Matthew 1

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The Gospel (Testimony) According to St Matthew


Each gospel writer approaches his testimony of the life and ministry of the Savior in a different way. Matthew focuses on demonstrating that the events in Christ's life were in fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies. Accordingly, his audience is the Jewish people-those who were familiar with the Old Testament. In every possible instance, he quotes the ancient prophecies and demonstrates how they were fulfilled, at times using scriptures that are now lost. To a generation who expected a much different Messiah than Jesus of Nazareth, Matthew's gospel is an essential eye-opener. He paints Messianic prophecies in bright new colors and redefines them in terms that the Jews had never before imagined.

As for his life, we know very little. He was also called Levi, the son of Alphaeus, a publican, or tax collector. He was 'sitting at the receipt of custom, and [Jesus] said unto him, Follow me. And he arose and followed him' (Mark 2:14). Publicans were disdained by the Jews who considered them puppets of a heathen regime.

"In Roman times, the right to collect transport tolls and other minor taxes in a given area was farmed out to private companies or individuals who bid for the privilege. Whatever they could collect above their bid was their profit. It was a system that invited and rewarded incredible dishonesty. Those who participated in such a business were considered by the Jews to be totally without moral scruples. Publicans were believed to be so certainly dishonest that they could not legally give testimony in a Jewish court. The owners of these tax franchises were usually Romans, but they often hired Jews (like Matthew/Levi) to do the actual tax collecting. These Jewish publicans were despised even more than the Romans. Not only did they rob and cheat their brethren, but they also served the enemies of their people. Thus they were viewed as both robbers and traitors." (Stephen E. Robinson, Studies in Scripture, Vol. 5: The Gospels, edited by Kent P. Jackson and Robert L. Millet, p. 33)

When the Pharisees accused Jesus saying, 'How is it that he eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners?' (Mark 2:16), they were referring, in part, to His association with Matthew. Yet if the Lord could raise the Messiah out of Nazareth, He could also raise an apostle from among the publicans. Matthew's message is mercifully directed to those who despised him most. (See also Bible Dictionary, "Matthew")

Matt 1:1 Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham

The whole purpose in giving the labored genealogy of Joseph was to demonstrate his lineage through David and Abraham. That the Messiah should come from the tribe of Judah through the lineage of David was well known. Jeremiah prophesied, 'I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. In his days Judah shall be saved' (Jer 23:5). Accordingly, when Jesus was referred to as "the Son of David" it was an acknowledgment that he was indeed the Messiah.

Judah was given the following in his patriarchal blessing, 'The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be' (Gen 49:10). Shiloh came, as prophesied, through the lineage of Abraham, Judah, and David.

Matt 1:2-17 The Genealogy of Joseph

If one compares the genealogies of Matthew and Luke, he will find them almost completely divergent from king David down to Joseph. Even the number of generations from David to Joseph vary considerably: 27 for Matthew and 42 for Luke. The classic explanation comes from Elder Talmage.

James E. Talmage

"Two genealogical records purporting to give the lineage of Jesus are found in the New Testament, one in the first chapter of Matthew, the other in the third chapter of Luke. These records present several apparent discrepancies, but such have been satisfactorily reconciled by the research of specialists in Jewish genealogy. No detailed analysis of the matter will be attempted here; but it should be borne in mind that the consensus of judgment on the part of investigators is that Matthew's account is that of the royal lineage, establishing the order of sequence among the legal successors to the throne of David, while the account given by Luke is a personal pedigree, demonstrating descent from David without adherence to the line of legal succession to the throne through primogeniture or nearness of kin. Luke's record is regarded by many, however, as the pedigree of Mary, while Matthew's is accepted as that of Joseph. The all important fact to be remembered is that the Child...would be born in the royal line. A personal genealogy of Joseph was essentially that of Mary also, for they were cousins." (Jesus the Christ, p. 81)

Bruce R. McConkie

"...Matthew proceeds to outline what appears to be the ancestry of the Lord, but we can't quite figure out how it fits in with other scriptural passages, at least in the form it has come to us. Luke gives another account that does not agree with that in the book of Matthew. We suppose it may be that one of them is a kingly, royal genealogy, intended to indicate his position and place as the one to sit upon the throne of his father David; the other is possibly a genealogy either of Mary or Joseph-we can't be sure." ("Who Shall Declare His Generation?" BYU Studies, vol. 16 (1975-1976), Number 4 - Summer 1976, p. 555.)

