Sunday, March 22, 2015

Making sense of the Matthew and Luke genealogies of Jesus

Ben Witherington has a good article on the quite different genealogies of Jesus, which is as good as anything I've read, so far.

Here are a few pertinent bits:

While there are a few similarities between the two (e.g. they both mention that Jesus is the ‘so-called’ son of Joseph), they are mostly different, and they serve very different purposes. Some Bible students along the way have tried to suggest that we have Mary’s genealogy in Luke, and Joseph’s in Matthew, but this solution simply doesn’t work, since Joseph and his ancestry is referred to in both cases...

Luke’s, is an ascending genealogy (tracing Jesus all the way back to Adam, and thence to God) and focuses on Jesus’ human ancestry in general. The other, Matthew’s, is a descending genealogy and is a strictly Jewish genealogy that wants to establish that Jesus is a descendant of Abraham and of Moses and of David, and thus is the Jewish messiah. Neither genealogy attempts to be complete, but rather they are selective and stylized. In royal genealogies in antiquity often the skeletons would be left in the closet, and sometimes whole generations would be left out of account.The genealogy was intended to be illustrative of the ancestry, not an exhaustive account thereof. Furthermore, in the case of Matthew’s genealogy, there is an attempt to suggest that Jesus is the perfect descendant of Abraham, noticing the references to three sets of 14 generations, with seven being the number of perfection...

Because Matthew is trying to shoe horn Mary and Jesus into Joseph’s genealogy (a reasonable thing to do since if Joseph adopted or accepted Mary’s child, by Jewish tradition she was entitled to Joseph’s genealogy in the bargain), because of the virginal conception,many scholars have suggested that the odd references to various notable or notorious women in this otherwise all male genealogy is meant to prepare for the irregularity of mentioning Mary, the mother of Jesus (and his only physical parent) who came by her child in an irregular way. So we have Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Uriah’s wife (i.e. Bathsheba), and what all these women share in common with Mary is ‘irregular unions’. In other words, God can use all kinds of irregularities his wonders to perform, even to produce his messiah, the final anointed king. 



No comments: