Explaining Romanian Grammar in Matthew 2:23

I read a blog yesterday where someone attacked the Bible because of Matthew 2:23. They were so eager to try to destroy anyone’s belief in goodness and in God. I don’t understand why anyone would want to destroy people’s belief in goodness. What I read was not only mean spirited, but wrong. When I am done today, you will understand what I am talking about. The truth comes from language and culture that the writer of that article obviously doesn’t understand language and culture. I read an article written by John Clayton, a Scientist who accidentally proved God to himself while he was an atheist. He said that atheists want to do what they want. They want to lie. They want to sin. They want to sneak, and they will do anything to disprove God so they can. He said he knew because he was an atheist for several years until he accidently proved God to himself through Science. He said they usually hide facts to try to justify themselves. If you are interested in John Clayton, just put in your computer, “Does God exist?” He has a lot to say.

The prophets knew Jesus would be born in Bethlehem. (Proroci au stiut ca Iesu va fie nascut in Betlehem.) Photo by Haley Black on Pexels.com

So far in the book of Matthew, the author, Matthew has told us that Jesus is the Messiah, the one promised from the Old Testament. He gave us numerous proofs through scriptures: 1) Jesus was born of a virgin. This prophecy was written in Isaiah 7:14 in 740 B. C. and fulfilled in 4 B. C., when Mary began pregnant with Jesus. 2) The men came from the east to worship Christ and bring him gifts. This was written about in Psalms 72:10 between 1440 B. C. and 586 B. C. and in Isaiah 60:2 in 740 B. C., and the men came slightly after the birth of Jesus. 3) The Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. This was written in Micah 5:2 in the 8th century, and it was fulfilled in the birth of Jesus in 4 B. C. 4) The Messiah would come out of Egypt. This was written in Hosea 11:1 from 755-725 B. C., and Jesus did, indeed come out of Egypt because Joseph, his earthly father took him there fleeing from King Herod to protect him because Herod wanted to kill Jesus. 5) Lots and lots of Jewish baby boys would be killed. This was written about in Jeremiah 31:15 sometime between 630-580 B. C., and besides Matthew telling us this happened, a man named Macrobius wrote somewhere between 395-423 A. D. about a story that everyone knew, “When he (Emperor Augustus) heard that among the boys in Syria under two years old whom Herod, king of the Jews, had ordered killed, his own son was also killed, he said: it is better to be Herod’s pig than his son.” Herod killed so many people in his lifetime that no one should ever refute stories of him killing anyone because of his reputation.

Daca citesti historia, rege Irod a avut o reputatie groznic! (If you read history, King Herod had a terrible reputation!)Photo by Jimmy Chan on Pexels.com

So far, Matthew has given us some really solid evidence backing up his thesis statement that Jesus was the Messiah written about in the Old Testament. If he never wrote anything else, he has proven his point according to the rules of rhetoric that Aristotle gave. You need at least three good solid reasons to make something true, and Matthew has given us five reasons at this point. He could just stop right here, but he doesn’t. Now, we are ready for verse 23 of the second chapter of Matthew.

Ioseph era un timplar. (Joseph was a carpenter.) Photo by Harrison Haines on Pexels.com

Matei 2: 23: “A venit acolo si a locuit intru-o cetate numita Nazaret ca sa se implineasca ce fusese vestit prin proroci: ca El va fie cheamat Nazarinean.”

A venit acolo = “He came there.” As we have already established, Matthew has been talking to Joseph, and he is telling this story through Joseph’s point of view, so when he said, “He came there,” he is talking about Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus. “A venit” is present perfect compus tense, and the Romanians like to use it like we use or simple past tense. It happened at one time in the past, and it is finished. The “a” at the beginning tells you two things. It tells you it is third person singular making the subject “he,” and coupled with the “t” on the end of “venit,” it tells you that it is, indeed, present perfect compus tense. “Acolo” means “there,” and is an adverb of place.

Si a locuit = “And he lived.” The “s” in “si” needs a comma attached to the bottom of it, and it is pronounced “sh.” The word “si” is pronounced like the English word “she,” and it means “and.” “A locuit” comes from “a locui.” There are two verbs for “live” in Romanian. One means you are alive: “a trai.” The other means that you live in a certain place: “a locui.” “A locuit” is, again, in present perfect compus tense, and it is used like our simple past tense in English. It is third person singular because of the “a” before it, and present perfect compus because of the “a” before it and the “t” on the end of it.

