Matthew 1:25
And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS.
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(25) Till she had brought forth her first-born son.—The word “firstborn” is not found in the best MSS. The questions which meet us here, unprofitable as they are, cannot be altogether passed over. What bearing have these words on the widespread belief of Christendom in the perpetual maidenhood of Mary? On what grounds does that belief itself rest?

1:18-25 Let us look to the circumstances under which the Son of God entered into this lower world, till we learn to despise the vain honours of this world, when compared with piety and holiness. The mystery of Christ's becoming man is to be adored, not curiously inquired into. It was so ordered that Christ should partake of our nature, yet that he should be pure from the defilement of original sin, which has been communicated to all the race of Adam. Observe, it is the thoughtful, not the unthinking, whom God will guide. God's time to come with instruction to his people, is when they are at a loss. Divine comforts most delight the soul when under the pressure of perplexed thoughts. Joseph is told that Mary should bring forth the Saviour of the world. He was to call his name Jesus, a Saviour. Jesus is the same name with Joshua. And the reason of that name is clear, for those whom Christ saves, he saves from their sins; from the guilt of sin by the merit of his death, and from the power of sin by the Spirit of his grace. In saving them from sin, he saves them from wrath and the curse, and all misery, here and hereafter. Christ came to save his people, not in their sins, but from their sins; and so to redeem them from among men, to himself, who is separate from sinners. Joseph did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, speedily, without delay, and cheerfully, without dispute. By applying the general rules of the written word, we should in all the steps of our lives, particularly the great turns of them, take direction from God, and we shall find this safe and comfortable.Knew her not - The doctrine of the virginity of Mary before the birth of Jesus is a doctrine of the Scriptures, and is very important to be believed. But the Bible does not affirm that she had no children afterward. Indeed, all the accounts in the New Testament lead us to suppose that she did have them. See the notes at Matthew 13:55-56. The language here evidently implies that she lived as the wife of Joseph after the birth of Jesus.

Her first-born son - Her oldest son, or the one who had the privilege of birthright by the law. This does not of necessity imply that she had other children, though it seems probable. It was the name given to the son which was born first, whether there were others or not.

His name Jesus - This was given by divine appointment, Matthew 1:21. It was conferred upon him on the eighth day, at the time of his circumcision, Luke 2:21.

25. And knew her not till she had brought forth her first-born son: and he called his name JESUS—The word "till" does not necessarily imply that they lived on a different footing afterwards (as will be evident from the use of the same word in 1Sa 15:35; 2Sa 6:23; Mt 12:20); nor does the word "first-born" decide the much-disputed question, whether Mary had any children to Joseph after the birth of Christ; for, as Lightfoot says, "The law, in speaking of the first-born, regarded not whether any were born after or no, but only that none were born before." (See on [1205]Mt 13:55, 56). Ver. 24,25. The will of God (as we heard) was revealed to Joseph in a dream. It is God that giveth a power to sleep, and a power to awake; therefore it is said, being raised from sleep, he showed both his faith and obedience; his faith in the Divine revelation, a certainty of which he had doubtless by some extraordinary Divine impression, and his obedience to the Divine precept.

He took unto him his wife, that is, he took her unto his house, (for betrothed virgins used to abide at their own friends’ houses till the consummation of the marriage), and owned her as his wife, yet not fully using her as such, for the text saith he

knew her not (a modest phrase used from the beginning of the world, as appears from Genesis 4:1, to express the conjugal act)

till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. Some make a great stir in determining whether he knew her afterwards, yea or no. Some of the ancients were stiff in their opinion that he did not, so are the popish writers, and many protestant interpreters. Mr. Calvin I think determines best, that none will move such a question, but such as are unwarrantably curious; nor contend for either part, but such as are unreasonably quarrelsome. For as, on the one side, none can conclude that she had more children from the word

till, further than they can conclude, from Psalm 110:1, that Christ shall not for ever sit at his Father’s right hand, (the word until being a particle only exclusive of a preceding time, not affirming the thing in future time), nor doth the term firstborn conclude any born afterward; so, on the other side, there are no cogent arguments to prove that Mary had no more children by Joseph. We read of the brother of our Lord, Galatians 1:19, and of his mother and his "brethren," Matthew 12:47; and though it be true brethren may signify kinsmen, according to the Hebrew dialect, yet that it doth so in these texts cannot be proved. The Holy Ghost had made use of the virgin for the production of the Messias; why after this her womb should be shut up, and Joseph take her home to be his wife, and not use her as such I cannot tell, nor yet what reproach it could be to Mary or to our Saviour, marriage being God’s ordinance, and the undefiled bed honourable: and those who think our Saviour would have been dishonoured in any others lying in the same bed after him, seem to forget how much he humbled himself in lying in that bed first, and then in a stable and a manger. We know he knew her not till Christ was born, whether he did afterward or no we are willingly ignorant because God hath not told us.

