Genealogy of Jesus
New - 28 January 2010
Generations 1 - 100
The Genealogy of Jesus
The genealogy of Jesus, according to Wikipedia -- and as recorded in two passages of the Gospels: Matthew 1:1–17 and Luke 3:23–28 -- traces the ancestry of Jesus back to King David, to show his fulfillment of prophecy regarding the Christ, and in the case of Luke, all the way back to Adam and God.
The two genealogies, however, are remarkably different, disagreeing completely on the lineage from Joseph ab Heli, the putative father of Jesus, back to David. Matthew begins at the patriarch Abraham and traces a descent through David’s son King Solomon, omitting several generations along the way. Luke proceeds upward, through David’s son Nathan, continuing all the way to the first man, Adam. Both Gospels clearly state that Jesus was begotten not by Joseph, but by God, being born to Mary through a virgin birth. Aside from a general implication of her Davidic origin, there is no explicit Biblical record of Mary’s genealogy, but a number of extra-biblical sources, some relatively early, provide her immediate ancestry, as well as an explanation for the divergence between Matthew and Luke.
The apparent contradictions in the Gospel genealogies have aroused controversy since ancient times. Then and now, they have often been used as a basis for attacking the Gospels and Christianity, while theologians have spent considerable energy on illuminating them. Although many simply deny the accuracy of one or both of the genealogies, several plausible harmonizations have been put forth. There are early claims that Joseph did in fact have two fathers, in a sense, one being a legal father. Others hold that one of the Gospels actually records the genealogy of Mary. Modern scholars remain divided, but the theory that Luke gives Mary’s ancestry is accepted by a large number of them.
Luke 3:23–38, after telling of the baptism of Jesus and the commencement of his ministry, states, “He was the son, as was supposed, of Joseph, the son of Eli…” and continues on until “…the son of Adam, the son of God". Accordingly, the Genealogy of Jesus according to Luke is:
This genealogy descends from the Davidic line through Nathan, who is an otherwise little-known son of King David, mentioned briefly in the Old Testament. The intervening generations are a series of otherwise unknown names, but the number of generations is chronologically quite plausible. [I.e., according to Wikipedia... that is, if one ignores the 400 years in Egypt between generations 28 and 29... as well as several other missing generations.] In the ancestry of David, Luke agrees completely with the Old Testament [which in and of itself, is not exactly a recommendation]. Cainan is included between Shelah and Arphaxad, following the Septuagint text. In continuing the genealogy all the way to Adam, the [alleged] progenitor of all mankind, the Gospel is seen as emphasizing Christ’s universal mission.
Luke emphasizes Jesus’ title son of God, recognized as an essential title of the Messiah in prophecy. The genealogy immediately follows a heavenly voice at Jesus’ baptism, saying “You are my son,” and concludes with “son of Adam, son of God.” Thus, like all mankind he is a son of God through Adam, who was made by God, but uniquely he is also begotten by God. [The slight variation in this theme is that Adam is not the father of all mankind (only the royal humans), and furthermore, Jesus is more likely descended from Cain, who in turn was descended from God. The BIG question revolves around the question of God (Enki?) getting back into the thick of thing by doing his “repeated incantation” with respect to Mary and thereby fathering Jesus. See below.]
Augustine notes that the count of generations in Luke is 77, a remarkable number symbolizing the forgiveness of all sins. This count also agrees with the seventy generations from Enoch set forth in the Book of Enoch, which Luke probably knew. [And which, therefore, Luke might have ensured was met... by the liberal use of Finagler's Theorem and Fudge's Factor.] Though Luke never counts the generations as Matthew does, it appears that he too follows the hebdomadic principle of working in sevens. However, several of the earliest witnesses such as Irenaeus count only 72 generations from Adam.
Luke’s qualification “as was supposed” avoids stating that Jesus was actually a son of Joseph, since his virgin birth is affirmed in the same Gospel. There are, however, several interpretations of how this qualification relates to the rest of the genealogy. Some see the remainder as the true genealogy of Joseph, despite the different genealogy given in Matthew. Others see the lineage as a legal ancestry, rather than an ancestry according to blood -- Joseph is thus a legal son of Eli (Heli), perhaps a son-in-law or adopted son. [Recall the Shealtiel/Zorobabbel ordeal.]
