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Matthew 1:16

And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.
All Commentaries on Matthew 1:16 Go To Matthew 1

Cornelius a Lapide

AD 1637
Jacob begat Joseph, the husband of Mary. You may ask, why is the generation of Christ here derived from the genealogy of Joseph? Christ was the Song of Solomon , not of Joseph, but of the Virgin Mary, especially if S. Mary were able, as it might appear, to marry a man of another tribe, as her cousin Elizabeth, who was of the tribe of Judah, like Mary herself, married Zachariah, a priest, and therefore of the tribe of Levi. The answer Isaiah , that Jewish women might, indeed, marry into another tribe: but if they themselves, in the failure of heirs male, became heiresses of their fathers, they were in that case obliged to marry husbands of their own tribe and family, that their inheritance might not pass by marriage into another tribe. (See the last chapter of Numbers , ver7.) Joakim, the father of the Blessed Virgin, had no male children, a fact which S. Matthew here omits, as something perfectly well known in the age in which he writes. Hence it became the duty of S. Mary to marry a husband of her own tribe and family, that is to say, Joseph. Thus the genealogy of Joseph became the genealogy of the Blessed Virgin, and consequently of Christ, the Lord. Thus, too, it Isaiah , that the Fathers teach universally that Joseph and Mary were of the same tribe and family. It may be yet further asked, why S. Matthew unfolded the genealogy of Joseph rather than of Mary, since Christ was born of her alone, being a Virgin? I answer:—First, because among the Jews, and other nations, genealogy is customarily reckoned through fathers and husbands, not through mothers and wives. Second, because Joseph was the true and lawful father of Christ, after the manner which I shall explain presently. And Christ was the heir of David"s throne and sceptre, not through Mary, but through Joseph, according to God"s promise to David, 2 Samuel 8:12; Ps. lxxxviii. and cxxxi. The sceptre, therefore, of Judah devolved upon Jesus Christ, not only by the promise and gift of God, but by the right of hereditary succession. For if, by common right, sons succeed to their fathers" inheritance, when they are only accounted their sons by common repute, how much more was Christ Joseph"s, His father"s, heir, since He was the Son of his wife, by the power and the gift of the Holy Ghost? Wherefore as Joseph had a parent"s right over Christ, indeed, all rights which parents have over sons, so on the other hand, Christ had, with reference to Joseph, all the rights which sons have in respect to their parents. He had therefore a right to the kingdom of Israel after Joseph"s death. Hence the question of the Magi (ii2), "Where is he that is born King of the Jews?" This was what S. Matthew wished to demonstrate, who, as S. Augustine says, insists, most of all the Evangelists, upon the kingship of Christ. And this explains why he gives the genealogy of Joseph, rather than of Mary. For she could not be the heiress of the kingdom, so long as heirs male, like Joseph and others, survived. Whence also it must be said, as a consequence, that the father and other ancestors of Joseph were first-born, or at least eldest surviving sons of their fathers, so that the right of reigning devolved upon them. This is what is meant in the first chapter of S. Luke by the words, "And the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of David his father." So likewise in Genesis 49:10, "The sceptre shall not be taken away from Judah, nor a ruler from his thigh, till he come that is to be sent:" that Isaiah , Christ, who was to restore to Judah the sceptre, iniquitously taken away by Herod; yea, who was to raise their kingdom to a far higher grandeur, by making it spiritual instead of corporeal, heavenly instead of earthly, and, instead of temporal, eternal. Observe the expression, Joseph the husband of Mary. The Arabic has—the spouse of Mary. From this we may gather that S. Joseph had all the rights of a real husband with regard to the Virgin, and consequently is rightly and truly called the father of Christ. This is pointed out by S. Augustine. 1. Christ may be said to be the fruit of the marriage of Joseph and Mary, because He was born in wedlock, though not of wedlock. He may therefore be ascribed either to His father or His mother. 