Monthly Archives: December 2018

The Book of Revelation — 1:4-8

This morning our family completed its study of Revelation 1:4-8 in our study of the book of Revelation using Douglas Connelly’s The Book of Revelation Made Clear and The NIV Serendipity Bible for Study Groups. In the passage John greets the seven churches for which the book of Revelation is intended. We read Connelly’s exposition of it yesterday morning and discussed the Serendipity Bible questions on it this morning

4 John to the seven churches that are in Asia:

Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth.

To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood 6 and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. 7 Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.

8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”

(ESV; all Biblical quotations are from the ESV.)

Connelly begins his exposition on the passage by observing that the book of Revelation is not just a book of prophecy; it is also a letter to seven churches. The seven churches were located in Ephesus, where John lived, and six other cities in the Roman province of Asia (in the western half of what is now Turkey). Craig S. Keener observes that the book’s being addressed to seven churches doesn’t mean that there were seven letters. He suggests that there was probably only one scroll and that John’s messenger carried it from one church to another until all seven had heard it. He also suggests that people in the churches may have copied the scroll after it arrived and that its message would spread from the churches to the surrounding areas. (Craig S. Keener, The NIV Application Commentary: Revelation, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2000, page 68)

John opens his greeting to the seven churches by wishing “grace and peace” to them from three sources: “him who is and who was and who is to come” (God the Father), “the seven spirits who are before the throne” (the Holy Spirit according to Connelly, but see below), and “Jesus Christ.” Ancient letters generally opened with identification of the sender and addressees and prayer or thanksgiving concerning the addressees. Paul customarily invoked grace and peace on the recipients of his letters. John F. Walvoord comments, “These two words capture the richness of the Christian faith, grace embodying God’s attitude toward the believer coupled with His loving gifts, and peace speaking of relationship, here especially the peace of God. Grace represents standing; peace represents experience.” (John F. Walvoord, The Revelation of Jesus Christ, Chicago, Illinois: Moody Press, 1966, page 37)

John describes God the Father as “him who is and who was and who is to come.” Connelly interprets this as meaning that there is no past or future for God; instead God inhabits eternity and sees and knows all that was, is, and will be at the same time. I interpret God’s being eternal differently, understanding it to mean that He always was, is, and always will be. And, thinking that our free choices make parts of the future undetermined and thus unknowable, I view God as knowing only those parts of the future that He foreordains or can predict from His complete knowledge of the past and present. My view is known by many as open theism; see https://opentheism.wordpress.com/category/open-theism-2/revised-series/ for a explanation of it, noting that the twenty articles in the series appear in reverse order.

Connelly understands “the seven spirits who are before his throne” to be the Holy Spirit and suggests that since the number seven often refers to completeness or fullness, this may be “John’s way of describing the full presence of the invisible Spirit” (Connelly, page 17). If Connelly is right, John may have had Isaiah 11:2 in mind. However other interpreters understand the phrase to refer to the seven archangels of Jewish tradition. Robert H. Mounce examines the other places in the book of Revelation where the seven spirits of God are mentioned and concludes, “A survey of the four places in Revelation where the seven spirits of God are mentioned fails to provide sufficient information to arrive at a certain understanding of this enigmatic phrase. Although only a conjecture, it would seem that they are part of a heavenly entourage that has a special ministry in connection with the Lamb.” (Robert H. Mounce, The New International Commentary on the New Testament: The Book of Revelation, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1977, page 70)

In verse 5 John refers to Jesus by three titles—“the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth.” Connelly affirms that the titles “give credibility to [Jesus’s] message” and says something like this about them: Jesus witnessed faithfully of the Father despite opposition, and so we can depend him to stand with us; Jesus was the first to rise from the dead, and so we don’t have to fear death because we too shall rise from the dead; and Jesus rules over the kings of the earth, and so we don’t have to fear them because someday he will bring about justice for us (Connelly, page 18).

