Manuscript of the Gospel of Matthew, containing the title ευαγγελιον κ̣ατ̣α μαθ᾽θαιον (euangelion kata Maththaion). This is the earliest known manuscript title for Matthew’s gospel and one of the earliest manuscript titles for any gospel (alongside with John’s P66 and P75). Late 2nd century to early 3rd century CE. The Earliest Manuscript Title of Matthew’s Gospel (BnF Suppl. gr. 1120 ii 3 / P4), Novum Testamentum, 54, 209-235.

Matthew 1:1

ספֶר תּוֹלְדוֹת יֵשׁוּעַ הַמָּשִׁיחַ בֶּן־דָּוִד בֶּן־אַבְרָהָם׃

“A record of the genealogy of Yeshua the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Avraham.”

As is evident from this first sentence, one cannot grasp the full significance of the Gospels without the Tanakh (called “The Old Testament” by Christianity.) The word “Tanakh” is an acronym for “Torah (Instruction), Nevi’im (Prophets), Ketuvim (Writings)”. Yeshua’s genealogy is traced back to Abraham, but contains allusions to Adam HaRishon, the First Man. The opening words “sefer toldot” (book of genealogy) echo Genesis 5:1, where Adam’s genealogy begins.

 זֶה סֵפֶר תֹּולְדֹת אָדָם

“This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day that God created man, he made him in God’s likeness.”
Genesis 5:1

The word toldot, genealogy, itself is significant. In this passage, is is spelled with one vav. Yet, three chapters earlier, when the Torah describes the creation of the heavens and the earth, the word is spelled with two vavs!

אֵלֶּה תֹולְדֹות הַשָּׁמַיִם וְהָאָרֶץ

“This is the history of the generations of the heavens and of the earth…”
Genesis 2:4

The vav remains missing all the way down through the generations of Yitzchak, and in the genealogy of Yishmael, it becomes even more defective, missing TWO vavs (Gen 25:12). After the sin of Adam, a vav was removed from man’s genealogy. What does this ‘Hidden Vav’ represent? When will it be restored? Amazingly, the book of Ruth reveals the return in the genealogy of the Messiah:

 וְאֵלֶּה תֹּולְדֹות פָּרֶץ

“Here is the genealogy of Peretz…”
Ruth 4:18

The Midrash comments on the significance of the lost Vav and its numerical value of 6,

“R. Berekiah said in the name of R. Samuel b. Nahman: Though these things were created in their fullness, yet when Adam sinned they were spoiled, and they will not again return to their perfection until the son of Peretz [viz. Messiah] comes; [for in the verse] “These are the toledoth (generations) of Perez”, toledoth is spelled fully, with a vav. These are they: [1] his lustre, [2] his immortality, [3] his height, [4] the fruit of the earth and [5] the fruit of trees, and [6] the luminaries.”
Genesis Rabbah 12:6, Soncino Press Edition

Using roshei teivot in reverse, in the words Abraham, David and Messiah, we have an acrostic for ADaM. In Yeshua, the New Adam, the vav is restored.

Matthew 1:2

אַבְרָהָם הוֹלִיד אֶת־יִצְחָק וְיִצְחָק הוֹלִיד אֶת־יַעֲקֹב וְיַעֲקֹב הוֹלִיד אֶת־יְהוּדָה וְאֶת־אֶחָיו׃

“Avraham became the father of Yitzchak. Yitzchak became the father of Yaakov. Yaakov became the father of Yehudah and his brothers.”

The parallels between Yitzhak and Yeshua are numerous, as Yitzhak was the Mashiach ben Yosef of his generation. The book of Hebrews says,

“For it is evident that our Lord has sprung out of Judah…”
Hebrews 7:14

The issue of Tribal Lineage of the virginal conception is addressed below in Matthew 1:23.

For more details, see our article:

Matthew 1:3

וִיהוּדָה הוֹלִיד אֶת־פֶּרֶץ וְאֶת־זֶרַח מִתָּמָר וּפֶרֶץ הוֹלִיד אֶת־חֶצְרוֹן וְחֶצְרוֹן הוֹלִיד אֶת־רָם׃

“Judah became the father of Peretz and Zerach by Tamar. Peretz became the father of Hezron. Hezron became the father of Ram.”

Genesis speaks of the birth of Peretz and Zerach,

“It happened in the time of her travail, that behold, twins were in her womb. When she travailed, one put out a hand, and the midwife took and tied a scarlet thread on his hand, saying, This came out first.It happened, as he drew back his hand, that behold, his brother came out, and she said, Why have you made a breach for yourself? Therefore his name was called Perez. Afterward his brother came out, that had the scarlet thread on his hand, and his name was called Zerach.”
Genesis 38:27-30

See Genesis Rabbah 12:6 above in the commentary to Matthew 1:1 regarding the “Son of Peretz.”

