Saturday, December 27, 2014

Concerning The Canonical Genealogies Of Jesus

TWH: I'm working on the English translation of Antonio's book La vida de Jesús a la luz de los evangelios apócrifos. This evening I worked through the section dealing with the genealogies of Jesus found in Matt. 1:1-17 and Luke 3:23-38. Today I want to share just a snippet of what Antonio has written in this book dealing with this very important issue in New Testament studies. So here we go.

Antonio points out the problematic issues found within the two genealogies. He writes:
"These two genealogies are very different. And these differences cause the reader to immediately question their value from a historical point of view. The differences are as follows: 
     1. Both lists match as you move from Abraham to David. A problem arises, however, when Luke introduces two characters, Arni and Admin (Luke 3:33), both of whom are absolutely unmentioned in the rest of the Bible. 
     2. From David to the time of the Babylonian exile, Matthew mentions fifteen names, while Luke mentions twenty-one. They only share one name in common, namely David. They do not agree on any of the rest! 
     3. From the exile to the birth of Jesus, Matthew includes fourteen names and Luke gives twenty-two. In this unit, there are only coincidences with respect to the names of two characters, Shealtiel and Zerubbabel. But the parents, or children of these two characters, are different in the two genealogies. Moreover, neither list (Matthew or Luke) coincides with the genealogies found in the Old Testament regarding the characters that are named. Here is another tricky one: The name of Jesus’ grandfather varies in the two genealogies. Matthew (1:16) says Jesus’ grandfather was named Jacob; but, according to Luke (3:23), he was named Eli. It is clear that these are two different traditions, and, as a result, they cannot be harmonized."
After a brief discussion dealing with how he believes the genealogies came about through gematria, he offers his final thoughts:
"The contradictions found within these two genealogies have bothered the Church immensely over the centuries and have attracted many attempts to reconcile the two and eradicate them of the problems that they contain. 
Of course, all such attempts have failed. It is best to just accept the fact that, historically speaking, the genealogies contain an unsolvable problem. It is clear that what is important for Matthew and Luke was their theological intent, not historical truth. Like other tendentious genealogies found in the Old Testament, which are also more artistic and literary than they are historical, Matthew wanted to show with his genealogy that Jesus was the Davidic Messiah by showing that he belonged to the family of this king, whose genealogical lineage was preserved with care; Luke, on the other hand, tried to show that Jesus was the Son of God, so he traces his lineage all the way back to his divinity."
I have found Robert L. Thomas' essay "The Genealogies in Matthew and Luke" (in A Harmony of the Gospels [New York: HarperCollins, 1978], 313-319; cowritten with Stanley N. Gundry) to be an exceptional piece dealing with many of the issues that Antonio raises. I highly recommend it to you.

Robert Thomas points out a number of observations that are worth considering. Let me just give you one snippet from his essay:
The phrase ἐγέννησεν "does not necessarily mean 'was the actual father of' but instead simply may indicate real descent. Just the fact that Matthew casts his list in the form of three groups of fourteen generations suggests this was a convenient though arbitrary arrangement from which some generations may have been omitted. In fact, it can be shown that Matthew's list has omissions (cf. 2 Kings 8:24; 1 Chron. 3:11; 2 Chron. 22:1, 11; 24:27; 2 Kings 23:34; 24:6). Omission of generations in biblical genealogies is not unique to this case, and Jews are known to have done this freely. The purpose of the genealogy was not to account for every generation but to establish the fact of an undoubted succession, including especially the more important ancestors." (314-315)
Concerning the different names between David and Joseph, Thomas demonstrates that Luke's genealogy is that of Mary's lineage, and he does so with very strong support. In his conclusion, he writes:
"What we have then are two different genealogies of two people. Probably even the Shealtiel and Zerubbabel of Matthew and Luke are different persons. This view does not depend on conjecture, rests on evidence within the texts themselves, fits the purposes of the evangelists, and easily removes the problem surrounding Jeconiah." (318)
You'll have to check out Robert Thomas' discussion in his essay if you want the details for his argument. Likewise, if you want to see how Antonio works through this issue you can check out his book in Spanish, or keep your ears to the rail for when we finish the translation and its published in English.

No comments:

Post a Comment