An Exposition Of The Gospels by The Most Rev. John Macevilly D.D.

In this chapter the Evangelist gives the pedigree of our Blessed Lord, which he divides into three series, comprising fourteen generations each. The first series commencing with Abraham and ending with David (vv. 1–6), is composed partly of his patriarchal ancestors, but chiefly of those who exercised the office of Judges among the Jewish people. The second commencing with David, who is repeated as the head of this series, and ending with the Babylonish captivity (7–11), embraces our Redeemer’s kingly ancestors. The third commencing with the deportation of the people to Babylon, after which all independent kingly authority ceased among the Jews, and ending with our Lord, embraces mostly His ducal ancestors. We have next the history of our Lord’s miraculous conception—the Virgin’s pregnancy—the perplexity which it occasioned Joseph, from whom the mysterious operation of the Holy Ghost was hitherto kept secret (18–19)—the consoling assurances of the angel sent to dispel his doubts and calm his apprehensions (20–21)—the Prophecy of Isaias relating to this wonderful conception by a virgin (22–23)—the unhesitating obedience of Joseph (24–25).

1. “The book.” This word in its general acceptation, with the Hebrews, means a writing of any kind. Here, it signifies a narrative or catalogue “of the generation” that, is to say, of the genealogy or ancestors “of Jesus Christ.” In this sense it holds the place of Preface or Title to this first chapter. The Hebrew word, Sepher, corresponding to the Greek, Βιβλιος, denotes any writing or narrative. As Moses speaking of the first Adam says (Genesis 5:1), “This is the book of the generation of Adam,” so St. Matthew here employs the same form of language in reference to Christ to convey that He is the second Adam, “the Father of the world to come” (Isaias 9:6); the principle of a second birth more happy and of a more exalted character than that which was derived from the first, who was a type of Christ (Rom. 5:14; 1 Cor. 15) Maldonatus is of opinion that the words form the title of the entire Gospel. According to him “generation” refers not only to the descent, but also to the entire life and actions of Christ as recorded in this Gospel. His opinion is improbable; the words mean, the record or roll of the pedigree of our Lord.

“Of Jesus Christ.” “Jesus,” derived from a Hebrew word signifying “to save” (see v. 21), is the proper name of the Man-God, and denotes his Person and Divinity. “Christ,” derived from a Greek word signifying “to anoint” denotes his office as Prophet, Priest, and King, all of whom were anointed with oil on entering on the peculiar and sacred functions of their office. Our Lord was anointed in virtue of the Hypostatic union, which was a spiritual and essential unction, whereby He was set apart as Prophet, Priest, and King. This was the oil of gladness wherewith He was anointed (Heb. 1:9). In thus referring to the name and office of the Son of God, St. Matthew wishes to arrest the attention of the Jews by conveying to them that he is about giving the history of their long-expected Messiah, which means the Anointed.

“The Son,” that is, the descendant. The Hebrews designated by the name of “son” every one descended from another, no matter how remotely, in a direct line.

“Of David, the son of Abraham.” Those two are mentioned because to them were made the promise in a special way that Christ would be born of them; of Abraham, as head of the race; of David, as head of the family. David is placed first for brevity sake, otherwise the construction should run thus: “The son of Abraham, who was the father of David, from whom Christ was descended” (St. Jerome). Others assign as a reason for this construction that the promises made to David regarding Christ were more recent, and of a more special character, being made, not alone to the Jewish race, but to the family of David. Hence, the Jewish people, including the very babes and sucklings, everywhere style the Messiah as “the son of David” (Matt. 21:15; John 7:42, &c.), pointing to his royal dignity as heir to the throne of David on which He was to sit for ever, “and the Lord God shall give Him the throne of David, His father, and He shall reign in the house of Jacob for ever, and of His kingdom there shall be no end” (Luke 1:32). Hence the Prophets everywhere speak of our Lord, as Son of David. In truth, the Son of David, was one of the characteristic names of our Lord. (Isa. 9:7; Jer. 23:5; Ezek. 34:23; Amos 9:11). The promise first made to David on this head is recorded (2 Kings 7:12, &c.), confirmed (Psa. 88:13), and renewed to Solomon (3 Kings 9:5). St. Matthew wishes to convey that all these promises were fulfilled in Christ.

“The son of Abraham” may either refer to David, who was the descendant of Abraham, or to Christ, who was the son of David and of Abraham. In this latter construction the conjunction, and, is understood. To Abraham and David both were made promises regarding Him. The former construction is preferred by many, inasmuch as it followed, as a matter of course, in the minds of all the Jews, that being the son of David, He should also be a son of Abraham.

From the birth of Abraham to that of Christ there elapsed an interval of about 2004 years; and from the death of David to Christ, a period of 1013 years.

St. Matthew studiously traces the genealogy of Christ to Abraham through a successive series of forty-two, with the view of convincing the Jews that He was their true Messiah, whom they should, therefore, honour and worship. In St. Luke, whose Gospel was written for the use of the Gentiles, our Lord’s pedigree is traced up to Adam, the father of the whole human race. The Gospel of St. Matthew being written for the Jews, the genealogy commences with Abraham, whom the Jews called their father.

2. “Abraham begot Isaac.” Writing for the Jews, St. Matthew commences the genealogy of Christ with Abraham, in whom they gloried as their father, the founder of their race, to whom they were wont to trace up their genealogies. He was, moreover, the first, after Adam, to whom a promise was made that Christ was to be of his seed. St. Luke’s Gospel being written for the use of the Gentiles, the pedigree of our Lord is traced up to Adam, the father of the entire human race, “Isaac” alone mentioned out of all the other sons of Abraham, as it was of him Christ was born. But in Isaac shall thy seed be called (Gen. 21:12; Rom. 9:7).

“Judas and his brethren.” The brethren of Judas are mentioned, while no similar mention is made of the brethren of Isaac and Jacob; because the Jewish people, whom St. Matthew addresses, were descended from the twelve sons of Jacob, the eleven others as well as Judah, their descendants constituting one and and the same people, of whom Christ was born. These were the twelve pillars of the Jewish people and of the kingdom of Christ.