Matthew 1:4

וְרָם הוֹלִיד אֶת־עַמִּינָדָב וְעַמִּינָדָב הוֹלִיד אֶת־נַחְשׁוֹן וְנַחְשׁוֹן הוֹלִיד אֶת־שַׂלְמוֹן׃

“Ram became the father of Amminadav. Amminadav became the father of Nahshon. Nahshon became the father of Salmon.”

According to the Midrash, Nachshon ben Amminadav, the prince of the Tribe of Judah, was the first to enter the Red Sea when it split. Nachshon’s sister, Elisheva, married Aharon HaKohen, the brother of Moshe Rabbeinu.

Matthew 1:5

וְשַׂלְמוֹן הוֹלִיד אֶת־בֹּעַז מֵרָחָב וְבֹעַז הוֹלִיד אֶת־עוֹבֵד מֵרוּת וְעוֹבֵד הוֹלִיד אֶת־יִשָׁי׃

“Salmon became the father of Boaz by Rachav. Boaz became the father of Obed by Ruth. Obed became the father of Jesse.”

Although it seems highly likely, it is uncertain if this Rachav is the Rachav of the book of Joshua. Rabbinic literature has her marry Joshua, whose descendants include Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Huldah the prophetess among others (see Megillah 14b, Ruth Rabbah 2:1). If this is the Rachav of Jericho, and if she did marry Joshua, one may find a contradiction between Matthew and Jewish tradition. This, however, is easily solved, as she could have remarried Salmon after the death of Joshua. The genealogical record in Ruth is as follows,

“Now this is the history of the generations of Perez: Perez became the father of Hezron, and Hezron became the father of Ram, and Ram became the father of Amminadab, and Amminadab became the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon became the father of Salmon, and Salmon became the father of Boaz, and Boaz became the father of Obed, and Obed became the father of Jesse, and Jesse became the father of David.”
Ruth 4:18-22

The Book of Ruth is replete with Messianic connections that should be studied in conjunction with Yeshua’s genealogy.

For more details, see our article:
The Gospel of Ruth

Matthew 1:6

וְיִשַׁי הוֹלִיד אֶת־דָּוִד הַמֶּלֶךְ וְדָוִד הַמֶּלֶךְ הוֹלִיד אֶת־שְׁלֹמֹה מֵאֵשֶׁת אוּרִיָּה׃

“Jesse became the father of King David. David became the father of Solomon by her who had been the wife of Uriah.”

2nd Samuel 7 says,

“When your days are fulfilled, and you shall sleep with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who shall proceed out of your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his father, and he shall be my son. If he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men.”
2 Samuel 7:12-14

The Rambam writes,

“…there is no king in Israel except from the House of David and the seed of Shlomo, and anyone who challenges this family denies God and the words of His prophets.”
Rambam’s Commentary on Perek Chelek, cited in Otzrot Acharit HaYamim, When Moshiach Comes, R’ Yehudah Chayoun, Targum/Feldheim, pg. 67

The parallels between David HaMelech, Shlomo and Yeshua are numerous.

For more details, see our article:
Mashiach ben David

Matthew 1:7

וּשְׁלֹמֹה הוֹלִיד אֶת־רְחַבְעָם וּרְחַבְעָם הוֹלִיד אֶת־אֲבִיָּה וַאֲבִיָּה הוֹלִיד אֶת־אָסָא׃

“Solomon became the father of Rehoboam. Rehoboam became the father of Abijah. Abijah became the father of Asa.”

1 Kings says,

“And Solomon slept with his fathers and was buried in the city of David his father. And Rehoboam his son reigned in his place.”
1 Kings 11:43

As for Abijah, 2 Chronicles says,

“And Rehoboam slept with his fathers and was buried in the city of David, and Abijah his son reigned in his place.”
2 Chronicles 12:16

Unlike Rehoboam, Asa was a good king, and is mentioned in 1 Kings 15,

“In the twentieth year of Jeroboam king of Israel, Asa began to reign over Judah, and he reigned forty-one years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Maacah the daughter of Abishalom. And Asa did what was right in the eyes of HaShem, as David his father had done.”
1 Kings 15:9-11

Matthew 1:8

וְאָסָא הוֹלִיד אֶת־יְהוֹשָׁפָט וִיהוֹשָׁפָט הוֹלִיד אֶת־יוֹרָם וְיוֹרָם הוֹלִיד אֶת עֻזִּיָּהוּ׃

“Asa became the father of Jehoshaphat. Jehoshaphat became the father of Joram. Joram became the father of Uzziah.”

“And Jehoshaphat slept with his fathers and was buried with his fathers in the city of David his father, and Jehoram his son reigned in his place.”
1 Kings 22:50

Jehoram, called Joram for short, was actually the grandfather of Uzziah. There were three kings between them, Ahaziah, Yoash, and Amaziah. Skipping generations is not a problem, as Ezra 7:2 itself omits six generations, as is evident when comparing it to 1 Chronicles 5.