2. Forasmuch as a man and his wife are made one by marriage, as it were but one person in the eye of the law, therefore they have everything in common, and so all their legitimate children: for I except children born of adultery. They have the adulterer as their father, and belong to him. Christ, then, who was the Son of the Virgin Mother of God, was also the Son of Joseph, who was her husband, and therefore the partner of all her honours and blessings. Joseph was more truly the father of Christ than one who adopts a son is the father of that son. He is only a father by adoption, but Joseph was father of Christ by marriage. Hence it follows that Joseph had a father"s authority over Christ, and therefore the utmost solicitude and affection for him. And Christ in return cherished, loved, and honoured Joseph as a father, and was obedient to him, as is plain from Luke 2:51. "This subjection," as Gerson says, "marks at once the unspeakable humility of Christ, and the incomparable dignity of Joseph and Mary." 3. Because Christ properly belonged to the family of Joseph: for He belonged to His mother"s family as His mother herself belonged to Joseph"s. There was therefore upon earth one most noble, yea, divine and heavenly family, of which the father and ruler was Joseph; the mother, the Blessed Virgin; the Song of Solomon , Christ. In it were the three most exalted and excellent persons of the whole world; first, Christ, both God and man; secondly, the Virgin Mother of God, most closely united to Christ; and thirdly, Joseph, the father of Christ by marriage. The common herd of men, yea, many of this world"s wise ones, think of Joseph only as a poor and despised carpenter. But the more despised and unknown he was upon earth, so much the greater is his glory in heaven. Wherefore Gregory XV. hath lately decreed that his Festival shall be celebrated as a Double by the whole Church on the19th of March. And this is a well deserved honour; for consider, from what I am about to subjoin, how great were his prerogatives, his office, and dignity above all other men. 1. Joseph was the husband of the Blessed Virgin, and the father of Christ, as I have already shown. He was therefore the head and superior both of the Virgin, and of Christ as He was man. Hence, 2. There was singular love and reverence, on the part both of the Blessed Virgin and of Christ, towards Joseph. Whence John Gerson, Chancellor of Paris (Serm. de Nativ. B.V.M.), exclaims, "O, altogether wonderful is thy exaltation, O Joseph, incomparable thy dignity, that the Mother of God, the Queen of Heaven, the lady of the world, should not disdain to call thee lord!" S. Gregory Nazianzen (Orat11), denotes and celebrates the excellence of the husband of his sister, Gorgonia, by this one title, that he was Gorgonia"s husband. "Do you wish," he says, "that I should describe the man? He was her husband, and I know of nothing more that I need say." You may say the same of S. Joseph. Do you desire to know who and how great he was? He was the husband of the Mother of God. 3. The ministry and office of Joseph was most noble, in that it pertains to the order of the hypostatic union of the Word with our flesh. For Joseph exercised all his labours and actions in immediate proximity to the Person of Christ. He nourished, cherished, and guarded Christ, and taught Him his art as a carpenter, according to the common opinion of the Doctors. Hear Franc. Suarez (3part. quæst29 , disp8 , sect1):—"There are some offices which pertain directly to the order of grace making grateful, and in this the Apostles hold the highest rank, and therefore need greater assistance of grace than all others. There are, again, other offices which pertain to the order of the hypostatic union, which is in genere a higher order, as is plain from the motherhood of God in the Blessed Virgin. And in this order S. Joseph exercised his ministry." 4. Joseph, by his familiar and constant companionship with Christ and the Blessed Virgin, was made a sharer in their divine secrets, and daily beheld and imitated their lofty virtues. 5. Joseph was a person of the utmost sanctity, and endowed by God with singular gifts, both of nature and grace, so that in that age there was no man more holy, or more worthy the betrothal of the Mother of God. Whence Suarez thinks it probable that Joseph was superior to the Apostles and John the Baptist in grace and glory, because his office was more excellent than theirs; for it is more to be the father and governor of Christ than His preacher and forerunner. He adds that when Joseph espoused the Blessed Virgin, he was of mature age, and died before the Crucifixion. This is why in the Passion of Christ no mention is made of Joseph. Lastly, he rose with Christ in common with the rest of the patriarchs, of whom mention is made in Matt. xxvii52—"Many bodies of the saints which slept arose." These are the things in which Joseph was pre-eminent. Of whom was born