Matthew 1:18-25 Jesus's Birth


  1. Introduction

  1. Characters

    1. Jesus Christ

    2. Mary

    3. Joseph

    4. Holy Spirit

    5. The Angel

  2. Exposition

    1. Pregnant and Betrothed (Mat 1:18-19)

    2. An angel Intervenes in a dream (Mat 1:20-21)

    3. OT prophecy fulfilled (Mat 1:23)

    4. Joseph obeys the Lord (Mat 1:24-25)

  3. Heretical Beliefs

    1. Catholic

      1. theories about Joseph

      2. Mary remained a virgin

      3. Mary’s elevated position

      4. Mary was sinless

    2. Secular

      1. The virgin birth was made-up as a coverup for adultery

      2. birth narratives contradict between Luke and Matthew

  4. Questions?


  1. Introduction

This section refers to the birth of Christ -- though really only the conception is mentioned not the birth itself. One very important life lesson we can take away from this section is the simple faith and obedience of Mary and Joseph in that they simply believed the Lord and obeyed. Time permitting, we will also look at how people have twisted the Scriptures throughout history and how they arrived at their conclusions.

  1. Characters

    1. Jesus Christ

The name Jesus is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew “Jeshua” (aka Joshua) which means “Yaweh saves”. Mat 1:21 tells us His name is Jesus because “He will save his people from their sins.”  Mat 1:23 also says they would call Him Emmanuel which means “God with us”. Note that he was named Jesus but was called Emmanuel. Note the subtle difference. Since Jesus was both fully human and fully God (John 1:1,  John 1:14), He was literally “God with us”. He had to be fully human and fully God in order to pay the price for our sins on the cross (Hebrews 2:17). It is obvious from the text that God is His father since He was begotten by the Holy Spirit.

  1. Mary

Mary’s true name would have been Miriam or Mariamne which were very common at the time. Mary is an anglicization of that name [8]. She is the mother of Jesus. Since she was a virgin when she became pregnant with Jesus, Jesus was descended from Mary and not Joseph (Mat 1:16). Joseph was Jesus’s adoptive Father and descended from David. Mary had an important but not an elevated role among the apostles. If she were nearly as important as the Catholics make her out to be then wouldn't she have been mentioned much more than she was? In John’s Gospel, she is mentioned indirectly without the birth story (John 2:3). Jesus told John to take Mary in as his own mother while he was on the cross (John 19:25-27) which shows honor to her and also to John. After Jesus ascended, Mary prayed with the apostles (Acts 1:14). 

Mary is a disciple who hears and responds to God’s word. Here are some examples:

  • she is called “favored one” (Luke 1:28) by being the mother of Jesus

  • she replies “yes I am a servant of the Lord” (Luke 1:38)

  • her role as mother is diminished compared to her role as a disciple “my mother and brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it” (Luke 8:19-21)

  • her role as physical mother is once again diminished: “blessed is the womb...blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it” (Luke 11:27-28)

  • It’s amazing that Catholics continue to elevate her motherhood while Jesus Himself diminishes it. How in the world can so many people make such a serious mistake? The only way it can be concluded that Mary took an elevated role would be to introduce non-scriptural concepts to twist and warp the scriptures to make them appear to say things that they don't actually say. People who do this will be held accountable for what they did to God's Word. As 2 Peter 3:16 says, people twist the Scriptures to their own destruction. I don't think I'm overstating how important this is. The loving thing to do is to warn people who do this with gentleness and respect in the spirit of 1 Peter 3:15. We will look more in-depth into why Catholics elevate Mary later on in this lesson.

  1. Joseph

Joseph’s name means “may God increase”. He was a carpenter as indicated by Mat 13:55. The term “carpenter” meant any kind of craftsman working with wood, stone, or metal -- not necessarily someone who builds furniture or houses. The most detailed information about Joseph is given in Matthew. He was a righteous man (Mat 1:19).