Thinking about Jesus causes John to burst into praise to him. He praises him for loving us so much that he died on the cross to free us from our sins. He praises him for our having direct access to him (“priests”) and going to reign with him (“kingdom”). He praises him for his future second coming when everyone will see him and recognize that he is over all.

About verse 8 Warren W. Wiersbe says, “The titles given to God in Revelation 1:8 make it clear that He is certainly able to work out His divine purposes in human history. Alpha and Omega are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet; so God is at the beginning of all things and also at their end. He is the eternal God (see rev. 1:4), unlimited by time. He is also the Almighty, able to do anything. Almighty is a key name for God in Revelation (Rev. 1:8; 4:8; 11:17; 15:3; 16:7, 14; 19:6, 15; 21:22).” (Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, Wheaton, Illinois: Victor Books, 1989, page 569)

Questions from The NIV Serendipity Bible for Study Groups

These questions are those on verses 4-8 asked about Revelation 1:1-8 in The NIV Serendipity Bible for Study Groups.

DIG, 2. Who is John? Who are the recipient churches (vv. 4, 11)?
John is the apostle John. The recipient churches are in these cities in the Roman province of Asia: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seven_churches_of_Asia for a map showing them.
DIG, 3. What is significant about the references to God in verses 4 and 8?
See the paragraph above beginning “About verse 8.”
DIG, 4. What are the meanings of the titles given to Jesus (vv 5-6)? What three things does Christ do for us?
See the paragraphs above beginning “In verse 5” and “Thinking about.”
DIG, 5, What theme of the book of Revelation is foreshadowed in verse 7? Why is the phrase every eye will see him” significant?
The theme of the book of Revelation foreshadowed in verse 7 is that Jesus is returning to set things right. The phrase “every eye will see him” is significant because it indicates that when Jesus returns the whole world will recognize who he is.

REFLECT, 1. If asked to share three facts about Jesus that are especially significant to you, what would you say? Why are these facts so important to you?
Each of the three of us shared one fact about Jesus that is especially significant and explained why that fact is important to us.

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The Book of Revelation — 1:1-3

This morning our family continued its study of the book of Revelation using Douglas Connelly’s The Book of Revelation Made Clear and The NIV Serendipity Bible for Study Groups by studying 1:1-3, which forms a prologue to the book.

1 The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, 2 who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. 3 Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near. (ESV; all Biblical quotations are from the ESV)

The Book of Revelation

Connelly points out these things that the passage tells us about the book of Revelation:
– Its being described as a “revelation” tells us that it reveals or unveils..
– The revelation’s being described as “of Jesus Christ” tells us that what it reveals is Jesus. Connelly lists 26 titles and descriptions applied to Jesus in the book.
– The revelation came from God, who gave it to Jesus, who sent it by an angel to John.
– The book’s being called “the words of this prophecy” tells us that it predicts future events
– God wants us to read and understand the book, promising to bless those who do so.

Regarding Connell’s second point, actually “the revelation of Jesus Christ” can be interpreted in two ways. It can mean “the revelation about Jesus Christ” or “the revelation from Jesus Christ.” Craig S. Keener discusses what each interpretation involves and concludes, “In the final analysis…the original, Greek-speaking audience of the book may not have worked as hard as we do to differentiate the two concepts (the grammar itself does not clarify any difference). The message is from Jesus Christ, but ultimately Jesus is the focus of everything in the New Testament, whether directly or indirectly.” (Craig S. Keener, The NIV Application Commentary: Revelation, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2000, page 54)

Verse 1 says that the things shown in the book of Revelation would take place “soon.” However more than 1900 years have passed and the end has not yet come. Different solutions have been proposed, including that after they begin they will happen quickly or that they are sure to come, but “the most satisfying solution is to take the word in a straightforward sense, remembering that in the prophetic outlook the end is always imminent” (Robert H. Mounce, The New International Commentary on the New Testament: The Book of Revelation, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1977, page 65).