1 Chronicles 5:29-40 1 Chronicles 6:35-38 Ezra 7:1-6
Aaron Aaron Aaron
Eleazar Eleazar Eleazar
Pinchas Pinchas Pinchas
Abishua Abishua Abishua
Bukki Bukki Bukki
Uzzi Uzzi Uzzi
Zerahiah Zerahiah Zerahiah
Meraioth Meraioth Meraioth
Amariah Amariah Skipped
Ahitub Ahitub Skipped
Zadok Zadok Skipped
Ahimaaz Ahimaaz Skipped
Azariah Skipped
Yochanan Skipped
Azariah Azariah
Amariah Amariah
Ahitub Ahitub
Zadok Zadok
Shallum Shallum
Hilkiah Hilkiah
Azariah Azariah
Seraiah Seraiah
Yehozadak Ezra

2 Chronicles says,

“And all the people of Judah took Uzziah, who was sixteen years old, and made him king instead of his father Amaziah.”
2 Chronicles 26:1

Uzziah was also called Azariah. (2 Kings 15:1). He reigned for 52 years (788 – 737 B.C.). He did what was right in the eyes of HaShem, however, at the height of his power, he allowed his pride to overtake him, to the point that he went into the Temple and burned incense, and was smitten with leprosy.

Matthew 1:9

 וְעֻזִּיָּהוּ הוֹלִיד אֶת־יוֹתָם וְיוֹתָם הוֹלִיד אֶת־אָחָז וְאָחָז הוֹלִיד אֶת־יְחִזְקִיָּהוּ׃

“Uzziah became the father of Jotham. Jotham became the father of Ahaz. Ahaz became the father of Hezekiah.”

2 Chronicles notes,

“Jotham was twenty-five years old when he began to reign, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Jerushah the daughter of Zadok.”
2 Chronicles 27:1

Yotam began to reign when he was twenty-five years old. He reigned sixteen years. Ahaz his son was wicked, even to the point of sacrificing his children in the valley of Hinnom.

“Ahaz was twenty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem. And he did not do what was right in the eyes of HaShem, as his father David had done…”
2 Chronicles 28:1

Matthew 1:10

 וִיחִזְקִיָּהוּ הוֹלִיד אֶת־מְנַשֶׁה וּמְנַשֶׁה הוֹלִיד אֶת־אָמוֹן וְאָמוֹן הוֹלִיד אֶת־יֹאשִׁיָּהוּ׃

“Hezekiah became the father of Manasseh. Manasseh became the father of Amon. Amon became the father of Josiah.”

According to the Talmud, Hezekiah was a prototype of Mashiach,

“The Holy One, blessed be He, wished to appoint Hezekiah as the Messiah, and Sennacherib as Gog and Magog; whereupon the Attribute of Justice said before the Holy One, blessed be He: ‘Sovereign of the Universe! ‘If You did not make David the Messiah, who uttered so many hymns and psalms before You, will You appoint Hezekiah as such, who did not sing hymns to You in spite of all these miracles which You wrought for him?’ Therefore it [sc. the mem] was closed. Straightway the earth exclaimed ‘Sovereign of the Universe! Let me utter song before You instead of this righteous man [Hezekiah], and make him the Messiah.’ So it broke into song before Him, as it is written, ‘From the uttermost part of the earth we heard songs, even glory to the righteous.’ Then the Prince of the Universe said to Him: ‘Sovereign of the Universe! It [the earth] has fulfilled Your desire [for songs of praise] on behalf of this righteous man.’ But a heavenly Voice cried out, ‘It is my secret. It is my secret.’ ”
Sanhedrin 94a, Soncino Press Edition

For more details, see our article:
Chevlei Mashiach

Matthew 1:11

וְיֹאשִׁיָּהוּ הוֹלִיד אֶת־יְכָנְיָהוּ וְאֶת־אֶחָיו לְעֵת גָּלוּת בָּבֶל׃

“Josiah became the father of Jeconiah and his brothers, at the time of the exile to Babylon.”

See Matt 1:12 regarding the “Curse of Jeconiah” issue.

Matthew 1:12

 וְאַחֲרֵי גְּלוֹתָם בָּבֶלָה הוֹלִיד יְכָנְיָהוּ אֵת שְׁאַלְתִּיאֵל וּשְׁאַלְתִּיאֵל הוֹלִיד אֶת־זְרֻבָּבֶל׃

“After the exile to Babylon, Jeconiah became the father of Shealtiel. Shealtiel became the father of Zerubbabel.”