Jesus. The form of expression is here changed The Evangelist does not say, Joseph begat Jesus, as he had said of Abraham and the rest. Neither does he say, Mary begat Jesus, but of whom was born Jesus. By this expression he signifies—1. That Jesus was born of Mary, not by natural means, but by supernatural—that is to say, by the operation of the Holy Ghost2. That Jesus was not sprung from His father Joseph, but born of His mother alone, she being a virgin, and therefore that Joseph had no other connection with the genealogy of Christ than by right of his wife, the Virgin Mary. Well does S. Bernard say (Hom1super Missus est)—"Very beautiful was the mingling of humility and virginity; nor is that soul in only a slight degree pleasing unto God, in which humility commends virginity, and virginity adorns humility; but of what veneration must she be worthy whose fruitfulness exalteth humility, and childbirth consecrates virginity?" And again—"Such a nativity became God, that He should not be born save of a Virgin: such a birth became a Virgin, that she should bring forth only God." It was fitting that, as Christ had a Father in heaven, He should have no father upon earth, but only a mother; for He who was without a mother in heaven (Gr. ב̉לפשס) was without a father on earth (Gr. ב̉נפשס). For it behoved that the Conception and the Birth of Christ should be removed as far as possible from original sin—that as it was not right that He should contract it, so neither should it be possible. And in this He was superior to His mother; for she, although conceived without sin by the singular preservation of God, nevertheless was bound, through that natural conception of herself whereby she was born of Joachim and Anna by natural generation from Adam, to have contracted it, unless it had been prevented by the grace of God. Lastly, it behoved that the Birth of Christ should be most divinely pure, that it might powerfully commend virginity and chastity to us. Whence S. Gregory Nazianzen (Orat38 , de Nativ. in principio) says, "Christ was born of a virgin: O ye women, do ye then cherish virginity, that ye may be able to be mothers of Christ." And Cyril of Jerusalem says, "Christ was born that He might make virgins; much more, therefore, ought a virgin to keep chaste her body." 2. The expression—Of whom was born Jesus—signifies that the Virgin was the real mother of Jesus—i.e, of that Man who, being hypostatically united with God, was both God and man. Therefore was she truly the mother of God. For although she was not the mother of Deity, yet did she give birth to God, because she was mother of that Man. For that Man was God, therefore the Blessed Virgin was mother of God. The reason, priori, is identity of Person, because there is but one Person, and that a Divine Person, in Christ. Hence the attributes of either nature can be predicated of Him; and there becomes a joint participation of the peculiarities of each; so that this Man may be called God, and in return, God may be called Prayer of Manasseh , the Son of the Virgin, and it can be said that God suffered and was crucified, &c. For one Person is presupposed in these expressions, who gathereth up into Himself all the actions and passions of both natures. Wherefore the Person of the Son of God, who is God, is rightly spoken of as born of the Virgin Mary, but according to His human, not His divine nature. The surpassing dignity, therefore, of the Blessed Virgin is here indicated: for such is the motherhood of God, that from her He received His own, that is to say, His human substances, such as flesh, bones, blood; and received it in such sort that He cherished, loved, and reverenced her as His mother, and was obedient to her as a mother, and spoke of her as "mother." Whence S. Bernard exclaims in admiration, "A twofold wonder, a twofold miracle; God obeys a woman—humility without a parallel; and a woman is the head of God—dignity beyond compare!" The Virgin Mother of God possessed the same right and authority over Christ which other mothers have over their own sons. Yea, she had more than other mothers have, because she was more the mother of Christ than other women are mothers of their sons, for a reason which I shall adduce presently. S. Thomas (I part. quæst25 , art6) teaches that God could not perform a greater work than the Incarnation of the Word, and the maternity of the Blessed Virgin, because she is the very Mother of God—God than whom nothing greater can be imagined. Hence Bede saith, "O most blessed Virgin, in thee alone that rich, yea, more than rich, King emptied Himself." For to be Mother of God is the highest affinity, consanguinity, and union with God. By that motherhood the