Haydock Catholic Bible Commentary
HOLY GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST,
ACCORDING TO ST. MATTHEW
THIS and other titles, with the names of those that wrote the Gospels, are not the words of the Evangelists themselves. The Scripture itself nowhere teacheth us, which books or writings are to be received as true and canonical Scriptures. It is only by the channel of unwritten traditions, and by the testimony and authority of the Catholic Church, that we know and believe that this gospel, for example of St. Matthew, with all contained in it, and that the other books and parts of the Old or New Testament, are of divine authority, or written by divine inspiration; which made St. Augustine say, I should not believe the gospel, were I not moved thereunto by the authority of the Catholic Church: Ego evangelio non crederem, nisi me Ecclesiז Catholicז commoveret auctoritas. (Lib. con. Epist. Manichזi, quam vocant fundamenti. tom. viii. chap. 5, p. 154. A. Ed. Ben.) (Witham)
S. MATTHEW, author of the gospel that we have under his name, was a Galilean, the son of Alpheus, a Jew, and a tax-gatherer; he was known also by the name of Levi. His vocation happened in the second year of the public ministry of Christ; who, soon after forming the college of his apostles, adopted him into that holy family of the spiritual princes and founders of his Church. Before his departure from Judea, to preach the gospel to distant countries, he yielded to the solicitations of the faithful; and about the eighth year after our Saviour's resurrection, the forty-first of the vulgar era, he began to write his gospel: i.e., the good tidings of salvation to man, through Christ Jesus, our Lord. Of the hagiographers, St. Matthew was the first in the New, as Moses was the first in the Old Testament. And as Moses opened his work with the generation of the heavens and the earth, so St. Matthew begins with the generation of Him, who, in the fullness of time, took upon himself our human nature, to free us from the curse we had brought upon ourselves, and under which the whole creation was groaning. (Haydock) ---This holy apostle, after having reaped a great harvest of souls in Judea, preached the faith to the barbarous nations of the East. He was much devoted to heavenly contemplation, and led an austere life; for he eat no flesh, satisfying nature with herbs, roots, seeds, and berries, as Clement of Alexanderia assures us, Pזdag. lib. ii. chap. 1. St. Ambrose says, that God opened to him the country of the Persians. Rufinus and Socrates tell us, that he carried the gospel into Ethiopia, meaning probably the southern or eastern parts of Asia. St. Paulinus informs us, that he ended his course in Parthia; and Venantius Fortunatus says, by martyrdom.---See Butler's Saints' Lives, Sept. 21st.
Mat 1:1 first English Testament, divided into verses, was that printed at Geneva, by Conrad Badius, in the year 1557. (Haydock) --- "The book of the Generation," is not referred to the whole gospel, but to the beginning, as in Genesis v. "This is the book of the generation of Adam." (Estius) --- The book of the Generation, i.e. the generation or pedigree, which is here set down in the first sixteen verses. In the style of the Scriptures any short schedule or roll is called a book, as the bill or short writing of a divorce, is called a little book. (Matthew v. 31.) (Witham) --- Jesus, in Hebrew Jesuah, is the proper name of Him, who was born of the Virgin Mary, who was also the Son of God, "a name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb." (Luke ii.) It signifies Saviour, "because he was to save his people from their sins." He was also called Christ, which signifies anointed; for though in the Old Testament kings, priests, and prophets were anointed, and though many were then designated by the name of Jesus, properly, and by an invariable custom of the New Testament, that person is exclusively signified, who, on account of the union of the divine and human nature, was anointed by the Holy Ghost above all his fellows. (Psalm xliv. and Hebrews i. 9.) Whence in this turn the hypostasis is understood, in which the two natures, the divine and human meet. (Estius)
Liber Generationis. Greek: Biblos geneseos. So Genesis ver. 1. Hic est liber generationis Adam, Greek: Biblos, &c.
