Matthew chapter 1: Abraham to David

By Joseph Manning

Below is Matthew chapter 1 verses 2 – 6 describing Jesus’ genealogy from Abraham to David.

2  Ἀβραὰμ ἐγέννησεν τὸν Ἰσαάκ, Ἰσαὰκ δὲ ἐγέννησεν τὸν Ἰακώβ, Ἰακὼβ δὲ ἐγέννησεν τὸν Ἰούδαν καὶ τοὺς ἀδελφοὺς αὐτοῦ, 3 Ἰούδας δὲ ἐγέννησεν τὸν Φαρὲς καὶ τὸν Ζαρὰ ἐκ τῆς Θάμαρ, Φαρὲς δὲ ἐγέννησεν τὸν Ἑσρώμ, Ἑσρὼμ δὲ ἐγέννησεν τὸν Ἀράμ, 4  Ἀρὰμ δὲ ἐγέννησεν τὸν Ἀμιναδάβ, Ἀμιναδὰβ δὲ ἐγέννησεν τὸν Ναασσών, Ναασσὼν δὲ ἐγέννησεν τὸν Σαλμών, 5  Σαλμὼν δὲ ἐγέννησεν τὸν Βοὲς ἐκ τῆς Ῥαχάβ, Βοὲς δὲ ἐγέννησεν τὸν Ἰωβὴδ ἐκ τῆς Ῥούθ, 6  Ἰωβὴδ δὲ ἐγέννησεν τὸν Ἰεσσαί, Ἰεσσαὶ δὲ ἐγέννησεν τὸν Δαυεὶδ τὸν βασιλέα.

Now let’s translate this starting with the first part.

VERSE 2:

Ἀβραὰμ ἐγέννησεν τὸν Ἰσαάκ

Ἀβραὰμ Abraam: This is a transliteration of the Hebrew name Abraham.

ἐγέννησεν egennesen: This has the same root as γενέσεωςgeneseos‘ from verse 1.  The root verb means ‘to make happen.’  It’s usually translated here as ‘begat.’

τὸν ton: pronounced with a long o sound this word is a definite article meaning ‘the.’  Other languages use the definite article judiciously unlike English, ancient Greek is one of them.  The article declines with whatever noun it refers to and identifies what role in the sentence it is playing.  Ton is singular, accusative, masculine.  It refers to the next word…

Ἰσαάκ Isaak: normally nouns decline in Greek, but because Abraam and Isaak are transliterations from Hebrew they don’t follow normal grammatical behavior.

Altogether this says Abraam egennesen ton Isaak or “Abraham begat Isaac.”  Like when translating many other languages we don’t need to translate the definite article into English in this context.  Next we have:

Ἰσαὰκ δὲ ἐγέννησεν τὸν Ἰακώβ Isaak de egennesen ton Iakob: Didn’t I tell you New Testament Greek is easy?  This reads the same as above except the names are swapped with new ones.  “Isaac begat Jacob.”

δὲ de: This is a filler word that we don’t really have anything comparable to in English.  It connects one line to another.  It can be translated as ‘and’ although that’s not really what it means.  Sometimes its best left untranslated.  Probably the closest thing we have in English would be the words ‘um’ or ‘uh’ that we use in our spoken language.  They don’t have any meaning but they create a sense of connectivity, timing, and flow from one line to another.

Ἰακὼβ δὲ ἐγέννησεν τὸν Ἰούδαν καὶ τοὺς ἀδελφοὺς αὐτοῦ Iakob de egennesen ton Ioudan kai tous adelphous autou:  The first half means “Jacob begat Judah.”  Ioudan would be pronounced “You-Dahn” there was no ‘j’ in ancient Greek.

καὶ kai: This is the Greek word for ‘and.’ It can be used in the meaning of ‘but’ or ‘even.’

τοὺς ἀδελφοὺς tous adelphous: This is the definite article ‘the’ declined with the word for ‘sibling’ it also means ‘close relative’ or ‘cousin’ at times.  Both words are in the accusative, plural, masculine form.  What does that mean?  It means they are object of the verb ‘begat’ and would be translated as ‘brothers’ although because Judah had a sister the more correct translation here is probably ‘siblings.’ Greek speakers and writers talking about or to a mixed-sex group would simply use the masculine. Side note: we see this word in English today in our city name Philadelphia — Philo (love) and delphia (brother) gets us brotherly love.