  1. Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit is God. He is part of the trinity along with God the Father and God the Son. Throughout the Bible and into today, the Holy Spirit has taken an increasing role. The Holy Spirit had begotten Jesus in Mary’s womb and once Jesus rose and ascended to heaven, He sent the Holy Spirit to provide the power, guidance, comfort, and presence of God for carrying out the work of building the church, fulfilling the Great Commission, and transforming Jesus’s disciples into the image of Christ [18]. Titus 3:4-6 talks about the Holy Spirit’s role in our lives.

  1. The Angel

The angel may be the angel Gabriel since he is mentioned in Luke 1:26-31 as the one who tells Mary the good news about being pregnant with Jesus. Gabriel also announces Elizabeth’s pregnancy with John the Baptist in Luke 1:19. In Matthew 1:20, an angel is mentioned as visiting Joseph and announcing the good news to him and this might be Gabriel since he is announcing the same thing as he did to Mary but we don’t know for sure. He doesn’t appear at all in the Gospel of Mark or John as far as we know. He also appears in the Old Testament in Daniel where he provides an end-times prophesy to Daniel (Daniel 8:16-17), explains to Daniel the hidden meaning of the words of Jeremiah that Daniel was reading (Daniel 9:21-22), and is implicitly the angel who appears to Daniel in Daniel 10 [22]. 

  1. Exposition

    1. Pregnant and Betrothed (Mat 1:18-19) Mary was found pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Knowing what we know about pregnancy, this was probably noticeable by Joseph once Mary returned from her three month visit to Elizabeth (where Mary’s pregnancy was recognized immediately by her in Luke 1:42) [8].

Mary became pregnant during the betrothal period of her marriage to Joseph. The betrothal period would last a year and was really the first part of the marriage. The couple would live separately but a strong bond would be established between them. It was so binding that it required a certificate of divorce to break-off and would exempt a man from military duty (Deut 20:7). The betrothal was celebrated by a feast [23]. At the end of the betrothal period, the couple would consummate the marriage in sexual union. The penalty for disrupting the betrothal by adultery, rape, fornication, or incest was death by stoning (Deut 22:23-30). The forgiving love and grace of God for his adulterous people is demonstrated by Hosea’s buying back his adulterous wife and restoring her to his home and protection (Hos. 2:19–20). This means that forgiveness takes precedence over stoning or divorce [24]. Joseph would have been right to make her a public example if she were unfaithful though he chose not to. This is very different from Judah who, in a similar case, hastily said “let her be burnt” (Gen 38:24). Instead, Joseph chose mercy. He was a righteous man and was therefore inclined to be merciful as God is and to forgive as one that was forgiven (Mat 5:7; Mat 6:14; Eph 4:32; Col 3:13) [21].


  1. An angel Intervenes in a dream (Mat 1:20-21) The angel (possibly Gabriel) told Joseph about Mary’s pregnancy in a dream. Matthew Henry thinks that the dream must have been such that Joseph knew it was from the Lord and not just fanciful [21]. 

  1. OT prophecy fulfilled (Mat 1:23)

Matthew points out fulfillments of OT prophesies a dozen times (cf. Mat 2:15, Mat 2:17, Mat 2:23; Mat 4:14; Mat 8:17; Mat 12:17; Mat 13:14, Mat 13:35; Mat 21:4; Mat 26:54–56; Mat 27:9, Mat 27:35). He quotes from the OT more than 60 times more frequently than any other NT writer except Paul in Romans [17]. 

There is a dispute whether the Hebrew term in Isaiah means virgin or maiden. Matthew is quoting from the LXX (septuagint) which uses the unambiguous Greek term for virgin. Thus Matthew, writing under the Spirit’s inspiration, ends all doubt about the meaning of the word in Is. 7:14. [17]

As for Isaiah 7:14, this is a dual prophesy: 

1) short-term disappearance of Syria and Ephraim. (Isa 7:16) The child itself may be Maher-shalal-hash-baz. Support for this is in Isa 8:10 shortly after the discussion of the birth of Isaiah's son. 

2) Jesus first coming - literally "God with us".

