The Birth Narrative

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The Birth Narrative

The purpose of this essay will be to focus on what Matthews Gospel is about and then evaluating the biblical and theological significance of the birth narrative of Matthews Gospel and what it says about the agenda of that particular Gospel.

Matthews’s gospel is the most Jewish of the gospels and his particular emphasis is to show that Jesus is the Royal Jewish messiah and the fulfilment of Old Testament prophecy. His whole life from start to finish lay within god’s foreordained plan. Jesus is shown as the new Moses in the rest of the Gospel and is shown as the Davidic royal king. The great discourses or speeches in the gospel match those of Moses. There are many features of Jewish thought and theology and Matthew also features of Jewish theology and talks of the kingdom of heaven rather than the kingdom of God because the Jews do not pronounce the divine name.

“The Gospel according to Matthew is a manual of Christian teaching in which Jesus Christ, lord of the new yet old community, the church is described particularly as the fulfiller and fulfilment of Gods will disclose in the Old Testament. Jesus is set forth as Israel’s Messiah in whom god’s purpose culminates and by whose words and life his followers, the true Israel may gain divine forgiveness and fellowship. Within the natural framework the accounts of what Jesus said or did are grouped by common subject matter”. (May, Herbert. G and Metzger, Bruce. M, 1957:1171)

The five discourses of Jesus are a miniature version of the gospel itself, which are the five books of the law of Moses, a noteworthy feature of this Gospel are collections of teachings on specific themes, the Sermon on the Mount, Instructions for missionary disciples, the parables of the kingdom of God, on sincere discipleship and on the end of this age. The Gospel is anonymous, the unknown Christian teacher who prepared it during the last third of the century may have used it as one of his sources a collection of Jesus sayings that the apostle Matthew is said to have made. In time a title containing Matthews’s name, and signifying apostolic authority came to identify the whole.

The term infancy narrative is customary in English and will be used even though inaccurate and inadequate. Matthew two and Luke two describe Jesus infancy whilst the first chapter in each gospel describes the period before Jesus birth and Luke portrays Jesus at the age of twelve. The infancy narratives have an importance far greater than their length. They have offered rich material for reflection both to Christian and non Christian, to saint and sceptic. For orthodox Christians they have helped to shape the central doctrine of Jesus God and man. On the other hand they have no doubt that Jesus was the son of god from the moment of his conception.

The simple statement that Jesus was a Jew and lived in the geographical area known as Palestine in what is called by the western calendar the first century, supplies the key to much that is to be found in the Gospels. Jesus was a royal messiah, the son of god. His people were the race known as the Hebrews, whose story is told in the Old Testament.

Two of the four gospels, Matthew and Luke begin with a story of Jesus conception, birth and childhood. Although coincidentally each consists of two chapters, the Lucan narrative is more than twice the length of the Matthean. The gospel of Mark starts with the encounter of Jesus at the Jordon as the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ and it terminates with the angelic proclamation of the resurrection at the empty tomb. Mark tells the reader nothing about Jesus birth or youth and not even the name of his father Joseph. The first written gospel Mark contains a smaller body of didache than do Matthew and Luke and that is why in the past the church has favoured these later gospels over Mark in its own teaching. Matthew and Luke saw Christological implications in stories that were in circulation about...
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