Anti-missionaries seize upon this verse to ‘prove’ that Yeshua is disqualified from being the Mashiach. The Talmud says,

“R. Johanan said: Exile atones for everything, for it is written, Thus saith the L-rd, write ye this man childless, a man that shall not prosper in his days, for no man of his seed shall prosper sitting upon the throne of David and ruling any more in Judah. (Jer. 22:30). Whereas after he [the king] was exiled, it is written, And the sons of Jechoniah, — the same is Assir — Shealtiel his son etc. (1 Chr. 3:7). [He was called] Assir, (imprisoned) because his mother conceived him in prison. Shealtiel, because God did not plant him in the way that others are planted. We know by tradition that a woman cannot conceive in a standing position. [yet she did conceive standing. Another interpretation: Shealtiel, because God obtained [of the Heavenly court] absolution from His oath. Zerubbabel [was so called] because he was sown in Babylon. But [his real name was] Nehemiah the son of Hachaliah.”
Sanhedrin 37b – 38a, Soncino Press Edition

The “Jeconiah argument” presents no difficulty for the Messiahship of Yeshua. In fact, it is the exact opposite, as Messiah himself descends from Zerubavel, who is the grandson of Jeconiah. Midrash Tanchuma says the following on this passage,

“What does it mean, Who art thou O great mountain? This is King Messiah. And why does he call him great mountain? Because he is greater than the Fathers…loftier than Abraham…more elevated than Moses…and higher than the ministering angels…and from whom will he issue? From Zerubbabel…”
Midrash Tanchuma, Toledot 14, ed. Buber 1:139, cited in the Messiah Texts by Raphael Patai, pg. 41

There are many more Rabbinic texts that destroy this anti-missionary position. This begs the question: Why do anti-missionaries use this argument? Either they do not know Jewish tradition (in which case they are uninformed), or they do not expect their audience to know (in which case they are misinforming). Which is it?

For more details, see our article:
Curse of Jeconiah

 Matthew 1:13

 וּזְרֻבָּבֶל הוֹלִיד אֶת־אֲבִיהוּד וַאֲבִיהוּד הוֹלִיד אֶת־אֶלְיָקִים וְאֶלְיָקִים הוֹלִיד אֶת עַזּוּר׃

“Zerubbavel became the father of Avihud. Avihud became the father of Eliaqim. Eliaqim became the father of Azur.”

See above verse for commentary from Midrash Tanchuma, Toledot 14, states Mashiach will issue from Zerubbabel.

Matthew 1:14

וְעַזּוּר הוֹלִיד אֶת־צָדוֹק וְצָדוֹק הוֹלִיד אֶת־יָכִין וְיָכִין הוֹלִיד אֶת־אֱלִיהוּד׃

“Azor became the father of Zadok. Zadok became the father of Achim. Achim became the father of Eliud.”

Matthew 1:15

 וֶאֱלִיהוּד הוֹלִיד אֶת־אֶלְעָזָר וְאֶלְעָזָר הוֹלִיד אֶת־מַתָּן וּמַתָּן הוֹלִיד אֶת־יַעֲקֹב׃

“Eliud became the father of Eleazar. Eleazar became the father of Matthan. Matthan became the father of Jacob.”

Matthew 1:16

וְיַעֲקֹב הוֹלִיד אֶת־יוֹסֵף בַּעַל מִרְיָם אֲשֶׁר מִמֶּנָּה נוֹלַד יֵשׁוּעַ הַנִקְרָא מָשִׁיחַ׃

“Jacob became the father of Joseph, the husband of Miriam, from whom was born Yeshua, who is called Messiah.”

Note that the father of Yeshua is named Yosef. But not just any Yosef. Yosef bar Yaakov. Joseph, the son of Jacob. This is not a coincidence. The parallels between Yosef and Yeshua are numerous.

For more details, see our article:
Mashiach ben Yosef

It may be asked, if Yosef is not the father of Yeshua, what is the purpose of this genealogy? It must be acknowledged that genealogical issues in the New Testament and Tanakh are notoriously complex. Some explain that Matthew provides the legal genealogy whereas Luke provides the physical genealogy. In this scenario, the argument is that Yeshua legally inherits the crown from Yosef via adoption. This argument is not completely satisfactory. The crown of the Levitical Priesthood cannot be conferred by adoption, and it seems unlikely that the Crown of Davidic Kingship would be passed this way. To be sure, Yeshua is certainly a physical descendant of both David and Solomon, as we will explain below. Despite the questions concerning the genealogy, the Rambam says,

“…a man will arise who was unknown prior to his revealing himself, and the signs and wonders that will appear by his hand are proofs of his true genealogy.”
Iggeret Teiman, cited in Otzrot Acharit HaYamim, When Moshiach Comes, R’ Yehudah Chayoun, Targum/Feldheim, pg. 69

Like Isaac and David, Yeshua’s paternity has been questioned but will be proven to be legit. This pattern has been necessary, as a sleight of hand, against the Sitra Achra (lit. ‘Other Side’, i.e. demonic realm) to bring redemption to the world.

