The virgin birth of Jesus (Mt 1:25-1:25)

“Joseph

Had no marital relations

With Mary,

Until she had borne

A son.

He named him

Jesus.”

 

καὶ οὐκ ἐγίνωσκεν αὐτὴν ἕως οὗ ἔτεκεν υἱόν· καὶ ἐκάλεσεν τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ Ἰησοῦν

 

Joseph did not have sex or martial relations with Mary until after the birth of his son. The Greek text has the euphemistic term, he did not know her (οὐκ ἐγίνωσκεν αὐτὴν). This of course brings up the question of Mary’s virginity. Clearly, the text indicates that nothing sexual happened prior to the birth or coming forth of her son (οὗ ἔτεκεν υἱόν). Thus, Jesus was clearly born of the virgin Mary. The real questions concerned the word ἕως that means “until the birth of the son”. In the Gospel of Luke, chapter 2, the child was called the firstborn child (τὸν πρωτότοκον). The tradition of the Christian community, since the second century, has been that Mary was always a virgin. There is nothing here in this text of Matthew to preclude that. Joseph called the child by the name of Jesus (ἐκάλεσεν τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ Ἰησοῦν), just as the angel had asked him to do.

The Septuagint

The Septuagint is the Jewish Alexandrian Greek translation of the Hebrew texts from the third to the first century BCE that contains extra books that were not in the Hebrew Bible.  There were supposedly 72 Jewish Greek scholars who translated the Hebrew Bible into Greek, so that it became known at the Greek Old Testament.  This Greek text was probably the scripture readings that the early Christians used, since they wrote in Greek.

The Qumran prayer of thanksgiving (Sir 51:13-51:20)

“Give thanks to the good Lord!

His mercy endures forever.

Give thanks to the God of praises!

His mercy endures forever.

Give thanks to the guardian of Israel!

His mercy endures forever.

Give thanks to him who formed all things!

His mercy endures forever.

Give thanks to the redeemer of Israel!

His mercy endures forever.

Give thanks to him who gathers the dispersed of Israel!

His mercy endures forever.

Give thanks to him who rebuilt his city and sanctuary!

His mercy endures forever.

Give thanks to him who makes a horn to sprout

For the house of David!

His mercy endures forever.

Give thanks to him who had chosen the sons of Zadok

To be priests!

His mercy endures forever.

Give thanks to the shield of Abraham!

His mercy endures forever.

Give thanks to the rock of Isaac!

His mercy endures forever.

Give thanks to the mighty one of Jacob!

His mercy endures forever.

Give thanks to him who has chosen Zion!

His mercy endures forever.

Give thanks to the King of the kings of kings!

His mercy endures forever.

He has raised up a horn for his people.

Praise for all his loyal ones.

The children of Israel praise the Lord!

The people close to him praise the Lord!”

This is called the Qumran hymn of thanksgiving because this Hebrew hymn was found in a Qumran cave there, but not in the Greek text. It is very reminiscent of Psalm 136, with the repeated chant of “his mercy endures forever.” However, they are thankful for other things than in Psalm 136. Obviously the Lord is good and merciful. The Lord is the guardian and redeemer of Israel who formed all things. However, he now has gathered the dispersed Israelites. He has rebuilt the Temple and the sanctuary. He has protected the royal sprout of David, but also the priestly sons of Zadok. The Lord also gave the shield of Abraham, the rock of Isaac, and the mighty Jacob. He chose Zion for the king of kings. He raised up a horn of plenty for his people and those loyal to him. Thus the children of Israel and those close to him should praise the Lord.

The interpretation of Mordecai’s dream (Greek text only)

“Mordecai said.

‘These things have come from God.

I remember the dream that I had concerning these matters.

None of them has failed to be fulfilled.

There was the little spring that became a river.

There was light and sun with abundant water.

The river is Esther.

The king married her.

He made her queen.

The two dragons are Haman and myself.

The nations are those that gathered to destroy the name of the Jews.

My nation is Israel.

We cried out to God.

God saved us.

The Lord has saved his people.

The Lord has rescued us from all these evils.

God has done great signs and wonders.

These wonders have not occurred among the nations.

For this purpose he made two lots.

One was for the people of God.

One was for all the nations.

These two lots came to the hour.

They came to the moment.

They came to the day of decision

Before God and among all the nations.

God remembered his people.

God vindicated his inheritance.

Thus they will observe these days in the month of Adar,

On the fourteenth and fifteenth of that month,

With an assembly and joy and gladness before God,

From generation to generation forever among his people Israel.’”

Mordecai interpreted the dream he had at the beginning of this book that was in the Greek text only. Once again, this is only in the Greek text, not the Hebrew text. The little spring that became a river was Queen Esther. The 2 dragons were Haman and himself, Mordecai, as they fought with each other. The 2 sides were the Israelites and those who wanted to destroy Israel. They cried out to God and he saved them. God performed great wonders, never seen any other place. The Jews were rescued. There were 2 lots, one for Israel, and one for Israel’s enemies. The enemies lost. God remembered his people and vindicated them. Thus they must always recall this on the 14th and 15th of Adar each year. The Israelites will do this for generations to come.

Follow this order carefully (Greek text only)

“Therefore you shall observe this with all good cheer

As a notable day among your commemorative festivals.

Both now and hereafter it may represent

Deliverance for you and the loyal Persians.

However, this will be a reminder of destruction

For those who plot against us.

Every city and country, without exception,

That does not act accordingly

Shall be destroyed in wrath with spear and fire.