3. “Of Thamar.” It is remarked by commentators that all the women mentioned in the genealogy of our Lord were, with the exception of His Immaculate Mother, publicly subject to reproach. One of them being guilty of adultery—Bethsabee; another of incest—Thamar; another, a harlot—Rahab; and the fourth a Gentile—Ruth. Rahab, too, was a Gentile, a native of Jericho. The reason commonly assigned for this is, that being united to their husbands out of the ordinary way, and owing to an unusual combination of circumstances, these women presented a very expressive type of the sinful Gentiles, who were aggregated to the people and Church of God through a new vocation, after the Jews had been rejected. Other reasons are assigned, viz., that our Lord, having come to save sinners, deigned to have among His ancestors some who were very expressive types of those whom He came to save (St. Jerome). Again, the Evangelist wished to humble the pride of the Jews, by reminding them of the gross sins of their Patriarchs in whom they were wont to glory so much (St. Chrysostom). The first reason seems the more probable. Jacob’s incestuous connexion with Thamar is recorded (Gen. 38). “Phares and Zara,” being twin brothers, are both mentioned, as presenting in the circumstances of their birth an expressive type of the Jews and Gentiles, the mystery of whose vocation is referred to by the Apostle (Rom. 11:25). The same figure was expressed in the birth of Jacob and Esau; but as this latter did not belong to the people of God, having sold his birthright, and thus a type of the reprobate, all mention of him here was, therefore, omitted by the Evangelist.

4. “Aminadab.” Lyranus referring to a Jewish tradition, states that this Aminadab was the leader of the tribe of Juda on the egress of the Hebrews from Egypt; the first also to lead the way and to enter into the Red Sea, which miraculously opened a passage for the Israelites. To him the words refer (Cant. 6:1)—“My soul troubled me for the chariots of Aminadab.” He was succeeded by his son Naasson, in the desert.

5. “Rahab.” Being one time a harlot, afterwards became converted (Heb. 11:31). She was a native of Jericho. In consequence of her humanity in concealing the Hebrew explorers, she was saved with her whole house and kindred, and associated with the people of God (Josue 6:25).

“Ruth,” a native of Moab. Our blessed Lord, who came to save all, Jews and Gentiles, deigned, in order to inspire all with confidence in His mercy, and with hopes of forgiveness, to count among His ancestors Gentiles as well as Jews; and it is with this view the Holy Ghost moves the Evangelist to record this fact.

“Booz begot Obed.” Some commentators are of opinion that some generations are omitted here, that the Booz referred to here was not the immediate father of Obed, because between Salmon and Jesse inclusively, only four generations existed, and between them a period of 366 years elapsed, too long a period for four generations to extend over. However, this argument proves nothing, the age of man, for several reasons, being then far greater than at any future period. (Natalis Alexander, Calmet, &c.)

“Jesse.” Reference is made to him in the prophecy of Isaias, which regards our Redeemer, “egredictur virga de radice Jesse” (Isa. 11:1). He was also called, Isai. He was not held in any great consideration among the Jews. Hence, Saul scornfully calls David “the son of Isai” (1 Kings 20:27).

6. “David the King”—the first king among the ancestors of Christ. To him was made the promise of a perpetual kingdom. Our Lord’s Royal dignity is here indicated, as He was heir to “the throne of David his father” (Luke 1:32).

“That had been (the wife) of Urias.” This recalls the memory of David’s sin, and at the same time conveys that God, far from having, in consequence, rescinded His promises to David, had, on the contrary, fulfilled them in her seed, who was his accomplice in guilt. “That had been of Urias” conveys that, having ceased to be Urias’s wife, she was married to David at the time of Solomon’s birth, who was, therefore, the issue of lawful wedlock.

8. “And Joram begot Ozias.” From the history, or rather from all the catalogues of the kings of Juda in succession (1 Par. 3:11, &c.), it is quite certain that three kings who reigned in immediate succession are here passed over by the Evangelist. For, Joram begot Ochozias; Ochozias begot Joas; Joas begot Amasias; who begot Ozias referred to here, also called Azarias. So that Ozias, or Azarias, was not immediately the son, but rather the great grandson of Joram, said to be begotten of of him in accordance with the Jewish custom of designating by the name of son even the remote offspring of a man in a direct line, just as Christ is said to be “the son of David and of Abraham.” Why these three generations were passed over is variously accounted for. It surely could not be on account of their great wickedness. Two of them, Joas and Amasias, were reputed good kings; and Solomon and Manasses, who are mentioned in the genealogy, were worse than even Ochozias. The reason generally assigned by commentators following St. Jerome is, that the Evangelist, having in view, for some mysterious reason of his own, to divide the genealogy of our Lord into three classes, consisting of fourteen generations each (v. 17), passed over these three rather than others, on account of the malediction pronounced by God, through the mouth of the prophet Elias, on the house of Achab (3 Kings 21:21; 4 Kings 9:8), viz., that He would utterly destroy his posterity. Hence, as Joram had married Athalia, the daughter of Achab, his descendants to the fourth generation were expunged by the Evangelist from the catalogue of the ancestors of Christ. Very likely, these names were expunged from the public records St. Matthew had before him. The reason of this omission was, no doubt, understood by those to whom St. Matthew wrote; nor would such omission interfere with the truth of the history. They were not naturally, but civilly, destroyed by such exclusion; just as the tribe of Dan, on account of its wickedness and forbidden commerce with the idolatrous Gentiles, is excluded from the catalogue of the saints numbered out of the tribes of Israel (Apoc. 7:5–8). No more of those lineally descended from Achab are excluded by the Evangelist, as the malediction of God on the children for their parents’ crimes does not usually, according to the measure of the Law, extend beyond the fourth generation (Exod. 20:5). Athalia, the mother of Ochozias, is called the daughter of Amri, king of Israel (4 Kings 8:26), although only his grand-daughter, in accordance with the Jewish usage already referred to. From other parts of Scripture it is clear that Joram was married to Achab’s daughter (4 Kings 8:18). It was on account of Ochozias being descended from Achab that Jehu slew him (4 Kings 9:27, &c.), in obedience to the Divine command on the subject (4 Kings 9:7). The omission of these three generations does not much affect the design of the Evangelist, which was to show that Christ was descended from David. He would be equally the son of David whether these generations were expressed or omitted.

11. “Josias begot Jechonias and his brethren.” This verse presents some difficulties—1st, because of the four sons of Josias mentioned (1 Par. 3:15; 4 Kings 23:30, 31), viz., Johanan, the first-born; the second, Joakim; the third, Sedecias; the fourth, Sellum,” there is none called Jechonias; and Jechonias, the father of Salathiel, had no brethren; he had but one brother, Sedecias. There would also seem to be wanting, as the text stands, some one generation of the thrice fourteen (v. 17), in either the second or third of the series. The question is, in case there be an omission of one generation, to which series, second, or third, is the omission to be referred.