Still others suggest that Luke is repeating an untrustworthy record without affirming its accuracy. Lastly, many see “as was supposed of Joseph” as a parenthetical note, with Luke actually calling Jesus a son of Eli -- meaning, it is then suggested, that Eli (Heli) is the maternal grandfather of Jesus, and Luke is actually tracing the ancestry of Jesus according to the flesh through Mary. [There is also the problem, according to Laurence Gardner, of “Joseph” being a title, instead of a personal name.]
Matthew 1:1–17 begins the Gospel, “A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham: Abraham begot Isaac…” and continues on until “…and Jacob begot Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ. Thus there were 14 generations in all from Abraham to David, 14 from David to the exile to Babylon, and 14 from the exile to the Christ.” [Again, the multiples of 7, numerologically significant.] This leaves the genealogy of Jesus according to Matthew as:
Matthew’s genealogy involves Jesus’ title “Christ”, in the sense of an “anointed” king. [Gardner also makes a very important point in Jesus being anointed... and, as it turns out, by Mary Magdalene!] Matthew’s genealogy starts with Solomon and proceeds through the kings of Judah up to and including Jeconiah. A few of the Judean kings are left out, though. For instance; Azariah/Uzziah is given as the son of Jehoram/Joram thus skipping four generations. In Old Testament times, many records were also abridged, but the primary intent was that Jesus would be established as legal heir to the throne of Israel. At Jeconiah the line of kings was terminated due to Israel being conquered by Babylonians. The names continue with Jeconiah’s son and his grandson Zerubbabel, who is a notable figure in the Book of Ezra. The names between Zerubbabel and Joseph do not appear anywhere in the Old Testament or other texts, with a couple of exceptions. At the conclusion, Jesus being identified as a new king is called “Christ”.
By mentioning five women — Tamar, Ruth, Rahab, Bathsheba and Mary — Matthew’s genealogy is unusual compared to those of the time, where women were not generally included at all; for example, the genealogy of Luke does not mention them. There is the theory that these women are mentioned to highlight the important roles women have played in the past, to imply that compared to the other woman mentioned in the genealogy, Mary is their equal. Some hold the idea that the presence of women in the genealogy serves to undermine the patriarchal message of a long list of males, while others feel that the presence of women is to deliberately show that God’s action is not always in keeping with the moral politics of the time. [Now... there's an interesting twist.]
HOWEVER... Tamar played the part of a prostitute and had sex with her father-in-law Judah in order to gain a son when Judah’s sons failed in their Levirate marriage duties after her first husband died. Rahab was a prostitute. Ruth attempted to seduce Boaz. Bathsheba slept with King David while still the wife of Uriah the Hittite. [Curiously] greater, more notable and virtuous women are not mentioned, leading some to suggest that Matthew had included these women to illustrate how pressingly moral reform was needed, while someone else sees their inclusion as an attempt to justify Jesus’ undignified origin by showing that great leaders of the past had also been born to women of a dubious nature. [And, of course, Mary ended up pregnant and not by her intended husband, while Mary Magdalene (who interestingly, was NOT a prostitute -- and in fact the only woman of this group that apparently had no moral laxity) was more often than not, declared a harlot by the Roman Catholic Church for its own nefarious purposes!]
In addition, Rahab was a Canaanite, as was likely, Tamar. Ruth was a Moabite and Bathsheba was married to a Hittite. Accordingly their inclusion in the genealogy might have been a device to imply that Jesus was to be a saviour not only of the Jews, but also of the Gentiles.
According to some, the genealogy foreshadows acceptance of Gentiles into the Kingdom of God: in reference to Jesus as “the Son of Abraham”, and where the author apparently has in mind the promise given to Abraham in Gen 22:18. Matthew holds that due to Israel’s failure to produce the “fruits of the kingdom” and Israel's rejection of Jesus, God’s kingdom is now taken away from Israel and given to Gentiles. [Ooops! But then again, Israel never claimed the New Testament to be applicable to the Jewish nation.] Another foreshadowing of the acceptance of Gentiles is the inclusion of four women in the genealogy, something unexpected to a first century reader. It may be that women are representing non-Jews to a first century reader, and possibly Matthew is mentioning this to prepare its reader for the apparent scandal surrounding Jesus’ birth by emphasizing on the point that God’s purpose is sometimes worked out in unorthodox and surprising ways. [Like, for example, his mommy claiming to have been impregnated by God. ]
The author of Matthew has a tendency to use spellings of names that correspond to the spellings in the Septuagint rather than the Masoretic text, suggesting that the Septuagint formed the source for the genealogy. However, Rahab’s name is spelt as Rachab, a departure from the Septuagint spelling Raab, though the spelling Rachab also appears in the works of Josephus, leading to speculation that this is a symptom of a change in pronunciation during this period. Additionally, Rahab’s position is also peculiar, as all other traditions place her as the wife of Joshua not of Salmon. Also, the author of Matthew adds a φ to Asa’s name... possibly an attempt to make a connection with Psalm 78, which contains messianic prophecies -- Asaph being the name to which Psalm 78 is attributed. However, others feel this is more likely a scribal error than a scheme, and most modern translators of the Bible “correct” Matthew in this verse. Whether it was the author of Matthew, or a later copyist, that made the error, is uncertain. Amon has a similar feature. Matthew actually has Amos, rather than Amon, which might have been an attempt to link to the minor prophet Amos, who made messianic predictions, but again, all of this might be simply a scribal error.
