This month, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will continue to study Jesus’s early years in the new Come, Follow Me—for Individuals and Families, New Testament 2019 (pp 6–18). First with Matthew 1 and Luke 1, then Matthew 2 and Luke 2, and finishing the month with John 1.
The First Gospel does not claim to be written by Matthew, and nowhere does the author openly claim to be one of the early disciples of the Lord. Instead, readers have come to know this Gospel as the Gospel of Matthew through later traditions and remembrances. While Latter-day Saints tend to accept Matthew’s authorship of the First Gospel, the evidence for making that claim is rarely discussed in detail.1
Matthew and Luke both tell parts of the Nativity story quoting extensively from the Old Testament, including Isaiah. They do this to help prove that Jesus was the predicted Messiah. While these gospel authors may have used Mark’s storyline, both add much to our understanding of the life and times of Jesus the Christ.
No one is sure who wrote the Gospel of Matthew; tradition is that he was one Jesus’s original disciples. If so, his first-hand recollection is valuable. However, he uses Old Testament quotes more directly than the other Gospel authors to prove that Jesus is fulfilling prophecy from long along and is indeed the Messiah. “These references are known as the formula quotations, and they explicitly set out an Old Testament foundation for the ministry of Jesus (Matthew1:22–23; 2:5–6; 2:15; 2:17–18; 2:23; 4:14–16; 8:17; 12:17–21; 13:35; 21:4–5; 27:9–10). Most of them directly represent the author’s insertion into the story.”2
For example, Matthew1:22–23:
Thomas Wayment’s The New Testament: A New Translation for Latter-day Saints
|22 All of this took place to fulfill the word of the Lord through the prophet, saying, 23 “ Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bring forth a son and they shall call his name Emmanuel,” which is interpreted “God with us.” 3||14 Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.|
Even though the quote in Isaiah 7 referred to one of Isaiah’s unborn sons, it has a dual meaning in the Christian world. Thanks to Matthew we know that it also refers to the Son of God. Matthew may also have sourced Isaiah 8:8, 10:
8 And he shall pass through Judah; he shall overflow and go over, he shall reach even to the neck; and the stretching out of his wings shall fill the breadth of thy land, O Immanuel.
10 Take counsel together, and it shall come to nought; speak the word, and it shall not stand: for God is with us.
Similarly, First Nephi 11:13 uses the word virgin to describe Mary as a young girl before marriage, probably drawing upon Isaiah 7:14.
Echoes4 of Isaiah in Luke’s Gospel
As we turn to Luke, let’s acknowledge that he was not a first-hand witness of Christ, but composed his Gospel and Acts for Theophilus5 to explain the events of Jesus life and the Apostles who followed Him. Most often he used allusions and echoes of Isaiah’s teaching to make his points.
In his first chapter, Luke uses these verses about John the Baptist preparing the way for Christ, which alludes to the words in Isaiah 40:
King James Version Luke 1
King James Version Isaiah 40:3
16 And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God.
|3 The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.|
Then in the Annunciation in Luke 1:33 there are echoes to the promise found in Isaiah 9:7
|33 And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom, there shall be no end.||7 Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even forever The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.|
And again as the angel told the shepherds of the Savior’s birth in Luke 2, he echoed Isaiah 43 and 7:
|11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.|
12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
Finally, Luke echoed Isaiah as he told the story of Simeon taking the baby Jesus in his arms in the Temple in Jerusalem:
|25 And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him.||40:1 Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.|
61:2 To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn;
|31 Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people;||
1 O Lord, thou art my God; I will exalt thee, I will praise thy name; for thou hast done wonderful things; thy counsels of old are faithfulness and truth.
|34 And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against;||
8:14 And he shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
11: 10 And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; unto Him shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious.
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1 Wayment, Thomas A.. The New Testament: A New Translation for Latter-day Saints, Kindle Edition.
4 Thomas Wayment suggests these as “echoes” of Isaiah in footnotes to Luke 2 in The New Testament: A New Translation for Latter-day Saints, Kindle Edition.
5 Luke 1: 1–3