Various solutions have been given by commentators to these difficulties. It is held by many commentators that the “Jechonias” mentioned in the text is the same as Joakim, the second son of Josias, who was appointed king after Joachaz, by Pharao Nechao, king of Egypt. (4 Kings 23:34; St. Ambrose, in Lucam; St. Jerome, in Matth.; Irenæus Lib. Hor. iii., &c.) After Josias was slain at Mageddo (4 Kings 24), his son Sellum, reckoned as his fourth son, although Sedecias was younger, mounted the throne immediately under the name of Joachaz, as appears from Jeremias (22:11), where, writing at the time that Joachim, the successor of Joachaz, was reigning, the Prophet says—“Thus saith the Lord to Sellum, son of Josias, king of Juda, who reigneth instead of his father … in the place to which I have removed him, there shall he die,” &c. Sellum, who went by the name of Joachaz, also, died in Egypt, whither Pharao Nechao transported him. (4 Kings 24)

Sellum is placed last, or “the fourth” among the sons of Josias (1 Par. 3:15), on account of the short duration of his reign, which lasted only three months. He was succeeded by Joachim, who reigned eleven years. Joachim was succeeded, though not immediately, by his brother Sedecias, who is reckoned as the “third” son of Josias, although, in point of years, the youngest. That he was younger than Sellum is clear from this, viz., that Sellum was twenty-three years when he began to reign (4 Kings 23:31); and after an interval of more than eleven years, during which the reign of Joachim lasted, Sedecias, on mounting the throne, was only twenty-one years (24:18). That Sellum or Joachaz was also younger than Joachim is also clear, as the latter was twenty-five years after the deposition of Joachaz, who was only twenty-three years and three months before (23:31). Hence, Joachaz is not to be confounded with Johanan, the first-born of Josias, who, it is generally supposed, either died before his father, or from some cause or other never ascended the throne. The advocates of the exposition now given, say that this Joachim is the Jechonias here referred to by St. Matthew, “Jechonias and his brethren.” These expositions supply the omission of one generation, which, it is generally admitted, occurs here, thus; “And Jechonias begot Jechonias, and Jechonias begot Salathiel.” So that the Jechonias who is said to have begotten Salathiel in the text (v. 12), is not the son, but the grandson of Josias.

There is, however, no evidence in Scripture that Joakim, the second son of Josias ever bore the name of Jechonias. Hence, Maldonatus rejecting the former solution, hazards a conjecture of his own. Setting out with the general admission, that there has been some error, or rather omission in this passage, arising from the transcription of copyists, he says the omission should be supplied in a manner most in accordance with the truthful catalogue of the ancestors of our Lord given in the Old Testament; and, consequently, he supplies it in this way: “Josias begot Joakim and his brethren, and Joakim begot Joachin, also called Jechonias” (1 Par. 3:16; Jer. 24:1); and Jechonias begot Salathiel (v. 12).

Others adopt different other hypotheses. Patrizzi adopts the opinion of Harduin, who maintains that by the Jechonias first referred to, “Jechonias and his brethren” is meant Johanan, the first-born of Josias, who is supposed by almost all other expositors never to have ascended the throne. It is hard to say which of the suppositions is the more probable solution of the difficulty. As regards the first solution already given, it might be conjectured that as Joachin, the son of Joachim, was called Jechonias, so might Joachim himself have borne the same name which might be common to both. This, however, is merely conjectural (see v. 17).

There is also much diversity of opinion in explaining in which of the series, second or third, one generation of the thrice fourteen (v. 17) is wanting. Those who hold that it is wanting in the second series, maintain that Jechonias mentioned in v. 12 as father of Salathiel, commences the third series. Hence, the second commencing with Solomon and ending with Josias inclusively, contains only thirteen generations. Those who say it is wanting in the third series, maintain that Jechonias, father of Salathiel, belongs to the second series; and they prefer this arrangement, because, according to their ideas, St. Matthew, in dividing our Redeemer’s lineage into thrice fourteen generations, had in view to note the threefold condition of the Jewish people under judges, who chiefly constituted the first series; under tings, who constituted the second; and dukes, who constituted the third. Hence, Jechonias and his brethren, kings of Juda, should be ranked in the second series. But, it may be said in reply, that the throe sons of Josias who reigned, were only the mere creatures of the kings of Egypt and Babylon, who made and unmade them at pleasure; and hence they could hardly be said to reign at all. Moreover, all who belong to any one of the three series, need not be necessarily of the same denomination. In the first series, were found men who were not judges, Abraham, Isaac, &c.

Others maintain, that even taking the text as it stands, without supposing any error whatever on the part of copyists, still fourteen generations (the word “generation” meaning the persons, or ancestors of Christ, of whom a catalogue is now given) may be reckoned. Of these expositors some, among whom is Harduin, say that David, who closes the first series, is to be twice repeated, as is indicated in v. 17. For, he is made as much the head of the second series, although closing the first, as Abraham is of the first; while, as regards the close of the second series, what is repeated is not Jechonias, but “the Babylonish captivity.” Hence Jechonias should be reckoned in the third series. Others say, with St. Augustine (de cons. Evangel.) that Jechonias, and not David, should be repeated twice, as ending the second, and commencing the third series, which closes with our Lord.

“In the transmigration of Babylon.” “In” means, about, or, on the eve of, because Josias was dead some years before the Jewish people were carried away captive to Babylon; “transmigration” means carried away captive. There was a threefold transmigration (Jer. 52:28–30; 4 Kings 25); the first, under Joachim, the son of Josias, in the beginning of Nabuchodonosor’s reign; the second, under Joachin, son of Joachim, in the eighteenth year of Nabuchodonosor’s reign; the third, under Sodecias, in the twenty-third year of Nabuchodonosor. This last deportation, which included almost the whole people, was effected by Nabuzardan, the general of Nabuchodonosor.

Patrizzi (De Genere Christ. Dissert. ix.) maintains that the words, “in the transmigration of Babylon,” are not to be connected with the word “begot,” since Josias was dead before the transmigration or deportation of the Jews to Babylon, which occurred in the reign of his sons; but that there is an ellipsis in the passage, the word τους (“those who were”) being omitted. Hence, the words mean, “Josias begot Jechonias and his brethren (those who were), in the transmigration of Babylon.” The captivity is by no means to be confounded with the transmigration. For, St. Matthew says, “after the transmigration,” which, surely, cannot mean the term of seventy years’ captivity (Jer. 25:11; Dan. 9:2), since it was during the captivity, and not after it, “Jechonias begot Salathiel,” when the triple deportation of the people to Babylon had been completed. “The transmigration,” or carrying away, which embraces the triple “transmigration,” is referred to as a remarkable epoch in Jewish history to close the second series with. Under the sons of Josias, the carrying away began and was completed. Not so the period of captivity embracing seventy years, during which some of those belonging to the third series were born.

12. “After the transmigration of Babylon” was completed, and during the seventy years’ captivity, or of their detention at Babylon.