Verse 3 refers to “the one who reads aloud” and to “those who hear.” This fits the time. Because many people could not read well, a person who could read well would read the document and the rest of the congregation would listen. Note that “they were not only to hear the Word, but thy were also to keep it‒that is, guard it as a treasure and practice what it said” (Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, Wheaton, Illinois: Victor Books, 1989, page 567).

The Book’s Author

The book of Revelation identifies its author as John in 1:1, 4, 9; 22:8. Although scholars have debated who John was, Connelly and the other commentators that I consulted think that he was the apostle John. According to tradition John lived until late in the first century and during the last decades of his life lived in Ephesus in the Roman province of Asia. In 1:9 John says that he received the visions recorded in the book of Revelation while he was in exile on the island of Patmos, a Roman penal colony, for his witnessing about Jesus.

Scholars also debate when the book of Revelation was written, some thinking that it was written around AD 68 during the reign of the Roman emperor Nero and others thinking that it was written in the middle of the AD 90s during the reign of the Roman emperor Domitian. Connelly and the other commentators that I consulted think that it was the later time. However not everyone does, and I’ve begun rereading a book that doesn’t, Kym Smith’s Redating the Revelation and… (South Australia: Sherwood Publications, 2002).

Questions from The NIV Serendipity Bible for Study Groups

These questions are those on verses 1-3 asked about Revelation 1:1-8 in The NIV Serendipity Bible for Study Groups.

DIG, 1. What is revelation? In this case, who is revealed? By whom? To whom? For what purpose?
Connelly says that revelation means “unwrapping\’ or “unveiling.” Jesus Christ is revealed by God to John (through Jesus and an angel). The purpose is “to show to his servants the things that must soon take place” (1:1) and to reveal Jesus “in his majesty and glory” (Connelly, page 13).

REFLECT, 2. How will you personalize and pass along the blessing of verse 3?
Since the question asks for personal responses I won’t share here what we said.

The Book of Revelation — Introduction

This morning our family at home (Leonora, Robert, and I) began a new after-breakfast Bible reading activity, a study of the book of Revelation. I plan to report on the study at Bob’s Corner after each unit in the study along with continuing to report weekly on our Thursday evening Life group meetings and occasionally on my reading from The Great Books of the Western World. We’re feeling our way in our study of the book of Revelation and so the format of my reports on it will likely change as we proceed in it.

We’re using Douglas Connelly’s The Book of Revelation Made Clear (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2007; previously published as The Book of Revelation for Blockheads). Robert and I thought it the most suitable for our study of the books in stock at the local Religious Book and Bible House on the book of Revelation. Thanks to the manager of the store, Sister Parmenter, for her help in our selecting it. We plan to supplement our reading of what it says about a passage with a discussion of the questions asked about the passage in The NIV Serendipity Bible for Study Groups (Zondervan Publishing House, 1988), our each having a copy of it or of The NIV Serendipity New Testament for Study Groups.

In my preparing for our study, I read the section on the future in Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1994), and am reading Stanley M. Horton’s Our Destiny: Biblical Teachings on the Last Things (Springfield, Missouri, 1996). Our family read Grudem’s Systematic Theology in our after-breakfast Bible reading a few years ago; see https://opentheism.wordpress.com/category/systematic-theology/. Horton was a professor of Bible and theology at the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary.

I also plan to consult in my preparing for the study of each passage the comments on it in these commentaries on the book of Revelation Craig S. Keener’s The NIV Application Commentary: Revelation (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2000); Robert H. Mounce’s The New International Commentary on the New Testament: The Book of Revelation (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1977); John F. Walvoord’s The Revelation of Jesus Christ (Chicago, Illinois: Moody Press, 1966); and Warren W. Wiersbe’s The Bible Exposition Commentary (Wheaton, Illinois: Victor Books, 1989). They and Grudem’s Systematic Theology are the only books that I have of the books recommended by Connelly for further reading. I’d appreciate your recommending commentaries on the book of Revelation that you’ve found useful in your own study of it.

