Genealogy of Jesus Christ, The
1. The Problems Involved
2. Nature and Importance of the Issue
II. THE GENEALOGIES SEPARATELY
1. Peculiarities of Matthew's Genealogy
2. Explanation of the Foregoing
3. Peculiarities of Luke's Genealogy
4. Explanation of the Foregoing
III. THE GENEALOGIES COMPARED
IV. THE GENEALOGIES AND THE VIRGIN BIRTH
1. Text of Matthew 1:16
2. General Conclusions
1. The Problems Involved:
The genealogy of Jesus as contained in the First and Third Gospels presents three special problems which lie somewhat part from general questions of New Testament criticism: (1) the construction and purpose of each list taken separately; (2) the relation of the two lists, in their coincidences and variations, to each other; (3) the relationship of both lists to the statement concerning the virgin birth of our Lord with which they are directly connected. These questions necessarily involve the conclusion to be arrived at concerning the trustworthiness of the list of names as forming an actual historical connection between Jesus and His ancestors according to the flesh.
2. Nature and Importance of the Issue:
Before these problems are dealt with, it would be well to consider the kind and degree of importance to be attached to the question at issue. As we see it, the only vital point at stake is the balance, sanity and good judgment of the evangelists.
(1) That Jesus had a line of ancestors by His human birth may be taken for granted. The tradition, universal from the earliest times among believers and granted even by the bitterest opponents, that He was connected with the line of David, may also readily be accepted. The exact line through which that connection is traced is, on general principles, of secondary importance. The fact is that, while natural sonship to David on the part of the Messiah was of vital importance to many Jewish inquirers, it failed of any very enthusiastic endorsement on the part of Jesus Himself (see the truly remarkable interview recorded in Mr 12:35-37). The expressions of Paul in this connection will be referred to later; at this point it is sufficient to say that physical kinship to David cannot be insisted upon as the only justification for his words.
(2) If, then, the purpose of the evangelists in having recourse to these lists is worth while, the question of their correctness need not even be raised. Unless some vital issue is involved, the supposition of a special inspiration to go behind lists currently accepted is gratuitous. No such issue seems to be presented here. The Davidic kinship of Jesus, in any sense essential to His Messiahship, is independent of the lists which are used to justify it. This is preliminary to the actual discussion and need not prevent us from giving all due credit to lists which could not have been carelessly compiled nor lightly used.
II. The Genealogies Separately.
1. Peculiarities of Matthew's Genealogy:
(1) The construction and incorporation of Joseph's genealogical tree is, in the light of all the facts, the primary consideration.
(2) The artificial division into three groups of fourteen generations each. The apparent defect in this arrangement as it actually stands (the third group lacks one member) is probably traceable to a defect of the Septuagint version of 1Ch 3:11, which is reproduced in the Greek gospel (see Zahn, Introduction to the New Testament, English translation, 564, note 4). This arrangement into groups is the more striking because it makes 14 generations from the captivity to Joseph, where Luke makes 20 or 21, and because the first group of 14 is formed by the omission of three names. It is perfectly clear, therefore, that this artificial grouping is essential to the purpose of the evangelist.
(3) The insertion of the names of brothers, thus following the historical lists and broadening the genealogy by including collateral lines.
(4) The insertion of the names of women--a practice not only foreign but abhorrent to ordinary usage. This peculiarity is the more marked when we notice that these names introduce what would be considered serious blots in the family history of the Davidic house (see Mt 1:5,7).
(5) The principle upon which the division into periods is constructed: (a) from Abraham to David, (b) from David to the Captivity, (c) from the Captivity to Jesus. Attention has repeatedly been called to the fact that this gives a definite historical movement to the genealogy. It involves the origin, the rise to power, the decay and downfall of the house of David (see Allen,ICC , "Matthew," 2; compare Zahn,N T , English translation, I, 535).