“Jechonias begot Salathiel.” This, most likely, happened after the death of Nabuchodonosor, when his son, Evilmerodach, ascending the throne, brought forth Jechonias from prison and bestowed on him kingly honours (4 Kings 25:27; Jer. 52:31). Had he a son at the time of his captivity, Nabuchodonosor would have appointed this son, rather than his uncle, Sedecias, to succeed him on the throne. It was, therefore, during the captivity he begot Salathiel. The curse of sterility pronounced by God against Jechonias (Jer. 22:30) had only reference to the exclusion of his children from “the throne of David” (Jer. 22:30). For, reference is made in v. 28 to his seed, who “would be cast on a land they knew not.” While after his captivity his uncle, Sedecias, reigned in his stead, none of his sons, Salathiel and Asir (1 Par. 3:17) ever saw the land of Juda. Under Zorobabel, his grandson, the Jews returned to their country.

The promise regarding our Lord sitting on the throne of David had reference only to His spiritual kingdom, of which there was to be no end.

“Salathiel begot Zorobabel.” In 1 Par. (3:19) it is said, “Of Phadaia were born Zorobabel and Semei.” It is most probable that the Zorobabel spoken of by St. Matthew is a different person altogether from him of whom there is mention in Paralipomenon. For, the list of the posterity of both is quite different in St. Matthew and Paralipomenon. St. Matthew describes Abiud as the son of Zorobabel; in Paralipomenon, there is no mention whatever of him. Hence, there is no contradiction between St. Matthew and Paralipomenon; since in the catalogue furnished by the writer in this latter book there is no mention whatsoever made of the sons of Zorobabel, Abiud or Reza, spoken of in the catalogue of St. Matthew here and Luke (c. 3:27).

16. “Who is called,” which, by a Hebrew idiom, signifies, who is in reality “Christ,” that is, the Anointed, or the Messiah. As an exposition of the interpretations and hypotheses advanced for the purpose of explaining the apparent discrepancies between the genealogies of our Lord given here by St. Matthew and by Luke (c. 3:23–38), might render inconveniently diffusive the commentary on this chapter, already sufficiently protracted on other points, we shall content ourselves here with merely noting the chief interpretations on this subject, reserving a fuller exposition for the commentary on Luke, c. 3. It may not be amiss here to observe, that whatever may be the difficulties to be found in any of the leading opinions at this remote period of time (and they are very great, whichever hypothesis we adopt), a strong extrinsic proof of the genuineness of both genealogies is found in the fact, that the genealogies of Matthew and Luke have never been objected to by the Jews of their day, whether believers or unbelievers, who had every opportunity of knowing the state of the case, and many of whom would gladly charge the Evangelists with inaccuracy or inconsistency, if such really existed. And this proof is the more convincing, if it be borne in mind, that the Jews were always remarkable for paying the greatest attention to genealogies, particularly where there was question of direct descent from the most illustrious of their ancestors; and moreover, that they would naturally watch with jealous care, that no mistake should occur, and no false allegation be allowed to pass unchallenged, in the case of the ancestors of the Messiah especially, and of His descent from David, Jacob, Isaac, and Abraham, to whom the promises regarding Him were made. Notwithstanding this strong extrinsic argument, there have not been wanting at all periods of the Church, from Celsus, in the second century, to Strauss in our own day, enemies of the Christian name, to urge the inaccuracy or inconsistency of the two genealogies, as an objection to the veracity or inspiration of the New Testament. If it were not a matter perfectly certain at the time, that by tracing the genealogy of Joseph, St. Matthew at the same time gave the genealogy of the Blessed Virgin, the Jews, for whom he wrote, and who had before them the genealogical tables, since lost, which would clearly show Joseph and Mary to be of the same tribe and closely united in the same family, would certainly have urged as an objection that he promised to give the genealogy of Jesus Christ, from Abraham and David, and only gave that of Joseph, whom, in the very passage, he declares not to be the father of Jesus Christ. This would clearly show Joseph and Mary to be of the same tribe and family, and that by giving the genealogy of Joseph, the Evangelist gave that of Mary also, the only earthly parent of Jesus Christ. The Evangelist’s reason for giving the genealogy of Joseph, rather than that of Mary, is found in the fact, that it was not usual among the Jews to trace genealogies through the female line (St. Jerome). Even in the case of Judith, it is given through the male line (Judith 8:1), and St. Matthew writing for the Jews would naturally conform to their custom. Moreover, among the Jews, the genealogy of the mother was not considered the true one, but only that of the father. Now, St. Joseph passed externally for the father of Jesus Christ; and if Joseph was not shown to be of the house of David, the unbelieving Jews (for St. Matthew wrote for the Jewish people, believers and unbelievers) would regard the account of our Saviour’s miraculous conception, as a mere fabrication, and would maintain that Christ was not descended from David, and, therefore, had no claims to be considered the promised Messiah. Now, the above probable hypothesis, which explains the reticence of the Jews, utterly unaccountable, save in the supposition, that by giving the pedigree of Joseph, St. Matthew gave that of Mary also, receives confirmation from the fact that the Blessed Virgin would appear to have no brothers. For, neither in tradition nor in SS. Scripture do we find mention of any such near connexions of our Lord, as we should naturally expect if they existed, the more so, as we have reference made to the immediate female relative of the Blessed Virgin (John 19:25). This again leads us to believe that the Blessed Virgin was an heiress; for, contrary to what was customary in the case of women, she went to Bethlehem with. St. Joseph to be registered (Luke 2:5). She must, therefore, have an inheritance, and should, consequently, in accordance with the Jewish law, (Num. 36:8) marry a kinsman, in order that the inheritance should not pass out of the tribe or family. Joseph and the Blessed Virgin must, therefore, be of the same family; and by giving the genealogy of St. Joseph, St. Matthew gives that of the Blessed Virgin also.

The difficulty, however, still remains, regarding the two genealogies, between which there are but few points of agreement. One traces our Lord’s descent downwards from Abraham; the other, upwards to Adam. The number of generations in St. Luke is 77; in St. Matthew, 42. They are even far greater in the former than in the latter from the point of contact in David. The one mentions Jacob, as the father of Joseph; the other Heli, &c., &c. Both would seem to give the genealogy of Joseph; but as this could not by any means regard natural descent; hence, various interpretations are advanced to reconcile their apparent discrepancy. There are two leading interpretations, considered the most probable. According to the first, St. Matthew gives the natural genealogy of St. Joseph; St. Luke, that of the Blessed Virgin. In this interpretation, when St. Luke speaks of Joseph as the son of Heli (τοῦ Ηελι), he means the son-in-law, married to the Blessed Virgin, the daughter of Heli, who must, therefore, be identified with Joachim, whom tradition represents as the father of the Blessed Virgin. This would easily account for the difference of numbers of generations in both. This interpretation, however, has against it, its novelty; it was unknown until the fifteenth century, and whatever may be said in regard to a few of the Fathers cited in favour of it (Irenæus, Origen, Tertullian, and Athanasius), it cannot be questioned that the weight of authority is in favour of the leading interpretation to be referred to, in the second place. It moreover traces our Lord’s pedigree to Nathan, and not to Solomon, to whose family the promises were made (2 Kings 7:12–16). Again, the Blessed Virgin and St. Joseph being most probably nearly related by the father’s side (since the Evangelist could not attain his object with the Jews in giving any other than the paternal genealogy), they would surely coincide before reaching the third or fourth generation, and it is hard to conceive how so wide a divergence as that given in the gospels could exist between them. Again, the grammatical construction in St. Luke’s Gospel would be fatal to this interpretation, and the insertion of a parenthesis, besides being arbitrary and dangerous in principle, when there is question of interpreting the Word of God, would not much mend matters. Finally, the Virgin’s name is not at all introduced by St. Luke, who professes to give the genealogy of our Lord through St. Joseph.

