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Double Vision
In Defense of the Faith
Tuesday, December 15, 2015
Wendy Wippel

The fact that the Matthew and Luke seemingly offer two different versions of Jesus’ genealogy has caused a lot of confusion over the  years,  leading modern Bible  “scholars” to brand the genealogies as anywhere from “jumbled oral traditions” to “outright fabrication”. The solution  is simple: two audiences, two promises. And one God who knows the end from the beginning.

Both genealogies trace Jesus’ inheritance through Abraham and David. But there they diverge.

Matthew’s genealogy continues from David through his son Solomon:

David the king begot Solomon by her who had been the wife[a] of Uriah. (Matthew 1: 7)

The passage than continues:

Solomon begot Rehoboam, Rehoboam begot Abijah, and Abijah begot Asa.[b] 8 Asa begot Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat begot Joram, and Joram begot Uzziah. 9 Uzziah begot Jotham, Jotham begot Ahaz, and Ahaz begot Hezekiah. 10 Hezekiah begot Manasseh, Manasseh begot Amon,[c] and Amon begot Josiah. 11 Josiah begot Jeconiah and his brothers about the time they were carried away to Babylon. 12 And after they were brought to Babylon, Jeconiah begot Shealtiel, and Shealtiel begot Zerubbabel. 13 Zerubbabel begot Abiud, Abiud begot Eliakim, and Eliakim begot Azor. 14 Azor begot Zadok, Zadok begot Achim, and Achim begot Eliud. 15 Eliud begot Eleazar, Eleazar begot Matthan, and Matthan begot Jacob. 16 And Jacob begot Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus who is called Christ.

Two things to note and remember in this passage: 1) Notice that this genealogy  names Jacob as the father of Joseph, and 2) note that one of Joseph’s direct ancestors, his great, great; great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, grandfather, in fact, was Jeconiah.

Luke, however traces the genealogy beyond David through his other son, Nathan:  

23 Now Jesus Himself began His ministry at about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, the son of Heli, 24 the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Melchi, the son of Janna, the son of Joseph, 25 the son of Mattathiah, the son of Amos, the son of Nahum, the son of Esli, the son of Naggai, 26 the son of Maath, the son of Mattathiah, the son of Semei, the son of Joseph, the son of Judah, 27 the son of Joannas, the son of Rhesa, the son of Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel, the son of Neri, 28 the son of Melchi, the son of Addi, the son of Cosam, the son of Elmodam, the son of Er, 29 the son of Jose,the son of Eliezer, the son of Jorim, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, 30 the son of Simeon, the son of Judah, the son of Joseph, the son of Jonan, the son of Eliakim, 31 the son of Melea, the son of Menan, the son of Mattathah, the son of Nathan, the son of David, 32 the son of Jesse, the son of Obed, the son of Boaz, the son of Salmon, the son of Nahshon, 33 the son of Amminadab, the son of Ram, the son of Hezron, the son of Perez, the son of Judah, 34 the son of Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham, the son of Terah, the son of Nahor, 35 the son of Serug, the son of Reu, the son of Peleg, the son of Eber,the son of Shelah, 36 the son of Cainan, the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem,the son of Noah, the son of Lamech, 37 the son of Methuselah, the son of Enoch, the son of Jared, the son of Mahalalel, the son of Cainan, 38 the son of Enosh, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.

Two things to note in this genealogy:  1) Heli is recorded as the name of Joseph’s father, and 2) interestingly, Luke  records that “Now Jesus Himself began His ministry at about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph”.  Luke makes a point out of making sure the readers of the genealogies remember that Jesus wasn’t really Joseph’s son. By blood.

The biggest issue with the two genealogies, obviously, is that they provided two completely different lineages to Jesus, through two different fathers. Admittedly, at first wash the differences are puzzling, but that’s no reason to throw the baby Jesus out with the bath water.  And the one thing we do know is that the Jews, in general, were serious about genealogies (to the point that Paul admonishes the redeemed Jews in I Timothy 1:4 to avoid getting too wrapped up in them.)  So we know the genealogy of the Lord himself would be a pretty big deal. Important enough that two "contradicting” genealogies, if they genuinely contradicted, would have been resolved.

But 2000 years later, they stand.  Why? 

The only thing that makes any sense is that the seeming contradictions in the genealogies for modern scholars must have not been a contradiction at all to the readers of the genealogies in the first century. There must be a piece or two of the puzzle missing to us that weren’t missing to Christ’s contemporaries.  And the obvious solution, since the norm is, after all,  two parents per child, is that one of the genealogies is the maternal side, and one is the paternal.  But which is which, why do they both name fathers, and why do they name different ones?

