Saturday, November 3, 2012

Notes on the Gospel of Matthew – Matthew 1:20, 24

In Matthew 1:20, when the angel speaks to Joseph in a dream, he tells him not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife. In the Greek, the phrase is mē phobēthēs paralabein Marian tēn gunaika sou, literally “may you not take fright to take Mary your wife.” 

The word paralabein, “to take,” offers us some important insights into the kind of marriage God, speaking through the angel, willed for Joseph and Mary...and by extension for all married couples. 

First, let's look at the definition of paralabein. According to Great Treasures, this word means “to take near, with, or to one's self” and “to join to one's self.” Thayer adds that such a taking or joining creates an association or companionship. Strong's notes that paralabein means “to receive near, that is, associate with oneself (in any familiar or intimate act or relation); by analogy to assume an office” (emphasis original). Finally, Biblios emphasizes that the verb refers to a “strong personal initiative” in taking or receiving (emphasis original). 

What, then, does this word tell us about God's plan for marriage? Marriage is the joining of a man and a woman, who form an intimate association, a companionship, a communion, a covenant. These two people take each other with on their journey through life. Each one receives the other to himself or herself, accepting the other person totally, and each one does so freely by a choice of the will and by a firm personal consent. 

The definition of paralabein also points to the official nature of marriage. Marriage is a vocation, a true state of life, a position of responsibility and trust to be faithfully fulfilled. 

Finally, marriage is permanent. The verb paralabein here is in the aorist infinitive form. The aorist refers a completed action, something that is finished, something that is whole. When two people marry, they perform a completed action. It is finished. It is whole. They are joined for life.

In Matthew 1:24, Joseph does what the angel tells him. He takes Mary as his wife...parelaben tēn gunaika autou. He takes her to himself, joining with her on their journey through life in a faithful bond of love. 

God has a plan for marriage. If we can understand so much about that beautiful plan from one little Greek word, just think how much we will learn if we turn our eyes and our minds to Scripture passages that go into more depth about marriage and its God-given attributes: Genesis 1:26-28; Genesis 2:18-25; Malachi 2:13-16; Matthew 19:3-12; Mark 10:2-12; and Ephesians 5:21-33.

Take some time today to reflect on God's plan for marriage, and if you live in Minnesota, please let the clear teaching of the Scriptures (i.e., marriage is designed by God as a lifelong covenant between one man and one woman) guide your vote on election day.

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