  1. Joseph obeys the Lord (Mat 1:24-25)

Note that Joseph simply obeys the Lord for he was a righteous man. Note also it says he took his wife but didn’t have marital relations with her until she gave birth to a son. She was already considered to be his wife while they were betrothed even though they didn’t consummate their marriage with the sexual part until after Jesus was born. Note it says until -- not ever like the Catholics believe about Mary’s perpetual virginity.

  1. Heretical Beliefs

    1. Catholic

      1. theories about Joseph

        1. Joseph died sometime after Jesus’s 12th year (Luke 2:41-50) and before the beginning of His ministry [11]. Evidence is cited as Mark mentioning nothing of Jesus life before baptism and never mentioning Joseph. Evidence is also cited as John taking Mary in (why would he need to do that? what about Joseph?). I would say the focus of Mark is different and that other important people are not mentioned by name either. The idea of Mary being taken in actually makes sense to me but that doesn’t really change anything of important theological significance and certainly doesn’t support the idea of Mary’s perpetual virginity.

        2. Joseph was old and had children from a prior marriage therefore Jesus brothers didn’t come from Mary so Mary remained a virgin her whole life.

      2. Mary remained a virgin

        1. The catholics think the Protevangelium of James is credible which says Mary was a virgin when she gave birth [13]:

19. And I saw a woman coming down from the hill-country, and she said to me: O man, whither art thou going? And I said: I am seeking an Hebrew midwife. And she answered and said unto me: Art thou of Israel? And I said to her: Yes. And she said: And who is it that is bringing forth in the cave? And I said: A woman betrothed to me. And she said to me: Is she not thy wife? And I said to her: It is Mary that was reared in the temple of the Lord, and I obtained her by lot as my wife. And yet she is not my wife, but has conceived of the Holy Spirit. And the widwife said to him: Is this true? And Joseph said to her: Come and see. And the midwife went away with him. And they stood in the place of the cave, and behold a luminous cloud overshadowed the cave. And the midwife said: My soul has been magnified this day, because mine eyes have seen strange things—because salvation has been brought forth to Israel. And immediately the cloud disappeared out of the cave, and a great light shone in the cave, so that the eyes could not bear it. And in a little that light gradually decreased, until the infant appeared, and went and took the breast from His mother Mary. And the midwife cried out, and said: This is a great day to me, because I have seen this strange sight. And the midwife went forth out of the cave, and Salome met her. And she said to her: Salome, Salome, I have a strange sight to relate to thee: a virgin has brought forth—a thing which her nature admits not of. Then said Salome: As the Lord my God liveth, unless I thrust in my finger, and search the parts, I will not believe that a virgin has brought forth. 20. And the midwife went in, and said to Mary: Show thyself; for no small controversy has arisen about thee. And Salome put in her finger, and cried out, and said: Woe is me for mine iniquity and mine unbelief, because I have tempted the living God; and, behold, my hand is dropping off as if burned with fire. And she bent her knees before the Lord, saying: O God of my fathers, remember that I am the seed of Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob; do not make a show of me to the sons of Israel, but restore me to the poor; for Thou knowest, O Lord, that in Thy name I have performed my services, and that I have received my reward at Thy hand. And, behold, an angel of the Lord stood by her, saying to her: Salome, Salome, the Lord hath heard thee. Put thy hand to the infant, and carry it, and thou wilt have safety and joy. And Salome went and carried it, saying: I will worship Him, because a great King has been born to Israel. And, behold, Salome was immediately cured, and she went forth out of the cave justified. And behold a voice saying: Salome, Salome, tell not the strange things thou hast seen, until the child has come into Jerusalem.

  1. This reminds me of the book of Mormon where it borrows the way things are said from the Bible to make it sound like the Bible (e.g. borrowing from doubting Thomas).