One of the most important considerations in Bible interpretation is to understand what audience is in play. Our two “audiences” here are Matthew and Luke.  From what viewpoint do they view the genealogy of Christ? 

Matthew is Hebrew through and through, and looks at the genealogy of Christ as one awaiting the “Son of David”, the promised Messiah. The right of  kingship, obviously, passed through the male line, so Matthew provided the paternal genealogy.

Luke certainly was at least a Hellenized Jew, and may in fact have been a Gentile. And as a physician he approached the genealogies as--what else, a blood line. So his genealogy provides the maternal line. So far, so good.

But not all good. Houston, we have a problem….

Remember when I told you to remember Jeconiah?  In Matthew’s genealogy? As a direct ancestor of Joseph? 

Jeconiah—aka  Jehoiakim was a very wicked king. Such a wicked king that God eventually had had enough of Jeconiah and made this pronouncement:

"As surely as I live," declares the LORD, "even if you, Jehoiachin son of Jehoiakim king of Judah, were a signet ring on my right hand, I would still pull you off. This is what the LORD says: "Write this man down as childless, … For none of his descendants shall prosper, sitting on the throne of David, and ruling anymore in Judah.’” (Jer 22:30)

All of Jeconiah's descendants were forevermore ineligible for the throne, and Joseph was one of them. Joseph couldn’t pass on the right to the throne.

Point: Satan. 

Or so it would seem. But God knew the end from the beginning, and he had an end-around planned before the creation of the world.

Enter the daughters of Zelophehad (Numbers 25).  In that passage, five daughters of a man who had no male heir bring an appeal to Moses for justice regarding their inheritance rights.  Inheritance among the Jews passed through sons, and these five daughters asked to be able to retain their father’s property even though there was no son to inherit.  Moses ruled that where there was no male heir, the rights of inheritance could pass to the man’s daughters.

The five daughters of Zelophehad were members of the tribe of Manasseh, and some of the tribe's members had a problem with the ruling ,because (since inheritance sticks with the male), if they married outside the tribe, the tribe of Manasseh would lose land given to them by God:

The family heads of … Manasseh, … came and spoke before Moses and the leaders, the heads of the Israelite families. 2 They said, “When the LORD commanded my lord to give the land as an inheritance to the Israelites by lot, he ordered you to give the inheritance of our brother Zelophehad to his daughters. 3 Now suppose they marry men from other Israelite tribes; then their inheritance will be taken from our ancestral inheritance and added to that of the tribe they marry into. And so part of the inheritance allotted to us will be taken away. 4 When the Year of Jubilee for the Israelites comes, their inheritance will be added to that of the tribe into which they marry, and their property will be taken from the tribal inheritance of our ancestors.”

So Moses made another ruling, women without brothers to inherit the tribal land were required to marry within the tribe so that the land would stay within the tribe:

“What the tribe of the descendants of Joseph is saying is right. 6 This is what the LORD commands for Zelophehad’s daughters: They may marry anyone they please as long as they marry within their father’s tribal clan. 7 … Every daughter who inherits land in any Israelite tribe must marry someone in her father’s tribal clan, so that every Israelite will possess the inheritance of their ancestors.

The land stayed within the tribe because her inheritance, by the law established by Moses for the daughters of Zelophehad, was transferred to her husband when there were no sons that could inherit. Essentially the daughter’s husband, by law, became the son that that father did not have.

Which is pretty much exactly where we get the phrase son-in-law, (i.e. a son, by law.) 

It would appear that Mary was part of a family with only daughters, as Scripture documents at least one sister, but no brothers are mentioned. And the respective genealogies document that they were both of the tribe of Judah. So whatever would have been inherited by male sons, including the right to pass on rights to the throne, would have been inherited by Mary, as a daughter with no brothers to inherit it.

Both Joseph and could document descent from David, but through different sons.

That resolves the differences between the two audiences.

But what about the two promises?  

God made a promise to fallen man (spoken to the serpent) which pretty much coincided completely with man’s realization of just what he had lost in that incident in the Garden of Eden:

“I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel.”

Translation: A man just like you will eventually defeat sin forever , and set things right.  That was God’s promise to all sons of Adam, the bloodline, which Luke recorded.

God also made a promise to David that that king would arise from his loins:

“the Lord tells you that He will make you a house.[a]12 “When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever."

That’s the promise made to his chosen people; a king that will rule justly, and a kingdom that will endure under His rule.   

Two genealogies, two audiences, two promises.  Child’s play, right?

About Wendy Wippel

Last week: Jihad Palace

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