Know Your Audience

Matt 1 22

Matthew Chapter 1

I remember in high school English classes the teachers talking about knowing your audience.  I really enjoyed math and science classes, but English and literature classes were a different story.  I really didn’t like figuring out the audience, the theme, symbolism, etc.  However, I now know that in at least some cases, the teachers were correct.  You gain a lot of extra understanding when you know the primary audience for a book.  I say primary audience in this case because I firmly believe that all of the Bible was written to everyone who will take the time to read it or listen to it.  However, the author had a primary audience they were writing to at the time.

Each gospel was written for a different primary audience.  Matthew was writing to the Jews who had a good knowledge of the Old Testament scriptures.  They would have learned the prophecies regarding the Messiah and were looking towards the fulfillment of those prophecies.

The first chapter of Matthew starts with the genealogy of Jesus.  This is the first step to showing that Jesus is the Messiah they are looking for.  Several prophecies are fulfilled in this.  The first is that the Messiah is a seed of Abraham (Gen 22:18).  The Messiah is a descendent of Isaac (Gen 21:12) and a descendent of Jacob (Num 24:17), and a descendent of Judah (Gen 49:10).  Then, skipping a few generations, the Messiah is from the line of Jesse (Isaiah 11:10) and David (Jeremiah 23:5).  All of these names are listed in the genealogy of Jesus recorded in the first seventeen verses of Matthew.

They may not have each known every one of these prophecies, but the people who first read or heard the gospel of Matthew probably knew at least some of them.

After we finish looking at the genealogy, Matthew moves on to the birth of Jesus.  Compared to the gospel of Luke (which was written primarily to the Greeks), the account of the birth of Jesus is very brief.  Why would this be?  It goes back to the primary audience, and what was necessary to show Jesus is their Messiah.

Matthew basically tells that Mary was going to have a baby, Joseph was told about it and listened to what an angel said to him, and Mary remained a virgin until Jesus was born.  Matthew then quotes an Old Testament prophecy from Isaiah 7:14 in Matthew 1:23: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel.”

We can read scripture and learn tons without understanding who the primary audience was at the time each book was written.  However, understanding the audience, culture, etc., can add a whole new dimension to our understanding.

-Andrew Hamilton

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