Luke's genealogy: first, turn upside down ...
The writer of Luke, aware of the problems with Matthew's bloodline, made a fresh attempt at concocting a lineage for Jesus and managed to sidestep most of the difficulties. Luke introduces his genealogy for Jesus not, as with Matthew, in a preamble to the auspicious birth story but much later, after the adult baptism of his hero. At this point, John the Baptist is already in prison and Jesus is shortly to begin his mission.
From Adam to Noah
Noah was more than 500 years old when he built his ark and he lived a further 350 years after the flood (Genesis 9.28,29).
This undiluted nonsense serves as the most "secure" part of the Jesus ancestry!
Why this odd placement? Perhaps for a reason related to Luke's other unorthodox choice: his genealogy, uniquely, runs backwards.
In keeping with his idea of Jesus as a saviour of all mankind and not just of the Chosen People, Luke pushes his genealogy back to the first man, Adam, the original Son of God. For the legendary epoch from Adam through to David, Luke closely follows the pedigree found in Genesis and Chronicles, and for the immediate descendents of Abraham he is in agreement with Matthew.
The fun starts with the children of David. With no obvious rationality, Luke takes the royal bloodline through David's son Nathan, one of at least 19 siblings (the number excludes "sons by his concubines"). Nathan is the third of four sons born to David by Bathsheba, and is thus an older, full brother to Solomon. But other than his name being listed in Samuel and Chronicles, this Nathan is nowhere else mentioned in Jewish scripture. He is a nonentity, a sibling among many who does not become king.
The curiosity is that it is a Nathan who plays a very important part in the careers of kings David and Solomon – but that is not David's son but Nathan the Prophet. It is this Nathan who delivers God's promise of the eternal Davidic kingdom (2 Samuel 7), denounces David's sin with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 12) and ensures that Solomon will be the successor (1 Kings 1). The prophet even intervenes when Adonijah, another brother of Solomon, challenges him for the throne. The pivotal role of the illustrious namesake is almost certainly the reason why Luke chose the otherwise obscure son as an ancestor for Jesus.
Luke rescues Matthew's flawed magic
Luke, like Matthew, also observed the arcane magic of lucky numbers, especially seven, the number of "spiritual perfection".
From Adam to Abraham, Luke determines that there are three sets of seven generations. But to achieve this Luke has to intrude a second Cainan between Arphaxad and Shelah not found in Hebrew scripture (Luke 3.36 cf. Genesis 10.24; 11.12-13 / 1 Chronicles 1.24). This Cainan is found in the Septuagint (LXX) but is absent from the Hebrew Masoretic text. Clearly, Luke – like Matthew – was basing his genealogy on the Greek translation – and not a scroll that he found in the Temple!
|From Noah to Abraham
Another two sets of seven brings the royal bloodline down to David. Again, Luke intrudes an additional name "Admin, the son of Arni" (the early manuscript copies of verse 3.33 vary widely, some dropping a generation*). An additional three sets of seven carry the lineage down from Nathan to Salathiel and the time of exile.
Thus Luke restores the number of generations after David, down to and including Salathiel, back to the twenty one generations listed in Chronicles (compared to a mere fifteen generations found in Matthew). A further three sets of seven names from Zerubbabel, covering post-exilic times, completes Luke's linage and arrives at Jesus as the 77th generation – double 7 – how wonderfully perfect!
In this artful scheme of things Luke has realigned (and corrected) Matthew's auspicious forty-two generations but in Luke's list there are now forty-two generations to Jesus – not from Abraham but after David!
The poetic rendition of sacred history is not without its problems. Because Luke branched off the regal line with Nathan, he has had to find inspiration for a great many names. Bizarrely, he returns to the orthodox lineage after the exile with Salathiel and Zerubbabel, but thereafter, because neither Chronicles nor Matthew is of help, Luke is again obliged to concoct a series of names, beginning with an unknown son of Zerubbabel called Rhesa and finishing by having Joseph, the husband of Mary, not as the son of Jacob, but of an unknown Heli.
Now if Luke's gospel had displaced totally the work of his rival Matthew, none of this would actually matter. But because the compromise that united the early church retained four gospels (two without genealogies at all and two with radically different bloodlines) that same church had to rationalize "apparent" discrepancies.
Is Luke giving Mary's genealogy?
"Luke’s genealogy, was universally supposed to be that of Joseph."
– Philip Schaff, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, NPNF2-01.