Yesterday we read “Access: Understanding a Book That Has Confused Millions,” pages 7-10 of The Book of Revelation Made Clear. Douglas Connelly begins by observing that the purpose of Book of Revelation Made Clear is to help us to understand the book of Revelation but admitting that no one fully understands it. He expresses the hope that we will be blessed by our study of Revelation, noting that it promises a blessing on those who read it, “Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near” (ESV; all Biblical quotations are from the ESV). Connelly identifies these four ways in which we will be blessed by studying Revelation:
1. We will see Jesus in all his power.
2. We will see how what God has planned for our world.
3. We will see Christ’s final victory over Satan.
4. We will see that we are the ultimate winners.

After describing the ways in which we will be blessed by reading the book of Revelation, Connelly explains four approaches used by people in interpreting it. The names which he gives to them—the make-believe approach, the John’s-own-day approach, the spiritual-conflict approach, and the future-is-coming approach—are self explanatory. (Most of my other resources identify these four approaches: the preterist approach, which is the same as the John’s-own-day approach; the historicist approach, which views the book of Revelation as forecasting the history of the church from its beginning until Jesus’ return; the futurist approach, which is the same as the future-is-coming approach; and the idealist approach, which is the same as the spiritual-conflict approach.) Connelly says that he follows the approach that most of the book of Revelation happens in the future.

The Son of God

This Christmas season I am devoting two articles at Bob’s Corner to Christmas, “The King of the Jews” based on Matthew 1-2 and “The Son of God” based on Luke 1-2. In each I examine how Jesus is portrayed in the genealogy of him given in that Gospel, in the announcement of his birth made by an angel of the Lord to one of his human parents, and by the visitors to him as a baby or child. The idea for the pair of articles came from my rereading of Raymond E. Brown’s classic The Birth of the Messiah (New York: Doubleday, 1993; updated from original 1976 edition). My main resources besides it in preparing the articles were my ESV Study Bible (Crossway Bibles, 2008) and NIV Study Bible (Zondervan, 2011). I also consulted Darrell L. Bock’s Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament: Luke (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker, 1994) and The NIV Application Commentary: Luke (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1996) and Joel B. Green’s The New International Commentary on the New Testament: The Gospel of Luke (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans, 1997) in preparing this article. (Five of the six books were given to me by my wife, Leonora, four on a Christmas.) For “The King of the Jews” see https://opentheism.wordpress.com/2018/12/22/the-king-of-the-jews/.

Genealogy
Although I said above that this article would be based on Luke 1-2, actually Luke doesn’t give his genealogy of Jesus until the end of chapter 3. Sorry! It begins with “Jesus…being the son (as was supposed) of Joseph” and ends with “the son of Adam, the son of God” (ESV; unless otherwise noted, all Biblical quotations are from the ESV). Thus while Matthew begins with Abraham, the father of the Jews, and goes forward to Jesus, Luke begins with Jesus and goes back to Adam, the first man, and his creator, God. As well the genealogies differ appreciably in the period from David to Jesus, even naming different fathers for Joseph, Matthew’s identifying him as Jacob and Luke’s identifying him as Heli.

Various suggestions have been proposed to explain the differences in the genealogies. Wayne Grudem and Thomas R. Schreiner give the two commonest in their note on Luke’s genealogy in the ESV Study Bible: “(1) An old suggestion is that Matthew traces Joseph’s ancestry while Luke traces Mary’s. But very few commentators defend this solution today, because 1:27 refers to Joseph, not Mary, and taking 3:23 as a reference to Mary’s ancestry requires the unlikely step of inserting Mary into the text where she is not mentioned but Joseph is mentioned. (2) The most commonly accepted suggestion is that Matthew traces the line of royal succession…while Luke traces Joseph’s actual physical descent…, and both lines converge at Joseph.” They also give various explanations for two different people’s being named as Joseph’s father.

However the differences in the genealogies of Jesus in Matthew and Luke are explained, clearly Luke’s emphasizes his relationship to all mankind whereas Matthew’s emphasizes his relationship to the Jews.

