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Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible

Genealogy of Jesus Christ

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GENEALOGY OF JESUS CHRIST

1. The two genealogies . Both the First and Third Evangelists (here for brevity referred to as Mt. and Lk.) give our Lord’s ancestry, but they differ from one another very largely. Lk. traces back the genealogy to Adam, Mt. to Abraham only. Both lists agree from Abraham to David, except that Aram or Ram in Matthew 1:3 = Arm in Luke 3:33 (best text); but between David and Joseph the lists have only Shealtiel and Zerubbabel, and possibly two other names (see below), in common.

( a ) The Matthæan list from Perez to David is taken almost verbatim from Ruth 4:18-22 LXX [Note: Septuagint.] (inserting Rahab and Ruth, and calling David ‘the king’), and agrees with 1 Chronicles 2:1-16 ; it then gives the names of the kings to Jechoniah, from 1 Chronicles 3:10-15 , but inserts ‘the [wife] of Uriah’ and omits kings Abaziah, Joash, and Amaziah between Joram and Uzziah (= Azariah), and also Jehoiakim son of Josiah and father of Jechoniah (Coniah, Jeremiah 22:24 ) or Jehoiachin ( 2 Chronicles 36:8 ). This last omission may be merely a mistake, for the list is made up of three artificial divisions of fourteen generations each, and Jechoniah appears both at the end of the second and at the beginning of the third division, being counted twice. Perhaps, then, originally Jehoiakim ended the second division, and Jehoiachin began the third, and they became confused owing to the similarity of spelling and were written alike (as in 1 Chronicles 3:15 , Jeremiah 52:31 LXX [Note: Septuagint.] ); then the synonym Jechoniah was substituted for both. In the third division the names Shealtiel, Zerubbabel (both in Lk. also) are from Ezra 3:2 , 1 Chronicles 3:17 ; 1 Chronicles 3:19 but we notice that in Mt. and Ezra Zerubbabel is called son of Shealtiel, whereas in 1 Ch (except in some MSS of the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] ) he is his nephew. Both in Mt. and 1 Ch. Shealtiel is called son of Jechoniah. Between Zerubbabel and Joseph the names are perhaps from some traditional list of the heirs of the kings, but some names here also have been omitted, for in Mt. ten generations are spread over nearly 500 years, while Lk. gives nineteen generations for the same period. The Mt. genealogy ends with Matthan, Jacob, Joseph.

( b ) The Lukan list , which inverts the order, beginning at Jesus and ending at Adam, takes the line from Adam to Abraham, from Genesis 5:1-32 ; Genesis 10:21-25 (to Peleg), 1 Chronicles 1:1-27 , but inserts Cainan between Arphaxad and Shelah, as does the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] in Gn. and 1 Ch.; it practically agrees with Mt. (see above) from Abraham to David, but then gives the line to Shealtiel through David’s son Nathan, making Shealtiel the son of Neri, not of king Jechoniah (see 2 below). The names between Nathan and Shealtiel are not derived from the OT, and those between Zerubbabel and Joseph are otherwise unknown to us, unless, as Plummer supposes ( ICC [Note: CC International Critical Commentary.] , ‘St. Luke,’ p. 104,) Joanan ( Luke 3:27 RV [Note: Revised Version.] ) = Hananiah son of Zerubbabel ( 1 Chronicles 3:19 ) the name Rhesa being really a title (‘Zerubbabel Rhesa’ = ‘Z. the prince’), misunderstood by some copyist before Lk. and Joda ( Luke 3:26 RV [Note: Revised Version.] ) = Abind ( Matthew 1:18 ) = Hodaviab ( 1 Chronicles 3:24 RV [Note: Revised Version.] , a descendant of Zerubbabel, not son of Hananiah). Some think that Matthat ( Luke 3:24 ) = Matthan ( Matthew 1:15 ).