Mat 1:2 begins with Abraham, the father of the faithful, because to him the promise was made, that all generations should be blessed in his seed. (Theophylactus)
Mat 1:3 Genesis xxxviii, ver. 6. & dein. and Zera of Thamar, her daughter-in-law. (Haydock)
Mat 1:5 Josue. chap. ii. & dein. We nowhere else find the marriage of Salmon with Rahab; but this event might have been known by tradition, the truth of which the divinely inspired evangelist here confirms. (Bible de Vence) Rahab was a debauched woman, preserved in the pillage of Jericho, where she had been born. In this genealogy only four women are mentioned, of which two are Gentiles, and two adulteresses. Here the greatest sinners may find grounds for confidence in the mercies of Jesus Christ, and hopes of pardon, when they observed how the Lord of life and glory, to cure our pride, not only humbled himself by taking upon himself the likeness of sinful flesh, but by deriving his descent from sinners, and inspiring the holy evangelist to record the same to all posterity. (Haydock)
Mat 1:6 from St. John Chrysostom's first Homil. upon the first chapter of St. Matthew: "How, you say, does it appear that Christ descended from David? For if he be born not of man, but of a virgin, concerning whose genealogy nothing is said, how shall we know that he is of the family of David? We have here two difficulties to explain. Why is the genealogy of the Virgin passed over in silence, and why is Joseph's mentioned, as Christ did not descend from him? ... How shall we know that the Virgin is descended from David? Hear the words of the Almighty addressed to the archangel Gabriel: 'Go to a virgin espoused to a man, whose name is Joseph, of the house and family of David.' What could you wish plainer that this, when you hear that the Virgin is of the family of David? Hence it also appears that Joseph was of the same house, for there was a law which commanded them not to marry any one but of the same tribe. ... But whether these words, of the house and family of David, be applied to the Virgin or to Joseph, the argument is equally strong. For if he was of the family of David, he did not take a wife but out of the same tribe, from which he had descended. Perhaps you will say he transgressed this law. But the evangelist has prevented such a suspicion, by testifying beforehand that Joseph was a just man. Beware how you attach crime to him, whose virtue is thus publicly acknowledged. ... It was not the custom among the Hebrews to keep the genealogies of women. The evangelist conformed to this custom, that he might not at the very beginning of the gospel offend by transgressing ancient rites, and introducing novelty."
Joram begot Ozias, three generations are omitted, as we find 2 Paraliponenon xxii; for there, Joram begot Ochozias, and Ochozias begot Joas, and Joas begot Amazias, and Amazias begot Ozias. This omission is not material, the design of St. Matthew being only to shew the Jews that Jesus, their Messias, was of the family of David; and he is equally the son, or the descendent of David, though the said three generations be left out: for Ozias may be called the son of Joram, though Joram was his great-grandfather. (Witham) --- It is thought that St. Matthew omitted these three kings, Ochozias, Joas, and Amazias, to preserve the distribution of his genealogy into three parts, each of fourteen generations; and, perhaps, also on account of their impiety, or rather on account of the sentence pronounced against the house of Achab, from which they were descended by their mother Athalia. (3 Kings xxi. 21.) (Calmet)
Josias begot Jechonias, &c. The genealogy of Christ, as it appears by the 17th verse, is divided by the evangelist into thrice fourteen generations, and so it is to contain 42 persons. The first class of fourteen begins with Abraham, and ends with David. The second class begins with Solomon, and ends with Jechonias. The third class is supposed to begin with Salathiel, and to end, says St. Jerome, with our Saviour Christ. But thus we shall only find in the third class thirteen generations, and in all only forty-one, instead of forty-two. Not to mention in these short notes other interpretations, the conjecture of St. Epiphanius seems to most probable, that we are to understand two Jechonias's, the father and the son, who had the same name. So that the true reading should be, Josias begot Jechonias and his brethren, and Jechonias begot Jechonias, and Jechonias begot Salathiel. Thus Jechonias named in the 12th verse is not the same, but the son of him that was named in the 11th verse; and from Jechonias the son, begins the third class, and so Christ himself will be the last or 14th person in that last series or class. There are several difficulties about reconciling this genealogy in St. Matthew with that in St. Luke, chap. iii. But without insisting on all the particulars in these short notes, I hope it may suffice to take notice, that no one can reasonably doubt that both the evangelists copied out the genealogical tables, as they were then extant, and carefully preserved by the Jews, and especially by those families that were of the tribe of Juda, and of the family of David, of which the Messias was to be born. For if the evangelists had neither falsified, or made any mistake as to these genealogies, the Jews undoubtedly would have objected this against their gospels, which they never did. (Witham) --- The difficulties here are: 1. Why does St. Matthew give the genealogy of Joseph and not of Mary? 2. How is it inferred that Jesus is descended from David and Solomon, because Joseph is the son of David? 3. How can Joseph have two men for his father, Jacob of the race of Solomon, and Heli of the race of Nathan? To the 1st it is generally answered, that it was not customary with the Jews to draw out the genealogies of women; to the 2nd, that Jesus being the son of Joseph, either by adoption, or simply as the son of Mary his wife, he entered by that circumstance into all the rights of the family of Joseph; moreover, Mary was of the same tribe and family of Joseph, and thus the heir of the branch of Solomon marrying with the heiress of the branch of Nathan, the rights of the two families united in Joseph and Mary, were transmitted through them to Jesus, their son and heir; to the 3rd, that Jacob was the father of Joseph according to nature, and Heli his father according to law; or that Joseph was the son of the latter by adoption, and of the former by nature. (Haydock) --- In the transmigration,  transportation to Babylon; i.e. about the time the Jews were carried away captives to Babylon. For Josias died before their transportation. See 4 Kings xxiv. (Witham) --- Some think we are to read: Josias begot Joakim and his brethren; and Joakim begot Joachim, or Jechonias. Jechonias was son to Joakim, and grandson to Josias. The brothers of Jechonias are not known, but those of Joakim are known. (1 Paralipomenon iii. 15, 16.) Besides this reading give the number 14. (Haydock) --- St. Jerome says that Jechonias, the son of Josias, is a different person from Jechonias who begot Salathiel, for the latter was son of the former; see Paralipomenon iii. where it is said that Zorobabel was son of Phadaia; but Phadaia is the same as Salatheil. (Estius) --- Mat. Polus affirms that every one the least conversant in Jewish story, must know that several genealogies which appear to contradict each other, do not in reality. (Synop. Crit. ver. 4, p. 12.)
