2021_01_04 Insight Post- Kim Feld
As we get started on our journey into the biographies of Jesus, I want to help set some context for us. Think with me for a minute about how you write. Whether it’s an email, a letter, a short story, or a book, writers begin with a few things in mind, even if they are unconscious. The first is who will be reading this? Is it a friend, a co-worker, a boss? What’s the purpose of writing? To inform, to teach, or keep in touch? These things play a huge role in the tone, word selection, and emphasis of our writing. The writers of the books of the Bible did the same thing as each book was written with an intended audience in mind. We will look at the author, who the book was written for, time, and context for each of the biographies as we read them because they will help us understand the approach of the author.
The book of Matthew was named for its author, Matthew the tax collector, also known as Levi. He was one of Jesus’ 12 disciples. The book is thought to have been written in the AD 70s although some scholars believe it may have been written in the AD 50s or 60s. Primarily written for Jewish readers, it was important for Matthew to connect the Old Testament prophecies about Messiah to Jesus, so as we read you will notice frequent Old Testament references. A major focus or theme for Matthew is the kingdom of heaven.
Lineage was very important to the Jewish people and was always traced through the father. Since Joseph was Jesus’ legal/earthly father, the ancestry is traced through him in chapter 1. Matthew shows that Jesus is part of the royal line of David and a descendant of Abraham which was an important part of the prophesy for Messiah. (When we get to the book of Luke, we will see Jesus’ genealogy traced a little differently for a different purpose.) N.T. Wright and Michael Bird bring out the point that Matthew’s listing of the genealogy is broken into three parts: Abraham to David, David to the exile of the Jewish people, and the exile to Jesus, 14 generations in each (Wright & Bird, 2019). Although genealogy may seem like something to skim through to us, it was especially meaningful to the Jewish people of that time.
Reading through the four biographies will give us four different perspectives on the life of Jesus with overlap of some stories. Although the writing of the Bible was inspired by God (see 2 Timothy 3:16) the personalities of those writing is intact. Just as each of us may have different things that would stand out to us from watching the same event, the same is true for the writers of the biographies. Let’s dive into Matthew chapters 1-2 this week and see what we can uncover.
Wright, N.T. & Bird, M. F. (2019). The New Testament in its World. Zondervan Academic.
Executive Director of Education and Outreach