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Now the birth of Jesus Christ happened this way: his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. Bible other translations

“Now the birth of Jesus Christ happened this way.” The record of the events surrounding the birth of Christ occurs in Matthew and Luke, and the two Gospels interweave when it comes to the chronology of the events. If you want to read about the birth of Christ in chronological order, it is: Luke 1:5-80; Matt. 1:18-25; Luke 2:1-38; Matt. 2:1-22. Then Matt. 2:23 and Luke 2:39-40 are both summary statements about Jesus growing up in Nazareth.

“birth.” The Greek noun is genesis (#1078 γένεσις), and strictly speaking, it means “origin, source, or beginning” (Liddell and Scott Greek-English Lexicon). It is from the verb, ginomai (#1096 γίνομαι; pronounced gin’-o-my), which means “to become, to come into existence, begin to be.” We get our English word “genesis” from genesis. Genesis also became used for that which flows from what is begun, hence it was used to express the concept of “nature,” or “natural” (cp. James 1:23; 3:6). Since we usually think of the birth of a person as his or her “beginning,” genesis was used by the Greeks of birth. However, there is a much more accurate Greek verb for “birth,” and that is gennaō (#1080 γεννάω; pronounced ghen-nah’-o), and the nouns associated with it are gennētos (#1084 γεννητός; pronounced ghen-nay-tos’, meaning “born”) and gennēsis (#1083 γέννησις; pronounced ghen’-nay-sis; meaning, “a birth”). The two words, genesis and gennēsis, are very similar, which has led to some confusion in Matthew 1:18, because although the earliest and best Greek texts have genesis, origin, some later manuscripts, have gennēsis, birth.

Textual scholars have concluded that the most original reading of the Greek text of Matthew 1:18 is genesis, meaning, beginning or origin. Bruce Metzger writes:

“Both γένeσις [genesis] and γέννησις [gennēsis] mean “birth,” but the former also means “creation,” “generation,” and “genealogy” (compare 1.1), whereas the latter means more strictly “engendering”…. In the present passage not only do the earlier representatives of several text-types support γένεσις [genesis], but the tendency of copyists would have been to substitute a word of more specialized meaning for one that had been used in a different sense in verse 1, particularly since γέννησις [gennēsis] corresponds more nearly with the verb γεννᾶν [gennan] used so frequently in the previous genealogy.” (A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament).

Although the substitution of gennēsis for genesis in some Greek texts (which led to gennēsis being the Greek word in the text from which the King James Version was translated) may have been completely accidental, it might also have been purposeful. Trinitarian scribes may have been uncomfortable with the idea that Jesus’ “origin” was when God impregnated Mary, and so might have substituted what was to them a much clearer word, gennēsis, which would then clearly make the subject of Matthew 1:18 be only Jesus’ birth, not his real “beginning.” The word genesis points to the fact that God impregnating Mary not only led to Jesus’ birth but was in fact his “origin” or “beginning.” He had been in the mind of God from before the foundation of the world but did not exist in any form except as part of God’s plan. When God impregnated Mary, Jesus “began” in reality, not just in the mind of God.

It is part of the doctrine of the Trinity, and also the teaching of some other people such as Arians, that Jesus existed in some form before he was physically conceived in Mary. They teach that Jesus existed either as a spirit like God or an angel or even as a physical being. That is not the case. Jesus was in the mind of God before his birth. He was part of God’s plan, but he did not exist in any other form than that. The theological term, “pre-existence” was coined to support the doctrine of the Trinity and describe Jesus’ state before his birth, but “pre-existence” is not in the Bible and is an invented nonsense term. Things either exist or they don’t; there is no such thing as “pre-existence,” that is, something existing before it exists.

Theologians could use a different term to support Jesus’ existence before his conception in Mary, such as “pre-incarnate,” but that is also an invented non-biblical term, and they would still have to prove that Jesus existed as the Son of God before he was physically created when God impregnated Mary. But Scripture does not support the claim that Jesus existed before his conception in Mary.