See St. Epiphanius hær. vi. pag. 21. Edit. Petav. Greek: epeide tines &c.
In transmigratione, Greek: epi tes metoikesias, i.e. circa tempus transmigrationis.
Mat 1:12 the text of the first book of Paralipomenon iii. 17, 19. it appears that Zorobabel was grandson to Salathiel. In comparing the present genealogy with that of St. Luke, (chap. iii.) we find that in this last part St. Matthew has suppressed many generations, to bring the list to the number 14; for there are a greater number from Zorobabel to Jesus Christ in St. Luke, but in a different branch. (Bible de Vence) --- The evangelist was well aware that the suppressed names could be easily supplied from the Jewish records; and that every person could reply most satisfactorily to any objection on that head, who was the least acquainted with the Jewish tables. In the first fourteen of these generations, we see the family of David rising to the throne; in the second, a race of kings descending from him; in the last, the royal family descending to a poor carpenter. Yet, when every human appearance of restoring the kingdom to David's house was at an end, Jesus arose to sit on his father's throne, (Luke i. 32.) and of his kingdom there shall be no end. (Haydock)
The husband of Mary. The evangelist gives us rather the pedigree of St. Joseph, than that of the blessed Virgin, to conform to the custom of the Hebrews, who in their genealogies took no notice of women: but as they near akin, the pedigree of the one sheweth that of the other. (Challoner) --- Joseph the husband of Mary. So he is again called, ver. 19: but in ver. 18, we read, when Mary his mother was espoused to Joseph. These different expressions of being husband, and being espoused, have occasioned different interpretations. Some think that Joseph and the blessed Virgin were truly married at the time of Christ's conception: others, that they were only then espoused, or engaged by a promise to marry afterwards. St. Jerome says, when you hear the name of husband, do not from thence imagine them to be married, but remember the custom of the Scriptures, according to which, they who are espoused only, are called husband and wives. (Witham) --- That Jesus, who is called Christ, was of the seed of David, is also evident, as St. Augustine affirms from various texts of the holy Scriptures, as in the epistle to the Romans, where St. Paul, (chap. i.) speaking of the Son of God, says, who was made to Him of the seed of David, according to the flesh. See also the promises made to David, 2 Kings vii. Psalms lxxxviii. and cxxxi. and spoken of Solomon, as a figure of Jesus Christ. (Estius)
Joseph virum Mariæ, Greek: ton anera Marias. And Ver. 19, vir ejus, Greek: aner autes. But Ver. 18, Greek: mnesteutheises, desponsata, Greek: mnesteuomai, is not properly the same as Greek: gamein.
