Matthew begins with the genealogy of Jesus. It is interesting to contrast the genealogy in Matthew with Luke’s account. In Matthew the genealogy begins with father Abraham and works forward to Jesus. It traces Jesus’ Hebrew roots and goes back to the first Hebrew. In Luke the genealogy begins with Jesus and goes back to Adam – the first human. The gospel writers are writing to specific audiences for specific reasons. In Matthew’s case, since he is writing to a Hebrew audience, the connection needs to be to Abraham. Luke, who is writing to the gentile world, needs to trace Jesus origins back to the first human – our guaranteed common ancestor.
We then have the birth of Jesus as Matthew records it. Mary and Joseph are engaged, Mary is found to be with child by the Holy Spirit, and Joseph will break the engagement but will do so quietly so as to not subject her to public humiliation. Under Hebrew law a betrothal (engagement) was as legally binding as a marriage. The couple was legally married even though the marriage has not been consummated. This explains some rather odd references in ancient literature and the Old Testament to women were “widows and virgins”. They were betrothed and their husbands to be had died before the marriage was finalized.
Joseph has a dream and in the dream he is told the truth about Mary’s child. So he keeps his promise and takes Mary as his own – thereby taking the child she was carrying as his own. Once they are married, any children born to Mary are legally Joseph’s children.