In the second interpretation, it is maintained that in both Matthew and Luke we have the genealogy of St. Joseph—as, indeed, the words of the text itself expressly state—in the former, his natural; in the latter, his legal genealogy. This legal relationship arose under the Levirate law, resulting from a peculiar enactment of the law of Moses (Deut. 25:5) “When brethren dwell together, and one of them dieth without children … his brother shall take her and raise up seed to his brother: and the first son he shall have of her, he shall call by his name, that his name be not abolished out of Israel.” The application of this law to the case of Joseph is founded on the authority of Julius Africanus, who lived in the third century, and says he had it from the relations of our Lord himself. His statement is this: Estha, the mother of Heli and Jacob, was married successively to Mathan and Melchi; of the former, she begat Jacob; of the latter, Heli. Jacob and Heli were, therefore, uterine brothers, having the same mother, but not the same father (Eusebius Hist. Eccles. Lib. 7). Now, Heli having died childless, Jacob married his widow, and had for issue, Joseph, who was the natural son of Jacob, but the legal son of Heli. As Mathan and Melchi, to whom Estha was successively married, need not be at all related, it is no wonder that the two genealogies branch off very divergently without meeting again save in Zorobabel and Salathiel, till they reach David, through Solomon on the one side, and Nathan on the other. This interpretation is commonly adopted by the Fathers. As both genealogies, the natural and legal, were regarded of the greatest importance among the Jews, it is no wonder the Evangelists give both. The interpretation of Africanus, however, as it stands, unless there be some error in transcription by copyists, does not well accord with the text of St. Luke, in which Heli is given, not as son of Melchi, who is two generations in advance, but of Mathat. But be the difficulties in removing the discrepancies in both genealogies what they may, at this remote period, the Jews, who had the best means of knowing accurately the date of the case, saw none; otherwise, they would have at once objected, which is a clear proof that no such discrepancy really existed.

17. If we begin by counting Abraham, and end with Christ, we have but 41 generations; hence, apparently, a name must be repeated or supplied to make up the three fourteens, or 42. By putting David at the end of the first series and beginning of the second, we shall have: Abraham, 1—David, 14; David, 1—Josias, 14; Jechonias, 1—Christ, 14. The repetition of David’s name is suggested by the Evangelist himself: “From Abraham to David … From David to the transmigration,” &c., making David the head of the second fourteen, and therefore to be counted as much as Abraham is of the first. There were in reality more than three fourteens, but for some mysterious reason of his own, St. Matthew, who omitted some generations (see v. 8), wishes to divide the entire into three fourteens, according to the catalogue of names expressed by himself. Many Catholic and Protestant writers, and among the rest Harduin, who is a great authority in chronological matters, adopt this mode of computation. If we suppose a generation omitted, then a different division is made: Abraham, 1—David 14; Solomon, 1—Joachim, 14; Jechonias, 1—Christ, 14.

18. “Now, the generation of Christ was this.” After having shown that our Lord was of the seed of David, the Evangelist, to prevent any misconception regarding the manner of His birth, to which the mention of Joseph, as husband of Mary, and the seed born of her might give rise, now proceeds to show that His birth took place in a way quite different from that of all other children. The Greek word for “generation,” ᾕ γενεσις, means “the birth,” hence the words mean, “the birth of Christ took place in the following now and unheard of manner.”

“Espoused,” is generally understood by the Fathers to mean, married, delivered over to him as wife to a husband, and not merely engaged. He is called her “husband” (vv. 16–19), and she his “wife” (v. 20). The Greek word bears the signification of being married (Luke 2:5). It is, moreover, observed that if the Blessed Virgin was merely engaged to Joseph, and exhibited signs of pregnancy while living apart in her father’s house, the Almighty would have hardly sufficiently consulted, humanly speaking, for her character or life which, in these circumstances, would be forfeited to the law, and this is commonly assigned as one of the chief reasons why the Blessed Virgin was engaged in marriage at all. Patrizzi, however (Lib. iii., Disser. xv. de Som. Joseph), maintains, that at the time of his dream (v. 20) Joseph was not married, but only betrothed to the Blessed Virgin. His reasons are:—

1. If married, Joseph would surely have accompanied her on her visit to St. Elizabeth immediately after conceiving the Son of God (Luke 1:39), and have known the mystery of her miraculous conception so loudly proclaimed by Elizabeth (Luke 1:43).

2. He interprets “took unto him,” he now took as his wife her to whom he was before only espoused. For, “doing as the Angel commanded” (v. 24) would, according to him, imply some course of action different from merely passively allowing her to remain in his house.

3. The Greek word μνηστευθεισης signifies espousals, as contradistinguished from ελαβε, married, as appears from Deut. 20:7. St. Jerome also says of Joseph, “Omnia futuræ uxoris noverat” (Comment. in hunc locum). St. Chrysostom (in Matt. Hom. iv. 82) would seem to be of the same opinion.

According to Jewish usage (Philo de spocialibus legibus, p. 788), those espoused were regarded as man and wife; hence, Joseph is called “the husband of Mary,” and this St. Jerome tells us (in Matt. c. 1) is in accordance with Scriptural usage, and hence, whosoever violated another’s spouse was regarded as an adulterer (Deut. 22:24) and punished as such.

As for consulting for the honour of the Virgin by means of marriage, it would not be regarded as a dishonour for a woman to have conceived of her espoused before marriage. Intercourse between them, although forbidden, was not regarded as entailing dishonour. (Selden Uxor. Heb.) Espousals were dissolved by a bill of divorce like marriage (Deut. 24:13; Patrizzi loco citato).

