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Matthew 1:25 - Is it possible the Greek is mispunctuated?

Postby Walker » Mon Apr 18, 2016 11:48 am

Is it possible that the Greek texts of Matthew 1:25 in print are mispunctuated?

Isaiah 7:14 uses the feminine verb form to indicate that Mary names the baby. Every English version of Matthew 1:25 says that Joseph named the baby.

Would a better translation read, "...but knew her not until she had [both] given birth to a son and called his name Jesus"?

There is one item at stake. If it is prophesied in Isaiah and fulfilled in Matthew that Mary named the baby, then Isaiah's wife is disqualified from being a partial fulfillment of Isaiah 7:14, because Isaiah 8:3 cites Isaiah named the baby.

Re: Matthew 1:25 - Is it possible the Greek is mispunctuated

Postby jimwalton » Sun Feb 05, 2017 10:46 pm

First of all, the ancient Greek texts were not punctuated. The ancients manuscripts were uncials (all caps), and not only didn’t punctuate, but often didn’t even leave spaces between words. The punctuations we put on the texts have been added, since the words and grammar are, for the most part, clear and indisputable.

So saying, let’s dig into the grammar (as well as the context) a little. Both in Matthew 1.21 & 25, the verbs “to call” are gender neutral. “You shall call” and “he/she/it called”. Grammatically it could apply to anyone. Since it’s Joseph’s visionary dream, both of them contextually refer to Joseph. There’s no reason to think it wasn’t a joint venture, though, since in Luke 1.31 Mary is told by the angel to name the child “Jesus”. Generally, culturally, it was the husband’s prerogative and privilege to name the child, as we see in Luke 1.62. Interestingly, we see John’s mother jumping in to participate in the naming of John in Luke 1.60—another joint action. In other words, there’s no particular driving motive to have to separate out which one named Jesus, since they had both been divinely directed to name the child the same name: Jesus.

Even in Matthew 1.23, Matthew quotes Isaiah 7.14 and uses the 3rd person plural pronoun “they.”

Technically, when we get right down to it, God named the baby. Both Mary and Joseph, so it seems, were expected to follow through with the legalities and put “Jesus” on his birth certificate, so to speak.

As far as the Isaiah prophecy, the words “will call” are 3rd person singular feminine, but when Matthew (1.23) quotes Isaiah, he changes the “she” to “they,” generalizing the prophecy in a form that suits its larger and final fulfillment: All men will know him as “God With Us” (Heb. 1.2; Phil. 2.9-11). In other words, the New Testament reflects the significance of the Old Testament passage rather than its exegetical meaning. Therefore, taking all of what I’ve said under consideration, the text doesn’t have the constraints on it that your “one item at stake” tries to bring to bear.

Also remember that Isaiah 7.14 had no place in Jewish messianic expectationyria. Isaiah saw no more in what he was saying than that a woman of his era would have a son, and that in the course of a few years Ahaz would be delivered from Syria and Israel from Assyria. Matthew grabbed the Septuagint version of it and uses it (under the inspiration of the Spirit) to his own ends. So the woman of Isa. 7.14 (not necessarily Isaiah’s wife, but possibly a maiden in Ahaz’s own harem) isn’t disqualified, on many levels, from being a partial fulfillment of the prophecy.

Hope that helps. Ask more if ya want.

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