  2.  pseudepigraphal (noncanonical and unauthentic) work written about the mid-2nd century AD to enhance the role of Mary, the mother of Jesus, in Christian tradition. The story of Mary’s childhood as given in the Protevangelium has no parallel in the New Testament, and reference to a nine-year stay in the Temple of Jerusalem contradicts Jewish customs. Mary’s birth to aged parents is termed miraculous, and after the birth of Jesus a midwife is said to have confirmed that Mary was still a virgin. The Protevangelium modified the nativity narratives of Matthew and Luke. Though the writer called himself James, his true identity is still uncertain. The work was possibly composed in Egypt and was widely popular from antiquity on through the Renaissance. There are more than 30 extant Greek manuscripts and others in Coptic, Syriac, and Armenian. [14]

  1. Mary’s elevated position

    1. Her importance was manifest by the early second century (Ign., Eph. 7.2; 19.1), and if the Beloved Disciple of the Gospel of John can be taken as a stand-in for all Christians, she then enjoys an elevated position quite early (Jn 19:26–27). [9]

    2. Catholics say Mary is the new Eve -- mimicking the way Apostle Paul says Christ is the new Adam.

    3.  In accordance with this design, Mary the Virgin is found obedient, saying, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.” But Eve was disobedient; for she did not obey when as yet she was a virgin. And even as she, having indeed a husband, Adam, but being nevertheless as yet a virgin (for in Paradise “they were both naked, and were not ashamed,”3 inasmuch as they, having been created a short time previously, had no understanding of the procreation of children: for it was necessary that they should first come to adult age, and then multiply from that time onward), having become disobedient, was made the cause of death, both to herself and to the entire human race; so also did Mary, having a man betrothed [to her], and being nevertheless a virgin, by yielding obedience, become the cause of salvation, both to herself and the whole human race. [10]

  2. Mary was sinless

    1. Catholics say “The doctrine of the immaculate conception teaches that it was not fitting for Jesus to be born of a woman bearing original sin, so at the moment of Mary’s conception God granted her the grace of baptism, which would not otherwise be given to humanity until Jesus instituted the sacrament “ (Matt. 28:19).[8]

    2. We know that Mary was ritually unclean so had to offer a sacrifice (Luke 2:24, Lev 12:8) [25]

  3. Mary never died but was taken directly into heaven

    1. this belief was unknown in the earliest ages of the Church (St. Ambrose and St.Epiphanius were apparently still ignorant of it).

    2. this was made official in the Catholic church in 1950 though it had been believed for many years [7]

      1.  To dispute this doctrine, according to Rome’s teaching, would result in the loss of salvation. [7]

    3. It first appeared in NT apocrypha dating from the later 4th century onwards with some of them Gnostic.

      1. some titles: “The Passing Away of Mary”, “The Obsequies of Mary”.

      2. they say things like she was assumed on the way to burial or raised after three days or in her natural life

      3. they are attributed to authors such as St.Melito of Sardis and St.John the Evangelist 

      4. St.Gregory of Tours (594 AD) accepted the account attributed to St.Melito of Sardis as historical

    4. example of Catholics twisting the Scriptures on this to their own demise [6]:

      1. While the dogmatic definition is relatively new, the doctrine of Mary’s Assumption is firmly rooted in Sacred Scripture and Tradition. The key scriptural verse is Genesis 3:15, in which the Lord says that He will put enmity between Satan and the “woman,” who is identified as the Mother of the Redeemer. “Enmity” means “total opposition.” This verse foreshadows Mary’s participation in the complete victory of her seed (Jesus) over Satan. According to St. Paul, the consequences of Satan’s influence on the human race are twofold: sin and death (e.g., Romans 5:21; 6:16; 6:23; 8:2; Galatians 6:7-8; Hebrews 2:14-15). Therefore, Mary, who shared in her Son’s victory over Satan, would have to be saved from both sin and the corruption of death. Thus, the Assumption manifests Our Lady’s “total opposition” to the devil.

      2. In addition to Genesis 3:15, there are several other scriptural passages that point to the Assumption of Our Lady. For example, there is Luke 1:28, since her bodily assumption is a natural consequence of her being “full of grace.” Other passages include Revelation 12:1, in which Mary’s coronation implies her bodily assumption, and 1 Corinthians 15:23 and Matthew 27:52-53, which support the possibility of a bodily assumption. And lastly there is Psalm 132:8, which provides: “Arise, O Lord, into your resting place: you and the ark which you have sanctified.” Mary is the new Ark of the Covenant, who physically bore the presence of God in her womb before bearing Christ to the world.