2. Explanation of the Foregoing:
Of the many theories which have been constructed to explain the foregoing six peculiarities of the genealogy of Matthew, altogether the most satisfactory is that of Professor Zahn. His contention is that the list was framed not to prove the natural connection of Jesus with the house of David--a fact which no one doubted--but to defend the one vital point where attack had been made, namely, the legitimacy of Jesus' connection with David. No one seems to have questioned that Jesus was born of Mary and was closely connected with the royal house. The question was whether He was of legitimate birth. It was charged--and the slander which was very early in origin and circumstantial in character obtained an extraordinary hold upon the hostile Jewish mind--that Jesus was the illegitimate offspring of Mary. The Gospel of Mt meets that slander by giving a bird's-eye view of the movement of the history from Abraham to the Messiah in the form of a genealogy of Joseph, who in the light of all the facts concerning the origin of Jesus marries Mary and gives her the protection of his stainless name and royal lineage. The extraordinary boldness and brilliancy of this apologetic method ought not to be overlooked. The formal charge that Jesus is son of Mary, not of Joseph, is admitted--the slander involved is refuted by bringing Joseph forward as a witness for Mary. Nothing could have been more natural for a man fearless in the confidence of truth; nothing could have been more impossible for one insecure in his hold upon the facts. So far as the genealogy is concerned, just the moment we realize that the purpose is not to prove the natural sonship of Jesus to David, but to epitomize the history, all hesitancy and apprehension concerning the historicity of the successive names disappear. The continuity of blood relationship through these successive generations becomes of no essential importance. Zahn's explanation (the argument in full should be read by every student), simple in itself, explains all the facts, as a key fits a complicated lock. It explains the choice of a genealogy as a method of epitomizing history and that genealogy Joseph's, the artificial grouping at the expense of changing the traditional lists, the inclusion of the names of brothers and of women.
3. Peculiarities of Luke's Genealogy:
(1) The choice of Joseph's genealogical tree on the part of one who is so deeply interested in Mary.
(2) The reversal of order in going back from Joseph to his ancestors. Godet emphasizes the fact that, in the nature of the case, a genealogy follows the order of succession, each new individual being added to the roll of his family. Luke's method indicates that his genealogy has been constructed for a special purpose.
(3) The carrying of the line back of the history of the covenant, which begins with Abraham, to Adam, who represents the race in general. This fact, together with another, that the line of Joseph is traced to David through Nathan who was not David's heir, proves that Luke was not concerned with establishing the Davidic standing of Jesus.
(4) The placing of the genealogy, not at the beginning of the Gospel, but at the beginning of the ministry, between the baptism and the temptation.
(5) The omission of the article before the name of Joseph.
4. Explanation of the Foregoing:
(1) In his comment upon the fourth peculiarity enumerated above, namely, the placing of the genealogy at the beginning of the ministry, Godet (Gospel of Luke, American edition, 126) has this to say: "In crossing the threshold of this new era, the sacred historian casts a general glance over the period which thus reaches its close, and sums it up in this document, which might be called the mortuary register of the earlier humanity." In other words, in connecting the genealogy directly with the ministry, Luke exhibits the fact that his interest in it is historical rather than antiquarian or, so to say, genealogical. As Matthew summarizes the history of the covenant people from the days of Abraham by means of the genealogical register, modified so as to make it graphic by its uniformity, so Luke has written the story of the humanity Jesus, as the Second Adam, came to save, by the register of names summarizing its entire course in the world.
It has recently been commented upon that genealogical lists such as those of Genesis and the New Testament are not infrequently used to convey ideas not strictly germane to the matter of descent or the cognate notion of chronology. For example, the statements as to the longevity of the patriarchs are of historical interest only--they are not and could never have been of value for chronological purposes (see Warfield, "Antiquity and Unity of Human Race," Princeton Review, February, 1911).
(2) In commenting upon the order which Luke adopts, Godet (who has thrown more light upon this portion of the Gospel than anyone else) says: "The ascending form of genealogy can only be that of a private instrument, drawn up from the public document with a view to the particular individual whose name serves as the starting-point of the whole list" (127).
(3) From the fact that the name of Joseph is introduced without an article Godet draws three conclusions: (a) that this name belongs rather to the sentence introduced by Luke; (b) that the genealogical document which he consulted began with the name of Heli; (c) and consequently, that this piece was not originally the genealogy of Jesus or of Joseph, but of Heli (ibid., 128).
(4) (a) The importance of these considerations is twofold. In the first place it indicates that Luke is bringing together two separate documents, one of which contained a statement of the foster-fatherhood of Joseph, while the other contained the genealogy of Heli, between whom and Joseph there existed a relationship which made Luke desirous of connecting them. (b) In addition, the absence of the article serves to call attention to something exceptional in the relationship of Joseph to the rest of this ancestral line which is brought into connection with his name. To this point we shall recur later. We have an explanation for all the suggested problems except one, and that one, in a sense, the most difficult of all, namely, the choice of Joseph's genealogy.
