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Explaining Japanese Grammar in the Christmas Story, Matthew 1:25

We are on the last verse of chapter one of Matthew. Mary came up pregnant. Joseph had a dream with an angel in it telling him to go ahead and marry Mary because the baby in her was from the Holy Spirit, and that the name of the baby should be Jesus. Joseph married Mary like he was told to do. After that, Matthew explains that all of this was prophesied by the prophet Isaiah. He quotes Isaiah 7:14 that says that a maiden will have a baby, and he will be called Immanuel which means “God” with us. In most languages, the Bible says a virgin will have a baby, but in Japanese, it simple says “maiden” and isn’t so specific. Now we are ready for verse 25.

Mary and Joseph got married. (Sorry, my Japanese keyboard has temporarily quit.)Photo by Rocsana Nicoleta Gurza on Pexels.com

Verse 25: しかし、子 生まれるまで かのじよを しる ことは ながった。そして、その 子を イエスと 名つけた。

しかし- “However.” しかし is written in romaji like this:  shikashi.  Remember romaji uses the pronunciation of the Spanish, Portuguese, or Romanian vowels.

The child was born.Photo by Bich Tran on Pexels.com

子 生まれるまで – “Until the child was born.” 子 (ko) is the kanji for “child,” and the hiragana is こ。生まれる (umareru) is a verb meaning “be be born.” 生 (u) is actually the kanji for “life,” and doesn’t not always carry the pronunciation “u.” まで (ma-de) means “until.”

このじよ を- “her.” This is pronounced “kanoji-o). を (wo) is the post position particle that tells you that かのじよis the direct object.

しる ことは ながった- “didn’t even know.” They used the old expression just like many English translations do for, “To sleep with” someone. しる (shiru) means “to know.” ことは(kotowa) is a Japanese expression that basically it means there was a delay, ”not at all,” so it could be translated as “even.” ながった (nagata) is a past tense expression that negates the verb. This is the last verb of this sentence, but the subject of this sentence is left out, so we are going have to guess at “who” didn’t sleep with her at all. It is normal in Japanese to leave the subject out. Japanese is a very indirect language.

そして – “and.” そして (soshite) is a very special “and.” It can only be used at the beginning of a sentence.

その 子を - ”that child.” その (sono) means “that” in front of a noun. If you want to use “that” as the subject, you must use それは(sore wa). 子(ko) is the kanji that means “child,” and the hiragana for 子 is こ。を (wo) is the post position particle that tells you that 子 is the direct object.

Joseph named the baby Jesus. Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Pexels.com

イエス -“Jesus.” イエス(I-e-su) is the katana for “Jesus.” Since the used katakana and not hiragana, it means that イエス is a foreign word.

と (to) is the post position particle that is used like quotations marks. This と is putting quotations marks around イエス。

名つけた。- “named.” 名(na) is the kanji that means “name” whose hiragana is な。Since there is a 他(ta) on the end, you know this is past tense. It is the last word of the sentence, so you know it is verb. Again, this sentence doesn’t have a subject, so we are going to have guess at the subject again.

Photo by JUAN CARLOS LEVA on Pexels.com

Let’s put this all together:However, until the child was born, he didn’t even sleep with her. And, he named that child “Jesus.”

It is important to point out here that Mary was not “forever a virgin” as some churches teach. She and Joseph slept together after the baby was born. It says “until the child was born.” That means after that time, Mary and Joseph had a normal husband and wife relationship.

Mary was not “forever a virgin.”Photo by João Jesus on Pexels.com

Some people may realize why people want to teach that Mary was “forever a virgin.” That teaching came out of one of the early church counsels that used to take place in Constantinople (modern day Istanbul). Before the Muslims overtook Turkey, Constantinople was the center of the church like the Vatican in Rome is today. They used to send delegates from the churches to discuss the church problems and find a solution.

Constantinople was to the church then like the Vatican is to the Catholic church today. Photo by Javon Swaby on Pexels.com

At one of those church councils, there were people concerned about their babies. They knew that the Bible taught that baptism was for the forgiveness of sins, and it was necessary to get rid of your sins to go to Heaven. They were worried because infant morality was a real problem in those days. If their babies died or the children died before they were grown, they wanted to insure that they would go to Heaven.

Acts 2:38 says, “Repent and be baptized in the name of Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.” They knew that they were saved from sin because it is sin that separates us from God. They knew they had to get rid of their sin to go to Heaven. 1 Peter 3:21 says that baptism saves us. The people wanted to baptize their babies to be sure they could go to Heaven. However, can a baby repent? Does he understand anything? Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Pexels.com

Some argued that babies are sinless, but others couldn’t accept that. They wanted their kids baptized. They decided that the babies had inherited sin from their parents, so needed baptism to get rid of the sins they inherited from their parents. They were pushing hard to insure their babies would go to Heaven.

Only Jesus could die for our sins because only he was sinless. The Jews all knew that when the sacrificed to God, the lamb must be without sot or blemish. Jesus became the lamb of God to take away the sins of the world.(Isaiah 53:4 & 5) Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The only problem with saying their babies inherited sin from their parents was that would mean that Jesus wasn’t sinless because he would have inherited sin too. However, they knew Jesus was sinless because that is the only way he could have been the sacrifice without blemish for our sins. Saying Jesus had sin would blow the Christian message out of the water. Christianity would be meaningless. They had a problem.

