how Egypt profited by the visit of Jesus, peopling the new kingdom of Christ with holy hermits, martyrs, and virgins. Thus the Messias is driven from the land of the Jews at the very outset.

14. Who arose.] b. Actions and words of St. Joseph. α. Joseph is remarkable for his faith and obedience, because he performs the bidding of the angel at once, without complaint, in spite of its numerous difficulties [Chrys. Euth. Jans. Lap.]. β. It is not said by which road (Hebron or Gaza) and whither in Egypt the Holy Family retired: (1) some believe that they lived in Hermopolis magna, the modern Eshmoon, situate on the left bank of the Nile, on the confines of upper and middle Egypt [Rufinus, Sozomen]; (2) others prefer Alexandria, because many Jews lived in that city, who would be willing to conceal and assist their kinsman [Sandini]; (3) others again, relying chiefly on local tradition, maintain the claims of Heliopolis, called On in the Old Testament, but Matarea, or Mataril, by the modern Arabs, who thus perpetuate the memory of a once celebrated city in lower Egypt, situate on the east side of the Nile, near the Delta and Trajan’s canal [Jans. patr.]; (4) finally, some think that the Holy Family lived in the same land in which the Israelites had dwelt in their exile [Grimm], or that no place can be determined with certainty [Knab.]. γ. The gospel states merely that the Holy Family remained in Egypt till the death of Herod, but it is not certain how long the sojourn lasted: (1) Mald. and Suar. give a list of opinions according to which Jesus remained in exile from two to eight years; (2) the gloss. ord. gives seven years; (3) Lam., followed by a number of modern commentators, assigns only a few months, because the death of Herod cannot have occurred long after the birth of Jesus Christ. δ. The words of Is. 19:1 are often applied to the entrance of the child Jesus into Egypt [cf. Jer. op. imp. gl. ord. Pasch. Br. Thom. Bar. Lap.]; but this application is certainly false, so that Jans. calls all the reports about the downfall of the idols at the approach of Jesus pure fable; Bar. and Sylv. refer to sources where these accounts may be read [cf. Tischendorf, Evang. apoc. pp. 85, 183].

15. That it might be fulfilled.] c. The prophecy. α. Suarez is of opinion that it would be liberal, not to say rash, to see in the words of the evangelist only an accommodation of Osee’s prophecy to Christ’s life in Egypt. It is true that Syriac, Arabic, Rabbinic, and Greek writers often use passages by way of accommodation [cf. Assemani. Bibl. or. i. cap. vi. 12; Eus. H. E. ii. 23; Wiseman, Zusammenhang der Ergebnisse, etc., 10; Tholuck, Das alte Testament im Neuen Testament, 5 ed. pp. 16 f.; Plutarch, Symposiaca, ix. 1]; but it is equally clear that the evangelist spoke in a manner wholly different from that of the foregoing writers [cf. Keil, Weiss, Mansel]. If Jans, explains the fulfilment by way of accommodation, he is careful to add another explanation. β. On the other hand, one cannot follow those writers [Eus. Demonstr. evang. ix. 4; Tost. q. 57; Chrys.] who explain the prophecy as referring to Christ’s flight into Egypt in its literal sense. The context of the passage in Osee (11:1), the parallel passages in Ex. 4:22; 19:5, 6; Deut. 8:5; 32:6; 31:9; the lxx. rendering “I called my sons [instead of ‘my son’] out of Egypt,” show that the prophet speaks literally of the people of Israel. γ. Nor can it be said that Pusey is right when he contends that the evangelist does not wish to prove anything in the present passage, but only proposes a piece of Jewish history in order to prevent a prejudice arising from the sojourn of Jesus in Egypt against his true Messiasship. The language of the gospel does not support this conjecture. δ. Suar. Vasq. Lap. patr., etc., are, therefore, right in explaining the fulfilment of Osee’s prophecy in a typical sense. That the evangelist argues from the fulfilment, and that therefore the sense in which he explains it must be known to his readers, does not offer a valid objection against the typical explanation. For on the one hand, similar observations might be made concerning 1 Cor. 10:6; Heb. 8:5; 9:9; Jn. 13:18; 15:25; 19:36; etc., and on the other, the typical sense of prophecy is quite clearly indicated in the Old Testament; Ez. 34:23; 37:24; Mich. 4:4; 7:15; Am. 9:11; Is. 11:15; 43:2; Os. 2:15; 3:5; etc. Besides, the typical sense of the Old Testament represents the Messias in a most glorious and majestic manner, since it supposes that he is the central person, for and around whom God’s providence has shaped the universal course of history, ε. Jans. Lam. and especially Frassen [Disquis. bibl. iv. 6, n. 10, ed. 2; Lucæ, 1769, i. p. 397] have drawn attention to the various points of resemblance between type and antitype: (1) both the people and the child Jesus sought in Egypt safety when in danger of life; (2) both lived in Egypt in a humble condition; (3) both had a Joseph for their protector; (4) both had a royal oppressor, the one Pharao, the other Herod; (5) in the history of both occurred the slaughter of innocent children; (6) the oppressors of both were deluded in a miraculous way, Pharao by Moses, Herod by the Wisemen; (7) both type and antitype left Egypt after the death of their persecutor, and at the special warning of an angel.