And he called his name Jesus: this is added to declare his obedience to the command received by the angel. We shall meet with more circumstances relating to the birth of Christ when we come to the two first chapters of Luke. And knew her not,.... Or "but he knew her not", answering to the Hebrew that is, had carnal knowledge of her, or copulation with her, though his wife. The words are an euphemism, or a modest way of expressing the conjugal act, and is a very ancient one, see Genesis 4:1 and what has been used in nations and languages. And this conduct of his was necessary,

till she had brought forth her firstborn; that it might be manifest not only that she conceived, being a virgin, but also that she brought forth, being a virgin: for both are signified in the prophecy before related, "a virgin shall conceive and bring forth a son"; which is all one as if it had been said, a virgin shall conceive, and "a virgin" shall bring forth a son. The "firstborn" is that which first opens the womb of its mother, whether any follows after or not, Exodus 13:12. Christ is called Mary's firstborn, because she had none before him, whether she had any after him or not; for her perpetual virginity seems to be no necessary article of faith: for when it is said,

Joseph knew her not till she had brought forth, the meaning is certain that he knew her not before. But whether he afterwards did or not, is not so manifest, nor is it a matter of any great importance; the word "until" may be so understood as referring to the time preceding, that the contrary cannot be affirmed of the time following, 2 Samuel 6:23 and which may be the case here, and is indeed generally understood so; and it also may be considered as only expressive of the intermediate time, as in Matthew 5:26 as Beza observes. Christ was "her firstborn" as he was man, and the firstborn of God, or his first and only begotten, as the Son of God. It is further observed, that she "called his name Jesus", as was foretold to her, or ordered her by the Angel, Luke 1:31 and to Joseph, Matthew 1:21.

And knew her not {l} till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS.

(l) The word till, in the Hebrew language, gives us to understand that a thing will not come to pass in time to come: as Michal had no children till her death day, 2Sa 6:23. And in the last chapter of this evangelist: Behold, I am with you till the end of the world.

Matthew 1:25. Ἐγίνωσκεν] He had no sexual intercourse with her (imperfect). In this sense ידע is used by the Hebrews, and γινώσκειν by the Greeks of a later age (often in Plutarch); also the Latin novi and cognosco (Justin, v. 2, xxvii. 3; Ovid. Meta. iv. 594; comp. Caesar, de bello Gallico, vi. 21 : feminae notitiam habuisse). See Wetstein and Kypke. Since Epiphanius, Jerome, Chrysostom, Theophylact, Luther, Calvin, very many expositors have maintained, with a view to support the perpetual virginity of Mary, but in opposition to the straightforward and impartial character of the narrative, that Joseph, even after the birth of Jesus, had no sexual intercourse with Mary.[365]