Neal A. Maxwell

"We can wait, as we must, to learn later whether ... Matthew's or Luke's account of Jesus' Davidic descent is correct. (See Matt. 1; Luke 3.) Meanwhile, the Father has, on several occasions, given us Jesus' crucial genealogy: 'This is My Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!'" (Ensign, November 1984, p. 11.)

Matt 1:17 from David until the carrying away into Babylon are fourteen generations

"Matthew placed great stress upon the King and his kingdom. Messiah is a royal title, and Jesus' royal/messianic status was critically important to Matthew. The genealogy of Jesus given in Matthew (1:1-17) is the Lord's royal line. Matthew laid out the genealogy in such a manner as to divide the forty-two generations into three sections of fourteen (from Abraham to David, from David to Babylonian captivity, and from exile to Jesus). For Matthew, the very number fourteen has royal significance. How so? The name David in Hebrew consists of three Hebrew consonants, each having numerical equivalents. Thus: Dahlet (d =4) + Vav (v =6) + Dahlet (d =4) =14." (Robert L. Millet, Studies in Scripture, Vol. 5: The Gospels, edited by Kent P. Jackson and Robert L. Millet, p. 33)

JST Matt 2:1 Now, as it is written, the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise

"In the preparation of his Gospel, Matthew would no doubt have drawn upon his own reminiscences and notes, as well as other extant oral or written sources. After providing the genealogy of Jesus Christ, Matthew records (1:18): 'Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise . . .' The Matthean infancy narrative follows. Joseph Smith's translation of the same verse (JST, Matt. 2:1) reads: 'Now, as it is written, the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise . . .' This prophetic alteration of the King James text seems to point toward the possibility of a written source available to the apostle that predates his own Gospel." (Robert L. Millet, Studies in Scripture, Vol. 5: The Gospels, edited by Kent P. Jackson and Robert L. Millet, p. 33)

Matt 1:18 Mary was espoused to Joseph

"From that moment Mary was the betrothed wife of Joseph; their relationship as sacred, as if they had already been wedded. Any breach of it would be treated as adultery; nor could the band be dissolved except, as after marriage, by regular divorce. Yet months might intervene between the betrothal and marriage." (Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, p. 106)

Bruce R. McConkie

"According to Jewish law, marriage took place in two steps, first came the espousal or betrothal, later the formal marriage ceremony. Both formalities preceded assumption of the full privileges and responsibilities of the marital state. In a sense, espoused persons were viewed as already married, so that the angel in counseling Joseph to fulfill his marriage plans properly referred to Mary as his 'wife.' (v. 20) Espoused persons were considered bound to each other so that their betrothal could only be broken by a formal action akin to divorce. This is what Joseph had contemplated prior to receiving direction from the angelic visitant." (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 1:83.)

Matt 1:18 she was found with child of the Holy Ghost

Bruce R. McConkie

"The commentaries of the world talk about the virgin birth as being 'pious fiction.' No one, they say, could have been born in that way; it was something which Matthew assumed, and so it became a tradition in the early Church. This matter of the genealogy, this matter of the birth of our Lord, is at the heart and core of Christendom. Thanks be to God that by the opening of the heavens and by revelation in our day we have gained an understanding of what is involved. As a result we can put the atoning sacrifice in its proper position and relationship to all things...Whose son is he? He is the firstborn spirit child of God, our Heavenly Father." ("Who Shall Declare His Generation?" BYU Studies, vol. 16 (1975-1976), Number 4 - Summer 1976, p. 555.)

Bruce R. McConkie

"Just as Jesus is literally the son of Mary, so he is the personal and literal offspring of God the Eternal Father, who himself is an exalted personage having a tangible body of flesh and bones...Matthew's statement, 'she was found with child of the Holy Ghost,' properly translated should say, 'she was found with child by the power of the Holy Ghost.'" (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 1:82.)

Matt 1:19 Joseph her husband, being a just man...minded to put her away privily

Bruce R. McConkie

"When Mary told Joseph that she was with child by the power of the Holy Ghost, his reaction was one not only of shock, of sorrow, and of dismay, but also of disbelief. His soul had yet to feel the flames of the refiner's fire before so great a spiritual truth could rest easily in his heart; as with all men, his faith and his willingness to submit to the divine will in all things must be tested.