Matthew 1:17

וְהִנֵּה כָּל־הַדֹּרוֹת מִן־אַבְרָהָם עַד־דָּוִד אַרְבָּעָה עָשָׂר דֹּרוֹת וּמִן־דָּוִד עַד־גָּלוּת בָּבֶל אַרְבָּעָה עָשָׂר דֹּרוֹת וּמִגָּלוּת בָּבֶל עַד־הַמָּשִׁיחַ אַרְבָּעָה עָשָׂר דֹּרוֹת׃

“So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; from David to the exile to Babylon fourteen generations; and from the carrying away to Babylon to the Messiah, fourteen generations.”

The structure of this genealogy is significant and intentional. The number 14 in gematria equals David. The three sets of 14 equal the number 42, which echoes the 42 stages from Egypt to the Promised Land, as spoken of in Parashat Masei (Numbers 33:1–36:13).

Matthew 1:18

וְזֶה דְבַר הֻלֶּדֶת יֵשׁוּעַ הַמָּשִׁיחַ מִרְיָם אִמּוֹ הָיְתָה מְאֹרָשָׂה לְיוֹסֵף וּבְטֶרֶם יָבֹא אֵלֶיהָ נִמְצֵאת הָרָה מֵרוּחַ הַקֹּדֶשׁ׃

“Now the birth of Yeshua the Messiah was like this; for after his mother, Miriam, was engaged to Joseph, before they came together, she was found pregnant by the Holy Spirit.”

Contrary to blasphemous interpretations, the Gospels are not suggesting a sexual act, but rather a creative act of HaShem’s Spirit. In fact, the Ruach HaKodesh would be “feminine,” so the Kabbalistic symbolism here is that the Partzuf of Imma has implanted her Son (Zeir Anpin) into the womb of the Nukvah.

For more details, see Matt 1:23 below and Luke 1:35.

Matthew 1:19

 וְיוֹסֵף בַּעְלָהּ אִישׁ צַדִּיק וְלֹא אָבָה לְתִתָּהּ לְחֶרְפָּה וַיֹּאמֶר אֲשַׁלְּחֶנָּה בַּסָּתֶר׃

“Joseph, her husband, being an ish tzaddik, and not willing to make her a public example, intended to put her away secretly.”

For more details, see our article:
The Erusin of Yosef and Miriam

Matthew 1:20

הוּא חשֵׁב כָּזֹאת וְהִנֵּה מַלְאַךְ יְהוָֹה נִרְאָה אֵלָיו בַּחֲלוֹם וַיֹּאמַר יוֹסֵף בֶּן־דָּוִד אַל־תִּירָא מִקַּחַת אֵת מִרְיָם אִשְׁתֶּךָ כִּי הַנּוֹצָר בְּקִרְבָּה מֵרוּחַ הַקֹּדֶשׁ הוּא׃

“But when he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to yourself Miriam, your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.”

The Jewish Annotated New Testament observes,

“…anchoring Jesus in Jewish tradition are Matthew’s comparisons between Jesus and Moses. This connection may begin in ch 1, with Mary’s miraculous pregnancy, Joseph’s resolve to divorce her, and the divine instructions to marry er, which bear some connection to the midrashic accounts of Moses’ conception (see e.g. Ant. 2.206-17; L.A.B. 9.1-10; Tg. Ps. J; Ex. Rab 1:13, Sefer Ha-Zikhronot)
Aaron M. Gale, Jewish Annotated New Testament, Oxford University Press, pg 2

The Targum speaks of Amram’s divorce of Yocheved and subsequent miraculous birth,

“And Amram, a man of the tribe of Levi, went and returned to live in marriage with Yokeved his wife, whom he had put away on account of the decree of Pharoah. And she was the daughter of a hundred and thirty years when he returned to her; but a miracle was wrought in her, and she returned unto youth as she was, when in her minority she was called the daughter of Levi.”
Targum Yonatan to Exodus 2,

Matthew 1:21

וְהִיא יֹלֶדֶת בֵּן וְקָרָאתָ אֶת־שְׁמוֹ יֵשׁוּעַ כִּי הוּא יוֹשִׁיעַ אֶת־עַמּוֹ מֵחַטֹּאתֵיהֶם׃

“She shall bring forth a son. You shall call his name Yeshua, for it is he who shall save his people from their sins.”

His name is Yeshua, which means salvation.

Matthew 1:22

וְכָל־זֹאת הָיְתָה לְמַלֹאת אֶת־דְּבַר יְהוָֹה אֲשֶׁר־דִּבֶּר בְּיַד הַנָּבִיא לֵאמֹר׃

“Now all this has happened, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying,”

The text of Isaiah says,

“He said, Listen now, house of David. Is it not enough for you to try the patience of men, that you will try the patience of my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, העלמה (the young woman) will conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”
Isaiah 7:13-14

The name Immanuel is broken down as follows: Im (with), Immanu (with us), Immanu’el (God with us).

