On this Sunday, I would like to write a piece on the Genealogy of Jesus. (I have not written a piece like this for awhile, and people were asking for a new one.)
By the time of Jesus, it was well known that several prophesies in the Old Testament claimed a Messiah descended from King David. What is not so well understood today is that, in the turbulent times around the time of Jesus’ life, there were quite a number of previous, concurrent, and later messianic claims.
The two Gospel writers of Matthew and Luke tried very hard to prove to their respective audiences that Jesus was the Messiah. Along with the birth in Bethlehem stories, each included a genealogy of Jesus; in Matthew from Abraham to Joseph, and in Luke, counting backwards from Joseph to God.
In Matthew, there is a deliberate use of tesseradecads, sets of fourteen, a very common practice in Jewish literature. He has 3 such sets in Jesus’ case. This is only achieved by deliberately omitting a number of names, or else a partial tesseradecad would have had to be included. (Remember that Matthew was written for a Jewish audience.)
In Luke, there are 75 names before Jesus, 20 before Abraham, so it is much longer than Matthew’s. (Luke was written for a Greek/Roman/International audience).
What is most interesting, is that neither genealogy agree after King David, until you reach Joseph. Matthew follows David with Solomon, while Luke follows David with Nathan, a minor son rarely mentioned in the Old Testament. Joseph even has two different fathers.
This difference was recognized by the early Church Fathers as soon as the canons were combined, and many explanations were contrived to try to explain it, but all are very obvious contortions.
The real problem that is never properly addressed is that none of this genealogy matters. Different or the same, it is totally irrelevant. They both lead to Joseph, who is expressly described as NOT being Jesus’ father.
In Jewish messianic tradition, the Messiah or “anointed one” is a future king who will unite the Jewish people and bring in an era of peace. He is a man specially chosen by God for his task, but he is still a MAN. There is never a mention of the Messiah as a Son of God, a Man/God, or any other combination. Any such claim is heresy to Judaism, and the chief reason why they reject all claims of Christianity. (The Holy Spirit gets the same treatment.). Ask a rabbi like I did.
As a reference, Cyrus the Great is called a messiah of the Jews in the Old Testament. He was an Iranian king who freed the Jews at the end of the Babylonian Captivity, paid for the Second Temple to be built, and helped them rebuild their civilization. One should think about that whenever they discuss Middle East relations. People can work together if they wish to.
In an interesting note, in the Quran Jesus (Isa) is described as the son of Mary (Maryam), who is unmarried and has no fiancee. A genealogy would have been applicable here if it was needed.
Modern bible scholars generally agree that either one or both of the genealogies were just made up, like parts of the Bethlehem story, in an attempt to “squeeze in” the messianic prophesies to fit the life of Jesus. This opens a bigger issue of what else might be so inserted.
Before anyone gets mad, this is straight out of the Book itself. Look it up.
As for myself, I do not believe Jesus to be the Messiah of the Jews, because they told me he was not. He does not fulfill the majority of the prophecies in the Talmud, which is the reason it is not included in the Old Testament, and why you were never encouraged to read it. However, that in no way diminishes his life, words or deeds. Perhaps the writer of Luke was closest to my feelings, in that Jesus should be considered the Messiah of ALL of us. Man, God, God/Man, doesn’t matter to me. His philosophy, exemplified by such things as the Sermon on the Mount, are what moves my heart. I try to be a good person, and not just for a reward at the After Party.
At the same time, I won’t discourage anyone in what they believe. I certainly won’t set fire to anyone for disagreeing; they might be right, and there is a good chance I am not. I am an old school Universalist, and I believe that we will all find out after we die, even if we learn that there is nothing to discover.
If I might be allowed a small digression into Star Trek, a quote from the episode “Rightful Heir”, which was discussing the Klingon founder Kahless.
“Kahless left us – all of us – a powerful legacy. A way of thinking and acting that makes us Klingon. If his words hold wisdom and his philosophy is honorable, what does it matter if he returns? What is important is that we follow his teachings. Perhaps the words are more important than the man.”
So there you have it. I hope that you enjoyed it, and perhaps I gave you something to think about and discuss in the comments section.