2. Reason of the differences . It is not enough merely to say that theories which endeavour to harmonize the four Gospels are failures, and that, as is shown in art. Gospels, 2 ( b ), Mt. and Lk. wrote each without knowing the work of the other. We have to consider why two independent writers, both professing to give our Lord’s genealogy, produced such different lists. Jewish genealogies were frequently artificial; that of Mt. is obviously so; for example, its omissions were apparently made only so as to produce an equality between the three divisions. Burkitt ( Evangelion da-Mepharreshe , ii. 260f.) and Allen ( ICC [Note: CC International Critical Commentary.] , ‘St. Matthew,’ p. 2 ff.) think that Mt. compiled his genealogy for the purpose of his Gospel. The details about Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, not to be expected in a genealogy, but suitable for that purpose (see below), and the artificial divisions, seem to point to this view. The object of the Mt. genealogy would be to refute an early Jewish slander that Jesus was born out of wedlock a slander certainly known to Celsus in the 2nd cent. (Origen, c. Cels . i. 28 etc.). In this connexion Burkitt ( l.c. ) shows that Matthew 1:2 are by the same hand as the rest of the Gospel (see also Hawkins, Horæ Synopticæ , p. 4ff.). This view may, however, perhaps be modified a little by the hypothesis that the Mt. list is due to a Christian predecessor of the First Evangelist, perhaps to one of his sources; this modification would allow for the corruption of Jeboiakim and Jeboiachin (above, 1).

In any case, in spite of the argument to the contrary by Bacon in Hastings’ DB [Note: Dictionary of the Bible.] ii. 139, we must probably agree with Westcott ( NT in Greek 2 , ii. 141), Barnard (Hastings’ DCG [Note: CG Dictionary of Christ and the Gospels.] i. 638), Allen, and Burkitt, that the word ‘begat’ in this list expresses legal heirship and not physical descent. The same is true in some cases in 1 Chronicles. Mt. clearly believed in the Virgin Birth, and puts the genealogy immediately before the assertion of it; if physical descent is intended, the genealogy through Joseph is unmeaning. He wishes to prove that Jesus is legally descended from David, and therefore gives the ‘throne succession,’ the list of regal heirs. On the other hand, it may be supposed that Lk. states Jesus’ heirship by giving Joseph’s actual physical descent according to some genealogy preserved in the family. According to this view, Joseph was really the son of Heli ( Luke 3:23 ) but the legal heir of Jacob ( Matthew 1:16 ). It is not difficult to understand why Shealtiel and Zerubbabel appear in both lists. Jechoniah was childless, or at least his heirs died out ( Jeremiah 22:24 ; Jeremiah 22:30 ), and Shealtiel, though called his ‘son’ in 1 Chronicles 3:17 , was probably only his legal heir, being son of Neri ( Luke 3:27 ). This theory is elaborated by Lord A. Hervey, Bishop of Bath and Wells ( The Genealogies of our Lord , 1853, and in Smith’s DB [Note: Dictionary of the Bible.] 2 ).

The reason of the insertion of the names of the four women in the Mt. list is not quite obvious. It has been suggested that the object was to show that God accepts penitents and strangers. Burkitt, with more probability, supposes that the mention of the heirs being born out of the direct line or irregularly is intended to prepare us for the still greater irregularity at the last stage, for the Virgin Birth of Jesus ( l.c. p. 260). We note that in the OT Rahab is not said to have been the wife of Salmon as in Matthew 1:5 .

3. Other solutions . ( a ) Africanus, perhaps the earliest writer to discuss Biblical questions in a critical manner ( c [Note: circa, about.] . a.d. 220), treats of these genealogies in his Letter to Aristides (Euseb. HE i. 7, vi. 31). He harmonizes them (expressly, however, not as a matter of tradition) on the theory of levirate marriages, supposing that two half-brothers, sons of different fathers, married the same woman, and that the issue of the second marriage was therefore legally accounted to the elder, but physically to the younger brother. It is a difficulty that two, or even three, such marriages must be supposed in the list; and this theory is almost universally rejected by moderns. Africanus bad no doubt that both genealogies were Joseph’s.