16. Then Herod perceiving.] 2. Slaughter of the Holy Innocents. a. Actions of Herod. α. It is not certain when Herod perceived that he had been deluded by the Magi; we may suppose that for a time he imagined they had been deceived and were ashamed to return, or, at least, that he instituted a private inquiry concerning their arrival in Bethlehem and their secret departure. Keim points out that the general expectation of a Messianic king naturally rendered Herod suspicious and cruel. According to Josephus [Antiq. XVII. ii. 4], the Pharisees circulated a prediction that God would remove Herod and his family from the royal throne; the most guilty of the Pharisees suffered death on that account. What historians generally tell of Herod’s character well agrees with the account of St. Matthew, so that no improbability of the gospel account can be urged against the truthfulness of the evangelist. β. That Josephus omits the slaughter of the Holy Innocents cannot astonish us, if we consider that the event would have greatly spoken in favor of the Christians, had it been told impartially. Besides, Josephus has omitted a number of other incidents more striking in the life of Herod than the slaughter of a few Hebrew children. It is true that Macrobius [Satur. ii. 4 or x. 4] relates that Augustus, on hearing of the slaughter of the Holy Innocents and of a son of Herod among them, exclaimed, “It is better to be Herod’s hog [ὗν] than his son [υἱόν].” But patr. [p. 383] aptly adds that since Macrobius wrote towards the end of the fourth century, he may have received his information either through the gospel or from Christian sources. It must, however, be remembered that his testimony is valuable because it records a tradition according to which Herod’s cruelty was so notorious as to reach the ears even of the Roman emperor. By way of explanation we may add that the words of Augustus may refer to the death of Alexander and Aristobulus or to that of Antipater, and that they do not necessarily suppose one of Herod’s sons to have been a mere infant at the time of the slaughter. It is also quite possible that Augustus learned simultaneously two events not simultaneous. γ. If it be asked who were the executioners sent by Herod, we refer to what Josephus tells us of Herod’s funeral [Antiq. XVII. viii. 3], where he enumerates four kinds of Herodian soldiers: the body guard, Thracians, Germans, and Galatians [Gauls, Celts]. Herod’s orders must have been executed by some of these classes.

all the men-children.] b. The Holy Innocents. a. The evangelist determines the Holy Innocents in a double way: (1) locally, they belonged to Bethlehem and the borders thereof, which amounted to twenty little hamlets according to some writers, but must have been of little import in any case; (2) as to time, the Holy Innocents are defined by the clauses “from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the Wisemen.” Not to insist on the exact meaning of the original Greek text, (α) the time may be computed from the appearance of the star showing that the king of the Jews was already born, so that Herod went back two full years in order to destroy his dreaded opponent with more certainty [Mald. Jans. Baron. Sandini]; (β) or the order for the massacre was not issued till about the second Pasch, i. e. fifteen months after our Lord’s birth, so that the two years would comprise these fifteen months and nine months before the appearance of the star [Lap.]; (γ) or again, Herod issued his order two or three months after the birth of Jesus, so that the edict refers to the two or three months after the appearance of the star and to the previous year [patr. in Evang. diss, xxxiii. 1. iii.]; (δ) or the star had appeared before the birth of Jesus, according to Mansel at the time of the incarnation, according to others [cf. patr. p. 334] eighteen months or two years before the nativity, so that the two years either partially or wholly followed the appearance of the star, and preceded the birth of Jesus Christ; (ε) the common and true opinion maintains that the star appeared simultaneously with the birth of Jesus [Aug. Tost. Caj. Mald. Jans. Lap. etc.], and that the words “from two years old and under” must be determined by the following clause, “according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the Wisemen.”