Part of that lack of support is that Jesus is called “the Son of God.” Jesus is the Son of God, so He could not exist until God had a Son, and the conception of God’s Son occurred when God impregnated Mary. There is no other verse of Scripture anywhere that says that Jesus was conceived at any other time or place than when he was conceived in the womb of Mary. Trinitarians say that Jesus was “eternally begotten,” but that is also an invented nonsense term and unsupported by Scripture. The term “eternally begotten” is internally contradictory because, by definition, anything “begotten” (i.e., “born”) had a time at which it was born. Nothing eternal is “born.” If Jesus is eternal, then he was never born. If he was born, then he is not eternal. The term “eternally begotten” was invented to support the Trinity and is never used in any other context.

Since the Bible clearly calls Jesus the “Son,” and even the only begotten Son, there has to be a time when he was begotten. That being the case, we can search the Scripture and see when Jesus was begotten. When we search, we find that there is only one time when Jesus was conceived, and that was when God impregnated Mary, and only one time when Jesus was “begotten,” and that was when Mary gave birth to Jesus, making Mary the mother of Jesus.

That leads us to another proof that Jesus did not exist before his conception in the womb of Mary: for Jesus to be the “begotten Son,” there had to be a mother. If Jesus was “eternally begotten,” or born at any other time besides when Mary gave birth to him, who gave birth to him? Jesus cannot be “eternally begotten,” or even begotten at all if no one gave birth to him. “Begotten” means “born,” and if no one gave birth to him, then he was never “begotten.” But then who would be the mother that gave birth to him before Mary? There is no such mother-being and no such birth in Scripture.

It would be possible for God to create Jesus without there being a mother, just as He created the heavens and earth out of nothing. However, that would make Jesus the first being of God’s creation. But Matthew 1:18 is very clear that the origin “of Jesus Christ happened this way,” which is that God impregnated Mary who later gave birth to the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God. If Christ was born before Mary gave birth to him, then the Scripture should say, “the birth of Jesus Christ happened this way: before time began God gave birth to him.” But there is no Scripture that says anything like that. Scripture is clear. The “way” that Jesus was born was that God impregnated Mary, and Jesus himself was born as a fully human being, which is why he is called “the last Adam” (1 Cor. 15:45).

Jesus was the plan of God for the salvation of God’s people from before the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8) and prophecies of his suffering go back to early Genesis (Gen. 3:15). Yet the plan that became reality in Jesus did not become that reality in the flesh until Jesus was conceived in Mary. Jesus is clearly called a “man” in the Bible, and furthermore, one “who has been tempted in every way just as we are” (Heb. 4:15).

Also, 1 Timothy 3:16 says that part of Jesus’ coming was that he was “seen by angels.” That phrase and that event are important and are properly placed in 2 Timothy 3:16 if the angels had never seen Jesus until he was born. But if Jesus existed before he was born, then of course the angels would have seen him, and seen him for millennia, not just when he came in the flesh, and according to some Christians, Jesus even created the angels. The reason that it was so important to insert the phrase “seen by angels” in 1 Timothy 3:16 is that Jesus Christ is not only the savior of people, but the savior of the whole universe, which is in bondage due to sin (cp. Rom. 8:19, 22). Once Jesus was born, then the angels could see him.

Also, Hebrews 1:1-2 says that it is in these end times that God spoke to us through His Son. But if the Son is the “angel of Yahweh,” as many Christians believe, or if he existed from the time of Adam and Eve, then Jesus has been speaking to us for millennia, in fact, he spoke to us even before most of the prophets that Hebrews 1:1 is speaking about were born.

The biblical evidence is that Jesus was the plan of God, and it was in that sense that he was the Messiah from the foundation of the world. Furthermore, Jesus’ being the plan of God before he was a reality in the flesh is also what is said about the Christian Church, of which the Bible says that “he [God] chose us [the Church] in him before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:2). The Church did not exist physically when we were chosen, but we were chosen in the plan of God, and the Messiah, Jesus Christ, was chosen that same way.

Adding up the biblical evidence makes the situation clear. Jesus was the plan of God to atone for the sins of the world long before he existed. Jesus began his physical existence when Mary conceived in her womb, and thus when Jesus was born he was literally “the Son of God.”

[For more on Jesus being a fully human person, see Appendix 10, “Jesus is the Son of God, Not God the Son.” For more on the gift of holy spirit and the Trinity, see Appendix 11, “What is the Holy Spirit?”].

“Joseph.” Not much is said about Joseph in the Bible, but there are things said about him that give us important information about him and thus about Jesus (see commentary on Matt. 13:55).