Announcement of Jesus’ Birth
Luke 1:26-34 records how the angel Gabriel announced the birth of Jesus to Mary:

26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”

35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. 36 And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

The title which the angel ascribed to Jesus, the Son of the Most High, “has two senses: (1) the divine Son of God and (2) the Messiah. His Messiahship is clearly referred to in the following context (vv. 32b-33)” (Lewis Foster in the NIV Study Bible). Wayne Grudem and Thomas R. Schreiner elaborate on (1) in the ESV Study Bible: “[The name ‘Most High’] for the true God comes from Gen. 14:18-22…, where Melchizedek, king of Salem, identifies Yahweh as ‘God Most High…. It became a common title for the Lord among the monotheistic Israelites, especially in the Psalms. Whereas John [the Baptist] is the ‘prophet of the Most High (Luke 1:76), Jesus is the ‘Son of the Most High.’” Farther on, in answering Mary’s question, the angel states clearly, “The child to be born will be called…the Son of God.”

The Visit of the Shepherds
Luke 2:8-20 records the visit of shepherds to see the baby Jesus:

8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

The angel described Jesus as “a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Darrell L. Bock points out the significance of the titles the angel uses for Jesus: “‘Savior’…reflects the call of Jesus to deliver his people…. This term is rich in Old Testament roots, especially as a figure for divine deliverance (Deut. 20:4; Josh. 22:22; Pss. 24:5; 25:5; Isa. 25:9).… ‘Christ’ (from the Greek word for ‘Anointed One’) is indicative of his role as the promised Messiah. ‘Messiah’ (Hebrew for ‘Anointed One’) is a rare term in the Old Testament. Psalm 2:2 [‘The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed’] is the main technical regal use.… What about ‘Lord’? Of the three titles, this one is left unexplained in this context. One could argue that the rest of this Gospel and the book of Acts serve to explain the nature of Jesus’ authority and lordship, as well as the extent of his power in overcoming sin and the forces of evil.” (The NIV Application Commentary: Luke, pages 84-85)

Just as significant as the titles the angels uses for Jesus are, in my opinion, whom he is speaking to—shepherds out in the field. In this connection, I found Raymond E. Brown’s discussion in The Birth of the Messiah of the symbolism of the shepherds enlightening. After noting that “To modern romantics the shepherds described by Luke take on the gentleness of their flocks,” he claims that “In fact, far from being regarded as either gentle or noble, in Jesus’ time shepherds were often regarded as dishonest, outside the Law” He then observes that, although there is no hint of such in Luke 2:8-10, “This has led to the suggestion that for Luke they represented the sinners Jesus came to save” (page 420). However in his extensive consideration of the symbolism of the shepherds in the book’s supplement he admits that there is no evidence from Jesus’ time that shepherds were looked upon as outside the law (page 673).

After noting the lack of evidence from Jesus’ time as a problem for viewing the shepherds as symbols of the hated, Darrell L. Bock continues, “More importantly, shepherd motifs in the Bible are mostly positive. The NT…portrays shepherds in a favorable light, even describing church leaders with the figure. In the OT, Abraham, Moses and David were all shepherds at some point in their lives. Thus, the presence of the shepherds is not a negative point. Rather, they picture the lowly and humble who respond to God’s message.” (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament: Luke, pages 213-14).

Conclusion
I opened my conclusion to “The King of the Jews” by observing, “All three passages [Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus and his accounts of an angel’s announcement to Joseph of Jesus’ birth and of the visit of the wise men to worship Jesus] view Jesus as the Messiah, the King and Saviour in the line of David whom the Old Testament promised.” Each of the three passages in Luke that I’ve considered above also identifies Jesus as the Messiah either explicitly or implicitly.

