Through the Bible in a Year – June 17

The scheme for May – June can be found here

1 Ch 25-26; Mat 1; Psalm 62-63

Our scheme sadly does not take us through all four gospels twice. So we need to pay close attention now to Matthew which we open today. In orthodox churches, there is Always a reading from one of the four gospels. Many of us belong to churches where we stand as the gospelis read – often from amongst the people – to remind us that we are hearing the words of of our Lord.

Jesus as we shall see over the next few days, places great emphasis on listening to his words and doing them. In a sense this is the heart of the Scriptures. These words do not come to us through human agency, except that of the Word made flesh. They are the very words of the Second person of the Trinity. These words are life to us.

And Matthew is at pains to point this out – we begin with one of two genealogies of Jesus – this one dates points us back to Abraham – the one who is the father of the faithful – and also includes the Royal line in the initial inscription. He is ‘Jesus, the Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham’

Unlike Luke, Matthew focuses on Joseph in the story of Jesus’ birth – ‘Joseph the husband of Mary of whom Jesus was born’. All the way through the genealogy, Matthew draws in seemingly peripheral figures, or outsiders, and in a sense this is true also of Joseph. His role is portrayed as simply obedience – an overshadowing of Mary.

In Catholic tradition, Mary is sometimes understood in terms of the Ark of the Covenant – the God bearer. Perhaps we might understand Joseph as the cherubim that overshadow the ark?

Also of course we have the famous text from Isaiah. ‘Behold – a virgin shall conceive and bear a son’. Matthew, one who writes in Greek takes his text from the Septuagint, the Greek text, rather than the Hebrew, or at least the Hebrew as we have it. Actually the Greek is the oldest extant text – our earliest copies of the Hebrew text date from much much later. The Hebrew text has ‘a young woman shall conceive (Isaiah 7:14). It is possible but not proven, that in an effort to quieten the Christian apologists, the Hebrew text was changed, and that in the original it did say virgin.

Finally it is important to note that ‘God is with us’ – in the Isaiah text is freighted with threat as well as promise. When God comes to his people to be amongst them, it is as King, as Judge. Joseph knows the One who commands and goes about His business promptly. However much contemporary tellings of this story make of ‘what it must have been like for Joseph’ -the scriptures only reveal a faithful child of Abraham, who like father Abraham goes in response to his Word (cf Genesis 12:1-3)

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