November 30, 2016 Leave a comment
In a lot of the posts in this series, I’ll quote from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible (RSV). It’s still a very good translation and a great study Bible. The New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) is also excellent. One of the things no one thought about in producing the RSV was inclusive language. the NRSV rectifies that, but it may go too far in representing some passages as inclusive when they are intentionally not. A minor defect and all translations have some. Anyway, the RSV is online and free, it’s nearly always superior to the King James Version (KJV) [see also here] and I’ll point out a few places where that’s important for the story of Jesus’ birth as I go along. (Sometimes I will use the New English Translation (NET) also free online, and the English Standard Version (ESV) a few times.)
Matthew chapter 1 begins with the phrase (RSV) “The book of the genesis of Jesus Christ, the son of David, and the son of Abraham.” Matthew knows what he is going to write in his Gospel, and this introduction is perspicacious. Two things: people at the time (ca. 70AD+) will not likely read this, they will hear it, and it was written in Greek. Matthew begins with the word “genesis” (in Greek) and that’s the same Greek word that came to be used for the first book of the Hebrew Bible—Matthew’s story is styled as a New Genesis. There is a new creation, a new “God’s people” if you will, and the colophon above has things in a new order. Jesus comes first, then Abraham. And of course, David. The kingdom is always in view for Matthew. And it’s clear that for Matthew, the Christmas story begins with Abraham. Right away you can feel the tension over Jew and Gentile, and what it means for a gentile to become a Christian.
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