By contrast with Luke, Matthew’s list of 25 generations is too short and can only represent a “telescoped”, schematized or otherwise interrupted line. His genealogy seems to be moving too quickly -- it gives 12 generations between King Jechonias (Jeconiah, Jehoiachin) of the Babylonian Exile of Judah of c. 595 BC and Joseph, giving an approximate average length of generation of 50 years, extremely long for an ancient genealogy. This first part of Matthew 1:8 coincides with the list of the Kings of Judah that is present in a number of other parts of the Bible. However these other lists have Jehoram’s son being Ahaziah while Uzziah is a quite different monarch who lives several generations later. This means that Matthew’s genealogy skips Ahaziah, Athaliah, Jehoash, and Amaziah.
Those who believe in the inerrancy of the Bible contend that the genealogy was never meant to be complete. [What else are they going to say?] The incompleteness would be consistent with the writing in Matthew, and not considered an error, such as Matthew 1:20 where Joseph is referred simply as “Son of David.” It is possible then, that the author of Matthew deliberately dropped those who were not needed from the list, either because of a lack of significance or because, as others conjecture, because of a political motive.
One theory is that the missing kings were excised owing to their wickedness, or because they were murdered. Unfortunately for this theory, the even more unpleasant Ahaz, Manasseh and Amon are left in the list. One popular theory is that the monarchs left out were all descendants of Ahab, through his daughter Athaliah, both targets of a large degree of scorn in Jewish perception. [All patriarchal societies will inevitably find any and every possible reason to demean women. It's what they do.] But probably far more likely, their removal might also have been because the author was trying to contrive a division of the genealogy into 3 even divisions of 14 names, hence contriving Jesus to seem to be the natural conclusion to the history. [In other words, dedicated numerologists do not necessarily make the best genealogists.]
Apparently unaware of this critical fact, the author of Matthew emphasizes that the names have been grouped into sets of 14, pointing out that “all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; and from David to the deportation to Babylon, fourteen generations; and from the deportation to Babylon to the Messiah, fourteen generations”. The number 14 is itself important; not only is it twice 7, a holy number at the time, 14 is also the gematria of David. [There were, also 14 goddesses involved in the early creation of mankind (prior to Adam and Eve)... as per Sumerian traditions.] The division makes the birth of Jesus an important event by being the final one of the last set of 14. Calculations based on this division into 14s led Joachim of Fiore to predict that the Second Coming would occur in the thirteenth century. [Which, as you may recall, never quite materialized.]
There is also a significant complication with this division - there are only 41 names listed in the direct line (including Jesus), not 42 (14x3). A number of explanations have been advanced to account for this numerical feature. One is that the Matthew 1:17 lists 14 generations from Abraham to David (Inclusive of both Abraham and David), 14 generations from David to the exile (Inclusive of David and Josiah) and 14 from the exile to Jesus (inclusive of Jeconiah and Jesus). Thus, David’s generation is counted twice.
Another solution offered by many Christians is this: Luke’s genealogy, as seen by what may be considered linguistic evidence, is in fact Mary’s, not Joseph’s, and the record in Matthew is his. If this is the case, the point is continued, then God’s curse is not undermined, as Jesus was not the biological son of Joseph. [However, Laurence Gardner finds just the opposite interpretation.]
The Son(s) of God
The Gospels declare that Jesus was begotten not by Joseph, but by the power of the Holy Spirit while Mary was still a virgin, in fulfillment of prophecy. Thus, in mainstream Christianity and Islam, Jesus is regarded as being literally the “only begotten son” of God, while Joseph is regarded as his foster father.
