In this paper, I am going to write about the differences between Matthew 1:18-2:23 and Luke 1:2-2:40, and how they contribute to the story of the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. We have to remember that each gospel was written for a specific purpose, so each may not speak about the same details. Matthew was written for Jewish believers. For Matthew, it is stated by J. W. McGarvey in The New Testament Commentary: Vol. I - Matthew and Mark, "While Matthew maintains throughout his narrative a purely Christian spirit, he looks at everything with Jewish eyes, and keeps his own countrymen in view as his readers. But, unlike the other historians, he omits those explanations of Jewish customs and of local references, which Gentile readers would naturally expect."
Luke on the other hand was writing an account of Jesus to a friend named Theophilus, who wanted to know more of this Jesus he had been hearing about. Because of this, Luke's account of the life of Jesus Christ tends to have more details than Matthew's gospel because he had done much research to put together as complete a history of Jesus as he could. As it is stated in the Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary, "But when he (Luke) adds that "it seemed good to him also to write in order, having traced down all things with exactness from their first rise," it is a virtual claim for his own Gospel to supersede these "many" narratives." Matthew Henry also comments, "This Gospel appears to be designed to supersede many defective and unauthentic narratives in circulation, and to give a genuine and inspired account of the life, miracles, and doctrines of our Lord, learned from those who heard and witnessed his discourses and miracles."
The first thing we notice about these two sets of scripture is that Matthew begins with the birth of Jesus, where Luke begins even further back with the details surrounding the birth of John the Baptist. Luke's version is more complete in detail, as it gives the whole story of John's birth beginning with the faithfulness of hid parents towards God. In fact, Luke's story of John takes up the majority of the verses we are taking under consideration in this paper. Matthew gives no details about John the Baptist in his gospel with the exception chapter eleven where John asks if Jesus is the one the Jews have been waiting for.
Next, Matthew's account of the birth of Jesus gives us the story of Herod finding out about the birth of a new king from the wise men who were following the star to Bethlehem. He then moves right into the anger of Herod being betrayed by the wise men and his having all boys two years old and under killed, hoping to eradicate this new-born king. Luke makes no mention of the wise men or Herod in his account other than that Herod was King of Judea (vs. 1:5). He begins the birth account the census of the Roman Empire, the birth of Jesus, the shepherds visiting the stable, and then quickly moves onto the Temple story where Simeon and Anna proclaim to the new parents that their son will bring salvation to the people.
These two gospel accounts are so different from each other that, without the two together, we would not have as a complete history as we do. As far as the birth of Jesus, neither Matthew nor Luke says very much about it. In Matthew, the birth announcement seems to be mentioned as an aside, as if it were not important ("Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea when Herod was king" -- Matthew 2:1/GW). In Luke, the birth of Jesus is only given one verse ("She gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger because there wasn't any room for them in the inn" -- Luke 2:7/GW) to show that Mary actually gave birth to Jesus. Other than this neither gospel says any more about the birth.
If it had not been for the Holy Spirit guiding the gospel authors our knowledge of Jesus would be incomplete. Matthew and Luke both show us that God wanted to reach every tongue and nation with His Word. The scriptures we are contending with do not give us similar accounts of the same thing; they each give us new information that opens our understanding of the gospel story. Since the gospels were written for different audiences we would expect this to be true for no two people see the same thing in the same way.
For a broader account of the scriptures we have been studying here, one must go to the other gospels for more information. Taken as a whole, all four gospels give us as complete picture of the life of Jesus Christ as we need to determine whether we believe He is God or not. Matthew and Luke both give us just enough information to help us make that decision. Where two or three are gathered, there is God amongst them. For the gospels of Jesus Christ, God chose four men and gave them His Spirit to tell us of the miracle of Christ.
Henry, M. (2008). Matthew Henry Concise Bible Commentary. Database 2008 WORDsearch Corp.
Jamieson, R., Fausset, A., Brown, D. (2012). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the
Whole Bible (1871). Database 2012 WORDsearch Corp.
McGarvey, J. (2007) The New Testament Commentary: Vol. I - Matthew and Mark. Database 2007 WORDsearch Corp.
Scripture marked (GW) is taken from GOD'S WORD, 1995 God's Word to the Nations.
Used by permission of Baker Publishing Group.
Bobby Bruno was saved 15 years ago in a way that left him no doubt that Jesus wanted him to reach others with His great and abounding love. He started writing at the age of 12 and hasn't stopped since. He achieved Associates Degree in Biblical Studies from Ohio Christian University in early 2014.
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