However the angel Gabriel went even farther in announcing Jesus’ birth to Mary, telling her that Jesus would be called “the Son of God.” Moreover in tracing Jesus’ ancestry back to Adam (and to God) rather than just to Abraham, Luke’s genealogy of Jesus indicates that he, the Son of God, came to be Lord and Saviour of all who would accept him as such, not just of the Jews. Let us, like the shepherds, glorify and praise God for what He has done and continues to do through Jesus. Merry Christmas!

The King of the Jews

Merry Christmas! This Christmas season I am devoting two articles at Bob’s Corner to Christmas, “The King of the Jews” based on Matthew 1-2 and “The Son of God” based on Luke 1-2. In each I examine how Jesus is portrayed in the genealogy of him given in that Gospel, in the announcement of his birth made by an angel of the Lord to one of his human parents, and by the visitors to him as a baby or child. The idea for the pair of articles came from my rereading of Raymond E. Brown’s classic The Birth of the Messiah (New York: Doubleday, 1993; updated from original 1976 edition). My main resources besides it in preparing the articles were my ESV Study Bible (Crossway Bibles, 2008) and NIV Study Bible (Zondervan, 2011). I also consulted Michael J. Wilkins’s The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2004) and R. T. France’s The New International Commentary on the New Testament: The Gospel of Matthew (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans, 2007) in preparing this article. (All five books were given to me by my wife, Leonora, four on a Christmas.)

Genealogy
The Gospel of Matthew opens with a genealogy of Jesus. Matthew introduces it thus: “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” He begins the genealogy itself with “Abraham was the father of Isaac” and ends it with “Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ” (ESV; unless otherwise noted, all Biblical quotations are from the ESV).

In a note on Matthew 1:1-17 in the ESV Study Bible, Michael J. Wilkins says, “Jews kept extensive genealogies to establish a person’s heritage, inheritance, legitimacy, and rights…Matthew likely draws on the genealogies of the OT, with some omissions…. He demonstrates Jesus’ legal claim to the throne of David, emphasizing Jesus’ legal descent from David and Abraham, while Luke’s genealogical record…emphasizes Jesus’ biological descent from David and Adam.”

By demonstrating Jesus’ legal claim to the throne of David as “the son of David,” the genealogy justifies his being called “Christ” (NIV, “the Messiah”) in the passages quoted above. His also being shown to be “the son of Abraham” may just point to his (and David’s) position in the history of the Jews. However some suggest that it may have additional significance. For example, R. T. France observes, “It is possible that in including this title Matthew also has in mind that Abraham was not merely the ancestor of Israel but also of ‘a multitude of nations’ (Gen 17:4-5) and the one through whom ‘all the families of the earth’ were to be blessed (Gen 12:3)” (page 35 of his commentary referred to above).

Announcement of Jesus’ Birth
Matthew 1:18-25 records how an angel of the Lord announced the birth of Jesus to Joseph:

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). 24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.

In the ESV Study Bible Michael J. Wilkins says about verse 21, “The name Jesus was given to sons as a symbolic hope for the Lord’s anticipated sending of salvation through a Messiah who would purify his people and save them from oppression.… But the angel points to a more important theme: to save his people from their sins. Salvation from sins was a repeated promise in OT prophets.” About verse 25 he says, “The name ‘Jesus’ specifies what he does (‘God saves’), while the messianic title ‘Immanuel’ (v. 23) specifies who he is (‘God with us’).” On the two names R. T. France comments, “Probably Matthew expected his readers to reflect that the ‘salvation’ which is the explicit meaning of ‘Jesus’ in v. 21 was to be accomplished by the coming of God among his people, but he has not made any such linking of the meanings of the two names explicit” (page 49 of his commentary referred to above).

The Visit of the Wise Men
Matthew 2:1-12 records the visit of wise men from the east to worship the baby or child Jesus:

1 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; 4 and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet: 6 ‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’ ”

7 Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” 9 After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11 And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. 12 And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.

