Decades of providing pastoral care and university teaching have given Rev. Dr. Michael Eschelbach ample opportunity to answer countless biblical questions. Why are the Gospel accounts different? Why does the Bible spend so much time listing genealogies? What does Revelation mean?
Dr. Eschelbach offers answers to these questions (and many more) in The Big Book of New Testament Questions and Answers, a comprehensive handbook grounded in solid, biblical theology. The questions were collected from students from over forty New Testament classes and reflect the queries we all have when reading the Bible.
This easy-to-read resource will be helpful for the classroom, Bible study groups, and individual study. We’ve shared some questions and answers regarding the Book of Matthew below, and you can click here for many more examples.
1:1–17 Why is Jesus’ genealogy listed?
Both Matthew and Luke provide genealogies of Jesus, but for different reasons. Matthew records the genealogy in order to demonstrate two things. First, Matthew wants the reader to understand that God, not Joseph, is the father of Jesus. God has provided what no human father ever could. Second, Matthew wants to remind the Jews that they are not a “super” race that generated a “super” man (Messiah) from superior genetic material. Note how the text would draw in a Jewish reader by mentioning first two “super” men from Israel’s past: Abraham and David. Then the text lays out a genealogy that is full of foreigners and embarrassments: Judah, who raised wicked sons and was the mastermind behind the mistreatment of Joseph; Tamar, who bore sons to her father-in-law; Rahab, the harlot of Jericho; and Ruth, the Moabite.
1:2–16 In Matthew’s genealogy, it says Joseph is from the line of Judah, but he’s not the biological father of Jesus. Is Mary related and also from that lineage?
Mary’s lineage is recorded in Lk 3:23–38. There Luke reveals that Jesus was thought to be of Joseph (“as was supposed” [v. 23]) but was really of Heli, Mary’s father. Joseph and Mary’s genealogies are identical from Adam to Solomon, at which point they separate until Shealtiel and Zerubbabel (at the time of the Babylonian captivity of Judah), and then they separate again.
1:17 Is there significance in the fact that there were fourteen generations from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the Babylonian exile, and fourteen from the exile to Christ?
There is much speculation about significance, especially because of Jewish traditions having to do with numbers. Some say fourteen names are given in order to make the list easier to remember. The number 7 has to do with completion in time (seven days in a week) and 2 has to do with things being certain (Pharaoh had the same dream twice, cf. Gn 41:32). Although we cannot say for certain if there is a deeper intention in using the number 14, what the apostle Paul says is certain: “When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son . . .” (Gal 4:4, italics added).
1:19 Why did Joseph decide to divorce Mary since they were not married at this point?
In biblical times, a man’s public declaration that he would be husband to a woman was absolutely binding. A marriage worked in this way: (1) A man received permission from the woman’s father. (2) The man declared his intent to be husband to that woman. (3) For a period of time, the man demonstrated to everyone his ability and faithfulness in providing for her. All this took place before they engaged in any physical intimacy. (4) When the man’s ability to husband the woman was evident, there was a party, and following that the man and woman consummated the marriage by intercourse and cohabitation. Consider how women and children would benefit from this practice, in contrast to the consequences of sexual promiscuity practiced and urged upon young people in this day and age.
1:20 Why are Joseph’s dreams told? Didn’t Mary have any dreams?
Joseph’s dreams are told to explain his actions. Joseph learned from “an angel of the Lord” in his dream that he did not need to divorce Mary because she had not been unfaithful. He needed to flee to Egypt because Herod sought to destroy the child. Joseph, as the one responsible for the care and well-being of his family, is directed by God through dreams. Unless the text tells us, we cannot know if Mary had any dreams.
From The Big Book of New Testament Questions and Answers, pages 11–13 © 2015 by Michael Eschelbach. Published by Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.
To order The Big Book of New Testament Questions and Answers, please contact CPH at 800-325-3040 or visit www.cph.org.