We need to be serious about trying to understand God.Photo by Oladimeji Ajegbile on Pexels.com

Finally, they reasoned that reasons that Mary was sinless because she was a virgin. Often through the years, there have been groups that have taught that it was wrong for a man and a woman to sleep together, even if they were married. If you study your Bibles, though, you will learn that it is only a sin to sleep with someone you aren’t married to. In fact, God tells us to “be fruitful and multiply.” However, there have been groups that have taught that sleeping together at all was a sin. I visited a ghost town where people tour like that in the eastern part of the U. S. That church thought it was wrong for men and women to sleep together, so all the men lived in part of the town and the women in the other part of the town. In many churches, they used to insist that during worship, the men should sit on one side of the auditorium and women on the other side. Families didn’t sit together. Anyway, the town where men and women lived in different parts of the town eventually died out because even the husbands and wives didn’t sleep together, so they didn’t have any kids. Anyway, in Constantinople, they surmised that Mary was a virgin, so it meant that she had never slept with a man, so she hadn’t sinned. Jesus couldn’t inherit her sin because she had none.

There are people in this world who call Mary “a mother goddess” and pra to her.Photo by Clement Eastwood on Pexels.com

Now, they could baptize their babies and insure they would go to Heaven. This elevated Mary because she was sinless as Christ was. People began praying to her. Some people even call her now a days, “the mother goddess.”

Jesus had a normal family and grew up with brothers and sisters. Photo by samer daboul on Pexels.com

However, if these people had read their Bibles, they would see that Mary slept with Joseph after the baby was born, so she couldn’t be “forever a virgin.” Does it mean that she is bad? No, if you read 1 Corinthians 7, husbands and wives are told they should sleep together and only be separated for a time so that neither will be temped to sin by sleeping with someone else. Mary was a good woman and a good wife. She had more children after Jesus was born. We even have the names of some of Jesus’ siblings in the Bible. There are several scriptures that talk about his brothers. In Matthew 13:55, it says the names of his brothers are: James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas. In the next verse, it says he had sisters too.

“They exchanged the truth of God for a lie and worshiped and served created things rather than the creator who is forever praised (Romans 1:25).” “Cursed is the man who carves an image or casts an idol–a thing detestable to the Lord..(Deuteronomy 7:15.” “You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in Heaven or earth beneath or in the waters below, You shall not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the Lord your God, is jealous God..(Exodus 20:3-5).” Praying to a statue of Mary is the same.Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Pexels.com

These are important scriptures to understand. There is only one God, one Christ, and one Holy Spirit. If we worship anyone else, we are worshipping idols.

Jesus wans us to be innocent and humble like children. Photo by Trinity Kubassek on Pexels.com

As far as our babies, in Matthew 18, at the beginning of the chapter, they are arguing about who will be the greatest in the kingdom of Heaven, and Jesus calls a child to him and says, “Unless you become like one of these little children, you will not enter the kingdom of Heaven.” If we are to be like children to go to Heaven, it means that until the children get older, we don’t have to worry about them. Sin is something we do, a verb, not something we inherit. We need to be innocent like children to go to Heaven. The children are going to Heaven.

Studying language has value. It helps us understand the Bible better.Photo by Emily Ranquist on Pexels.com

I have heard Orthodox priest argue that in Psalms, David said he was a sinner before he was born. I found the scripture they were referring to. David is repenting for his sins because we all know David messed up really bad. He had people murdered. He committed adultery. He took advantage of being king to indulge his selfish ways. As an English professor (it really helps to understand language), when he says he was a sinner before he was even born, I can see that he is using hyperbole, an exaggeration, to talk about just how bad he thought he was. He was repenting. It doesn’t mean that babies are sinners in their mother’s womb. A baby can’t reach out and do anything. When we are born, we can’t walk, can’t talk, and even have trouble grabbing things. Everything must be done for us. How can a baby sin? Jesus said children are going to Heaven. We don’t have to worry about them.

Mary had that humble, innocent attitude that children have when the angel talked to her. Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Mary was not “forever a virgin.” She was simple a good woman who bowed her will to the will of God. How many of us are willing to bow to God’s will so much that when he tells us something we don’t quite understand, like when the angel Gabriel went to Mary to tell her she was going to have a chid, that we would respond like Mary did: “I am the Lord’s servant. Let it be to me as you have said” (Luke 1: 38)? There is not doubt she was good or God would not have chosen her, but the Bible never says she was a “mother goddess” or that we should worship her or pray to her.

We pray to God through Christ. Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

There is only one God. There is only one Christ. There is only one Holy Spirit. We pray to the father through Christ, and the Holy spirit helps us be who we should be. We should never pray to Mary.

There are more fun and games to come! Photo by Helena Lopes on Pexels.com

This is the last verse of Matthew chapter one. However, the story isn’t finished. I will continue on in chapter two because it continues the story of the birth of Jesus.


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