But (1) from ἕως οὗ of itself no inference can be drawn either in favour of or against such a view, as in all statements with “until” the context alone must decide whether, with regard to that which had not formerly occurred, it is or is not intended to convey that it afterwards took place. But (2) that it is here conceived as subsequently taking place, is so clear of itself to every unprejudiced reader from the idea of the marriage arrangement, that Matthew must have expressed the thought, “not only untilbut afterwards also he had not,” if such had been his meaning. That he did not, however, mean this is clearly shown (3) by his use of πρωτότοκον, which is neither equivalent to ΠΡῶΤΟς ΚΑῚ ΜΌΝΟς (Theophylact, Euth. Zigabenus), nor does it designate the first-born, without assuming others born afterwards (so formerly most expositors). The latter meaning is untenable, because the evangelist employed πρωτότοκον as an historian, from the standpoint of the time when his Gospel was composed, and consequently could not have used it had Jesus been present to his historical consciousness as the only son of Mary. But Jesus, according to Matthew (Matthew 12:46 ff., Matthew 13:55 f.), had also brothers and sisters, amongst whom He was the firstborn. Lucian’s remark (Demonax, 29), speaking of Agathocles, is correct: εἰ μὲν πρῶτος, οὐ μόνος· εἰ δὲ μόνος, οὐ πρῶτος. (4) All a priori suppositions are untenable, from which the perpetual virginity of Mary is said to appear,—such as that of Euth. Zigabenus: πῶς ἂν ἐπεχείρησεν, ἢ καὶ ὅλως ἐνεθυμήθη γνῶναι τὴν συλλαβοῦσαν ἐκ πνεύματος ἁγίου καὶ τοιοῦτον δοχεῖον γεγενημένην; of Olshausen: “it is manifest that Joseph, after such experiences, might with good reason believe that his marriage with Mary was intended for another purpose than that of begetting children.” Hofmann has the correct meaning (Schriftbeweis, II. 2, p. 405), so also Thiersch, Wieseler, Bleek, Ewald, Laurent, neut. Stud. p. 153 ff., Schenkel, Keim, Kahnis, I. p. 426 f. Comp. on the passage before us, Diogenes Laertius, 3:22, where it is said of Plato’s father: ὅθεν καθαρὰν γάμου φυλάξαι ἕως τῆς ἀποκυήσεως; see also Wetstein; Paulus, exeget. Handb. I. p. 168 f.; Strauss, I. p. 209 ff.

ἐκάλεσε] is not to be referred to Mary, so that ἝΩς ΟὟ ἜΤΕΚΕΚΑῚ ἘΚΆΛΕΣΕ would be taken together, as Paulus, after some older interpreters, maintains, but to Joseph, as is certain after Matthew 1:21; comp. Grotius.

[365] As a logical consequence of this supposition, Joseph was made to be a worn-out old man (Thilo, ad cod. Apocr. I. p. 361; Keim, Gesch. Jes. I. p. 365), and his children were regarded either as children of a former marriage (Origen, Epiphanius, and many other Fathers), or the brothers of Jesus were transformed into cousins (Jerome). Of any advanced age in the case of Joseph there is no trace in the N. T. In John 6:42, the Jews express themselves in such a way that Joseph might be conceived as still alive at the time.Matthew 1:25. καὶ οὐκ ἐγίνωσκενυἱόν: absolute habitual (note the imperfect) abstinence from marital intercourse, the sole purpose of the hastened marriage being to legitimise the child.—ἕως: not till then, and afterwards? Here comes in a quæstio vexata of theology. Patristic and catholic authors say: not till then and never at all, guarding the sacredness of the virgin’s womb. ἕως does not settle the question. It is easy to cite instances of its use as fixing a limit up to which a specified event did not occur, when as a matter of fact it did not occur at all. E.g., Genesis 8:7; the raven returned not till the waters were dried up; in fact, never returned (Schanz). But the presumption is all the other way in the case before us. Subsequent intercourse was the natural, if not the necessary, course of things. If the evangelist had felt as the Catholics do, he would have taken pains to prevent misunderstanding.—υἱόν: the extended reading (T. R.) is imported from Luke 2:7, where there are no variants. πρωτότοκον is not a stumbling-block to the champions of the perpetual virginity, because the first may be the only. Euthymius quotes in proof Isaiah 44:6 : “I am the first, and I am the last, and beside Me there is no God.”—καὶ ἐκάλεσεν, he (not she) called the child Jesus, the statement referring back to the command of the angel to Joseph. Wünsche says that before the Exile the mother, after the Exile the father, gave the name to the child at circumcision (Neue Beiträge zur Erläuterung der Evangelien, p. 11).25. knew her not till] This expression cannot be considered as in any way decisive of the question, whether the Virgin Mary had or had not children besides our blessed Lord.

