Persecuted for the sake of Jesus (Mt 24:9-24:9)

“Then they will

Hand you over

To be tortured.

They will put you

To death.

You will be hated

By all nations

Because of my name.”

 

τότε παραδώσουσιν ὑμᾶς εἰς θλῖψιν καὶ ἀποκτενοῦσιν ὑμᾶς, καὶ ἔσεσθε μισούμενοι ὑπὸ πάντων τῶν ἐθνῶν διὰ τὸ ὄνομά μου.

 

There is something similar in Mark, chapter 13:9, and in Luke, chapter 21:12, where there is a mention of synagogues, kings, and governors, but nothing about death.  This is not a new theme for Matthew, because it was mentioned earlier in chapter 10:16-25, where Jesus was more reassuring, and chapter 16:24, where Jesus spoke about bearing the cross of death.  Jesus said that his followers were going to be persecuted, distressed, or afflicted (τότε παραδώσουσιν ὑμᾶς εἰς θλῖψιν), even though there was no mention of this taking place in synagogues here.  No doubt about it, they were going to be handed over to be tortured and put to death (καὶ ἀποκτενοῦσιν ὑμᾶς).  They would be hated and detested (καὶ ἔσεσθε μισούμενοι) by all the gentile nations (ὑπὸ πάντων τῶν ἐθνῶν) because of his name (διὰ τὸ ὄνομά μου).  This was tough talk because it was not going to be easy to be a disciple of Jesus after he was gone.

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You will be persecuted (Mt 10:17-10:18)

“Beware of those men!

They will hand you over

To tribunals.

They will flog you

In their synagogues.

You will be dragged

Before governors

And before kings,

Because of me.

You will be

A testimony

Before them

And the gentiles.”

 

Προσέχετε δὲ ἀπὸ τῶν ἀνθρώπων· παραδώσουσιν γὰρ ὑμᾶς εἰς συνέδρια, καὶ ἐν ταῖς συναγωγαῖς αὐτῶν μαστιγώσουσιν ὑμᾶς·

καὶ ἐπὶ ἡγεμόνας δὲ καὶ βασιλεῖς ἀχθήσεσθε ἕνεκεν ἐμοῦ, εἰς μαρτύριον αὐτοῖς καὶ τοῖς ἔθνεσιν.

 

Equivalent passages to this can be found in Mark, chapter 13:9, and Luke, chapter 21:12.  Jesus, via Matthew warned his apostles and disciples that they would be persecuted because of him.  They should realize or be aware of what other men were going to do to them (Προσέχετε δὲ ἀπὸ τῶν ἀνθρώπων).  They would be handed over to the local councils, courts, tribunals, or local Jewish Sanhedrin (παραδώσουσιν γὰρ ὑμᾶς εἰς συνέδρια).  These were local gatherings called “συνέδρια.”  They would be flogged or scourged in the synagogues (καὶ ἐν ταῖς συναγωγαῖς αὐτῶν μαστιγώσουσιν ὑμᾶς).  This “μαστιγώσουσιν” would be a whipping that one would endure after being tied to a pole.  They would also be dragged before governors and kings (καὶ ἐπὶ ἡγεμόνας δὲ καὶ βασιλεῖς ἀχθήσεσθε).  All this would happen to them (ἕνεκεν ἐμοῦ) because they were going to give testimony or witness about Jesus before other people even the gentiles (εἰς μαρτύριον αὐτοῖς καὶ τοῖς ἔθνεσιν).  They were warned about how difficult the task of being a follower or apostle of Jesus might be.

The Magi go home (Mt 2:12-2:12)

“Having been warned

In a dream

Not to return

To Herod,

They left

For their own country

By another road.”

 

καὶ χρηματισθέντες κατ’ ὄναρ μὴ ἀνακάμψαι πρὸς Ἡρῴδην, δι’ ἄλλης ὁδοῦ ἀνεχώρησαν εἰς τὴν χώραν αὐτῶν.

 

The magi were warned (χρηματισθέντες) not to return to Herod (μὴ ἀνακάμψαι πρὸς Ἡρῴδην) in some sort of divine dream (κατ’ ὄναρ). This led them to withdraw from this scene and return to their own country (ἀνεχώρησαν εἰς τὴν χώραν αὐτῶν), wherever that may be.   They were not going to stop to see King Herod, as he had asked them to do. Thus, they went home using another road (δι’ ἄλλης ὁδοῦ), avoiding Jerusalem. So, ends the saga of these worshipping magi, magicians, wise men, or kings. Clearly, they symbolize the outreach of Jesus to other than Jewish people, but beyond that, it is difficult to say more. The idea of 3 kings does not come from the text itself. It can only be implied from the 3 gifts that were presented, but from nothing else.