III. The Genealogies Compared.
In order, however, to discuss this question intelligently, we must enter upon the second stage of our inquiry--as to the relationship between the two lists.
(1) The most notable fact here is of course the wideness of the divergence together with the contrasted and unintelligible fact of minute correspondence. Between Abraham and David the two lists agree. Between David and Joseph there is evident correspondence in two (see Mt 1:12; Lu 3:27), and possible correspondence in four names (that is, if Abiud (Mt 1:13)) and Judah (Lu 3:30) are the same). This initial and greatest difficulty is of material assistance to us because it makes one conclusion certain beyond peradventure. The two lists are not divergent attempts to perform the same task. Whatever difficulties may remain, this difficulty is eliminated at the outset. It is impossible that among a people given to genealogies two lists purporting to give the ancestry of a man in the same line could diverge so widely. There is, therefore, a difference between these lists which includes the purpose for which they were compiled and the meaning which they were intended to convey.
(2) Two of the most striking points in the lists as they stand may be brought into connection and made to explain each other. The two lists coincide in the names of Zerubbabel and Shealtiel--they differ as to the name of Joseph's father, who is Jacob according to Matthew and Heli according to Luke. As to the second of these two important items this much is clear. Either these two lists are in violent contradiction, or else Joseph was in some sense son of both Jacob and Heli. Now, in connection with this seeming impossibility, turn to the other item. The names of Shealtiel and Zerubbabel belong to the captivity. Their being common to both lists is easily explained by the fact that during that troubled period a number of collateral family branches might be narrowed down to one or two common representatives (see Zahn, op. cit., 535). In the New Testament genealogies Zerubbabel is the son of Shealtiel--according to 1Ch 3:19 he is the nephew of Shealtiel and the son of Pedaiah. He is, therefore, at one and the same time heir and, legally, son of two men and would appear as such on two collateral lists.
Shealtiel himself appears in Mt (1:12) as the son of Jechoniah and in Lk (3:27) as the son of Neri. In 1 Ch 3:17 he appears as son of Jechoniah. The name of Neri is peculiar to Lk, so that we cannot check his use of it and discover the actual parentage of Shealtiel. His appearance in two lists with a double reference of parentage is not surprising in view of what we have already seen. Besides this, a reasonable explanation at once appears. In Jer 36:30 it is asserted that Jehoiakim should have "none to sit upon the throne of David," and of his son (Jehoiachin, Jechoniah, Coniah) it is said (Jer 22:30), "Write ye this man childless," etc. It has been rightly pointed out (see HDB ,II 557) that this means simply legal proscription, not actual childlessness. It suggests, however, that it might be thought necessary to provide in the genealogy an heir not of their blood for the two disgraced and proscribed members of the royal house, In view of these facts the contradictory references as to Joseph's parentage present no difficulty.
Joseph may easily have been and undoubtedly was, legally, son and heir of both Jacob and Heli. Godet's objection to this is based upon the supposition that Heli and Jacob were brothers, which leaves the divergence beyond these two names unexplained. It is evident, however, that the kinship between Jacob and Heli might have been more distant than this supposition calls for.
(3) When we come to explain how it happened that Joseph was connected with both these lines and that Matthew chose one list and Luke the other we are necessarily shut up to conjecture. There is one supposition, however, which is worthy of very careful consideration because it solves so many and such difficult problems. The authorities have been divided as to whether Luke's genealogy is Joseph's, as appears, or Mary's. Godet makes a strong showing for the latter, and, after all has been said per contra, some of his representations remain unshaken (compare Godet and Plummer sub loc.). Most of the difficulties are removed at one stroke, and the known facts harmonized, by the simple supposition that Luke has given us the meeting-point of the lineage both of Joseph and Mary who are akin. This explains the apparent choice of Joseph's list; the peculiar position of his name in that list; the reversal of the order; the coincidences and discrepancies with reference to Matthew's; the early tradition of Mary's Davidic origin; the strange reference in the Talmud (Chaghigha' 77 4) to Mary as the daughter of Heli; the visit of Mary with Joseph to Bethlehem at the time of the registration; the traditional discrepancy of ages between Joseph and Mary, such that (apparently) Joseph disappears from the scene before Jesus reaches maturity. Against this nothing of real weight can be urged (the kinship with Elisabeth is not such: see Edersheim,LTJM , I, 149) except that it is too simple and too felicitous. Its simplicity and felicitous adjustment to the whole complex situation is precisely its recommendation. And there we may let the matter rest.
