New Light from the Papyri : The sacred background of βίβλος in Matthew 1:1

Book chapter


Theophilos, Michael P.. (2019). New Light from the Papyri : The sacred background of βίβλος in Matthew 1:1. In In Evans, Craig A. and Johnston, Jeremiah (Ed.). Scribes and Their Remains pp. 205-223 Bloomsbury Publishing. https://doi.org/10.5040/9780567688064.ch-008
AuthorsTheophilos, Michael P.
EditorsEvans, Craig A. and Johnston, Jeremiah
Abstract

[Excerpt] The fifth-century anonymous Latin commentary on Matthew’s Gospel known to us as the Opus Imperfectum in Matthaeum had, up until the sixteenth century, been attributed to John Chrysostom,[1] but is now considered to be a spurious work.[2] In its opening lines regarding the Matthean genealogy the text asks, “Why is it that Matthew says, ‘The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, descendant of David, descendant of Abraham,’ while the prophet Isaiah exclaims, ‘And who will tell of his lineage?’ [Isa. 53:8]. Matthew is setting forth his fleshly line, while Isaiah proclaims that his divine lineage is an unfathomable mystery.”[3] Modern commentators have characteristically understood the phrase βίβλος γενέσεως (Matt. 1:1) as a deliberate “allusion to the formulaic title used in the LXX,”[4] specifically in regard to the Hebrew expression תוֹדלוֹת (ṯôlᵉḏôṯ) in Gen. 2:4a, “These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created,” and Gen. 5:1, “This is the list of the descendants of Adam. When God created humankind, he made them in the likeness of God.” Commentators regularly appeal to the frequent and notable Greek parallels of βίβλος attested in the Septuagint,[5] and conclude that the phrase may be reminiscent of Hellenistic Jewish use

To what, however, does the phrase βίβλος γενέσεως refer in Matt. 1:1? There have been at least four positions held by commentators. First, A. H. McNeile,[6] M. J. Lagrange,[7] E. Lohmeyer,[8] J. Schmid,[9] W. Trilling,[10] J. H. Moulton and G. Milligan,[11] R. Gundry,[12] and D. Hagner,[13] et al. argue that the introductory phrase refers only to verses 2-17, that is, the genealogy proper. Indeed G. Schrenk boldly states that βίβλος γενέσεως, “is taken from Gn. 5:1 (for תֹדלוֹת רפֶ ֵס). As in Gn., it relates only to the succeeding genealogy and not to the whole Gospel or even to the infancy stories up to Mt. 2:23. Otherwise we do violence to the traditional formula.”[14] Whether or not this identification does or does not do violence to the formula remains to be seen.

Page range205-223
Year2019
Book titleScribes and Their Remains
PublisherBloomsbury Publishing
Place of publicationUnited Kingdom
Edition1st
ISBN9780567693457
9780567688064
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.5040/9780567688064.ch-008
Research or scholarlyResearch
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All rights reserved
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Output statusPublished
Publication dates
Online25 Sep 2019
Publication process dates
Deposited15 Dec 2021
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