The Gospel of Matthew presented the infancy story of Jesus from the perspective of Joseph, unlike the Gospel of Luke that presented the same story from the perspective of Mary. What do they have in common and what is unique. Mary and the child Jesus play a secondary role in this narration, since it was all about Joseph, the son of Jacob, the father of the child. There were certain things in common with the Luke story. Both Joseph and Mary were troubled by this pregnancy. Both had an angel come and explain that the child was from the Holy Spirit. Both were told that the name of the child would be Jesus. In both stories, the child is born in Bethlehem. Beyond that, there were some unique things to the story of Joseph in Matthew. He almost divorced Mary. He had a number of angelic dreams. He was told to go to Egypt, which he did. He then returned to Israel and settled in Nazareth in Galilee. In between, there was the strange story of King Herod and the magi. Matthew used 5 different Old Testament Hebrew prophecies to show that Jesus was truly within the Jewish prophetic tradition. Clearly, in these two opening chapters, Matthew was a Jewish scripture scholar with his use of 1 Chronicles in the genealogy and the various prophecies of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea, Micah, and Judges. Whatever sources he used for this unique perspective on the birth of Jesus, they were clearly Jewish based. Joseph was a righteous Jewish man. After this presentation, Joseph seemed to drift off the center stage in the life and times of Jesus of Nazareth.
Historical bible criticism attempts to establish the historical milieu of a document. This involves many things and various disciplines, such as linguistics, sociology, anthropology, and comparative literature studies of various kinds. Certainly, it is important to establish the time, place, events, persons, general milieu, and sources. All of this is necessary in order to help the reader understand this literary document. The contemporary experience of reality should help to establish the meaning and significance of ancient texts, even though these ancient texts had a worldview different from that of the modern world.
The books of the Bible were formed gradually. They are the product of Jewish and Christian religious communities that was 95% illiterate. These stories were first word of mouth, then later put into writing. Moses did not write all the books of the Pentateuch. Paul did not write all the letters ascribed to him. Matthew and Luke partially rewrote Mark with other sources. There were additions and deletions, but we have what God wanted us to have.
“Therefore thus says Yahweh.
‘Ask among the nations?
Who has heard the like of this?
The virgin Israel has done
A very horrible thing.
Does the snow of Lebanon
Leave the crags of Sirion?
Do the mountain waters run dry?
Do the cold flowing streams stop?
But my people have forgotten me.
They burn incense to a delusion.
They have stumbled in their ways,
On the ancient roads.
They have gone into bypaths.
They have not gone on the highway.
They are making their land a horror.
This is a thing to be hissed at forever.
Everyone who passes by it
They shake their heads.
Like the east wind,
I will scatter them
Before the enemy.
I will show them my back.
I will not show them my face,
In the day of their calamity.’”
Yahweh wants to know why the Israelites have forgotten him. This virgin Israel has done a horrible thing. He asks whether the snow leaves the mountains of Lebanon at Mount Hermon. Sirion is another name for Mount Hermon. Do the mountain waters dry up? Do the cold streams disappear? Do these sources for the Jordan River stop? Of course not, yet Yahweh’s people have forgotten him. They have turned to offering incense to false delusionary idol gods. They were stumbling along. They have gone off the main highways into the side roads. Their land has become horrible. People shake their heads and hiss as they pass by. Thus Yahweh was going to be like a wind from the east and scatter them to their enemies. When the day of troubles would begin, he would show them his back and not his face.