her firstborn son] The oldest MSS. omit the word “first-born:” translate “a son.”Matthew 1:25. Καὶ, and) St Matthew says “and,” not “but.” He took her, and knew her not: both by the command of the angel.—οὐκ ἐγίνωσκεν αὐτὴν, ἓως οὗ, knew her not until) It does not follow from this ἓως (until) that he did so afterwards. It is sufficient however, that her virginity should be established up to the time of her delivery. With regard to the remainder of her married life, the reader is left to form his own opinion. The angel did not expressly forbid Joseph to have conjugal intercourse with her: but he perceived such a command to be implied by the very nature of the case.—ἓως οὗ ἔτεκε τὸν υἱὸν, until she brought forth the Son) A very old Egyptian version has only these words, without the addition of “her first-born:[69] according to which reading, the address of the angel, the declaration of the prophet, and the act of Joseph [in naming Him as the angel directed] are expressed in words which exactly correspond together.—sc., “She shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus,”—“She shall bring forth a Son, and they shall call his name Jesus,”—She brought forth TON Υἱὸν, THE Son, and he [Joseph][70] called His name Jesus. The article TON (the) has a relative value here, and refers to Matthew 1:21 with the same meaning, “until she brought forth THAT Son” The same reading is found in Codex Barberini I. (by which name we suppose the celebrated Vatican MS. to be intended in this place), and we have assured ourselves that beyond doubt such must have been originally that of the Latin Vulgate. For Helvidius,[71] and Jerome in the commencement of his book against him, thus quote the words of St Matthew—et non cognovit eam, donec peperit filium suum, i.e., and he knew her not till she brought forth her Son; but more commonly they quote thus donec peperit filium, i.e., until she brought forth ([72] or the) Son, without the addition of either suum (her) or primogenitum (first-born); nor can it be argued, that they have in these instances intended to abridge the text, since Jerome in one place thus quotes the passage in full, “Exurgens autem—accepit uxorem suam et non cognovit eam, donec peperit filium: et vocavit nomen ejus Jesum,” i.e., But on rising from sleep—he received his wife, and knew her not until she had brought forth [the] Son: and he called His name Jesus.[73]

[69] The disputed words are found in E. M. Tregelles favours the omission.—(I. B.)

[70] See Text v. 25, “He called his name Jesus.”—ED.

[71] A famous Arian disciple of Auxentius. He lived in the fourth century.—(I. B.)

[72] Vercellensis of the old ‘Itala,’ or Latin Version before Jerome’s, probably made in Africa, in the second century: the Gospels.

[73] BZ. Memph. Theb. b.c. read only ὑιόν (without the article or the words following). Dd. and Vulg. read as the Rec. Text. Lachmann and Tischendorf follow the former reading, as resting on the weightiest authorities.—ED.

Both these writers, after a long dispute upon this passage of St Matthew, seek for a fresh argument grounded on the appellation πρωτότοκος, first-born, not from this passage of St Matthew, but solely from Luke 2:7. If the Codex Barberini I., and the Coptic version already mentioned, obtained this reading from Greek MSS., their testimony is on that ground of great weight: if, on the other hand, they obtained it from Latin sources, they greatly corroborate the genuine reading of the very ancient Latin version. The words αὐτῆς τὸν πρωτότοκον, “her first-born,” appear to have been introduced into St Matthew, from the parallel passage in St Luke already cited: and the very idea of the Song of Solomon of a Virgin, implies that He must have been the first-born in a pre-eminent and strictly singular manner. [Such as He is expressly declared to be in Luke 2:7, Vers. Germ.]

In some passages our criticism takes a different view of matters from what it did formerly. Yet no one can fairly accuse me of inconstancy; for I do not confine myself to those views, which have gained acceptance by long usage (though I do not reject such assistance where truth requires it): but I proceed to draw forth, by degrees, from their concealment, those things which have been buried out of sight.

Ἐκάλεσε, he called) i.e., Joseph did so; as we learn from Matthew 1:21.Verse 25. - And knew her not. The tense (ἐγίνωσκεν) brings out the continuance of Joseph's obedient self-restraint. "He was dwelling in holiness with her" (Tatian's 'Diatess.'). Till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. Thus the angel's promise is so far fulfilled. A son (Revised Version); "her firstborn," though found as early as Tatian's.' Diatess.,' having been added from Luke 2:7. Though no great stress can be laid on the word "till" (ἕως [οϋ], Basil refers to Genesis 8:7; comp. also Psalm exit. 8), nor even on "firstborn," which suggested to a Jew rather consecration (Luke 2:23) than the birth of other children (comp. Bishop Lightfoot on Galatians, p. 270, edit. 1890); yet it is a reasonable inference from the passage as a whole that the οὐκ ἐγίνωσκεν was not continued after the birth of the Son. Whether, however, other children were born to Mary or not, the true text of this passage gives no hint. And he called his name JESUS (ver. 21, note). Observe that this name had already occurred in Joseph's family (Luke 3:29). It is, however, now given in sign of Joseph's faith in him and his work.

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