Gibbs, Jeffrey A. “Matthew 1:18-25: The Naming of Jesus.” Matthew 1:1-11:1. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2006, pp. 96-114.
Gibbs begins with grammatical notes about the passage at hand. Of note here, Matthew 1:19 speaks of the intention of Joseph to divorce Mary quietly. Gibbs observes that “betrothal was a legally binding relationship that was the first step of marriage. However, the marriage was consummated only after the betrothal period was completed” (Gibbs 2006, 97). The betrothal was a serious enough agreement that to break it required a formal divorce or the death of one party.
Speaking of the prophecy of Jesus’ birth, Gibbs finds the statement, “this whole thing happened” in 1:22 as possibly an opening bracket, which is completed in 26:56, as Jesus says “this whole thing happened” to fulfill Scripture (Gibbs 2006, 99). Matthew introduces ten statements with “that the thing spoken might be fulfilled.” Gibbs notes that Matthew reserves this language for Jesus alone (Gibbs 2006, 99).
Gibbs observes that in 1:23 Matthew closely follows the LXX in using the word παρθένος of Mary (Gibbs 2006, 100). The Hebrew word is used fairly rarely in the Old Testament, and is sometimes translated as “young woman,” sometimes as “virgin.” Gibbs concludes that the passage in Isaiah was intended to express a “virgin maiden” and was rightly recognized as such by Matthew (Gibbs 2006, 101).
The question of Matthew 1:25 and the virginity of Mary is significant. Gibbs is clear that Matthew’s main purpose is to make it obvious that Jesus could not be the son of Joseph. However, he asks whether the use of “until” implies that Joseph and Mary began having sexual relations after the birth of Jesus (Gibbs 2006, 103). Gibbs finds no grammatical solution to the question. The most logical and natural conclusion to make is that the celibacy ended after the birth of Jesus (Gibbs 2006, 104).
From a theological perspective, Gibbs sees the passage divided into three portions with distinct messages. First, verses 18b-19 speak to “human misunderstanding of the origin of Jesus” (Gibbs 2006, 104). The natural assumption about Jesus’ origin would be that he had a human father. Without other information, we would all assume the same. Gibbs emphasizes that Joseph’s initial reaction was perfectly normal and that his intention of a quiet divorce was well meaning. He was corrected by divine revelation, which we need as well, when confronted with what is naturally impossible (Gibbs 2006, 105).
Next, in verses 20-23, Matthew gives insight into God’s purpose. He provides both testimony of an angel and of the Old Testament prophecy. The angel’s address to Joseph as the “son of David” emphasizes that Jesus will be legally taken into the line of David (Gibbs 2006, 106). Further, Jesus has a divine origin and a divine purpose, the one whose very name points to God as the savior (Gibbs 2006, 107). Gibbs observes that the message of Jesus’ work to rescue from sin is central to Matthew’s Gospel. Here, the emphasis is on Jesus as the Son of God, a substitute for Israel, which is normally seen as God’s son (Gibbs 2006, 108).
Matthew’s quotation of Isaiah 7:14 is taken by some as reference to an event in the 8th century B.C. but not related to the time of Matthew. Others see the passage as a promise clearly fulfilled in Jesus (Gibbs 2006, 108). Gibbs takes Isaiah seven to address God’s promise that Judah would not fall. The complexity of the prophecy in Isaiah, coupled with the fact that the prophecy of Isaiah 7 does not seem to be completed in Isaiah 8, despite birth of a child, suggests to Gibbs that the child of Isaiah 8 is not the extent of the fulfillment (Gibbs 2006, 111). Gibbs sees that the child of the prophecy, who appears several times in Isaiah, is not an 8th century figure but matches Jesus as portrayed in the Gospels. Matthew’s repeated claims that Jesus is the fulfillment of Old Testament passages, particularly from Isaiah, further illustrates Matthew’s view that Jesus is the true promised Messiah (Gibbs 2006, 113).
Finally in Matthew 1:24-25 Joseph trusts God’s word and responds in a righteous way (Gibbs 2006, 114). Gibbs sees him as the contrast to King Ahaz. He recognizes the child for who he is, a savior, and applies the revealed name, “Jesus,” to him.