Matthew 1:23

הִנֵּה הָעַלְמָה הָרָה וְיֹלֶדֶת בֵּן וְקָרְאוּ שְׁמוֹ עִמָּנוּאֵל אֲשֶׁר פֵּרוּשׁוֹ הָאֵל עִמָּנוּ׃

“Behold, the almah shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son. They shall call his name Immanuel, which is, being interpreted, God with us.” (Isaiah 7:14)

This interpretation of Isaiah 7:14 has proved to be one of the most controversial passages of the New Testament. It raises several difficulties that various scholars have attempted to answer. Much of the disagreement focuses on the word almah itself. It is well known that this word means simply “young female” with no indication of her virginal or non-virginal status. If one wished to convey the word “virgin” in Hebrew, they would use the word “betulah.” For many, that is the end of the discussion. However, the laser-beam focus on the word almah causes one to miss the beautiful tapestry that Matthew is weaving. It is beyond the scope of this commentary to address every nuance in this passage, (detailed article is forthcoming). The other issues surround the historical context of the Isaiah 7 prophecy, the relevance of Joseph’s genealogy in light of a virginal conception, and the ultimate purpose of the Messiah being born of a virgin.

For more details, see our online e-Book:
The Mystery of the Mem

The Pagan-Parallel Argument
This objection alleges that the Roman Catholic Church manufactured the idea of the virgin birth to parallel pagan birth stories, perhaps to make the story more appealing to Gentiles. This fails on several accounts because there are no pagan virginal conception stories. It is clear that the miraculous birth narratives of Matthew 1 and 2, and Luke 1 are patterned upon the miraculous births of the Tanakh and Jewish tradition.

For more details, see our article:
Pagan Parallels to the Virgin Birth?

Isaiah 7 Historical Argument
This argument centers on the fact that the prophecy to Isaiah is rooted in a historical time frame, and thus cannot be speaking about a future Messiah. This objection is also weak for the following reasons. Isaiah 7 through 12 form a unit, which is evident via the language of introduction in each chapter. The Talmud interprets Isaiah 8, 9 and 11 in Messianic ways, despite the fact that these passages are also rooted in history. In fact, anti-missionaries make a big deal about Isaiah 9 referring to Hezekiah, whom we have seen the Talmud connects to the Messiah. The Talmud comments on Isaiah chapter 8,

“The son of David cannot appear ere the two ruling houses in Israel shall have come to an end, viz., the Exilarchate, in Babylon and the Patriarchate in Palestine, for it is written, ‘And he shall be for a Sanctuary, for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence to both houses of Israel. (Isaiah 8:14-15)’
Sanhedrin 38a, Soncino Press Edition

While Isaiah 8 is firmly rooted in history, this didn’t stop the sages from interpreting the passage in a Messianic fashion. In fact, the New Testament interprets the same version in the exact same manner (See 1 Peter 2:8). In the next chapter, a famous Messianic prophecy occurs,

“For to us a child is born. To us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
Isaiah 9:6

Antimissionaries attempt to say this verse speaks exclusively of Hezekiah, thus attempting to defeat its Messianic interpretation. But as we have seen above, Hezekiah is a prototype of the Mashiach, and was the Messiah of his generation. The Ramban, R’ Moshe ben Nachman, explains in his Sefer Geulah,

“This is a strange text. Yet, as I have delved into it, I have seen that it confirms many things. Thus, you will find that the Sages of blessed memory always explain that the Scriptural texts that are said with reference to Chizkiyah apply to the future. With regard to these [Scriptural texts, the Sages] always employ the expression, “The Holy One, blessed be He, shall at a future time, [etc.]” They also said, “Rabbi Yosi HaGalili says that the name of the Messiah will also be Peace, for it is said, ‘avi-ad sar-shalom’ (everlasting father, ruler of peace.” . . . the condition [required] for [achieving the redemption in the days of] Chizkiyah was voided, and all those rewards and consolations remained for King Messiah, who will arise from [Chizkiyah’s] descendants.”
Ramban, The Book of Redemption, the Second Gate, Writings of the Ramban, Shilo Publishing House, pg. 660


The Rambam, R’ Moshe ben Maimon

“I have yet to raise up the Messiah, of whom it is written, ‘For a child is born to us’ (Isaiah 9:5).”
Deuteronomy Rabbah 1:20, Soncino Press Edition

The Rambam says,

“Six appellations were divinely conferred upon him as the following passage indicates: “For a child is born unto us, and a son is given unto us,
and the government is upon his shoulder, and he is called Pele, Yoetz, el, Gibbor, Abiad, Sar-Shalom.” (Isaiah 9:5).”
Maimonides, Letter to Yemen, page 16, translated by Boaz Cohen

For more details on Isaiah 9, see our upcoming article, The Prince of Peace. Isaiah 11 is also a well known Messianic prophecy,

“A shoot will come out of the stock of Jesse, and a branch out of his roots will bear fruit. The Spirit of HaShem will rest on him: the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of HaShem . His delight will be in the fear of HaShem. He will not judge by the sight of his eyes, neither decide by the hearing of his ears.”
Isaiah 11:1-3

One may then ask the following questions, if Isaiah 8, 9 and 11 are interpreted in a Messianic fashion, and each are tied to historic events, what would prevent Isaiah 7 from being interpreted in the same manner?