Joseph was a good man who took good care of his family. (Iosif era un om bun pe care a avut grija de famila lui.)Photo by Bich Tran on Pexels.com

intru-o cetate = “in a town.” “Intru” means “inside.” “Intru” should have an inverted “v” over the “i.” There is no sound equivalent in English to this letter. You say it down in your throat like a grunt. The “u” on the end is said, “oo,” so “intru” is pronounced something like this: “uhntroo,” and don’t forget that Romanian “r’s” are trilled. Just curl your tongue up so that the tip flaps on the ridge in the top of your mouth and make a sound like a motor boat like you are a child playing cars. There is a dash between “intru” and “o” mostly so people won’t run the sounds together. “O” in this place is like our English indefinite article “a.” It means that the town is not a particular one, it is any one. “Cetate” is pronounced “chehtahtay.” This is not the most modern word. Today, a town is called “orasi” (pronounced: orahsh). A village is called “sat” (pronunciation: saht). This word is used more in the Bible than among regular Romanians today, but they understand it. “Intru-o cetate” is a prepositional phrase with “intru” as the preposition and “cetate” as the object noun of the preposition.

Numita Nazaret = “named Nazareth.” The noun for “name” in Romanian is “nume.” The verb for “name” in Romanian is “a numi” (to name). “Numita” comes from “a numi.” It is the past participle. In English, Romanian, and several other languages, you can use past participles of the verb as an adjective describing “cetate” (town), and it is used as an adjective here, but it can still be called a “verbal,” but not a “verb.” This means that it still has some qualities of a verb, but not all of them. It can take a direct object because it is a verbal. “Nazaret” (Nazareth) is the direct object of “numita” (named).

ca se implineasca = “in order to fulfill.” “Ca” can have many meanings. Here, it brings with it the idea of “for,””in order to,” or “as.” “Se” is a reflexive pronoun meaning here, “itself.” “Implineasca” comes from “a implini” which means “to fulfill.” “implineasca” is the subjunctive present. This means that it carries the idea of “would fulfill.”

Mult proroci au vorbit despre Iesu. (Many prophets spoke about Jesus.)Photo by Harshi Rateria on Pexels.com

ce fusese vestit = “what had been announced.” “Ce” is pronounced “chay” because of the “e” after the “c.” Any time there is an “e” or an “i” after a “c” in Romanian, the “c” has the “ch” sound. “Ce” means “what,” and is used as a relative pronoun here which means there is a relative clause here. A clause needs a subject and a verb, but it not particularly a sentence alone, but it could be. If there is something that makes a sentence subordinate, it is not a sentence, and the “ce” makes this relative clause subordinate. “fusese” comes from “a fi” which means “to be.” “Fusese” is the past perfect tense. Past perfect means that it happened in the past, continued for a while in the past, and then was finished in the past. “Fusese” in English becomes “had been” because that is our past perfect of “to be.” “Fusese” and “vestit” together become a passive voice verb. With a passive voice verb, the subject of the clause doesn’t do the action of the verb. Sometimes they tell you who does the action of the verb, and sometimes they don’t in a passive voice sentence. “Vestit” comes from “a vesti” which means “to announce” or “to tell news.” “News” in Romanian is “vestea.” “Vestit” is the past participle of the verb. In order to have a passive voice verb, you need a “be” verb coupled with a past participle. Here, you have “had been” as the “be” verb, and “vestit” as the past participle.

Jesus came from Nazareth. (Iesu a venit din Nazaret.) Photo by Juhasz Imre on Pexels.com

prin proroci = “through the prophets.” This is a prepositional phrase. “Prin” is pronounced “preen,” and means “through.” “Proroci” means “prophets.” If there is only one prophet, it is “proroc.” The “i” on the end is like an “s” in English on the end of a noun. It makes “proroci” plural, and it also gives “proroc” a definite article, “the.” Meaning he is talking about specific prophets. This is the prepositional phrase that goes along with the passive voice verb, ” fusese vestit” (had been announced) telling who did the announcing rather than the subject telling who did the announcing like active voice verbs use.

ca El va fie chemat Nazarinean = “that he will be called “Nazarene.” “Ca” can mean many things. Here, it is used like “que” is in Spanish. It is the relative pronoun “that” which means this is a relative clause. “El” is the pronoun “he” and used as the subject of this clause. The verb here is also passive, so “El” does not do the action of the verb, but even though it is the subject, functions more like a direct object. “Va fie” means “will be.” this is an easy way to make future tense in Romanian. There are actually four different ways to make future tense in Romanian, but this is a good one to learn. It is like our future tense verbs in English where we say, “I am going to,” and then we put the basic form of the verb. “Va” is “he is going to,” and “fie” is “be.” This is the “be” verb we need to make a passive voice verb, and next we need a past participle of the verb to make a passive voice verb, and we have “chemat,” the past participle. “Chemat” means “called. “Nazarinean” (Nazarene) is the direct object of “is going to be called” (va fie chemat).

Let’s put this verse all together: “He came there, and he lived in a town named Nazareth in order to fulfill what had been announced through the prophets: that He is going to be called a Nazarene.