αὐτοῦ autou: This is a pronoun. It can be translated ‘he/she/it/they’ depending on declension.  Here it’s in the singular masculine genitive declension and refers back to Judah.  Genitive is a type of possessive form.  What does this word mean?  ‘of him’ or ‘his.’  More than the other Gospels the book of Matthew was directed at a Jewish audience.  As you’ll see the book makes use of Aramaic words regularly.  An ancient Jewish reader would have recognized that the siblings meant here are Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Dan, Napthali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph, and Benjamin (and Dinah).

“Jacob begat Judah and his siblings.”  The second verse of Matthew chapter 1 says: “Abraham begat Isaac. Isaac begat Jacob. And Jacob begat Judah and his siblings.”

VERSES 3 and 4

Ἰούδας δὲ ἐγέννησεν τὸν Φαρὲς καὶ τὸν Ζαρὰ ἐκ τῆς Θάμαρ  Ioudas de egennesen ton Phares kai ton Zara ek tes Thamar: Judah begat Perez and Zerah by way of Tamar,

ἐκ τῆς ek tes: ek is a preposition that means ‘out of’ or ‘away from.’  ‘Tes‘ is the definite article again in a feminine declension.  Literally, this sentence says Judah’s kids Perez and Zerah came out of Tamar.  We get lots of words built around the Greek ‘ek‘ and the closely related Latin ‘ex.’

Φαρὲς δὲ ἐγέννησεν τὸν Ἑσρώμ  Phares de egennesen ton Hesrom: Perez begat Hezron

Ἑσρὼμ δὲ ἐγέννησεν τὸν Ἀράμ Hesrom de egennesen ton Aram: Hezron begat Aram.

Ἀρὰμ δὲ ἐγέννησεν τὸν Ἀμιναδάβ – Aram de egennesen ton Aminadab: Aram begat Amminadab,

Ἀμιναδὰβ δὲ ἐγέννησεν τὸν Ναασσών – Aminadab de egennesen ton Naasson:  Amminadab begat Nashon

Ναασσὼν δὲ ἐγέννησεν τὸν Σαλμών Naasson de egennesen ton Salmon: Nashon begat Salmon.

VERSES 5 and 6

Σαλμὼν δὲ ἐγέννησεν τὸν Βοὲς ἐκ τῆς Ῥαχάβ Salmon de egennesen ton Boes ek tes Rachab: Salmon begat Boaz by way of Rahab.

Βοὲς δὲ ἐγέννησεν τὸν Ἰωβὴδ ἐκ τῆς Ῥούθ  Boes de egennesen ton Iobed ek tes Routh: Boaz begat Jobed by way of Ruth.

Ἰωβὴδ δὲ ἐγέννησεν τὸν Ἰεσσαί  Iobed de egennesen ton Iessai: Jobed begat Jesse.

Ἰεσσαὶ δὲ ἐγέννησεν τὸν Δαυεὶδ τὸν βασιλέα  Iessai de egennesen ton Daueid ton basilea: Jesse begat David the king.

Basilea – basilea: This is the Greek word for king.  You’ll find it everywhere.  A very interesting bit of information though: in Homer, Odysseus, Achilles, Ajax and the other heroes are all identified as basileas in that the Achaean force was a confederacy of kingdoms.  But Menelaus is called the wanax.  This cryptic term denoted that he ranked above even the kings as a sort of emperor.  Wanax (ϝαναξ) fell out of use in Greek early on and we know its ancient because it is spelled with a digamma an old Greek letter pronounced as a ‘w’ that also dropped out of the alphabet very early.  Basilea is where we derive the word basilica from.  Originally the large buildings were civic structures and were called basilicas because of their connection to the civil authority.  Later as the Roman empire declined the buildings were abandoned and reused as Christian meeting places.  They retained their name though.

Now you’ve read in the original the first half of Jesus’ genealogy as told by the book of Matthew.

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