For an Informed Love of God
Exegetical Insight (Chapter 14)
One author refers to the author of the first of our four canonical Gospels as “meticulous Matthew.” Matthew regularly displays intentional precision in his account of the Savior’s earthly life and ministry in order to accentuate truths that are important for devotion and doctrine. This precision is quite evident in the genealogy Matthew uses to introduce Jesus the Christ at the beginning of his gospel. When he comes to the listing of Jesus he says, “... and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ” (Matt 1:16, NIV). To whom do the italicized words “of whom” refer? Joseph as father? Mary as mother? Both Joseph and Mary as parents? It is possible for the English words “of whom” to mean any of these.
However, behind the English words “of whom” stands the Greek relative pronoun h|V. The feminine gender of the relative pronoun points specifically to Mary as the one from whom Jesus Christ was born. The genealogy regularly emphasizes the male who fathers a child, but here “meticulous Matthew” delivers a precise statement of the relationship of Jesus Christ to Joseph and Mary. While the genealogy establishes that Joseph is the legal father of Jesus, Matthew emphasizes that Mary is the biological parent “of whom” Jesus was born. Further, the passive voice of the verb ejgennhvqh (“was born”)—the only passive among the forty occurrences of gennavw in the genealogy—prepares for Matthew’s emphasis upon divine action in the conception and birth of Jesus (1:18-25).
In his comment on this verse, R. H. Gundry says, “the feminine gender of h|V prepares for the virgin birth by shifting attention from Joseph to Mary.” The Greek relative pronoun is a subtle signature of the relationship of one substantive to another. Here, by the use of the feminine form the author intentionally stresses that Mary is the mother of our Lord, and later he will clarify that the conception is miraculous, brought about by the Spirit of God coming upon her. Jesus Christ is indeed the son of David, the son of Abraham (1:1), but he is also the Son of God, Immanuel, “God with us” (1:23). This is no ordinary king in the line of David. This is our Savior and Lord, born of the virgin Mary.
Michael J. Wilkins