Although admitting that it is impossible to be certain about individual details, Raymond D. Brown claims that “the weight of the evidence casts very serious doubt on the historicity of the Matthean account of the magi” (The Birth of the Messiah, page 189-footnote 2), grouping the negative evidence under three headings: intrinsic unlikelihoods, irreconcilability with Luke, and conflict with the accounts of Jesus’ public ministry (pages 188-89). He suggests that the story was inspired by “popular reflection on the OT” rather than being history (page 190). However I think that both commentaries that I referred to above adequately address his concerns (The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, pages 92-102; The New International Commentary on the New Testament: The Gospel of Matthew, pages 61-76).

“Wise men” is “magi” in the Greek. In their note in the NIV Study Bible on the wise men’s question in verse 2, Walter W. Wessel and Ralph Earle observe that “the Magi recognized that Jesus was born a king, not just that he would become one later on.” In his note in the ESV Study Bible on “worshipped him” in verse 11, Michael J. Wilkins observes, “It is doubtful that these quasi-pagan religious men understood Jesus’ divine nature, but their actions were unknowingly appropriate and wonderfully foreshadowed the worship of Jesus by all the Gentile nations.”

Conclusion

All three passages view Jesus as the Messiah, the King and Saviour in the line of David whom the Old Testament promised. As well, the angel who spoke to Joseph in a dream said that Jesus would save his people from their sins and in the same passage Matthew identifies Jesus as fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy, “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel [God with us]” (Isaiah 7:14).

Previous Christmas Articles at Bob’s Corner
2012 – Indifference or Worship? https://opentheism.wordpress.com/2012/12/22/indifference-or-worship/
2013 – A Few Favourite Christmas Stories
https://opentheism.wordpress.com/2013/12/24/a-few-favourite-christmas-stories/
2014 – The Announcement of Jesus’ Birth (by Rose Spillenaar Harmer)
https://opentheism.wordpress.com/2014/12/25/the-announcement-of-jesus-birth/
2015 – Born of a Virgin
https://opentheism.wordpress.com/2015/12/25/born-of-a-virgin/
2016 – The First Christmas Carol
https://opentheism.wordpress.com/2016/12/16/the-first-christmas-carol/
2016 – God Sent Forth His Son
https://opentheism.wordpress.com/2016/12/23/god-sent-forth-his-son/
2017 – The Word Became Flesh
https://opentheism.wordpress.com/2017/12/22/the-word-became-flesh/

10. Appeared Before the Sanhedrin

Yesterday evening the Life group which meets in my wife’s and my home studied the following account of Peter and John’s appearance before the Sanhedrin after their healing of a lame beggar.

1 And as they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came upon them, 2 greatly annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. 3 And they arrested them and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. 4 But many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand.

5 On the next day their rulers and elders and scribes gathered together in Jerusalem, 6 with Annas the high priest and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. 7 And when they had set them in the midst, they inquired, “By what power or by what name did you do this?” 8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, 9 if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, 10 let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. 11 This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. 12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus. 14 But seeing the man who was healed standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition. 15 But when they had commanded them to leave the council, they conferred with one another, 16 saying, “What shall we do with these men? For that a notable sign has been performed through them is evident to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. 17 But in order that it may spread no further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name.” 18 So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, 20 for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” 21 And when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way to punish them, because of the people, for all were praising God for what had happened. 22 For the man on whom this sign of healing was performed was more than forty years old. (Acts 4:1-22, ESV; all Biblical quotations are from the ESV.)

The previous meeting I’d provided the group with some of the questions asked about the passage in The NIV Serendipity Bible for Study Groups (Zondervan Publishing House, 1988), my having permission from Serendipity House to reproduce material from it for small group use. I also suggested that they look at Mark Copeland’s summary of, outline of, and review questions on the passage at http://executableoutlines.com/acts/acts_04.htm.

In the meeting I introduced our discussion of the passage by referring to the healing of the lame beggar and reading the passage. Then we discussed the Serendipity House questions.