"Mattan, who was descended from Solomon, begat Jacob. And when Matthan was dead, Melchi, who was descended from Nathan begat Eli by the same woman. Eli and Jacob were thus uterine brothers. Eli having died childless, Jacob raised up seed to him, begetting Joseph, his own son by nature, but by law the son of Eli. Thus Joseph was the son of both." – Eusebius, History of the Church, 1.7.15.
Eusebius is indebted to
Julius Africanus (Epistle to Aristides), a 3rd century Christian writer, for an ingenious resolution of the "alleged discrepancy" in the genealogies presented by Matthew and Luke. It seems that two men married the same woman and each fathered a son. The two sons grew up and then married the same woman – and the result was Joseph, the husband of Mary – "although we can urge no testimony in its support," adds Eusebius.
|From Abraham to David
27. Arni/ Aram
But in any event, ancient authors were universally agreed that both genealogies referred to Joseph, a natural reading of the texts and in fact a conclusion supported elsewhere by Luke himself:
"In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary." – Luke 1.27-28.
"And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David ..." – Luke 2.4
For all this, John of Damascus, a Christian working for the 8th century caliphate and author of the Assumption of Mary, defended the veneration of Mary on the grounds of her own "Davidic" descent. The notion gained currency within the church in step with the elevation of the Blessed Virgin herself. The idea, though a commonplace among Christians today, is quite wrong – as well as flatly contradicted by centuries of church understanding.
Not only does Luke stress that Joseph has Davidic ancestry, nowhere does he suggest the same of Mary. On the contrary, Luke makes Mary a relative of Elizabeth, and she is a descendent of the priestly family of Aaron (Luke 1.5,6). Elizabeth is also married to Zechariah, himself a Levite of the Abijah division, so-named after a priest who returned from exile with Zerubbabel. The clear inference is that Mary has priestly, not royal, blood.
Moreover, genealogy traced through the maternal line is not characteristic of Judaism. Luke makes it abundantly clear that he is tracing the descent of Jesus through Joseph and it is only the existence of a contradictory bloodline in Matthew that compels apologists to ignore the natural reading of Luke and proffer an untenable alternative.
Other problems for the "genealogy of Jesus"
Oops! Despite God's curse (Jeremiah, 22), Salathiel the son of Jeconiah did become ruler in Judah, as did Zerubbabel his grandson! Joseph is evidently a descendant of a cursed line of kings!
One apologetic argument uses, rather than ignores, "God's curse on Jeconiah", by contending that the natural line ended with the exile and that the "legal right" was transferred to "Salathiel of the house of Nathan" (a blatant contradiction of Matthew 1.12) and that Zerubbabel and his father were different people entirely from their famous namesakes! Such contorted logic meant that Luke's bloodline circumvented the curse and "proved" the truth of the anathema from God.
Is Heli the father-in-law of Joseph?
From David to Josiah
1 Chronicles 3
"and Joram begat Uzziah"
Luke has introduced Heli (or Eli) as the father of Joseph: "Joseph son of Heli" is clear enough. But again this is a stark contradiction of Matthew's "Jacob begat Joseph".
To resolve this conundrum defenders of the faith seize upon the Greek syntax ("of" rather than "begat") to insist that when Luke says of he actually means "son-in-law". It is Mary, it seems, who is fathered by Heli, not Joseph – although according to the 2nd century Protevangelium of James the father of Mary is said to be Joachim (and her mother is Anna).
The mismatch obliges apologists to make yet another contortion: Heli, they say, is an abbreviation for Heliachim, which equates in Hebrew to the name Joachim. But earlier in his genealogy Luke lists an Eliakim (son of Melea), unabbreviated – and Matthew, too, has an Eliakim (son of Abiud).
The same "son-in-law" trick is used by some to bring Salathiel back into Solomon's bloodline by contending that Salathiel was only the son-in-law of Neri. Then again, in a questionable step towards authenticating Luke's bloodline, another suggestion is that Luke has used the genealogy of Clopas (husband or father of Mary's sister Mary!). A "Church tradition" identifies the shadowy Clopas as Joseph’s younger half-brother, and thus it can be argued that it is this guy who is fathered by Heli!
The games that can be played with supposed blood ties, in-laws, childless deaths and Levirate marriages are without end because nothing can prove nor disproved such faith-driven speculations. And all to refute a blatant and embarrassing contradiction between two equally spurious genealogies.
Where DID they get their ideas?
Luke's sources: "As described in the public records" ?