Matthew immediately follows the genealogy of Jesus with:
Likewise, Luke tells of the Annunciation:
The inconvenient question then arises: Why do both Gospels seem to trace the genealogy of Jesus through Joseph, when they deny that he is his biological father? Augustine considers it a sufficient answer that Joseph was the father of Jesus by adoption, his legal father, through whom he could rightfully claim descent from David. Tertullian, on the other hand, argues that Jesus must have descended from David by blood through his mother Mary [As detailed above by Laurence Gardner]. Tertullian sees Biblical support in Paul’s statement that Jesus was “born of a descendant of David according to the flesh”. Affirmations of Mary’s Davidic ancestry are found early and often, and some see a strong implication in these sources that at least one evangelist was actually recording Jesus’ maternal ancestry. [...something a patriarchal church would find extremely distasteful.]
The Bible says nothing explicitly about the ancestry of Mary, nor does it address the apparent inconsistency between the genealogies in Matthew and Luke. There are, however, several early sources offering further details. The apocryphal Gospel of James (probably of the second century) tells of the miraculous birth of Mary to her parents, Joachim and Anne. It further relates that Joseph, before his marriage to Mary, was an elderly widower with children of his own. [Wow! What an idea! And yet, perhaps, the major difference of their ages was why Joseph could buy Mary’s story about a horny Holy Spirit.] Joachim and Anne, who were eventually accepted into the canon of saints, are named in a number of other early sources as Mary’s parents, but this apocryphal text, which was later condemned, was so widely influential that it is not clear whether the names rest on any other independent tradition.
Africanus, in the 3rd century AD, is the first to reconcile the apparent contradiction between the two Gospel genealogies. Citing the records of the Desposyni, he details a levirate marriage:
Even according to Wikipedia, the Desposyni (“of or belonging to the master or lord”) was a sacred name reserved only for Jesus’ blood relatives. The closely related word despotes, literally meaning despot, but more generally meaning a lord, master, or ship owner, is commonly used of God, human slave-masters, and of Jesus in the reading Luke 13:25 found in Papyrus 75, in Jude 1:4, and possibly in 2nd Peter 2:1. In Ebionite belief, the Desposyni included his mother Mary, his father Joseph, his un-named sisters, and his brothers James the Just, Joses, Simon and Jude; in modern mainstream Christian belief, Mary is counted as a blood relative, Joseph as a foster father or step father and the rest as half-siblings (Protestant belief) or step-siblings or cousins (Catholic and Orthodox).
To many, the whole scenario of dual lineages [citizenships] seems rather contrived, as the only explanation for how, under Jewish law, a man could have two completely different ancestries. It has been questioned, for example, whether a levirate marriages actually occurred among uterine brothers. Nevertheless, the patristic tradition [i.e., early Christian writers] eagerly embraced this explanation, and it remained widely accepted until the Reformation.
Augustine, while mentioning this possibility, proposes a simpler alternative as well, that Joseph became a son of Heli by ordinary adoption (Matthew is assumed to give the natural lineage, since he explicitly says “begot”).
Fabrication or Error
A common explanation for the inconsistency of the two genealogies (Matthew and Luke) is that at least one of them, and possibly both, are simply fabricated. The other possibility is that the inconsistency is derived simply from error... or the fact that neither the author of Luke or Matthew had access to the Internet, Wikipedia, intelligent discourse, and/or reality.
Some scholars believe that the two accounts cannot be harmonized and are “theological” constructs. [This means that it doesn't have to be true, but that it will be believed nonetheless, and in fact, this theological faith in something that is understood to be untrue, can nevertheless be binding on everyone else... and... as a matter of course... the lack of such theological faith can be punishable by death, torture, and/or withdrawal of television privileges.] This theological approach thereby suggests that Matthew wants to underscore the birth of a messianic child of royal lineage (mentioning Solomon), whereas Luke’s genealogy is priestly (mentioning Levi). [This then yields the idea, Priest-King, an idea from the earliest of Sumerian days.]
Zadok is generally placed as having lived some 150 years after the start of Zerubbabel’s period. This is a long period of time for just Zerubbabel, Abihud, Eliakim, and Azor to cover, and so many scholars feel an accurate list would be longer than Matthew’s -- more like Luke’s genealogy, which has far more names for the period. That this part of the genealogy in Matthew lacks papponymics has led to speculation that the original names covering this period became telescoped together, owing to repetitive re-occurrences of names; whereas Luke’s genealogy contains several repeated groups of closely similar names, suggesting that Luke inadvertently, or deliberately, duplicated them. [Aka, nothing is certain.]