Blessed Virgin Mary is in as close relationship with God as a mother is with her son. From this dignity of Mother of God, there follow all the gifts and privileges which have been granted to the Blessed Virgin by God above all men and angels. For as the Humanity of Christ, being united to the Word, receiveth from the WORD such gifts and privileges as are becoming to such a union—I mean such as may exalt that Humanity, and render It, as it were, worthy of union with the WORD; Song of Solomon , in like manner, God showered upon Mary all the gifts and graces which befitted such a Mother of Christ and Spouse of God. Whence you may draw this conclusion—Mary is the Mother of God, therefore she is far more excellent than all the angels, even the Cherubim and Seraphim. She is the Mother of God, therefore she is Queen and Lady of heaven and earth. She is the Mother of God, therefore whatsoever privilege has been granted to any of the Saints, that she obtains in a more excellent degree. 3. Of whom was born Jesus, signifies that He was born of His Mother only, so that she alone contributed to Christ all that flesh and substance which other fathers and mothers are wont to contribute conjointly to their children. For sons derive a portion of their substance from their fathers, a portion from their mothers. Wherefore the Blessed Virgin contributed more to Christ than other mothers are wont to contribute to their sons, because she alone was, in a manner, both father and mother of Christ. Hence it follows—1. That the Blessed Virgin hath more right in Christ than other mothers have in their sons2. That Mary had far greater love for Christ, and Christ for her, than other mothers have for their sons, and other sons for their mothers, both because she alone bare (genuit) Him, as well as because she bare Him not after the natural, but after the supernatural and divine order. Song of Solomon , too, the love which, in other sons, is divided between father and mother, in Christ was united, and applied wholly to His Mother. And thus she felt, as it were, with a duplicated grief the pains of Christ upon the Cross, and experienced a duplicated joy at His Resurrection. 4. The expression, of whom was born, signifies that the Holy Ghost was the most potent and efficient cause of the Nativity of Christ, who, within the Blessed Virgin, of her most pure blood, formed the Body of Christ, organized It, and gave It life, and hypostatically united It to the WORD in the first moment of Its conception. Still the Blessed Virgin was a secondary cause, and a true Mother of Christ for the purpose of generation, not merely as passively furnishing the material, but as actively concurring therein by way of forming, disposing, and organizing that material. See Francis Suarez, 3 p, q3 , 2art, 4ac, q33 , art4 , where he teaches that Christ"s generation of the Virgin was supernatural, as far as its manner and swiftness were concerned, because, in one moment, it was perfected by the Holy Ghost as the efficient cause. And so the action whereby Mary became a mother was natural; the mode was supernatural. Was born Jesus. The Word was made Flesh. God became Man. The Son of God was made the Son of the Virgin. This, as S. Thomas teaches at length, was the highest and greatest of all the works of God. At this work the Angels and all the Saints have ever been and are amazed in wonder. For in It God manifested His highest power by uniting man to God, clay* to the Word, earth to heaven. He manifested also the highest Wisdom of Solomon , that Hebrews , who in His Godhead might not suffer to redeem us, put on, in the Virgin"s womb, flesh, whereby He might be able to suffer, and to make satisfaction to the Father for our sins. He manifested also the highest justice, because by reason of the dignity of His Person, He makes satisfaction upon equal terms, as it were, to the wrath and justice of God, by suffering death upon the Cross. And He manifested the utmost goodness, because He emptied Himself, that He might replenish us with His gifts. He was made the Son of man that He might make us sons of God, as S. Augustine says. He was born on earth, that man might be born in heaven, as S. Gregory says. Who is called Christ: that Isaiah , who is the Messiah, or the Christ, the Redeemer of the world, promised to the Fathers. And henceforth He can and ought to be called Messiah, or Christ in His own right, and therefore now He is verily so called by all the faithful. How this genealogy of S. Matthew is reconcilable with that of S. Luke , I will unfold in my commentary on the third chapter of S. Luke. Therefore all the generations from Abraham to David, are fourteen generations. And from David to