IV. The Genealogies and the Virgin Birth.
We have now to deal with the relationship of the genealogies to the virgin-birth statement which forms the vital center of the infancy narratives and to the general question of the Davidic origin of Jesus.
See VIRGIN BIRTH.
1. Text of Matthew 1:16:
The first part of this question may be most directly approached by a brief consideration of the text of Mt 1:16. The text upon which the Revised Version (British and American) is based reads: "And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ." Beside this there are two readings, one contained in the so-called Ferrar group of manuscripts, and the other in the Sinaitic which, differing among themselves, unite in ascribing the parentage of Jesus to Joseph. This has been seized upon by negative critics (see for list and discussion Machen, Princeton Review, January, 1906, 63; compare Bacon,HDB , article "Genealogy of Jesus Christ," Am. Jour. Theol., January, 1911, who long ago gave in his advocacy to the supposition that the evangelists could easily reconcile the supernatural birth with the actual paternity of Joseph) to support the idea of a primitive Christian tradition that Joseph was the father of Jesus. Of this contention Zahn leaves nothing, and concludes his argument with this statement: "The hope of finding indications in old manuscripts and versions that the authors of lost Gospels or brief writings which may have been worked over in our Mt and Lk regarded Joseph as the physical father of Jesus, should at last be dismissed. An author who knew how to make even the dry material of a genealogy to its least detail contribute to the purpose of his thought concerning the slandered miracle of the Messiah's birth, cannot at the same time have taken over statements from a genealogy of Joseph or Jesus used by him which directly contradicted his conception of this fact. Any text of Mt which contained such statements would be condemned in advance as one altered against the author's interest" (op. cit., 567). It is interesting to note that Allen (ICC, "Matthew," 8), starting from the extreme position that the Sinaitic form of statement, of all extant texts, most nearly represents the original, reaches the same conclusion as Zahn, that Matthew's Gospel from the beginning taught the virgin birth.
2. General Conclusions:
(1) It is clear, therefore, from the general trend as well as from specific statements of both Gospels, that the genealogies and the birth-narratives were not floating traditions which accidentally touched and coalesced in mid-stream, but that they were intended to weld inseparably the two beliefs that Jesus was miraculously conceived and that He was the heir of David. This could be done only on the basis of Joseph's genealogy, for whatever the lineage of Mary, Joseph was the head of the family, and the Davidic connection of Jesus could only be established by acknowledgment of Him as legal son by Joseph. Upon this basis rests the common belief of the apostolic age (see Zahn, ibid., 567, note references), and in accordance with it all statements (such as those of Paul, Ro 1:3; 2Ti 2:8) must be interpreted.
(2) For it must be remembered that, back of the problem of reconciling the virgin birth and the Davidic origin of Jesus, lay the far deeper problem--to harmonize the incarnation and the Davidic origin. This problem had been presented in shadow and intimation by Jesus Himself in the question: "David himself calleth him Lord; and whence is he his Son?" It is further to be noticed that in the annunciation (Lu 1:32) the promised One is called at once Son of God and Son of David, and that He is the Son of God by virtue of His conception by the Spirit--leaving it evident that He is Son of David by virtue of His birth of Mary. With this should be compared the statement of Paul (Ro 1:3,1): He who was God's Son was "born of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead." This is at least most suggestive (see Orr, Virgin Birth of Christ, 119, with note, p. 121), for it indicates that as Paul and Luke were in very close sympathy as to the person of our Lord, so they are in equally close sympathy as to the mystery of His origin. The unanimity of conviction on the part of the early church as to the Davidic origin of Jesus is closely paralleled by its equally firm conviction as to His supernatural derivation. The meeting-point of these two beliefs and the resolution of the mystery of their relationship is in the genealogies in which two widely diverging lines of human ancestry, representing the whole process of history, converge at the point where the new creation from heaven is introduced.
The literature on this subject is very copious. The works referred to in the text will serve to introduce the reader to more extensive investigations. The whole situation is well summarized by Plummer (ICC, "Luke," sub loc.).
Louis Matthews Sweet