He searched for this prophecy and couldn’t find it, but does that mean it isn’t there? It only means he didn’t understand what he was reading. Photo by Oladimeji Ajegbile on Pexels.com

The blog I told you about in the beginning was going on about him looking through the Old Testament, and he couldn’t find a scripture anywhere that said the Messiah would be called a Nazarene. He forgot that the Old Testament was originally written in Hebrew, and it made him miss what Hebrew speakers saw. If we read Isaiah 11:1 that was written in 740 B. C., the Hebrew word for “branch” from that scripture is said “Neser” with a comma attached to the bottom of the “s.” I am not a Hebrew scholar, but I know that comma changes the pronunciation of the “s” a bit because I am acquainted with Romanian. The Hebrew scholars say (and this is written in the footnotes of the NIV study Bible that I own) that the Hebrews would have understood that Matthew was making a play on words. Have you ever heard a joke when they used a word that had the same pronunciation, but two meanings? The Hebrew scholars say that is the kind of thing Matthew was doing here in Matthew 2:23. To the Hebrew ear, “neser” and “Nazarene” would have sounded similar. Jesus was this “branch” from the family of Jesse, the father of king David: “A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The spirit of the Lord will rest on him–the spirit of wisdom and of understanding, and spirit of counsel and power, the Spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord” (Isaiah 11:1&2) “In that day, the root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples: the nations will rally to him, and his place of rest will be glorious. In that day, the Lord will reach out his hand a second time to reclaim the remnant that I left of his people..” (Isaiah 11: 10&11). If you read al the verses between these, it is obvious that Isaiah is talking about Christ.

“You’ve got to be kidding! Nazareth? Can anything good come from Nazareth?” (Trebuie sa glumesti! Nazaret? Oare, poate ori ce bun sa vine de Nazaret?) Photo by Ayaka Kato on Pexels.com

This can also be looked at in another way, and you can stay in English, but think about culture and history with this one. If you look in John 1:45-46, Jesus was just meeting his disciples. Phillip says, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the law and about whom the prophets also wrote–Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Nathaniel had quite a retort to that, “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” As you can see, there was a definite attitude against Nazareth. When I read to figure out why, I ran across the fact that the Roman soldiers were lodged at Nazareth, and everyone knows that the Jews wanted the Roman soldier gone because Israel was an occupied territory of the Roman empire at this time. Regardless, people from Nazareth had a bad reputation, and people didn’t like them. It was like there was a big strike against Christ before anyone even met him. They despised people from Nazareth. Now read Isaiah 53 (Written in 744 B. C. ):

, 1 Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? 2 He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. 3 He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. 4 Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. 6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7 He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. 8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away. Yet who of his generation protested? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was punished. 9 He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. 10 Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life an offering for sin, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand. 11 After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied ; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:1-12).

“You’ve got to be kidding! This was written before Jesus was ever born?!” (Cred ca glumesti! Asta era scrise inainte de Iesus era nascut?)Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

This happens to be one of my favorite scriptures because I used to give it to the freshman students I had been given to teach at KCU because so many of them weren’t Christians, and I had to acquaint them with basic Christianity as an introduction to the university. I Xeroxed it and gave it to them. I didn’t tell them where it came from, who it was about, or when it was written. I had them read it and tell me who it was about. The told me that it was obvious that it was about Jesus. When I told them it was written 740 years before Jesus existed, they were completely shocked! The details are just too accurate, and there are just too many of them for this to be about anyone else. I had Buddhist, Hindus, Muslims, atheists, and Christians in my class. This was the beginning of many of them coming to my office and asking for more Bible study, and as one of the Hindu boys said, “I am so glad I did!” referring to when he came to my office to ask Bible questions. He became a preacher.

The writer of that blog didn’t think or research enough. (Omul pe care a scris acel blog un a gandit nici nu au cercetate destul.) Photo by Janko Ferlic on Pexels.com

The point about this scripture was that Nazarenes were despised during the time of Jesus, and this scripture prophesied that the Messiah would be despised. This is explaining the misunderstanding about Matthew 2:23 through culture. The writer of that blog thought, “I’ve caught them this time!” However, he just didn’t care enough to dig and actually try to understand what he was reading. Many people forget that the Hebrew culture that Jesus and Matthew were both part of is not the same as our English speaking cultures today. One of the reasons I get asked so many questions about Korea is because the Korean cultures is so different from English speaking or European cultures, and they confuse people. The Hebrew culture was also not an English speaking or European culture.

Culture causes each one of us to look at the world through a different color of glasses. (Cultura face fiecare dintre noi sa uita la lumea prin ochilarele de colorele diferite.)Photo by Vladislav Vasnetsov on Pexels.com

Everyone is looking at the world with a different set of glasses, and each of us has a different color glass in our glasses. The world looks different to each of us, and we can see the same thing and not understand what we are seeing. Those glasses are called “culture.” If I hold up a book, and you can see the front of the book, I may ask,”What are you looking at?” According to your perspective, you are looking at the back of the book, so you say, “I am looking at book reviews.” However, someone else may be looking at the front of the book, and they will say, “I see a picture, a title, and the name of the author. However, they are looking at the same book, but seeing something completely different because of where they are sitting. Each of us is sitting in a different place on the earth which gives us a different perspective. That is culture. Matthew didn’t look at the world the same way we do. He had a different culture.

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