The Magi arrive (Mt 2:1-2:1)

“Magi

From the East

Came to Jerusalem.”

 

ἰδοὺ μάγοι ἀπὸ ἀνατολῶν παρεγένοντο εἰς Ἱεροσόλυμα

 

Now we have some magi (μάγοι) arrive (παρεγένοντο) from an eastern area (ἀπὸ ἀνατολῶν) into Jerusalem (εἰς Ἱεροσόλυμα), the capital, where Herod would have been living.  Who were these wise guys or magi?  The word “μάγοι” appears in both the Old and New Testament.  Ordinarily this word is translated as a magician or sorcerer in the sense of illusionist or fortune-teller, except for here in the Gospel of Matthew.  Magi originally were the followers of the Persian Zoroastrianism or Zoroaster.  These priests paid particular attention to the stars and gained an international reputation for astrology, which was regarded as a science.  Their religious practices and use of astrology caused derivatives of the term magi to be applied to the occult in general.  Obviously, this led to the later English term magic or magicians.  These magi also had an interest in astrology and other esoteric studies.  However, the more common use of magi was to describe magicians, or practitioners of magic.  Thus, the magicians have come to town.  These magi have been popularly referred to as wise men or kings, but there is nothing in this account that implies that they were rulers of any kind.  This story of the magi only appears in Matthew and not in the Luke infancy story.

Explanation of the genealogy of Jesus (Mt 1:17-1:17)

“Thus,

All the generations

From Abraham

To David

Were fourteen generations.

All the generations

From David

To the deportation to Babylon

Were fourteen generations.

All the generations

From the deportation to Babylon

To the Christ

Were fourteen generations.”

 

Πᾶσαι οὖν αἱ γενεαὶ ἀπὸ Ἀβραὰμ ἕως Δαυεὶδ γενεαὶ δεκατέσσαρες, καὶ ἀπὸ Δαυεὶδ ἕως τῆς μετοικεσίας Βαβυλῶνος γενεαὶ δεκατέσσαρες, καὶ ἀπὸ τῆς μετοικεσίας Βαβυλῶνος ἕως τοῦ Χριστοῦ γενεαὶ δεκατέσσαρες.

 

Matthew then explained his genealogy. He had a fascination with the number 14 (δεκατέσσαρες). The first group from Abraham to David (ἀπὸ Ἀβραὰμ ἕως Δαυεὶδ) was 14 generations (γενεαὶ δεκατέσσαρες). The second group from David to the deportation to Babylon (ἀπὸ Δαυεὶδ ἕως τῆς μετοικεσίας Βαβυλῶνος) was 14 generations (γενεαὶ δεκατέσσαρες). Then the final group from the Babylonian captivity to the Christ (ἀπὸ τῆς μετοικεσίας Βαβυλῶνος ἕως τοῦ Χριστοῦ) was 14 generations (γενεαὶ δεκατέσσαρες). 14 was the numerical value of the 3 consonant Hebrew letters of David (Dalet Vav Dalet). 14 was also double 7, or a lucky number. To make this work, Matthew had to drop a number of kings from David to the captivity. Finally, he was one short with only 13 between the captivity and Joseph.

The Former Prophets

The former prophets are the same as the so-called Christian Old Testament historical works.  These works tell us of the establishment of the Israelites and the troubles that they faced.  However, they introduced a number of prophets that received oracles from God, including Elias, Elijah, Samuel, and Nathan.  The former prophets include the works of Joshua, from the 8th-7th century BCE and Judges, from the 7th-6th century BCE.  They also include the works of Samuel or 1 Samuel and. 2 Samuel, as well as Kings, or 1 Kings and 2 Kings. all coming from the 7th-6th century BCE.  These writings indicate what happened to the Israelites as they struggled in the new promised land.  They gradually went from a few judges to a full-blown kingdom, with many prophets with their divine oracles along the way.

The actions of the Chaldeans (Hab 1:9-1:11)

“The Chaldeans all come

For violence,

With faces pressing forward.

They gather captives

Like sand.

They scoff

At kings.

They make sport

Of rulers.

They laugh

At every fortress.

They heap up earth

To take it.

Then they sweep by

Like the wind.

They transgress.

They become guilty men.

Their own might

Is their god!”

These Chaldeans were all about violence.  They set out to gather and capture people, as if they were like the sands of the sea.  They would scoff at kings and ridicule rulers.  They laughed at fortresses, as they swept them away like a wind piling up heaps of dirt.  They were guilty transgressors.  Their god was their own strength.  They were mega maniacs, yet Yahweh was going to use them.