Matthew , Chapter 2


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Matthew 2

(2:1a) "Jesus was born in Bethlehem ... in the days of Herod the king."
The Herod that is referred to here is Herod the Great, as is made clear in verse 22, which refers to Herod's son, Archalaus. Since Herod the Great died in 4 BCE, this dates Jesus's birth to no later than that year. But the gospel of Luke (2:2) says that Cyrenius (Quirinius) was governor of Syria when Mary was pregnant with Jesus. Since Quirinius was appointed governor in 6 CE we know that Jesus was born sometime before 4 BCE and sometime after 6 CE -- which, if true, would indeed make it a miraculous birth.

(2:1b-2) "There came wise men from the east"
The Revised English Bible translates this as, "After his birth astrologers from the east arrived in Jerusalem...." If this translation is correct, then Matthew's gospel seems to approve of astrology.
Strange Flesh: What about the magi?
Queer Epiphany: Three kings or three queens?

(2:5-6) "In Bethlehem of Judaea"

Matthew claims that Jesus's birth in Bethlehem fulfils a prophecy from Micah 5:2. But this is unlikely since:

  • "Bethlehem Ephratah" in Micah 5:2 refers not to a town, but to a clan: the clan of Bethlehem, who was the son of Caleb's second wife, Ephrathah (1 Chr.2:18, 2:50-52, 4:4).

  • The prophecy (if that is what it is) does not refer to the Messiah, but rather to a military leader, as can be seen from verse 5:6. This leader is supposed to defeat the Assyrians, which, of course, Jesus never did.

Whatever the correct interpretation of Micah 5:2 may be, the author of Matthew thought that it required the Messiah to be born in Bethlehem. So he found a way to make that happen, as did the author of Luke, probably for the same reason. They achieved it in different ways, however. Matthew's gospel has Joseph and Mary living in a house in Bethlehem when Mary becomes pregnant; Luke has them living in Nazareth and traveling Bethlehem because of a census. Neither Mark nor John mention anything about a birth in Bethlehem, although the author of the gospel of John was aware that some expected the Messiah to be born there (John 7:41-42).

(2:9) "The star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was."
If the star "went before them," leading them to Bethlehem, then it couldn't have been a star or any other astronomical object or event. But Matthew couldn't have known that. Everyone at the time thought that stars were just little points of light a short distance above the earth. It'd be no problem to have one hover above a particular place for a while.

(2:11) "And when they were come into the house"
Was Jesus born in a house or a manger?
Where did Joseph and Mary live before the birth of Jesus?

(2:14) "He took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt:" According to Matthew, Mary, and the baby Jesus left for Egypt soon after Jesus' birth, yet Luke (2:39) says they went directly to Nazareth.
Did Jesus, Mary, and Joseph go to Egypt or Nazareth?

(2:15) "Out of Egypt I have called my son."
Matthew claims that the flight of Jesus' family to Egypt is a fulfillment of Hosea 11:1. But Hosea 11:1 is not a prophecy at all, as is clear when the entire verse is quoted ("When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt."). It is a reference to the Hebrew exodus from Egypt and has nothing to do with Jesus. Matthew tries to hide this fact by quoting only the last part of the verse.

(2:16) "Herod ... slew all the children that were in Bethlehem ... from two years old and under." Herod kills all boys in and around Bethlehem that are two years old and under. Such a massacre would certainly have been noted by contemporary historians. Yet not even Josephus, who documented Herod's life in detail, mentioned this event.

(2:17) "Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet"
Matthew quotes Jeremiah 31:15, claiming that it was a prophecy of King Herod's alleged slaughter of the children in and around Bethlehem after the birth of Jesus. But this verse refers to the Babylonian captivity, as is clear by reading the next two verses (16 and 17), and, thus, has nothing to do with Herod's massacre.

(2:23) "He shall be called a Nazarene."
Matthew claims this was a fulfillment of prophecy, yet such a prophecy is not found anywhere in the Old Testament.

2:1 Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,
2:2 Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.
2:3 When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.
2:4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born.
2:5 And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet,
2:6 And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.
2:7 Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared.
2:8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.
2:9 When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.
2:10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.
2:11 And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh.
2:12 And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.
2:13 And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him.
2:14 When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt:
2:15 And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son.
2:16 Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently enquired of the wise men.
2:17 Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying,
2:18 In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.
2:19 But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph in Egypt,
2:20 Saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel: for they are dead which sought the young child's life.
2:21 And he arose, and took the young child and his mother, and came into the land of Israel.
2:22 But when he heard that Archelaus did reign in Judaea in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither: notwithstanding, being warned of God in a dream, he turned aside into the parts of Galilee:
2:23 And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.

(2:1) "Jesus was born in Bethlehem ... in the days of Herod the king."
When was Jesus born?

(2:2) "We have seen his star in the east."
Is astrology condemned by the bible?

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Why Did Matthew Need Dead Babies? Earl C. Beach

Slaughter of the Dangerous Children Joseph Francis Alward

Christian Responses
Mt.2:2 - The Wise Men and Astrology
Matthew's Use of Micah 5:2
Matthew 2:14-22 - The Sojourn in Egypt
Matthew 2:15 and Hosea 11:1
Matthew 2:16 & the Infant-Slaughter at Bethlehem
Matthew 2:17-18 - Weeping in Ramah
Matthew 2:23 - Jesus the Nazarene

The Annotated Skeptic's Annotated Bible
There in the way of Ephrath; the same is Bethlehem (Matthew 2)

SAB Author Answered
SAB Author Answered