Africanus says that Herod the Great destroyed all the Jewish genealogies kept in the archives, so as to hide his own ignoble descent, but that not a few had private records of their own (Euseb. HE i. 7). Here clearly Africanus exaggerates. Josephus says that his own genealogy was given in the public records, and that the priests’ pedigrees, even among Jews of the Dispersion, were carefully preserved ( Life , 1, c. Ap . i. 7). There is no reason why LK. should not have found a genealogy in Joseph’s family. Africanus says that our Lord’s relatives, called desposyni , prided themselves on preserving the memory of their noble descent.

( b ) A more modern theory, expounded by Weiss, but first by Annius of Viterbo ( c [Note: circa, about.] . a.d. 1490), is that Mt. gives Joseph’s pedigree, Lk. Mary’s. It is necessary on this theory to render Luke 3:23 thus: ‘being the son (as was supposed) of Joseph [but really the grandson] of Heli.’ This translations rightly pronounced by Plummer to be incredible ( l.c. p. 103); and a birthright derived through the mother would be ‘quite out of harmony with either Jewish ideas or Gentile ideas.’ The important thing was to state Jesus’ birthright, and the only possible way to do this would be through Joseph.

It must, however, be added that Joseph and Mary were probably near relations. We cannot, indeed, say with Eusebius ( HE i. 7) that they must have been of the same tribe, because ‘intermarriages between different tribes were not permitted.’ He is evidently referring to Numbers 36:6 f., but this relates only to heiresses, who, if they married out of their tribe, would forfeit their inheritance. Mary and Elisabeth were kinswomen, though the latter was descended from Aaron ( Luke 1:5 ; Luke 1:36 ). But it was undoubtedly the belief of the early Christians that Jesus was descended, according to the flesh, from David, and was of the tribe of Judah ( Acts 2:30 ; Acts 13:23 , Romans 1:3 , 2 Timothy 2:8 , Hebrews 7:14 , Revelation 5:5 ; Revelation 22:16 ; cf. Mark 10:47 ; Mark 11:10 ). At the same time it is noteworthy that our Lord did not base His claims on His Davidic descent. In the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs , an apocryphal work written in its present form c [Note: circa, about.] . a.d. 120, we find ( Sym . 7, Gad , 8) the idea that the Lord should ‘raise (one) from Levi as priest and from Judah as king. God and man, an Inference, as Sanday-Headlam remark ( ICC [Note: CC International Critical Commentary.] , ‘Romans,’ p. 7), from Luke 1:36 .

4. The Matthæan text . In Matthew 1:16 the reading of almost all Greek MSS, attested by Tertullian, is that of EV [Note: English Version.] , ‘Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus,’ etc. The lately discovered Sinaitic-Syriac palimpsest has ‘Jacob begat Joseph: Joseph, to whom was betrothed Mary the Virgin, begat Jesus.’ This reading is carefully discussed by Prof. Burkitt ( l.c. p. 262 ff.), who thinks that it is not original, but derived from a variant of the ordinary text: ‘Jacob begat Joseph, to whom being betrothed the Virgin Mary bare [ lit. begat, as often] Jesus’ [this is questioned by Allen, l.c. p. 8]. On the other hand, it has been suggested that the Sinaitic palimpsest has the original reading of a source of our Mt. which did not believe in the Virgin Birth. If so, it is strange that the First Evangelist should place it in such close juxtaposition to his assertion of that belief. In view, however, of what has been said above, that the word ‘begat’ in Mt. implies only legal heirship, the question has no real doctrinal significance. On purely literary grounds, Prof. Burkitt seems to the present writer to have established his point.

A. J. Maclean.


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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Genealogy of Jesus Christ'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hdb/g/genealogy-of-jesus-christ.html. 1909.

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Wednesday, November 13th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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