“Before they came together,” a modest expression for conjugal intercourse. “Before,” until, by no means implies carnal intercourse, afterwards; for, as St. Jerome clearly demonstrates from several Scriptural examples against the heretic Helvidius and others, such words as, before, until, &c., convey what happened or took place before an event, but by no means signifies what happened afterwards. That point is left undetermined. Thus, “Sit on my right until” I make Thy enemies Thy footstool (Psa. 109) by no means conveys that He ceased to sit at His father’s right hand afterwards. “The raven did not return to the Ark till the waters were dried up upon the earth” (Gen. 8:7). This does not imply that it returned afterwards.

“She was found with child” quite unexpectedly by Joseph, who, with all a husband’s care, observed the condition of his blessed spouse. Probably he observed it when she was advanced three months in her pregnancy, after her return from visiting Elizabeth.

“Of the Holy Ghost.” These words are not to be connected with “was found,” as if Joseph knew the meaning or cause of her pregnancy, the contrary appears from the Angel dissipating his fears (v. 20); but with the words, “with child,” as if to say of her pregnancy, the Spirit of God, the source of all grace and holiness, was the author who brought this about by His power and operation, not as the father of Jesus Christ, but as supplying the place of father. Although the conception of Christ was an act of the entire Trinity, still, being an act of sovereign goodness, grace, love and fecundity, it is, by appropriation, ascribed to the Holy Ghost, as the effects of power are attributed to God the Father, and acts of wisdom to God the Son.

To the several reasons commonly assigned why our Lord had chosen to be born of a married woman, St. Ignatius, martyr, adds another, viz., ut partus ejus celaretur a Diabolo, that the devil would be baffled, while thinking Him to be born in the ordinary way. Upon this idea, St. Bernard (Hom. 2, N. 3) on the words, “missus est,” enlarges considerably, and shows that while God might have accomplished the work of redemption in whatever way He thought proper, still, in order to show how far He exceeded the demon in wisdom, He wished that the same instrumentality and course of action should be employed in man’s redemption that had so successfully accomplished his fall. In the one case, the devil tempted the woman, and through her triumphed over the man; in the other, the woman would deceive the serpent in miraculously bringing forth a son, the mystery of which was concealed from the devil, so that her son, Christ Jesus, would triumph over him publicly, and destroy his empire.

19. The Virgin’s conception is evidenced by the testimony of Joseph, to whom it caused such perplexity, and of the Angel by whom this perplexity was removed. Both are here adduced as unexceptionable witnesses of this miraculous occurrence.

“A just man.” If he were “a just man,” and therefore observant of the law in all things, should he not expose her, as prescribed (Num. 5:12)? And, moreover, are not those who are conscious of another’s sin commanded to bear witness against him (Lev. 5:1)? The jealous husband who suspects his wife’s fidelity, is allowed in Num. 5:12 to bring her before the priest, but not bound to do so. And as regards Leviticus, it is only when interpellated by the judge, one is bound to expose another’s sin of which he is conscious.

Apart, however, from these answers, the observation does not apply at all here, inasmuch as the word “just” does not refer here to the mere virtue of justice generally regarded as one of the four cardinal virtues; but, it means the aggregate of all virtues including goodness, benevolence, meekness, &c., with which holy Joseph was eminently endowed; and it was because he was thus charitable, meek, and considerate, that he did not wish to expose her publicly, to make a public example of scorn of her, as the Greek word (δειγματισαι) clearly means, but he wished “to put her away privately,” probably by giving her privately a bill of divorce, which he was not bound to give publicly, nor explain the causes of giving it. Others think he meditated leaving her and going into some distant country. It is quite clear that Joseph, whose virtue was tried in an extraordinary way on this occasion, strongly suspected the Virgin, the signs of whose pregnancy were beyond doubt, and with whom he had not cohabited, to be guilty of adultery. Yet still, knowing her great virtue, he was inspired by Jesus Christ himself, whom she bore in her sacred womb, with the prudence of adopting the wise course of parting with her. He would thus consult for himself, and avoid the imputation of sanctioning crime by living with a suspected adulteress, and of carrying patience to the excessively foolish extent of permitting the supposed offspring of sin to be attributed to him. He purposed doing so “privately” to consult for her character.

20. “Thought” had been anxiously revolving these things within himself during his waking hours, without coming to any determinate resolution. From this appears the prudence of Joseph, who acted neither rashly nor without reflection; and his meekness and secrecy, by not divulging his suspicions to any one, not even to the Virgin herself.

“Behold” arrests attention, the matter being a subject of admiration.

“The Angel of the Lord,” generally supposed to be Gabriel, the same who announced the mystery of the Incarnation.

“In sleep.” Whenever the Almighty deigns to manifest His will through dreams, He allows no doubt to exist regarding the reality and divine origin of His communications, as in the case of Abimelech, Pharao, Nabuchodonosor. Whenever clear, certain proofs of divine communication do not exist, then the observance of dreams, which come either from natural causes or the demon, is strictly prohibited (Deut. 18:10). God made known His will to Joseph on this occasion. Indeed, by disclosing to him the private thoughts which God alone, the searcher of hearts, could know, He sufficiently indicated the divine character of the communication.

“Joseph.” The Angel addresses him in a kind, consoling manner, because his suspicion, so far as he was concerned, seemed well founded.

“Son of David,” reminds Joseph of the promises regarding the birth of the Messiah, from the family of David; and thus prepares him for the revelation regarding the conception of our Lord, which he was about to disclose.

“Fear not,” as if you were fostering an adulteress.

“To take unto thee,” to retain in your house and live with her whom thou hast already repudiated in thy mind, and banish all thoughts of either dismissing or leaving her.

“Mary thy wife,” who has been faithful to thee and perfectly sinless.

“Conceived.” The Greek word, γεννηθὲν, means “born,” to denote that our Lord was perfectly formed, that all His members and faculties were matured from the first moment of His conception in His mother’s womb.

“Is of the Holy Ghost,” that is, brought about by no human intervention, but by the power and operation of the Holy Ghost; while the word “conceived” shows that the Blessed Virgin had, according to the order of nature, performed the part of mother in conceiving our Lord, the words, “is of the Holy Ghost,” show that, by a stupendous miracle, in the order of nature, the Holy Ghost had, by His divine operation, supplied the place occupied by a father in the natural order, without, at the same time, being the father of our Lord, since the human nature of Christ received none of the substance of the Holy Ghost, so as to establish, as in the natural order, the relation of paternity.

21. “Bring forth a son.” Having assured Joseph of the supernatural conception of her offspring, the Angel now tells him what that offspring is. “Shall bring forth,” as a true mother. From this is refuted the error of Valentinus and others who asserted that our Lord brought a body with Him from heaven, and did not take flesh in the Virgin’s womb.