the transmigration (the Syriac has exile) of Babylon are fourteen generations: and from the transmigration of Babylon to Christ are fourteen generations. From Abraham, therefore, unto Christ are forty-two generations. S. Luke (chap. iii.) enumerates seventy-seven generations, but he places no stress upon the number as S. Matthew does. Though S. Augustine, c2 , de consensu Evang, c4, is of opinion that entire remission and abolition of all sins, which is effected through Christ, is denoted by the seventy-seven generations. Whence Christ commanded that forgiveness should be extended to an erring brother seventy times seven. ( Matthew 18:22.) By generations, you must understand all the persons, both those begetting and those begotten. These are the fourteen. For the Greek is not דםוףיע, i.e. generation, properly called, but דוםב, i.e. offspring, race, family, and children, the duration of the life of one man. For the generations, exactly numbered, are only thirteen in the first Tesseradecade, as you will see if you count the recurrence of the word "begat;" which word is repeated thirteen times; because in it alone Abraham is reckoned the first, and David the last generation. But in the second Tesseradecade, David, the first in it, is not reckoned; nor yet in the third, Jeconias the first name; because those persons have been already named and enumerated as the last in the second and third Tesseradecades. Therefore, in the third Tesseradecade, one generation must be added—namely, Jehoiakim begat Jehoiachin—in order that it may consist of fourteen generations; that is to say, of fourteen persons begetting and begotten, as I have already said. All the generations then are precisely forty-one; but the persons begetting and begotten are forty-two, because the generation of the first—namely, Abraham—is not reckoned here, but is presupposed as being known from the Book of Genesis. You may ask, with what object S. Matthew so accurately enumerates these three Tesseradecades of generations? The answer Isaiah , because he wishes to pass in review the threefold condition of the Jewish people—the first, the quasi democratic state under the several Patriarchs and Judges , such as Othniel, Gideon, Samson, Eli, Samuel, &c, who presided over Israel from Abraham to David; the second, the monarchical, under kings, as David and his descendants, until the captivity; the third, the aristocratic, under dukes and pontiffs, as Judas, Jonathan, Simon, and the rest of the Maccabees, from the Babylonish captivity unto Christ. Matthew signifies that this threefold condition and government of the people was thrice changed, and must be a fourth time changed by Christ, and ended in Christ, who brought in an eternal kingdom. Thus the Fathers and commentators passim. Whence Nazianzen, in his poem on the genealogy of Christ says:— "Thus he deduced a royal race, and kingly sceptre." Maldonatus adds a medical analogy. In fevers, and other diseases, physicians call the fourteenth the critical day, and the most perilous. Agreeably, therefore, to the nature of Prayer of Manasseh , after each period of fourteen generations, God seems to have wished to change the condition of His people, that one form of government, as it were, growing sick and failing, a better one might be born and succeed it, until, through Christ, the best of all should be substituted, which should heal and correct the defects and weakness of the three preceding, and establish the kingdom of the Church, flourishing, sound, and eternal. Lastly, Matthew enumerates forty-two generations by three Tesseradecades, so as to make it a probable conjecture in the mind of his reader, that it was fitting that Christ should come after this exact number of generations. For as there were fourteen generations before the kingdom of the Jews was established, fourteen during its continuance, after which, during fourteen generations, it evidently declined, Song of Solomon , by a probable conjecture, it might be supposed, that after these last fourteen generations, the kingdom fading away, it was to be restored to a better state by Messiah. For as there were fourteen generations before, and fourteen in the kingdom, so there were as many after the kingdom of Israel until Christ. Again, before the kingdom the promise of Christ was made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; in the kingdom to David and Solomon; after the kingdom the same promise was repeated to Haggai ,, Zechariah ,, Malachi , &c, that there might be a feeling that all the promises made concerning Christ, both before, during, and after the kingdom were ended and fulfilled in Christ. Abraham begins, David ends the first Tesseradecade; Solomon