β. Opinions vary greatly concerning the number of the Holy Innocents: (1) Pasch. mentions a tradition that they were 144,000, according to the number in the Apocalypse; (2) the Greek liturgies assume that the Holy Innocents were 14,000; (3) others again have asserted that there were 2000, massacred in twenty different localities around Bethlehem; (4) though we have no means of determining with certainty the number of children killed by the agents of Herod, we can maintain with certainty that the foregoing numbers are fabulous, and we can calculate from the small number of inhabitants of Bethlehem and its surroundings that the probable number must range between 12 and 70 [cf. Ed. i. p. 214].

γ. The reasons which commentators assign for God’s permitting this massacre are almost as varied as their opinions concerning the number of the children slain: (1) the children gained thus their true life [op. imp.]; (2) they were rather honored than injured [Theoph. Euth.]; (3) they confessed Christ not by word of mouth, but by their death [Thom.]; (4) Christ wished to have from the outset companions in his suffering [Pasch. Alb.]; (5) the children would have spent their time uselessly, probably wickedly, had they been allowed to live [Chrys.]; (6) the death of the children was a punishment for the carnal love of their parents, especially of those who had refused shelter to the Holy Family [Salm.].

17. Then was fulfilled.] c. The prophecy. α. Rationalists generally, and among Catholic theologians Jans. Mald. Calm. Lam., contend that the evangelist applies the prophecy to the massacre of the Holy Innocents only by way of accommodation. But accommodation is not fulfilment of prophecy.

β. On the other hand, patr. is not right when he says that the prophecy refers literally to the massacre of the Holy Innocents [De interp. Script. i. p. 252]: the connection of the prediction with its context clearly shows its literal reference to the unhappy condition of the Israelites; it cannot be granted that Rama either refers to a certain town near Bethlehem, or that it is a mere appellative, or again that the weeping took place on a high place so as to be heard afar off, and that the prophet inserts irrelevant matter in his prophecy.

γ. Hil. Bed. Rab. Pasch. Sylv. gl. ord. Jer. believe that Rachel represents the church weeping over the unhappy state of the Jews, who ought to be the first-born of the church. Though this view approaches the true meaning of the passage, it does not grasp it wholly.

δ. The prophecy in its typical sense refers to the massacre of the infants. Literally Jeremias describes in four stanzas the destruction of the Jewish people [Jer. 30:4, 12, 23; 31:15], subjoining in each stanza the prediction of a future restoration [30:8, 18; 31:1, 17 ff.]. The prophecy to which the evangelist appeals is contained in the fourth stanza [Jer. 31:15–26], and this he quotes faithfully according to the sense, adhering neither to the letter of the Hebrew text nor to that of the lxx. The points of correspondence between type and antitype may be reduced to the following: (1) The prophet treats of the political ruin of the Jewish people brought on by the Babylonian captivity, and the evangelist points to the final ruin of the nation caused by the rejection of the Messias; (2) in Rama was dealt the final stroke against the Hebrew commonwealth by the Babylonian conquerors [cf. Jer. 40:1; Joseph. Antiq. VIII. xii. 3], and in Bethlehem was dealt the first stroke against the Messias by the faithless Jewish nation; (3) Rachel, the representative of the whole nation, because the mother of both Benjamin and Joseph, is described by the prophet as bewailing the temporal ruin of the nation, doubly painful to her on account of her ardent longing for children; for the same reason can the evangelist represent her as bewailing the final ruin of the nation, part of which literally occurs in the massacre of the Bethlehemite infants. This resemblance between type and antitype becomes the more striking because Rachel’s tomb is situate near Bethlehem [Gen. 35:19; Guérin, Judée, i. 225–236], so that either her funeral is conceived as happening again, or the grief at Bethlehem is so great that it can be fitly expressed only by the lamentation of a dead mother returned to life.