      3. The Assumption is also witnessed by sacred Tradition. For example, St. Gregory of Tours (d. 593) wrote: “The Lord commanded the holy body [of Mary] to be borne on a cloud to Paradise where, reunited to its soul and exalting with the elect, it enjoys the everlasting bliss of eternity.” The doctrine was also explicitly taught by Church Fathers such as St. Germain of Constantinople, St. Andrew of Crete, and St. John Damascene.

  1. Secular

    1. The virgin birth was made-up as a coverup for adultery

      1. This is one of the first biblical events that skeptics attack since it is supernatural. They claim this was a ploy to cover up Mary’s “illegitimate pregnancy”.

      2. they also claim that this parallels Greek mythology, e.g. Zeus bore children by human mothers

      3. there are stories that claim Plato’s father was Apollo and Alexander The Great was conceived of Zeus and that his father Philip of MAcedon was kept from consummating his marriage until Alexander was born [1]

      4. The point they are trying to make is that claims of a virgin birth was not very far-fetched to the Greek mind.

      5. A counterpoint is that Greek gods are always lustful and promiscuous and that in contrast Mary’s conception was not due to a physical union. There is also hardly any emphasis on the concept of “virgin” in Greek mythology. This isn’t a very strong counterpoint but it is sufficient to respond to the weakness of the skeptical point in the first place.

      6. As for Buddhism, the story of an actual virgin birth is post-Christian (Buddha was born from the entrance of the white elephant representing the spirit of childbirth into Gautama’s mother.

    2. birth narratives contradict between Luke and Matthew [26]

  1. Luke 2:39 says “When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth,”. Matthew 2:21-23 says that Joseph and his family went to Nazareth on their return from Egypt. Critics say that Luke indicates Jesus was taken to Nazareth directly from the temple and Matthew says that Jesus was taken to Nazareth directly from Egypt.

  2. Luke doesn’t comment on Egypt but his silence shouldn’t be construed as a denial. Does Luke’s narrative allow enough time for a trip to Egypt? Between the circumcision of Jesus and the trip to the temple was 32 days which is problematic. A better way to reconcile the two narratives is to place the flight to Egypt after Jesus’s appearance in the temple.This assumes that Joseph and Mary remained in Bethlehem after Jesus’s birth and that they had a place to stay -- which was the “house” mentioned in Matthew 2:11.

  3. example: Matthew never mentions the shepherds of the nativity. Are we to assume that because of Matthew’s omission that no shepherds came?

  4. Timeline:

    1. After visiting the temple, Joseph and Mary return to Bethlehem. (In the month since Jesus’ birth, Joseph had probably sought temporary work there, and that work had become more permanent, perhaps. It’s also quite possible that Joseph was planning to resettle his new family in Bethlehem, thinking it would be good for the Son of David to be reared in the City of David).

  1. Simeon and Anna begin spreading the news that they have seen the Messiah in Jerusalem (Luke 2:25–38).

  1. Sometime later, the magi arrive at Jerusalem and confirm the news on the street that the Messiah has been born (Matthew 2:1–2). Herod sends the magi on to Bethlehem, where they find young Jesus (Matthew 2:3–11).

  1. The magi return home a different way, and Joseph is warned in a dream to flee to Egypt (Matthew 2:12–13).

  1. After a while, Herod figures out that the magi have disregarded his wishes, and he orders the slaughter of all males two years old and younger near Bethlehem (Matthew 2:16). The “two-year” computation indicates that Jesus could have already been that old.

  1. Herod dies in 4 BC.

  1. Joseph brings his family back from Egypt (Matthew 2:19–21). Out of fear of Herod’s son, Joseph changes his plan to settle in Bethlehem and instead moves back to Galilee (Matthew 2:22–23).