"Herod, inasmuch as the lineage of the Israelites contributed nothing to his advantage, and since he was goaded with the consciousness of his own ignoble extraction, burned all the genealogical records, thinking that he might appear of noble origin if no one else were able, from the public registers, to trace back his lineage to the patriarchs .."
– Eusebius, History of the Church, 1.7. quoting Julius Africanus.
The idea that Luke – or Matthew, for that matter – had access to "scrupulously maintained ancestral scrolls" for their heroic Galilean carpenter is palpable nonsense. Certainly, Jewish scripture provided a supposed lineage of the patriarchs from the age of fable – but then anyone might claim descent from these worthies. Rather more pertinent for the bloodline for Joseph (or Mary) were the immediately preceding centuries – and that's where the greatest difficulties arise. Even Josephus, the 1st century historian and a Jew proud of his lineage had difficulty establishing ancestors for more than a few generations.
From Josiah to Salathiel
(3 mths only)
(3 mths before exile)
"And Josias begat Jechonias and his brethren, about the time they were carried away to Babylon."
"And after they were brought to Babylon, Jechonias begat Salathiel; and Salathiel begat Zorobabel."
||56. Salathiel (Shealtiel)
Josephus claims for himself – as Luke claims for Jesus! – both priestly and kingly ancestry. Josephus says he was descended from the Hasmoneans on his mother's side but then gives a genealogy through his father, not his mother.
One characteristic of both Luke's genealogy of Jesus and the ancestry of Josephus is the repeating alternation of fathers' and sons' names "Joseph" and "Matthew" (or variations thereof).
Josephus lists among his immediate ancestors three Matthias and a Joseph. Luke lists two Mattathias, a Mattatha, two Matthat, a Maath and three Josephs!
It is notable that the foundation figure of the Maccabees was himself a Mattathias – doubtless the reason for the name's popularity in that generation – and that the dynasty took its name from a Hasmoneus to whom Josephus also claimed a bloodline!
"I am not only sprung from a sacerdotal family ... nay, further, by my mother I am of the royal blood. For the children of Asamoneus, from whom that family was derived, had both the office of the high priesthood and the dignity of a king, for a long time together."
– Life, 1.2
In his autobiography, Josephus tells us that he was born in the first year of the reign of Caius Caesar, that is 37 AD. His father Matthias, he says, was born in the tenth year of the reign of Herod Archelaus, that is 6 AD. His grandfather Joseph, Josephus records as being born in the ninth year of the reign of Queen Alexandra, which if accurate (67 BC) would mean that his grandfather sired his father when well into his seventies.
Has Josephus possibly skipped a generation?
Similarly, Josephus' great grandfather Matthias Curtis, born apparently in the first year of the reign of Hyrcanus (134 BC), would have been into his seventh decade when his son was born. And that's as far as Josephus goes. He certainly doesn't venture into the era before the Hasmoneans.
A prime concern of Josephus in all his work is to establish the antiquity of the Jews. He explains the fastidiousness with which the priesthood maintained its own ancestral records. It was, after all, a matter of racial purity:
" For our forefathers ... made provision that the stock of the priests should continue unmixed and pure; for he who is partaker of the priesthood must propagate of a wife of the same nation, without having any regard to money, or any other dignities; but he is to make a scrutiny, and take his wife's genealogy from the ancient tables, and procure many witnesses to it.
And this is our practice not only in Judea, but wheresoever any body of men of our nation do live; and even there an exact catalogue of our priests' marriages is kept; I mean at Egypt and at Babylon, or in any other place of the rest of the habitable earth, whithersoever our priests are scattered; for they send to Jerusalem the ancient names of their parents in writing, as well as those of their remoter ancestors, and signify who are the witnesses also."
– Against Apion 1.7.
Having made the claim of great accuracy, the historian is only too aware that marauding armies, alien conquest, destruction of the temple, and exile were fatal for the preservation of the much vaunted ancestral scrolls. He acknowledges the repeated destruction of the scrolls – by Antiochus, Pompey, Varus and in wars "that have happened in our own times". But, maintains Josephus, the divine will has made allowance for this:
From Salathiel to Joseph
1 Chronicles 3
With the naming of seven sons of Elioenai, the Davidic line written and updated by the "Chronicler" (4th century BC?) ceases at this point.
"And Jacob begat Joseph ... "Matthew 1.16.
"... Joseph, which was the son of Heli." – Luke 3.23.