DIG Questions from Serendipity Bible for Groups (Serendipity House, 1988):
1. What roles did the priests, the captain of the guard, and the Sadducees play in the ministry of Jesus (see Lk 20:27-40; 22:6, 52)? Why would the Sadducees oppose the disciples’ peaching? What would you feel if you were one of the believers who saw Peter and John taken away? If you were Peter or John?
“[The teachers of the law and the chief priests] watched him and sent spies, who pretended to be sincere, that they might catch him in something he said, so as to deliver him up to the authority and jurisdiction of the governor” (Luke 20:20). “[Judas] conferred with the chief priests and officers how he might betray him to them. And they were glad, and agreed to give him money. So he consented and sought an opportunity to betray him to them in the absence of a crowd.” (Luke 22:4-6) The Sadducees opposed the disciples’ preaching because they did not believe in the resurrection of the dead. If I were one of the believers who saw Peter and John taken away, I would feel sad and worried. If I were Peter or John, I would feel scared about what might happen.
2. What is the high priest’s family trying to do (v. 7)—search for information, or intimidate the disciples? Why? (See v. 2; 3:16)?
The high priest’s family was trying to intimidate the disciples because they wanted them to stop speaking to the people about Jesus.
3. If you were one of the authorities, what would be your reaction to Peter’s bold answer? How does Peter’s filling with the Holy Spirit (vv. 8-12) compare with the purpose of the filling in 2:4 (see also Lk 21:12-13)?
If I were one of the authorities, my reaction to Peter’s answer would be amazement. Peter’s filling with the Holy Spirit gave him “words and wisdom that [his adversaries could not] resist or contradict” (Luke 21:15); the filling with the Holy Spirit in 2:4 enabled the disciples to speak in other tongues, which attracted a crowd.
4. How is the leader’s response similar to their response to the Lazarus episode (see Jn 11:45-53; 12:10-11)? Why are they reacting like this?
In each case the leaders realized that a notable sign had taken place (the raising of Lazarus and the healing of the blind man) and were concerned that hearing about it would cause people to believe in Jesus. The leaders reacted like this because they felt threatened and were jealous.

A REFLECT Question from Serendipity Bible for Groups (Serendipity House, 1988):
1. When, if ever, do you feel that Peter’s response to his political and religious leaders would be appropriate for a Christian today? How do you reconcile this passage with Romans 13:1-4?
I think that Peter’s response to his political and religious leaders would be appropriate for a Christian today if he or she were commanded to do something that is forbidden in the Bible or were forbidden to do something that is commanded in the Bible. I would reconcile the passage with Romans 13:1-4 by saying we are to submit to governing authorities (Romans 13:1-4) except when they tell us to disobey God (Acts 4:19-20).

Note from Bob: In my personal consideration of the REFLECT question, I was helped by Douglass J. Moo’s comments on Romans 13:1-7 in his The New International Commentary on the New Testament and The NIV Application Commentary commentaries on Romans. In each commentary he lists seven ways in which Biblical scholars have tried to explain Paul’s saying “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities” and argues that what Paul demanded was “submission” to governing authorities, not strict and universal obedience. He concludes his comments in NICNT with:

Balance is needed. On the one hand, we must not obscure the teaching of Rom. 13:1-7 in a flood of qualifications. Paul makes clear that government is ordained by God–indeed, that every particular governmental authority is ordained by God–and that the Christian must recognize and respond to this fact with an attitude of “submission.” Government is more than a nuisance to be put up with; it is an institution established by God to accomplish some of his purposes on earth (cf. vv. 3-4). On the other hand, we must not read Rom. 13:1-7 out of its broad NT context and put government in a position relative to the Christian that only God can hold. Christians should give thanks for government as an institution of God; we should pray regularly for our leaders (cf. 1 Tim. 2:1-2); and we should be prepared to follow the orders of our government. But we should also refuse to give to government any absolute rights and should evaluate all its demands in the light of the gospel.” (Douglas J, Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1996, pages 809-10).

The NICNT list and above conclusion are quoted in https://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com/2016/08/01/commentary-on-romans-131-7).