  1. Conclusion: There is nothing in the above chronology that contradicts either Matthew or Luke. The only way to find a contradiction between Matthew 2:21–23 and Luke 2:39 is to make assumptions based on a preconceived bias against the veracity of Scripture.

  1. Conclusion

    1. Catholics seem to get alot of their ideas from Apocryphal texts which have been discredited for centuries. They seem to make extraordinary efforts to interpret Scripture in a way that preserves the credibility of their “saints” and Popes at the expense of the plain meaning of the text. (Matthew 15:8-9). The Catholics should reject the Apocrypha which condone the use of magic, teach that forgiveness of sins is by human effort, and state wrong historical facts [16]. The Mormons make the same error by using Joseph Smith’s teachings to twist the meaning of Scripture. 

  1. Questions


  1. Elwell, W. A., & Beitzel, B. J. (1988). Virgin Birth of Jesus. In Baker encyclopedia of the Bible (Vol. 2, p. 2124). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

  2. Acosta, D. R. (2016). Mary, Mother of Jesus. In J. D. Barry, D. Bomar, D. R. Brown, R. Klippenstein, D. Mangum, C. Sinclair Wolcott, … W. Widder (Eds.), The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

  3. Pazdan, M. M. (1992). Mary, Mother of Jesus. In D. N. Freedman (Ed.), The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary (Vol. 4, p. 585). New York: Doubleday.


  5. Cross, F. L., & Livingstone, E. A. (Eds.). (2005). In The Oxford dictionary of the Christian Church (3rd ed. rev., p. 118). Oxford;  New York: Oxford University Press.



  8. Losch, R. R. (2008). In All the People in the Bible: An A–Z Guide to the Saints, Scoundrels, and Other Characters in Scripture (pp. 279–280). Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

    1. NOTE: careful with this resource. The author is an Episcopalian and has obvious contempt for God’s Word. He claims there is a contradiction between Luke and Matthew on the birth narrative when there actually is not. Beware wolves in sheep’s clothing.


  9. Provance, B. S. (2009). In Pocket Dictionary of Liturgy & Worship (p. 84). Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic.

  10. Irenaeus of Lyons. (1885). Irenæus against Heresies. In A. Roberts, J. Donaldson, & A. C. Coxe (Eds.), The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus (Vol. 1, p. 455). Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company.

  11. Porter, S. E. (1992). Joseph, Husband of Mary (Person). In D. N. Freedman (Ed.), The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary (Vol. 3, p. 974). New York: Doubleday.

  12. Blomberg, C. (1992). Matthew (Vol. 22, p. 57). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

  13. Roberts, A., Donaldson, J., & Coxe, A. C. (Eds.). (1886). The Protevangelium of James. In A. Walker (Trans.), Fathers of the Third and Fourth Centuries: The Twelve Patriarchs, Excerpts and Epistles, the Clementina, Apocrypha, Decretals, Memoirs of Edessa and Syriac Documents, Remains of the First Ages (Vol. 8, pp. 365–366). Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company.




  17. MacArthur, J., Jr. (Ed.). (1997). The MacArthur Study Bible (electronic ed., p. 1394). Nashville, TN: Word Pub.

  18. Wilkins, M. J. (2004). Matthew (p. 88). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

  19. Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1822). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

  20. Keener, C. S. (1993). The IVP Bible background commentary: New Testament (Mt 1:24–25). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

  21. Henry, M. (1994). Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible: complete and unabridged in one volume (p. 1612). Peabody: Hendrickson.

  22. Newsom, C. A. (1992). Gabriel (Angel). In D. N. Freedman (Ed.), The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary (Vol. 2, p. 863). New York: Doubleday.

  23. Youngblood, R. F., Bruce, F. F., & Harrison, R. K., Thomas Nelson Publishers (Eds.). (1995). In Nelson’s new illustrated Bible dictionary. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc.

  24. Hatfield, L. G. (2003). Betrothal. In C. Brand, C. Draper, A. England, S. Bond, E. R. Clendenen, & T. C. Butler (Eds.), Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (p. 199). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.