"Those priests that survive them compose new tables of genealogy out of the old records, and examine the circumstances of the women that remain …
... every one is not permitted of his own accord to be a writer, nor is there any disagreement in what is written; they being only prophets that have written the original and earliest accounts of things as they learned them of God himself by inspiration …" – Against Apion 1.7.
Though Josephus dissembles as much as possible, it is clear that priestly inventiveness and "divine inspiration" rescues ruined or non-existent records – a methodology not lost on the gospel authors who wrote their fable after the temple had again been totally destroyed by a new miscreant, Titus Caesar!
And in all this we are speaking of the ancestry of priests – not carpenters!
Bloodlines – Davidic, Hasmonean and Herodian
Davidic messiah superseded by events – and restored by disaster
In the interlude between the mythical David and the imaginary Jesus, both Hasmoneans and Herodians ruled as kings in Judah. Neither dynasty was of Davidic lineage nor even of the tribe of Judah. The Hasmoneans were Levites, the priestly tribe of Joarib. The Herodians were of Idumean/Edomite descent, scarcely Jews at all.
If the notion of a "Davidic line", so-called, had served as a focus of tribal cohesion during the period of Josiah, the time of exile, and into the early Persian period, its usefulness had waned by the Greek era. Not only had Hellenization attracted the allegiance of a large part of the population but national resurgence, when it came, was led by the bloodline of a Levite priest, Mattathias. By the time that the Maccabees had themselves become a hated dynasty, ideas relating to the hoped for and "prophesied" national saviour had become more ambivalent, an uncertainty compounded by the Romans and their Idumean client king Herod.
Nowhere did Hebrew scripture unambiguously prescribe that the messiah would come from the line of David. Thus, a messiah coming from the line of David could be derived from Jeremiah, the prophet of the exile, and also from the anti-Hasmonean sectarians of Qumran.
"In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring forth for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land." – Jeremiah 33.15.
"…until the Messiah of Righteousness comes, the Branch of David. For to him and his seed is granted the Covenant of kingship over his people for everlasting generations which he is to keep ..." – 4Q 252 6:2-3.
On the other hand, the Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs anticipated a priestly, not a regal, messiah. Elsewhere, a "man of righteousness" – one who would judge the righteous and the wicked – was the order of the day. Was it, perhaps, one, two, or even three, figures who would herald the deliverance of Israel?
During the Herodian period the books of Enoch merged various notions of a "Son of Man", an "Elect One", "the Anointed", "Son of David" and the "Just One" into a single superlative person (though not yet a character called Jesus). The messiah was expected to fulfil prophetic, temporal and sacerdotal roles.
But then other Jews were political realists, not deluded messianics. As long as the Herodian dynasty continued in existence, various aristocratic families contended for control of the temple economy, the families of Ananus, Boethus and surviving Hasmoneans among them. Josephus, famously, regarded the ancient oracles as fulfilled in the Roman emperor Vespasian. With the destruction of Jerusalem and much of Judea, most of the population accommodated themselves to the Pax Romana.
The "madness" of rebellion finally passed with the failure of Simeon ben Kosiba's rebellion of 132-135 and the end of the Jewish nation. Although Bar Kochba ("son of the star") had rabbinic support for his messianic claim, nowhere was it said that he was of the line of David. Clearly, the Christian notion that a messianic claimant had to be of Davidic lineage was by no means a widely held belief.
In the 2nd century, after the disastrous wars, Jewish genealogies continued to exist but only as pious fantasies supporting the claims made for various rabbinic sages. These fabricated bloodlines took inspiration from the cherished fable of a Golden Age, when their ancestors had triumphed and ruled from "sea to sea". Supposed rabbinic heirs of the Davidic line took the title "Nasi" ("prince") and the bloodline claim continued to Maimonides in the 12th century and beyond. But surpassing all Jewish claims to the blood and seed of David were those made for the Christian godman Jesus and found within the gospels of Matthew and Luke.
Part 1 - The Genealogy of Matthew's Gospel
Eusebius Pamphilius, The History of the Church, c.324 AD (Digiread, 2005)
Keith Whitelam, The Invention of Ancient Israel (Routedge. 1997)
John Rogerson, Chronicle of the Old Testament Kings (Thames and Hudson,1999)
James Tabor, The Jesus Dynasty (HarperElement, 2006)
Robert Price, The Incredible Shrinking Son of Man (Prometheus, 2003)
Michael Grant, The History of Ancient Israel (Weidendfeld & Nicolson, 1996)
Genesis, Exodus, Samuel, Kings, Joshua, Ruth, Chronicles,
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by Kenneth Humphreys.
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