“before they came together she was found to be with child.” Mary was likely 14 or so when she was impregnated by God (see commentary on Luke 1:31). The phrase “before they came together” is an idiom for coming together in sexual intercourse.

“by the Holy Spirit.” The Greek reads literally, “of Holy Spirit,” which in this context is the genitive of origin, thus the translation “by.” Mary was impregnated “by” or “from” God. “The Holy Spirit” is the name for God that emphasizes His power in operation. God is called “the Holy Spirit” in a number of verses in the NT, including Matthew 1:20; 12:32; and Hebrews 9:8.

The Bible has many names that refer to our One God, who is the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. Some of the Hebrew names for God are: Yahweh, Elohim, El, Elyon, Adonai, and Shaddai. In the New Testament, He is referred to as Theos (God). Furthermore, the attributes that are used as names for God include: “the Almighty” (2 Cor. 6:18; Rev 1:8. Greek is pantokrator); “the Ancient of Days” (Dan. 7:9,13, 22); “the Blessed” (Mark 14:61); “Father” (Ps. 68:5; Eph. 1:2); “Judge” (Judg. 11:27); “King” (Ps. 5:2; 47:6; 1 Tim. 1:17); “Lord of hosts” (1 Sam. 1:11; 17:45); “the Mighty One” (Gen. 49:24; Ps. 132:2; Isa. 1:24); and “the Rock” (Deut. 32:18; Isa. 30:29; Hab. 1:12). Moreover, God is holy (Isa. 6:3; John 17:11), so He was also known as “the Holy,” which is usually translated in English Bibles as “the Holy One” (2 Kings 19:22; Job 6:10; Ps. 71:22; 78:41; 89:18; Isa. 1:4; 29:23; Luke 1:49; John 17:11). Sometimes “Spirit” is combined with “holy,” and God is called “the Holy Spirit,” pneuma hagion. In fact, holiness and “spirit” are so essential to God that it would be strange if “the Holy Spirit” were not one of His names. Thus, in Acts 5:3, Peter told Ananias, “You have lied to the Holy Spirit,” whom he identified in Acts 5:4 as “God.”

Every name of God emphasizes a different aspect of His character. Calling God “the Ancient of Days” magnifies His age and timelessness; calling him “the Blessed” magnifies the blessings He gives and receives; calling Him “the Rock” magnifies His stability and invulnerability. Similarly, since “spirit” is used of invisible power, when God is called “the Spirit,” or “the Holy Spirit,” it emphasizes His invisible power at work. The Gospels say that Mary was impregnated by “the Holy Spirit,” (Matt. 1:18, 20; Luke 1:35) because that name emphasized God’s power at work. That “the Holy Spirit” is a name for God and not a separate being is why Jesus is always called “the Son of God” and never “the Son of the Holy Spirit.” There is no reason to make “the Holy Spirit” into a separate “Person.” We do not make any of the rest of God’s names into other “Persons,” and the Jews never made “the Spirit” in the Old Testament into another person. There is one God, and He has many names. Every use of “the Holy Spirit” can be explained as being a name for God without once making “the Holy Spirit” into another “Person” [we must, however, differentiate between “the Holy Spirit,” which is another name for God, and “the holy spirit,” which is the gift of God’s nature that He gives to believers; cp. Acts 2:38). [For more information on the uses of “Holy Spirit”, see Appendix 6: Usages of ‘Spirit’].

Here in Matthew 1:18 there is not a definite article before “Holy Spirit.” The preposition ek is before the phrase. In Greek, if a preposition precedes a noun, the noun can be definite without specifically adding the definite article; the subject and context are the final arbiters. Daniel Wallace writes in Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics (p. 247): “There is no need for the article to be used to make the object of a preposition definite.” A. T. Robertson writes: “...the article is not the only means of showing that a word is definite. ...The context and history of the phrase in question must decide. ...[As for prepositional phrases], these were also considered definite enough without the article.” Robertson then cites some examples that use ek (Grammar of the Greek New Testament, pp. 790-792).

[For more on God the Father being called “the Holy Spirit, see Appendix 11, “What is the Holy Spirit?” For more on Jesus being a fully human person, see Appendix 10, “Jesus is the Son of God, Not God the Son”].


Commentary for: Matthew 1:18