“A son,” and not a daughter. He does not say, as was said to Zachary, “she shall bring forth a son to thee,” because it was not for Joseph, but for the entire world, our Lord was brought forth, “parvulus natus est NOBIS,” &c. (Isa. 9:6).

“And thou shalt call his name Jesus.” Joseph is reminded in these words, of the care he is to bestow on the infant, of whom, although not the father, he is still constituted the natural guardian and foster-father, and also on the mother, on whom, far from sending her away, he should bestow all possible care and attention.

“Jesus.” This is the proper name of the Son of God, brought down from heaven by the Angel, and bestowed on Him at circumcision. It signifies Saviour, the same as the Hebrew word Jesuah, with a slight change of termination, which is derived, according to some, from the Hebrew verb Jasah, to save, or according to others, from the word Jehosuah, of which it is a contraction—compounded of Jehovah, Lord, and suah, salvation, contracted Jesuah, the Lord Saviour. This is the etymological reason of the word assigned by the Angel himself, “for He shall save His people from their sins.” The corresponding Hebrew word is sometimes written Jehosuah, and sometimes, particularly in books written since the Babylonish captivity (as in Esdras 2:2; Nehemias 7:7), in a contracted or shorter form, Jesuah, and this latter is the form preserved in the inscription of our Saviour’s cross in the Church of the Holy Cross, Rome. In every instance the Septuagint interpreters render Jehosuah, Jesus; and so do Philo and Josephus. In the Vulgate it is always rendered Josue, by St. Jerome. In the Old Testament, we sometimes find the same persons called Jehosuah and Jesuah, which proves both terms to be identical. Thus, for instance, the High Priest, the son of Josedec, called Jehoscuah (Aggeus 1:1; Zach. 3:8), is called Jesuah (1 Esdras 5:2; 2 Esdras, or Nehemias 12:26). It was by no means unusual with the Jews to contract and shorten words, as in the case of Jehosuah into Jesuah. In the New Testament, we find the word Jesus—the proper name of the Incarnate Son of God—applied to Josue, the son of Nun (Acts 11:4, 5; Heb. 4:8). He was a distinguished type of Him who was pre-eminently entitled to the appellation of “Saviour,” not of one people alone, but of all peoples, from every tribe of the earth, embracing Jew and Gentile.

22. “Now, all this was done.” Some interpreters, among whom are St. Chrysostom, Irenæus, &c., say those words were spoken by the Angel, and form a continuation of his discourse to Joseph (vv. 20, 21). All this mysterious silence on the part of the Virgin, which caused you such perplexity, or rather, this mysterious pregnancy itself on the part of your virgin spouse, Mary, without human intervention, the cause of this perplexity, took place, &c. The generality of commentators, however, say they are the words of St. Matthew, explaining the foregoing words, and adducing the testimony of the Prophet as an additional argument corroborative of the testimony of the Angel. For, with the Jews, whom St. Matthew addressed, the fulfilment of this remarkable, well-known prophecy of Isaias would carry great weight. Patrizzi (De Evang. Lib. iii., Dissert. xv.) advocates the former opinion, chiefly on the grounds—1st, that if “all this” were the words of St. Matthew, they would embrace the message of the Angel to Joseph, which certainly did not take place, in order that the prophecy might be fulfilled. 2ndly. That if these were not the Angel’s words, he would not have sufficiently instructed Joseph as to the divine and supernatural origin of the child of the Virgin’s womb, while the words of the Prophet would have effectually done this. 3rd. The Gospel narrative of what Joseph did (v. 24) would seem to convey that he did it at the close of the Angel’s address, and that, therefore, the words of this verse and of v. 23 were comprised in it.

“That the word might be fulfilled.” The particle “that,” when there is question of the fulfilment of a prophecy, does not precisely express the cause, as if to say, the cause of the event taking place was in order that the prophecy might be fulfilled, since the event to take place was prior, in the mind of God, to the issuing of the prophecy. For, the prophecy was made, because the event it regarded was to take place. It means the consequence, so that, the consequence of all this was the verification of the prophecy. However, while generally denoting the consequence, it might be said here, in some sense, to indicate the cause also. For, among the causes of the conception of Christ by a virgin, was the verification of the promises made by God to the Fathers, which promises were contained in the SS. Scriptures. It may be said to refer to a cause, and to a consequence, at the same time. For, He who issued the prophecy, because He determined on bringing about the event, accomplished the event, because He predicted it, in order to vindicate His veracity, a prophecy, being a kind of promise which a man of veracity fulfils, because He made it.

23. “Behold” arrests attention when a matter of great importance is in question. “A virgin shall be with child,” &c. This celebrated prophecy is found in Isa. 7:14. It was uttered on the occasion of the second expedition of Rasin, king of Syria, and of Phacee, king of Israel, to destroy the kingdom of Juda, over which Achaz then reigned, and of the whole race of David (Isa. 7:6). Achaz with his people were seized with the greatest consternation, owing to the combination of these hostile forces against him. The Prophet was commanded by God to go and reassure Achaz, and tell him not to be afraid; and in proof of the verification of God’s promise, he tells him to ask for some sign either from heaven or the lowest depths. Achaz incredulously refused to ask for any sign; whereupon the Prophet, addressing him and his attendant princes and the whole house of David, as well for the present as for all future times, tells them that the Lord Himself shall give a sign that he and his people shall be saved from destruction. That sign, which is a prodigious, unusual event, is, that a virgin should conceive, without any reference to a man. The Prophet makes no allusion whatever to a man. The Hebrew word for “virgin,” alma, in the several places of SS. Scripture in which it is used, is applied only to one really a virgin, or reputed such in common estimation (Gen. 24:43; Exod. 2:8; Cant. 1:3; 6:8). St. Jerome (in cap. vii. Isaias) tells us that in the Punic language, which is derived from Hebrew sources, alma, signifies a virgin, and that, as far as his memory served him, he never knew it to be applied to any but to a virgin, and that a virgin young in point of years, “virgo abscondita quæ non patuit virorum aspectibus.” Thus are answered the objections of the Jews against the proof of our Lord’s divinity founded on this passage of Isaias. Moreover, the sign given is that which Achaz refused, “pete tibi signum,” and on his refusing to ask for a sign, a something unusual, uncommon, derived from “the depth of hell, or the height above,” Isaias gives such a sign, “dabit ipse Dominus vobis signum.” There would be nothing extraordinary in a virgin, after ceasing to be such, conceiving and bringing forth a son. In chap. 9:6 the prophet Isaias speaks of the same, as “Wonderful, the Mighty God, the Father of the world to come,” &c. But, how could the birth of Christ and His conception by a virgin, after so long an interval, serve as a sign to reassure Achaz that his enemies would not succeed against him? What connexion is there between the conception on the part of a virgin and the liberation of Achaz and his people? Resp. 1st. There are several signs given in SS. Scripture which occurred after the event to which they referred (Exod 3:12; 1 Kings 10:7–9; 4 Kings 19:29; Isa. 37:30; Jer. 44:29). We are not necessarily to admit that the Prophet gives Achaz here a sign of his liberation. Achaz impiously refused to ask for a sign. Then, the Prophet, transported in spirit beyond the present time, regards with delight a sign of a still greater liberation—the liberation of the human race by the Virgin’s Son—and this sign he gives to the entire family of David, even at the remotest period, without, confining it to Achaz and those who accompanied him and shared in his distrust and incredulity, “molesti estis Deo meo.” 2ndly. The connexion between the liberation of Achaz and the conception by a virgin may be easily traced. It was a thing well known at the time that a virgin, of the house of David, would conceive and bring forth the Messiah. Unless this were the constant tradition of the Jewish Church, surely, the Apostles would not advance an assertion so incredible and difficult to prove. Micheas, contemporary of Isaias, refers to it, as a matter well known and expected by the men of his day (c. 5:1–3). Hence the Prophet wishes to inform Achaz that the designs of his enemies, who wished to extirpate the race of David, could not succeed, as the verification of the well-known decrees of God in regard to the birth of a ruler in Israel (Micheas 5:2), from a virgin, of the house of David, would forbid it. In truth, this sign given by Isaias was consequent and dependent on the permanent duration of the family of David; so much so, that if the family of David were destroyed, this sign could not take place. Hence, if this sign could not be questioned, neither could the duration of the house of David; and, therefore, from this sign could be concluded that the attacks of the enemies of Achaz, who was of the family of David, would be foiled.

