Exegesis of Matthew 2:1-18


Step I - (Initial) Acquaintance

A. Comparison of English or other published translations

NRSV and Peterson use the term "pay homage". I wish there was a more natural phrase. Literally, in Greek this conveys the message of "doing the dog thing" before someone. The idea is to prostrate oneself. John Meier notes that for Matthew this is appropriate only toward God. The CEV uses the phrase "worship him". This is easier to understand but is it accurate?

Where does the pericope end? The lectionary suggests 12. Does continuing to 18 make more sense?

B. Greek/Hebrew Textual Criticism

The only Alexandrian supported variant is an addition from Vaticanus: 13 B into the region of them. The rest of the Alexandrian family supports the text.

C. Should we use the term magi or astrologers or scholars . . .

Note the abundance of participles (having done this, etc.)

How do we translate idou? The NRSV skips this word entirely. Is it "Look!", "Behold!"?

Step II - Disposition

A. Genre - How the text says what it says

narrative with some prophetic/poetic quotations. Dreams and angelic messengers are told of, but not described.

B. Personal Interaction - Questions and observations

Why was "all Jerusalem" troubled? Why the emphasis on Herod's "carefully inquiring" (kribws)?

Who were the magi? Why were they interested? What did they get out of this experience?

The magi see Mary, why not Joseph?

Step III - Composition

A. Immediate Context - preceding/following pericope

Before - the lineage of Jesus from Abraham. This chapter is surrounded by the work of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit conceives in chap. 1, promised in chap. 3 by John, and comes down upon Jesus in chap. 3.

B. Organization of the Compositional Whole

In the whole composition, this seems to be in a prologue leading up to first big section of Jesus beginning his public ministry.

Herod dies at 2:19, but Jesus says, "I am with you always" at the end of the gospel.

C. Issues of Authorship

The author has a higher opinion of magi, than of the "Jewish" King Herod.

Step IV - Context

A. Primitive Christianity

How does the word "Behold" function similarly to phrases of Jesus, such as "Whoever has ears, let them hear" or "amen, amen"

B. Old Testament and Judaism

Matthew refers us to several places, Isa. 60, Exod. 1

C. Hellenistic World

The Bar Cochba (son of the star) revolt in 132-135 CE shows that the symbolizes of a Jewish leader rising like a star (as in Num. 24.17) was a living reality in the Hellenistic world.

Step V - Distillation

A. Summary of Salient Features

We are told the results of the work of the magi, without being told how they accomplished their amazing task.

B. Smooth Translation

C. Hermeneutical Bridge

As Christians, we often must work hard and work anonymously, so that others will receive a spiritual benefit from our work.

Step VI - Contemporary Address

A. Description of Audience

My local congregation on a Sunday when we are ordaining officers. This date was chosen without regard to the lectionary scriptures.

B. Intended Goals for the Address

To interpret the meaning of officers in our faith tradition, especially in light of the given lectionary reading.

C. Address