19. But when Herod was dead.] 3. The return. α. The angel. The time of the angel’s appearance is determined by the death of Herod, which happened, according to the more common opinion, shortly before the Pasch of 75 A. U. C. The angel indeed says, “for they are dead that sought the life of the child,” speaking not only of Herod, but also of the priests and scribes whom Herod had consulted [Jer. Pasch.], or of Antipater, the most ambitious of Herod’s sons, put to death by Herod himself a few days before his own decease [patr.], or again using the plural in a general sylleptical way [Thom. Jans. Mald. Bar.], or alluding in his words to Ex. 4:19, where God bids Moses return to Egypt, for “they are dead that sought thy life” [Arn. Schanz, Keil]. Verse 19 seems to settle all doubt on this matter, since it states that the angel appeared after the death of Herod, who prefigured the future persecutors of the church not only in his cruelty, but also in his fate. The frightful end of the usurping tyrant is described by Joseph. [Antiq. XVII. vi. 5; viii. 1]. Joseph is bidden to take “the child and his mother,” not “his child and its mother.”

21. Who arose.] b. Joseph. α. In this passage we must admire not only the obedience of Joseph, but also his prudence in avoiding the territory which would have proved dangerous to his charge from a human point of view. β. Archelaus reigned in Judea, because Augustus had confirmed the will of Herod in which he left Idumea, Judea, and Samaria to Archelaus, his son by his fourth wife Malthace, a Samaritan woman; Galilee and Perea to Archelaus’s full brother Herod Antipas; Gaulonitis, Trachonitis, and Batanaea to Philip [Antiq. XVII. xi. 4]. The fact that Archelaus reigned at the time of Joseph’s return seems to be a sure sign that the angel appeared to him either immediately after Herod’s death or several months later; for Archelaus set out for Rome soon after this event, while Sabienus, the imperial procurator of Syria, ruled in his stead. Augustus confirmed the will of Herod only in the autumn of the same year. γ. The evangelist cannot be accused of error, though the Greek text says that Archelaus was king at the time of Joseph’s return. His legal title of ethnarch may have been neglected by the people, who called him as they had been accustomed to address his father. δ. The cruelty of Archelaus is attested by Josephus, who ascribes to him the massacre of 3000 Jews in the temple during the Passover which immediately followed his accession [Antiq. XVII. ix. 3]. ε. Following a divine warning, Joseph proceeds to Galilee, taking up his residence in the lower part of the province, in Nazareth, a city of the tribe of Zabulon. As Galilee was the most despised part of Palestine, so was Nazareth the most despised city of Galilee [cf. Jn. 1:46; 7:52], and thus the prophecies that foretold the obscure origin of the Messias [Is. 7:15, 16; 11:1; 53:2] are fulfilled in the most natural way [Knab. Salm. Jans.].

that it might be fulfilled.] c. The prophecy. That Jesus was actually called the Nazarene [not the Nazarite] is evident from Mt. 26:71; Mk. 10:47; Lk. 18:37; 24:19; Jn. 19:19; Acts 2:22; 3:6; 4:22; 22:8; 26:9. Since this title was not one of the current Messianic names, but rather a name of opprobrium, the evangelist wishes to set forth that some of the less prominent prophecies were fulfilled in this name, in order to remove the difficulty most effectually. But which are the prophecies fulfilled in this name?

α. Some think that Jesus was called “Nazarite,” or consecrated to God in a special manner; and since the prophecies generally speak of the Messias as especially holy, they find their fulfilment in this name [op. imp. Theoph. Bed. gl. ord. Pasch. Thom. Sylv. Jer.]. But (1) Jesus is nowhere called Nazarite, (2) nor did he ever adopt the Nazarite practices [cf. Num. 6:1–21; Jud. 13:5]. (3) Besides, the name Nazareth cannot be connected with the word “Nazarite.”

β. Other commentators believe that the evangelist refers to prophecies now lost, or to mere commentaries on prophetic books [Chrys. Theoph. Euth.; cf. Jans. Mald. Sylv.]. This explanation is purely conjectural.