Almah v. Betulah
As we said above, the argument regarding almah vs. betulah misses the larger portrait that Matthew is painting. The Torah uses the word “almah” twice, in Genesis 24 and Exodus 2. This provides the definition for the word, and illustrates the deeper Midrashic connections that Matthew is drawing. Genesis 24 speaks of Rivkah,

“The young lady (almah) was very beautiful to look at, a virgin (betulah), neither had any man known her.”
Genesis 24:16

The Torah identifies this almah as a betulah. Exodus 2 says,

“The maiden went and called the child’s mother.”
Exodus 2:8-9

The maiden in this passage is the sister of Moshe, Miriam, who went and brought Yocheved to nurse the baby. If Isaiah would have used the word “betulah,” the following connections would not have been made:

The almah, the young woman, whose name is Miriam, is a betulah, whom no man had known.

Numbers 1 Tribal Lineage Argument
This argument centers on the fact that if Yeshua is born of a virginal conception, then he has no earthly father. If he has no earthly father, according to Numbers 1, he is without a tribe, and without the paternal inheritance necessary to receive the Throne of David and cannot be the Messiah. The Gospels contradict this claim. Yeshua is referred to as the “son of David” in the following passages,

In Zechariah’s Song – Luke 1:69
The blind man at Jericho – Mt 9:27; Mr 10:47
The ‘Canaanite’ Woman – Mt 15:22
The questioning crowd in Mt 12:23
The massive crowd at the Triumphal Entry – Mt 21:15
Apostle Peter – Acts 2.25
Apostle Paul – Acts 13.22; Romans 1.3; 2 Tim 2.8
Apostle John – Revelation 5:5; 22.16

If HaShem is Spirit, where did the physical seed originate from? It is a possibility that the seed of Yosef was miraculously transferred, via in-vitro fertilization, to Miriam. To understand the reason for this, we must understand science and the concept of the ‘counsel of the serpent.’ Pirkei Avot says,

“Akavia ben Mahalalel said, “…Know from where you came: From a putrid drop.”
Pirkei Avot 3:1

The Shelah says,

“Man unfortunately did not even manage to spend a single night in Gan Eden before he sinned. . . ever since, new generations of man are the product of the smelly drop of semen, i.e. semen which is polluted by the residual pollutant of the original serpent.”
The Holy Shelah, R’ Yeshayahu Horowitz, Shnei Luchot HaBrit, Ki Teytze, Volume 3, pg. 1181

R’ Avraham Saba, writes in Tzror Mor,

“By [Adam] calling her Chava, he alluded to the future, because having herself seduced by the serpent, she would forever be remembered as the mother of all future sin. In Psalms 51,7, David describes himself as having been conceived in sin…He does not refer to his biological mother, but to the mother of all mankind, Chavah, reminding G’d that all human beings ever since have been conceived in sin…[Moses] also refers to the phenomenon this very human being carries within it, this pollutant implanted in Chavah, and that in the final analysis, this is what makes him prone to the “one who will seduce you.”
Tzror HaMor, R’ Avraham Saba, Parashat Re’ay, translated by R’ Eliyahu Munk, Volume 5, 1881-1882

Scientifically, sperm and seminal fluid are two separate things. Seminal fluid is the vehicle for the sperm to reach the egg. According to the Torah, the emission of seminal fluid makes one ceremonially unclean. If HaShem were to miraculously extract the sperm from Yosef, and implant it into Miriam, He could bypass the “putrid drop” and counsel of the serpent. This would allow the Messiah to suffer on behalf of all humanity and extinguish death, because he himself is not subject to the death penalty.

