Daily Bible Reading for January 4, 2014: Matthew 1-2.
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Author: Matthew, a tax collector who became one of the 12 apostles of Jesus Christ
Approximate Date: Written AD 60-70
Context and Meaning: The book of Matthew serves a dual purpose. First, Matthew was written as a record of the life of Christ. Secondly, evidence points to the intended recipients of the book as Jews. Matthew contains many references to Old Testament prophecies and how Jesus fulfilled these prophecies, demonstrating that Jesus was the awaited, prophesized Messiah. Matthew begins by detailing the genealogy of Joseph, tracing his lineage back to David, which fulfills one of the prophecies which foretold the birth of Christ. Another prophecy is fulfilled upon the revelation that Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary. Following Jesus’ birth, which occurred approximately 4 BC, Magi (wise men) came to worship Him and presented Him with gifts including gold, representative of kingship; incense, representative of priesthood; and myrrh, representative of His forthcoming death. Mary and Joseph were soon forced to flee Bethlehem for Egypt, as instructed by an angel of the Lord, in order to avoid Herod who was seeking to murder the newborn King of Kings. The gold presented by the Magi could have been used to finance this trip.
World History: At the time Matthew was writing, Christians were facing persecution for their faith. In order to remain strong in their faith, it was beneficial to have a record of Christ’s life. During the time of today’s reading, Jesus’ birth, Rome was under a time of change, adjusting to the rule of an Emperor instead of being ruled by the Senate. Julius Caesar had been killed in 44 BC, plunging Rome into civil wars, civil unrest, and civil lawlessness. Julius’ nephew, Gaius Octavian, who later became Caesar Augustus, consolidated his power and became the first Emperor of Rome in 27 BC, and remained in power until his death in AD 14. King Herod, ruling Judah as a client king for Rome, was near the end of his life at the time Jesus was born. Herod died between 4 and 1 BC.