The names between Zerubbabel and Zadok - Abihud, Eliakim, and Azor - are not known in any records dating from before the Gospel of Matthew, immediately leading many scholars to believe that the author of Matthew simply made them up. In the eyes of such scholars, once the list moves away from the accepted genealogy of Jewish leaders it is fabricated until it reaches the known territory of Joseph’s grandfather. The names listed are names that were frequent in the period of history, and so some see the author as having drawn the names from random parts of 1 Chronicles, disguising them to not make the copying obvious. For example:
According to Barbara Thiering in her book, Jesus the man, Jacob and Heli are one and the same. Heli took the name “Jacob” for his title as patriarch. The true genealogy is that in Luke’s Gospel, and in Matthew’s Gospel Heli’s line is grafted in to the royal line running down through Solomon. (It should be noted that Thiering’s theories have found little acceptance with either secular or religious academia).
More on Zerubbabel, son of Shealtiel... or Pedaiah... or George of the Jungle.
The genealogies in Luke and Matthew appear to briefly converge at Zerubbabel, assumed son of Shealtiel, though they differ both above Shealtiel and below Zerubbabel. This is also the point where Matthew departs from the Old Testament record.
In the Old Testament, Zerubbabel was a hero who led the Jews back from Babylon about 520 BC, governed Judah, and rebuilt the temple. He appears once in the genealogies in the Book of Chronicles, where his descendants are traced for several generations, but the passage has a number of difficulties. While the Septuagint text here gives his father as Shealtiel, the Masoretic text instead substitutes Shealtiel’s brother Pedaiah -- both sons of King Jeconiah, according to the passage. Some, accepting the Masoretic reading, suppose that Pedaiah begot a son for Shealtiel through a levirate marriage, or that two Zerubbabels were cousins, but most scholars now accept the Septuagint reading as original, in agreement with Matthew and all other accounts.
Meanwhile, it is likely that Luke’s Shealtiel and Zerubbabel were distinct from, and even named after, Matthew’s. However, if they are the same, then the question arises of how Shealtiel, like Joseph, could have two fathers. Yet another complex levirate marriage has often been invoked, arguing for the authenticity of Luke alone. In this view, the genealogy in Chronicles is a late addition grafting Zerubbabel onto the lineage of his predecessors, and Matthew has simply followed the royal succession. In fact, Zerubbabel’s legitimacy may be hinged on descending from David through Nathan rather than through the prophetically cursed ruling line.
Alleged Fulfillment of Prophecy
By the time of Jesus, it was already commonly understood that several prophecies in the Old Testament promised a Messiah descended from King David. Thus, in tracing the Davidic ancestry of Jesus, the Gospels aim to show that these messianic prophecies are fulfilled in him.
The prophecy of Nathan -- understood as foretelling a son of God who would inherit the throne of his ancestor David and reign forever—is quoted in Hebrews and strongly alluded to in Luke’s account of the Annunciation. Likewise, the Psalms record God’s promise to establish the seed of David on his throne forever, while Isaiah and Jeremiah speak of the coming reign of a righteous king of the house of David.
David’s ancestors are also understood as progenitors of the Messiah in several prophecies. Isaiah’s description of the branch or root of Jesse is cited twice by Paul as a promise of the Christ. Even Genesis is seen as promising the Messiah’s descent from Judah and from Abraham. In the earliest messianic prophecy of all, immediately after the sin of Adam and Eve, God promises that the serpent’s head will be crushed by “the seed of the woman” -- in the simplest sense, this refers to Eve, the first woman, but Christian exegesis sees a reference to Mary.
Matthew also presents the virgin birth of Jesus as fulfillment of Isaiah 7:14, whom he quotes.
Before we continue into the slightly less controversial descendants of Mary Magdalene and Jesus, we will head back some 750 years to the times of Dardanus, Romulus (and Remus), and Claudius... where another royal line is inserting itself into the history books... and amazingly enough creating Current Era descendants who will ultimately be reconnecting with the royal, Desposyni, lineage of the primary royal line. The nature of family trees is that this is an exercise we could do countless times and in many locales... but mercifully, we will probably not do... at least not do to excess... or more excess.
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