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Matthew 1:1-17, Part 3

May 16, 2011

I’ll try to wrap up the rest of the problems in Matthew 1:1-17. First, there are problems between Matthew and the Hebrew Bible. Next, we have problems between the Gospels Matthew and Luke.

I apologize for forgetting about the absence of a fourth king, Jehoiakim, in Matthew 1:1-17. This was actually acknowledged in one of the links I provided. According to 2 Chronicles 36, Jechonias (Jehoiachin) was not even alive during the last years of Josiah’s life. Therefore, part of a “generation,” in the biological sense, is missing.

First Chronicles 3:17-19 says:

 17 The descendants of Jehoiachin the captive:
   Shealtiel his son, 18 Malkiram, Pedaiah, Shenazzar, Jekamiah, Hoshama and Nedabiah.

 19 The sons of Pedaiah:
   Zerubbabel and Shimei.

   The sons of Zerubbabel:
   Meshullam and Hananiah.
   Shelomith was their sister.

Although this passage lists Pedaiah as Zerubbabel’s father, many other references to Zerubbabel (in Ezra, Nehemiah, and Haggai) call him the “son of Shealtiel.” So the discrepancy here did not start with Matthew. This is an interesting piece of evidence that the books (originally just one book) of Chronicles had different primary authors than the books of Ezra-Nehemiah (also originally one book), although I have often heard the opposite. I will leave it up to the reader to determine if this is a contradiction or just a case of either adoption or double-naming.

The next problem with Zerubbabel’s genealogy takes us to Luke 3:23-38. There, Zerubbabel’s grandfather is Neri and his son in the line of Joseph is Rhesa. Of course, he could have more than one son, and both sons could be in the line of a great-grandson or more distant direct descendant. That’s not the problem. The problem is keeping a completely paternal genealogy. (And I’m sorry if I’m acting as if you can’t figure this out yourself.)

I’ve mentioned before about my reluctance to believe that the ancient Hebrews even used maternal genealogies. If I’m wrong about this, just ignore what I said here. I would very much like to know of my mistake, however. There’s a case of father-to-daughter inheritance (a similar concept to genealogy) in Numbers 27, but I don’t know of any case of mother-to-son- or mother-to-daughter inheritance.

This illustrates the central Matthew-Luke tension about this genealogy:  With the exceptions of Zerubbabel and Shealtiel, and similar names like “Matthan” and “Matthat,” no name in Matthew’s and Luke’s genealogies of Jesus is the same. This is curious, since 1 Chronicles already identified Shealtial as being from the line of Solomon and Jechonias (Jeconiah).

This great divergence between Matthew and Luke is but the first example of these two Gospels’ apparent lack of knowledge of each other’s biographies of Jesus. Matthew has twenty-eight generations from David to Jesus. Luke has forty-three! That’s not necessarily a problem, if Matthew can get away with omitting members of the ancestry. However, that problem is not just different names and different numbers of them. “Nathan” in Luke 3:31 is clearly a reference to “Nathan” in 1 Chronicles 3:5 and 2 Samuel 5:14 (since Luke may not have been familiar with Chronicles). The ancestries are, therefore, meant to be completely different lines.

It has often been claimed that Luke gives a different line because it is recording the genealogy of Mary. This wouldn’t be a typical maternal genealogy, because Jesus is supposed to have had a virgin birth. Providing for that exception, we might even be able to fit a Davidic descendant by twenty-eight generations in the lifetime of a Davidic descendant of forty-three. I don’t know, but it seems possible to me. (I’m not sure why Luke’s is chosen. The reluctance to have Jesus be the physical descendant of Jechonias is from the curse on him and his “seed” from Jeremiah 22:30—not that the previous curse on Jehoiakim worked out. But neither of these ancestries is supposed to be Jesus’ physical descent. If “seed” includes all sorts of heirs, then Jesus still has the curse anyway, assuming he is supposed to be Joseph’s heir. That is not said, but I’m not sure what other purpose the passage would have according to Christian teaching, i.e., Matthew and Luke are both inspired, Matthew would therefore not write something totally irrelevant due to ignorance, physical descent is necessary and is given by Luke.)

There are just two problems: First, why is Joseph listed as the descendant of both ancestries? Second, why are Shealtiel and Zerubbabel in both? Reconciling this would, in my opinion, require so many jumps between father and father-in-law—of course, requiring maternal ancestry—that Jesus could hardly be said to even have an ancestry.

EDIT: Okay, it could be just two biological-ancestry jumps. I’m just saying that, since the reason for the jump is not given it would be too confusing to call the hypothetically genealogy of Mary an actual genealogy.

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