begins, Jehoiakim or Jehoiachin ends the second; Jehoiakim or Jehoiachin begins, Christ ends the third. And He is the end of the law, and the deliverer of the captive people and the captive world. So Francisc. Lucas. For the Jews knew from the decline and failure of their commonwealth, and especially when the sceptre was taken away from Judah by Herod, according to the prophecy of Jacob, Genesis 49:10, that the Advent of Messiah might certainly be expected. Whence their kingdom being broken up, and this sceptre transferred, S. Matthew here teaches that Messiah was now come, and was none other than Jesus Christ. And thus he would persuade the Jews to believe in Him. Symbolically, Origen (Hom27 in Num.) and S. Jerome (Epist. ad Fabiolam Deuteronomy 42Mansion.), remark, that those forty-two generations correspond to the forty-two stations of the Israelites in the wilderness, by which they arrived at the land of Canaan promised to Abraham. Similarly, through the forty-two generations we arrive at the Messiah, or the Christ, promised to the same Abraham, and through Christ, at the land of the living, promised to the saints in heaven. Again, the number fourteen, because it contains twice seven, by which the sevenfold grace of the Holy Ghost is signified, denotes the gift of the same Holy Spirit in two-fold abundance to Prayer of Manasseh , as it was in Christ, who, indeed, by a like symbol, having suffered on the fourteenth day of the month Nisan, when the moon was full, redeemed us by His death, and merited abundance of graces for us. Wherefore the Psalmist sings concerning Him, Ps. lxxi.: "In his days shall the righteous flourish, yea and abundance of peace, so long as the moon endureth." Listen to S. Ambrose, Oration on the death of Theodosius: "In the number fourteen we have received man"s perfection; whence the Lord"s Passover received the form of its celebration, on the fourteenth day of the moon. Wherefore he who celebrates the Passover ought to be perfect, ought to love the Lord Jesus, who, loving His own people with a perfect love, offered Himself to His Passion. A notable mystery is in the number, since the Father delivered up his only Son for us all, when the moon was shining with a full orb of light. For like this is the Church, which piously celebrates the Passover of our Lord Jesus Christ. It abideth for ever, like the moon at the full. Whosoever shall well celebrate here the Lord"s Passover, shall be in light, everlastingly." Anagogically, the number forty-two is composed of six into seven, For six times seven makes forty-two. The six denotes the labours of this life, whereby we come to the seven, or the sabbath of rest and eternal felicity. For in the six first days of the world God made all things in heaven and earth; but in the seventh day, or the sabbath, He rested from all His work. Tropologically, by this forty-fold number of generations is signified the life of the body, as compounded of the four elements. For this life standeth in keeping the ten commandments of God, which are perfected by the four Gospels. For ten into four makes forty. So Salmeron, so even S. Augustine, and from him Peter Bongus, On the Mysteries of Numbers , Num. XIV.: "The three divisions," he says, "in the generation of Christ, hint at the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, which is laid down concordantly by the Law and the Gospel. For three signifies faith in the Trinity, four the evangelical doctrine, ten the institution of the Law." The same author adds shortly afterwards: "That the number fourteen should be thrice repeated signifies true religion. For four and ten indicate the New and Old Testament. For the way to Christ is preached through the Ten Commandments of the Law, and the four Gospels; Song of Solomon , however, that we should consecrate whatever is ascribed to the Trinity, that Isaiah , to God, because no commandment is fulfilled unless this number is preserved in the worship of God. By the type of this number, moreover, Ezekiel (chap. xl.) beheld in the fourteenth year after the smiting of the city, a new city, even the Church, which Christ, born and dying, founded in the fourteenth generation after the destruction of Jerusalem by the Chaldees, as Cassiodorus remarks (in Ps. xiv, sub finem). Lastly, in the forty second year after Christ"s Passion, Jerusalem was utterly destroyed by Titus and Vespasian to avenge His death—as S. Jerome observes on the words of the Psalm: "In the next generation let his name be clean put out."
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Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. - 2 Peter 1:20

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