γ. Other writers see in the name a fulfilment of Zach. 9:9 and Is. 42:6, interpreting Nazarene as “protected,” “guarded,” because Nazareth was Christ’s place of safety [Schegg]; but the word cannot be derived from the verb כָצַר.

δ. The same reason holds against Zaschlag, who interprets the name as meaning “keeper,” according to Ex. 34:6 f.; and against Riggenbach, who takes it in the same meaning, but according to Ps. 30:25; and also against Hitzig, Schützling, Keim, etc., who give the word the meaning “leader of the saved ones,” according to Is 49:6, etc. In all these cases the connection of the word in question with Nazareth is at least very artificial.

ε. We think that those interpreters [Jer. Rab. gl. ord. Pasch. Thom. Salm. Jans. Mald. Fab. Ed. etc.] are right who refer the evangelist’s words to Is. 11:1, where the Messias is set forth as the branch, sprout, or shoot of Jesse, and to its parallel passages: Jer. 23:5; 33:15; Zach. 3:8; 6:12; Ez. 17:22, 23, where the Messias is described by the same imagery, though the word connected with Nazareth occurs only once, in Is. 11:1. Why, then, does the gospel refer to prophets? (1) It is quite possible that the evangelist uses the plural number “prophets” genetically, for the singular, or that the Greek interpreter of St. Matthew used the plural “prophets” where the evangelist in his Syro-Chaldaic original text used the word “nabi,” which might be taken as either plural or singular. (2) At any rate, the image of “branch” or “shoot” was so commonly used of the Messias that even St. Paul [Rom. 15:12] applied it to him [cf. Cant. 8:1; Ps. 4:2].

ζ. On the other hand, the name Nazareth was probably derived from the same imagery on account of its spreading branches and shrubs [Bed. Rub. Pasch.]. (1) The form of the Greek word signifying “Nazarene” is in the gospels either Ναζωραῖος or Ναζαρηνός [Ναζαραῖος, according to Eus. Jer.]. These forms must be derived from Ναζαρα, the feminine form of נֵצֶר (cf. Euseb. I. vii. 14; Jerome, Onomast. ed. Lag. p. 175); the final ת of Nazareth is sign of the emphatic state of the feminine gender. (2) That this is the right derivation of Nazareth is confirmed by the Talmudic passages in which Jesus is called mockingly בן נצר [cf. Buxt. Lex. Chald. p. 1383].

η. Only one difficulty remains: how can we explain the change of צ in נצר to ז in Nazareth? (1) It must be kept in mind that in Syriac and Arabic Nazareth is written with the letter corresponding to the Hebrew צ. Hence Salm. Jans. Mald. Bar. maintain that Nazareth must be written with צ, and Salm. Bar. appeal for this to the Syriac. Only in the Syriac evang. of the eighth century we find ז, but this may have been introduced from the Greek manner of writing the name; a similar change we find in the Syriac transliteration of צעיר [Num. 2:5]. (2) Again, St. Jerome explicitly states that Nazareth is not written with ז, but with צ [Onomast. s. p. 95], though he endeavors to connect the word “Nazarene” with נזיר [cf. de Lagarde, Bildung der Nomina, 1889, pp. 54 f.]. (3) Though the change from צ to ז is not a common practice, still it is not forbidden by an inviolable rule, as may be seen from the transcription of Gen. 10:26; 22:21; 2:5 in the cod. Ven.

θ. It may not be out of place here to draw attention to the meaning of several localities that enter into the life of Jesus Christ [cf. Wordsworth, on Mt. 26:36]: (1) the bread of life is born in Bethlehem, the house of bread; (2) the Messianic branch grows up in Nazareth, famous for its branching shrubs and trees; (3) the fishermen are chosen at Bethsaida, the house of fishing; (4) in Bethesda, the house of mercy, the impotent man is healed; (5) Bethany, the house of palm dates, speaks of the palms of Jesus’ triumphant entrance into Jerusalem; (6) in Bethphage, the house of figs, Jesus gave the warning of the barren fig-tree; (7) Gethsemani, the oilpress, witnesses the agony of Jesus; (8) on Golgotha, derived from a verb meaning to roll, Jesus rolled away our shame; (9) from the Mount of Olives Jesus ascended into heaven, whence he holds forth the olive branch of peace between God and men.

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