Continuing the series first posted by me on the Catholica Forum...
The Gospel of Matthew Part I
Note: I had intended to present the Gospel of Matthew as Part II of the Virgin Birth Doctrine but before getting too far into the New Testament, I find it necessary to preface my commentary with some brief introductory remarks so the following will serve as Part I of the Gospel of Matthew.
Matthew begins by telling us his purpose in writing his account of the life of Jesus. It is firstly to present the genealogy of "Jesus Christ". We often pass over the term "Jesus Christ" without according it proper attention.
We know that the word Christ is the English term for the Greek Χριστός (Khristós). It is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew מָשִׁיחַ (Mashiach) meaning "Anointed one".
Why is the word Khristós never translated into English? In the case of proper names like Jesus, a Latin/English transliteration of the Greek Iēsou, we should of course adhere as closely as possible to the original but Khristós is not a proper name: it is a descriptive title.
In every case in the Hebrew Scriptures, Mashiach is translated into English as "anointed". In the New Testament, however, where it refers to Jesus, its Greek equivalent Khristós is left untranslated and simply Anglicised? Why?
This deceptive measure has caused millions of Christians to believe, even today, that "Jesus Christ" is a double-barrelled name. But imagine what would have happened if the translators had done their job properly and the Greek word Khristós had been properly translated into English as "anointed".
The words "Jesus Christ" invite no question, but the words "Jesus anointed" immediately pose a question for the reader — anointed by whom and for what purpose? Translators have successfully masked the premise upon which every book of the New Testament is based.
Every time the word "Christ" appears as a descriptor of Jesus, the writer is affirming his belief that Jesus is the anointed one of God, the Hebrew Messiah.
If the term had been translated into English we would not be using phrases like "the total Christ" or "the cosmic Christ": we would instead be using phrases like "the total Anointed one" or "the cosmic Anointed one", again posing the question that should have been asked all along — anointed by whom and for what purpose?
Some theologians and biblical scholars assert that Paul used the word "Christ" as a name. If we translate it into English, however, we see that Paul was calling Jesus the "Anointed one", which is merely a shorthand way of referring to the man he at other times described more fully as the "Lord Jesus anointed".
This type of assertion deflects attention away from the fact that just like all the other writers of the New Testament, Paul was stating his belief that Jesus was the Hebrew Messiah, the Anointed one of God. They conveniently ignore the fact that Paul is fully immersed in the history of his own people, that all his teachings are set within a Hebrew covenant framework, and that according to Paul, for Christians to be accepted into this covenant, they must first recognise Abraham as their "father".
All the New Testament writers regarded Jesus as the Anointed one, the Messiah, born of the "seed of David according to the flesh" as Paul himself states, and it is only by artificial contrivance and theological sophistry that the clear intent of all similar passages can be ignored.
These theologians and biblical scholars are reluctant to fully grasp the implications arising from New Testament claims about the Hebrew Messiahship of Jesus, and they have an excellent reason for so doing. The reason is extremely simple — nowhere in the Hebrew Scriptures is there a single hint that the Messiah was to be anything other than a normal man anointed by God to be his instrument of intervention in human affairs.
(As far as non-canonical sources are concerned, it is asserted that in works such as 1 Enoch there were expectations of a divine, pre-existent Messiah but these assertions are merely the result of reading Jewish texts through the lens of Christian theology. See James VanderKam1 for full discussion of 1 Enoch.
As I wrote in one of my precursor posts to this series on the Catholica Forum, Great Expectations, "...by the time of Jesus, a great majority of the 'simple' people awaited the promised Messiah of the house of David who would deliver them from the tribulations of the Roman yoke and establish God's Kingdom of peace, justice and righteousness in its place." The Benedictus (Luke 1:68-79) is a magnificent encapsulation of the hopes of the Jewish people.
As we can see from all the above, in the very first words of the New Testament, Matthew affirms that Jesus is the Anointed one of God, the Israelite Messiah. The ramifications of New Testament affirmations such as this have been simply ignored by vast numbers of theologians and biblical scholars during these many centuries.
The New Testament writers state over and over again that the Jewish Jesus is the Messiah according to the Hebrew Scriptures. If so, then it follows naturally that Hellenist-inspired doctrines such as the Virgin-Birth/Incarnation/Trinity are simply not true, and are not to be found anywhere in the New Testament, as we shall presently see.
Note: Readers may like to refer back to my post in the Catholica forum on 7th June 2010, Great Expectations, for an overview of Hebrew Messianic Expectations in the time of Jesus.
1. James VanderKam, From Revelation to Canon: Studies in the Hebrew Bible and Second Temple Literature, Brill, 2002.