“And they shall call His name Emmanuel, which is interpreted,” &c. In the original Hebrew of Isaias, the corresponding term for “they shall call” is carath, which St. Jerome tells us, in his commentary, should be rendered, THOU shalt call, or “HE or SHE shall call.” If rendered in the third person singular, it refers to the Virgin, who is to conceive—she shall call Christ by this name; if, in the second, “thou shalt call,” addressed to Achab and the house of David—then, it embraces the entire spiritual house of David at all times. Hence, rendered by the Evangelist, “they shall call.” St. Jerome observes (in Isa. 7:14), that, in quoting texts of Scripture, the sacred writers quote not precisely the words, but their meaning. “Call,” in accordance with Scriptural usage, signifies “to be,” and “name” is put for the reality or thing indicated. Hence, the words mean; He shall be, in reality, and shall possess the quality of being “God with us;” just as in c. 9, it is said, “And His name shall be called Wonderful,” &c., that is to say, He shall in reality be, and shall really possess the qualities here indicated. The words may also mean, they shall proclaim Him to be “Emmanuel,” or God with us, residing amongst us, by His incarnation, to which it is clear from the context there is reference here, wherein “the word was made flesh, and dwelt amongst us” here on earth, in the visible form of man which He assumed (Baruch 3:38), in which alone He is capable of being a Jesus or Saviour, to save us from our sins. This will answer an objection that our Lord was not called, Emmanuel, in the Gospels, by the people among whom He lived; since Emmanuel only expresses an attribute or quality, just as He was not called “Wonderful” &c., by His contemporaries. These terms, like Emmanuel, only expressed the qualities He would possess; Jesus alone is His proper name. In like manner, in Jer. 23:6, Dominus justus noster, only expresses a quality, but not His proper name.

“Which being interpreted is, God with us.” A similar explanation is given (27:8, 33, 46). The interpretation of these words is no argument against St. Matthew having written in the Syro-Chaldaic, the vernacular of the Jews at the time; as it is quite common with all writers, to explain certain compound words, or notable foreign words, which were not in use among the people.

24. “Joseph rising up,” shows the prompt obedience of Joseph. He obeyed promptly and without delay.

“Did as the Angel commanded him, and (that is, or, namely) took unto him his wife.” According to those who hold that Joseph had been at this time married to the Blessed Virgin, by this is meant, that he retained her and gave up all ideas of privately separating from her, in whatever way that was to be done. According to those who hold with Patrizzi that the Blessed Virgin was up to this only espoused or betrothed to St. Joseph, the words mean, that Joseph now married the Blessed Virgin and took her to his own house. This latter opinion seems to be borne out by the literal meaning of the expression used in reference to the Blessed Virgin (v. 20), “Fear not to take unto thee.” “And he took unto him,” would seem in the Greek παρελαβεν to denote marriage, to which μνηστευθεισης, espoused, expressive of betrothal, is antithetical. Most likely, on being interrogated by Joseph, the Blessed Virgin disclosed to him the great mystery operated in her (Luke 1:38–43), which, from humility, she hitherto concealed.

25. “And he knew her not,” a modest expression for conjugal intercourse. The particle “and” has the force of “but, however, he knew her not,” a signification the particle often bears before a negative (Matt. 12:5, 39, 43; 26:55–60; Acts 7:5, &c.). The sentence, “and he knew her not,” &c., is thrown in incidentally between the words, “he took unto him his wife—and he called His name Jesus,” the two things enjoined on him by the Angel. The birth of our Lord, consequent on which He was to receive His name from Joseph, is only incidentally introduced in the parenthetical sentence, “and he knew her not till,” &c., the object of which is to show that not only did a virgin conceive, but also a virgin brought forth a son without any human intervention.

“Until.” St. Jerome ably refutes the error of Helvidius, Jovinian, &c., regarding the perpetual virginity of our Blessed Lady, which error these heretics would fain deduce from these words, as if Joseph knew her afterwards, as also from the words “first-born,” as if others were afterwards born of her.

St. Jerome shows, from several Scriptural examples, that the particle, until, and others such, in negative sentences, only convey what was not done, without any inference to what afterwards occurred (Gen. 8:7; Num. 20:17; Deut. 7:24; Psa. 70:18; 109:1; 111:8; 2 Kings 22, &c.). The Evangelist’s only object in this form of words was to show, that Christ was born of a virgin, without any reference to any future occurrence. St. Jerome derisively asks, if any one said, “Helvidius did not do penance till he died,” would it imply he did penance afterwards?

“First-born” does not imply the birth of others, afterwards; otherwise, as St. Jerome argues against Helvidius, the law requiring the first-born to be consecrated to God a month after birth (Num. 18:16) could not be complied with till other children followed. The word only implies, that no other was born before Him; but not, that others were born after Him.

Similar is the answer to the objection founded on the words, “came together” (v. 18). Patrizzi gives another answer. He denies that “coming together” means conjugal intercourse at all; and hence, he says, that St. Jerome dealt rather liberally with Helvidius, in admitting this meaning. He asserts, that the words mean, “before they were married,” and that they refer to the interval between espousals and marriage.

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