"For Mary it was no easy thing to tell the man she loved that their relationship was different from that of other faithful couples. And yet Gabriel himself had brought the word! When she recited to Joseph what the aerial ambassador had told her, great and wondrous as the promises were, it must yet have been as a sword piercing her soul, a sword that would wound her feelings time and again, until that day when she, at the foot of a cross, would weep for the Son whom she had brought into the world.

"For Joseph it was the beginning of a period of agony and uncertainty. That he wanted to believe Mary, but did not, is shown by his determination 'to put her away privily' with as little embarrassment as possible." (The Mortal Messiah: From Bethlehem to Calvary, 1:331-2.)

James E. Talmage

"When Joseph greeted his promised bride after her three months' absence, he was greatly distressed over the indications of her prospective maternity. Now the Jewish law provided for the annulment of a betrothal in either of two ways-by public trial and judgment, or by private agreement attested by a written document signed in the presence of witnesses. Joseph was a just man, a strict observer of the law, yet no harsh extremist; moreover he loved Mary and would save her all unnecessary humiliation, whatever might be his own sorrow and suffering. For Mary's sake he dreaded the thought of publicity; and therefore determined to have the espousal annulled with such privacy as the law allowed." (Jesus the Christ, p. 79-80)

Matt 1:21 call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins

James E. Talmage

"Jesus is the individual name of the Savior, and as thus spelled is of Greek derivation; its Hebrew equivalent was Yehoshua or Yeshua, or, as we render it in English, Joshua. In the original the name was well understood as meaning 'Help of Jehovah,' or 'Savior.' Though as common an appellation as John or Henry or Charles today, the name was nevertheless divinely prescribed, as already stated. Thus, unto Joseph, the espoused husband of the Virgin, the angel said, 'And thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.'" (Jesus the Christ, p. 33)

Matt 1:23 they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us

Quoting Isa 7:14, Matthew was quick to point out that Mary's conception was according to prophecy. The scriptural interpretation is part figurative and part literal. The figurative part is the name Emmanuel. The literal part is the meaning of the name-God with us. Taken literally, the name implies that God was to come down out of heaven and live with men on the earth. The idea sounds too absurd to the rational thinker! Yet, thanks to the Book of Mormon, we understand the meaning of the 'condescension of God' (1 Ne 11:16), which is possible only by understanding the nature of the pre-mortal Jehovah as known by the brother of Jared (Ether 3:9-16). We understand that it was indeed the Creator of heaven and earth that was born in Bethlehem. We understand that it was the great Jehovah, the lawgiver to Moses, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God had come down from the heavens to be with us.

The presence of God on earth has many doctrinal implications. First, there is no need for the Gift of the Holy Ghost to be given to the disciples, for they were continually in the presence of Deity (Jn 16:7). Similarly, the disciples of Christ had no need to fast. Why would they need to draw nearer to God through fasting when they were already in His presence? 'Can the children of the bridechamber mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast.' (Matt 9:15).

Mark E. Petersen

"Isn't it significant that 'his name shall be called Immanuel'? Who was the Babe of Bethlehem? He was the Creator of all the heavens and the earth. He was Jehovah of the Old Testament and Christ of the New Testament. He was the Son of Almighty God!

"Did he change his identity when he was born into mortality? No! None of us do. We all retain our identity from the premortal existence through this mortal life and on into immorality hereafter. Could it be otherwise?

"Neither did Jesus change into a different being. He was the divine Jehovah before his birth. He was the divine Jehovah after his mortal birth. He was the Beloved Son of God before coming into mortality. He was so in mortality...He never changed his identity. He came into this world as the child of Mary and the Son of God. He was divine before coming into mortality, and in mortality he was called 'Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.' (Matt. 1:23.)" (Isaiah for Today, p. 40.)

Matt 1:24 Then Joseph...took unto him his wife

The record is clear to indicate that Joseph married Mary well prior to the birth of Christ. Because of the dream, "Joseph could no longer hesitate. The highest duty towards the Virgin-Mother and the unborn Jesus demanded an immediate marriage, which would afford not only outward, but moral protection to both." (Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, p. 109-110) Clearly, their marriage was not consummated until after the birth of the Child. Hence, the Christ-child was truly born of a virgin.