It shall be made not only impassable for human beings,

But also most hateful to wild animals and birds for all time.”

The Greek text of the document concludes that this should be a festival day because it represents deliverance for all loyal Persians. Now this festival is not only a Jewish remembrance but a Persian holiday showing what happens to those who plot against the Persians. Anyone who does not follow this decree will be wiped out, not only the humans there, but also the animals and birds of that area.

The problem of the thirteenth day of Adar (Greek text only)

“You will therefore do well

Not to put in execution

The letters sent by Haman son of Hammedatha.

Haman, the man who did these things,

Has been hanged at the gate of Susa,

With his entire household.

God, who rules over all things,

God has speedily inflicted on him the punishment he deserved.

Therefore post a copy of this letter publicly in every place.

Permit the Jews to live under their own laws.

Give them reinforcements,

So that on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month,

Adar, on that very day,

They may defend themselves

Against those who attack them at the time of oppression.

God, who rules over all things,

God has made this day to be a joy

For his chosen people

Instead of a day of destruction for them.”

We continue on with the Greek text of the second letter to the Persian people from King Artaxerxes. However, here the king and Mordecai clearly state that the original letter was sent by Haman and not the king. Until this point, the king was presumed to have sent the first letter also. However, Haman has been hung at the gate to Susa with his whole family. God inflicted on him the punishment that he deserved. This new public document should be published so that all the Jews may live under their own laws. On the 13th day of Adar, they were to give reinforcements to the Jews so that they might defend themselves against any attacks. God will make this a day of joy rather than a day of destruction.

The Jews are good people (Greek text only)

“We find that the Jews,

Who were consigned to annihilation

By this thrice accursed man,

They are not evildoers.

They are governed by most righteous laws.

They are children of the most high

And mighty living God,

Who has directed the kingdom

Both for us and for our ancestors in the most excellent order.”

Here the Greek text picks up the Jewish situation. The king, and in fact Mordecai, praise the Jewish laws. The Jews are not evil doers. Interesting enough, this seems to indicate that most high and mighty living God of Israel is also the God of Persia. This is the first instance of a more universal God other than the God of the Universe and the God of heaven and earth. This expands the role of the God of Israel into Persia. He also spoke of his ancestors, a very Jewish theme.

The problem of Haman (Greek text only)

“Haman son of Hammedatha,

A Macedonian,

Had become our guest.

He was really an alien to the Persian blood.

He was quite devoid of our kindliness.

He enjoyed fully the goodwill that we have for every nation.

He was called our father.

He was continually bowed down to by all

As the person second to the royal throne.

But, unable to restrain his arrogance,

He undertook to deprive us

Of our kingdom and our life.

With intricate craft and deceit,

He asked for the destruction of Mordecai,

Our savior and perpetual benefactor,

And of Esther,

The blameless partner of our kingdom,

Together with their whole nation.

He thought that by these methods,

He would catch us undefended.

He would transfer the kingdom of the Persians to the Macedonians.”

Next the Greek text has the king or rather Mordecai taking on Haman. Here he is called a Macedonian. Interesting enough, Alexander the Great (356-323 BCE) was a Macedonian who died in Persia. Although the time of this kingdom preceded Alexander in the 5th century BCE, Haman is thrown in with the evil western Greek invaders of the 4th century BCE since he wanted to transfer the power of Persia to Macedonia. There is nothing about Haman being an Agagite here. He was not kind, even though he was the 2nd in command. He tried to take the life of Mordecai and Queen Esther, the blameless one, as well as her whole nation. The Jewish nature of the dispute is toned down in this decree that puts the dispute between Greece and Persia.

The bad behavior of the past (Greek text only)

“What has been wickedly accomplished

Through the pestilent behavior

Of those who exercise authority unworthily,

Can be seen,

Not so much from the more ancient records that we hand on,

As from investigation of matters close at hand.

In the future,

We will take care to render our kingdom

Quiet and peaceable for all men,

By changing our methods

And always judging

What comes before our eyes

With more equitable consideration.”

Once again, this is the Greek text only and not the Hebrew text of the edict. The king or Mordecai seems to indicate that there has been some bad behavior in the near past, not from some ancient time. In the future, things will be better. The king will change his methods so that he will judge all things that come before him in a more equitable manner.

Those who receive much should be generous (Greek text only)

“Many people,

The more they are honored

With the most generous kindness of their benefactors,

The more proud they become.

They not only seek to injure our subjects,

But in their inability to stand prosperity,

They even undertake to scheme against their own benefactors.

They not only take away thankfulness from others,

But carried away

By the boasts of those who know nothing of goodness,

They even assume that they will escape

The evil-hating justice of God,

Who always sees everything.

Often many of those

Who are set in places of authority

Have been made in part responsible

For the shedding of innocent blood.

They have been involved in irremediable calamities.

By the persuasion of friends

Who have been entrusted

With the administration of public affairs,

These men by the false trickery

Of their evil natures

Beguile the sincere goodwill of their sovereigns.”

Once again, this is found in the Greek text only, not in the Hebrew text. Some people have been blessed by God and benefactors. However, they can become proud. They sought to injure our Persian subjects and even their own benefactors. They are not thankful but evil in the sight of God who sees everything. This is especially bad when irresponsible authorities try to shed blood. By false trickery and their evil nature they beguile the goodwill of kings. This is a veiled reference to Haman, since this and the other decree are both from the same person, King Artaxerxes. He cannot contradict himself, since Haman wrote the first decree and Mordecai wrote this one.