Mat 1:18 account of the birth of Jesus Christ follows his genealogy. From these words, "before they came together," Helvidius and others have started objections, which have been answered long ago by St. Jerome, where he shews in many examples from Scripture, that the words before and until do not signify what happened afterwards; for that point is left indefinite, but only what was done before, or not done. Thus when it is said, Sit thou at my right hand, till I make thine enemies they footstool, Psalm cix, by no means signifies, that after the subjection of his enemies, the Son of God is no longer to sit at the right hand of his Father. In common conversation, when we say that a man died before he reached his 30th year, we do not mean that he afterwards attained it. Or, should we say that Helvidius died before he did penance, we cannot mean that he afterwards did penance: the same conclusion should be deduced from the words, "before they came together," the end being accomplished by the power of the operation of the Holy Ghost, without their going together. If we should advance, that such a man was cured before he went to a physician, the natural inference would be, that he did not go to a physician at all. Thus also in the language of Scripture, the word first-begotten does not mean after whom others were born, but before whom no one was born, where there were further issue or not. And the reason is, because the law required that a sacrifice should be offered for the first-born, and that he should be redeemed very soon after his birth; nor did it allow the parents to wait and see if any other son should be born. (Estius) --- True and perfect marriage, and continual living in the same, without knowing each other. (St. Augustine, lib. ii. Consen. Evang. chap. i.) (Bristow)
Mat 1:19 Joseph her husband, knowing her strict virtue, was surprised at this her pregnancy, but "being a just man," and not willing to expose her, by denouncing her, or giving her a bill of divorce, he had a mind to dismiss her privately, committing the cause to God. Let us learn from Joseph to be ever tender of our neighbour's reputation, and never to entertain any injurious thoughts, or any suspicions to his prejudice. (Haydock)
Fear not to take, &c. i.e., fear not to marry her, if we suppose them not yet married, or if married already, the sense is, fear not to keep and remain with thy chaste wife; lay aside all thoughts of dismissing and leaving her. (Witham) --- As the incarnation of the Son of God was effected by the whole blessed Trinity, it may be asked why this operation is peculiarly attributed to the Holy Ghost, not only here, but in Luke ii., and in the apostles' creed? The answer is, because as power is attributed to the Father, wisdom to the Son, so goodness is attributed to the Holy Ghost, and the gifts of grace which proceed from it. (Estius in different location)
Jesus . . . he shall save, &c. The characteristic name of Saviour was peculiar to the Messias, by which he was distinguished, as well as by the adorable name of Jesus. The expectations of both Jew and Gentile looked forward to a saviour. St. Augustine, in the 18th book, 23d chapter, de Civitate Die, introduces a curious anecdote. He mentions there, that he received from the eloquent and learned Proconsul Flactianus, a book containing in Greek the verses of one of the Sybils, which related to the coming of Christ. The substance of them is much the same as occurs in the prophecies of Isaiah, from which Virgil has likewise copied into his Pollio, many of the sublime thoughts which we find in that beautiful eclogue. It is remarkable that of the initials of these verses, St. Augustine had formed an acrostic to the following import, Greek: Iesous Christos Deos huios soter; that is, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, Saviour. (Haydock)
Mat 1:22 Greeks in general, after St. John Chrysostom, look upon this as a continuation of the angel's speech to St. Joseph. The other Fathers and commentators think it a reflection of the evangelist.
Behold a virgin, &c. The Jews sometimes objected, as we see in St. Justin's dialogue with Tryphon, that the Hebrew word alma, in the prophet Isaias, signified no more than a young woman. But St. Jerome tells us that alma signifies a virgin kept close up. Let the Jews, says he, shew me any place in which the Hebrew word alma, is applied to any one that is not a virgin, and I will own my ignorance. Besides the very circumstances in the text of the prophet, are more than a sufficient confutation of this Jewish exposition; for there a sign, or miracle, is promised to Achaz; and what miracle would it be for a young woman to have a child, when she had ceased to be a virgin? (Witham) --- How happens it that nowhere in the gospels, or in any other part, do we find Christ called Emmanuel? I answer, that in the Greek expression the name is given for the thing signified; and the meaning is: He shall be a true Emmanuel, i.e. a God with us, true God and true man. (Estius) --- The text says, they shall call, i.e. all men shall look upon Him as an Emmanuel. Again, his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty, the Prince of peace, &c. i.e. He shall be all these, not so much nominally, as really and in effect. (Haydock)
Ecce Virgo, Greek: idou e parthenos. So is it read, not only here in St. Matthew but in the Septuagint Isaias vii. St. Hier. [St. Jerome] lib. 1. Cont. Jovin. tom. iv. parte 2. pag. 174. Ostendant mihi, ubi hoc Verbo (Alma) appellentur et nuptæ, et imperitiam confitebor.
Mat 1:24 heretic Helvidius argues from this text, and from what we read in the gospel of Christ's brethren, that Christ had brothers, and Mary other sons. But it is evident that in the style of the Scriptures, they who were no more than cousins were called brothers and sisters. (Haydock)
Mat 1:25 note on ver. 18. --- St. Jerome assures us, that St. Joseph always preserved his virginal chastity. It is "of faith" that nothing contrary thereto ever took place with his chaste spouse, the blessed Virgin Mary. St. Joseph was given her by heaven to be the protector of her chastity, to secure her from calumnies in the birth of the Son of God, to assist her in her flight into Egypt, &c. &c. We cannot sufficiently admire the modest reserve of both parties. Mary does not venture to explain to her troubled husband the mystery of her pregnancy; and Joseph is afraid of mentioning his uneasiness and doubts, for fear of troubling her delicate mind and wounding her exquisite feelings. So great modesty, reserve and silence, are sure to be approved by heaven; and God sends an angel to Joseph in his sleep, to dissipate his doubts, and to expound to him the mystery of the incarnation. (Haydock)