For more details, see our article:
The Holy Snake

The Virgin Shekhinah and the Twin Messiahs
In a mystical sense, the Female who gives birth to the Messiah is the Shekhinah, the Knesset Yisrael, the Sefirah Malchut. One may see in the Gospel accounts a reflection of the Sefirot, with Miriam continuing the role of Rachel Immeinu, representing the Virgin Daughter of Israel. The Zohar says,

“The Faithful Shepherd said, “At that time (there will come) pangs and pains upon the woman in childbirth, that is, the Shekinah … And through these pains, which will make her cry out, seventy supernal Sanhedrins will be aroused, until her voice reaches the Lord … And from those voices which she gives forth … her womb opens — and her womb consists of two houses – to give birth to two Messiahs … and she bends her head between her knees; her head is the Middle Column and her two thighs are Eternity and Majesty … and from there are born two Messiahs. In that time the forests will be denuded, and the Serpent will pass from the world.”
Zohar, Ra’aya Mehemna, 3:67b-68a, cited in the Messiah Texts, Raphael Patai, pgs 129-130

An unusual Kabbalistic text comments on the birth of the Trein Meshichin, the Twin Messiahs,

“Now the remembrance [in its ordinary sense] is a hidden reference to the beginnings of conception and the months of pregnancy with the Messiah, when Yesod remembers Rachel and visits and impregnates her, and when that holy seed is absorbed, which reveals light in the world in body and soul here below while the spirit of the Messiah, with regard to whose body here below it was said: “The spirit of wisdom will rest upon him’ etc., is still hidden in the womb of Ima, in the hidden meaning of the closed mem in lemarbeh hamisrah [‘of the increase of government…’], until there takes place there the nine months’ gestation alluded to in the tikunim (Zohar Chadash 5d)…and then she ‘like a woman with child, when she is near her time, will cry out, writhing in pains’.”
MS Jerusalem 1466, fo 215, cited in Messianic Mystics, Isaiah Tishby, The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization, pg 267-268

Sefer HaMeshiv states,

”…There is an actual virgin, made of fire, and she is sexually receptive (lit., has a receptive vessel) and this likeness was created for Israel, as a wife and as a virgin, so that the mystery of the point have connection with her. That is the mystery of a virgin, neither had any man known her (Gen. 24:14). At the time of the redemption the mystery of the Messiah will come forth for Israel. Until that time, she will remain a virgin and then the supernal spirit will enter her mouth and a spirit of consuming flame will come forth at her opening and will emerge from that sanctuary, for there it will reside, shut away. At the time when the spirit emerges, it will take the form of fire. This is the mystery of the constellation Virgo. Therefore, it is the constellation of Israel and this is the esoteric meaning of the verse, rise, the virgin of Israel… that is the secret interpretation of the verse, a virgin, neither had any man known her (Gen. 24:24) until the Lord’s anointed one will come.”
Sefer HaMeshiv, cited in Messianic Mystics, Isaiah Tishby, The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization, pg 267-268

The eminent Jewish scholar Isaiah Tishby comments,

“In my opinion, the author of Sefer HaMeshiv gave a kabbalistic interpretation to the immaculate conception by the virgin and the Holy Spirit when he equated the idea of a virgin with the Shechinah, mother of the two messiahs, an idea, already expressed in the Zohar. This affords a better understanding of another statement in Sefer HaMeshiv:

“The open letter mem is an allusion to Binah and the closed letter mem has another meaning. It is an allusion to Malchut.”

This also represents a departure from the symbolism of the Zohar, where the open mem is an allusion to Malchut in particular, while the closed mem is an allusion to the Sefirah Binah. The author of Sefer HaMeshiv reverses this symbolism, a convention in kabbalah since the fourteenth century. Possibly, this change reflects the Christological exegesis of Isaiah 9:6 where the closed letter mem is taken as an allusion to Jesus’ virgin birth. In Sefer HaMeshiv, the discussion of the closed letter mem is associated with the subject of the coming of the Messiah.

“This is the mystery of the Kingdom (The Sefirah Malchut). That is the mystery of the closed letter mem, when He will send him — that is the meaning of the words Lekh Lekha (Gen. 12:1), (the Hebrew letters Lamed-Kaf — Lamed Kof form the words, Get you out). The word (Lamed Kof) is doubled to indicate this great mystery, the nature of the descent of the Messiah.”Messianic Mystics, Isaiah Tishby, The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization, pg 267-268 

Matthew 1:24

 וַיִּיקַץ יוֹסֵף מִשְׁנָתוֹ וַיַּעַשׂ כַּאֲשֶׁר צִוָּהוּ מַלְאַךְ יְהוָֹה וַיֶּאֱסֹף אֶת־אִשְׁתּוֹ אֶל בֵּיתוֹ׃

“Joseph arose from his sleep, and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took his wife to himself”

Joseph has a dream, echoing the Joseph in Genesis. Amram, the father of Moses, is also said to have had a dream (Antiquities 2:210-17).

Matthew 1:25

וְלֹא יְדָעָהּ עַד כִּי־יָלְדָה בֵּן (אֶת־בְּכוֹרָהּ) וַיִּקְרָא אֶת־שְׁמוֹ יֵשׁוּעַ׃

“and did not know her until she had brought forth her firstborn son. He named him Yeshua.”

Miriam had other children after Yeshua.