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THE GENEALOGIES OF JESUS

THE GENEALOGIES OF JESUS

The two genealogies contained in Matthew’s and Luke’s Gospels give rise to problems of verisimilitude, and conformity with scientific data, and hence authenticity. These problems are a source of great embarrassment to Christian commentators because the latter refuse to see in them what is very obviously the product of human imagination. The authors of the Sacerdotal text of Genesis, Sixth century B.C., had already been inspired by imagination for their genealogies of the first men. It again inspired Matthew and Luke for the data they did not take from the Old Testament.

One must straight away note that the male genealogies have absolutely no relevance to Jesus. Were one to give a genealogy to Mary’s only son, who was without a biological father, it would have to be the genealogy of his mother Mary.

Here is the text of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, 1952:

The genealogy according to Matthew is at the beginning of his Gospel:

“THE BOOK OF THE GENEALOGY OF JESUS CHRIST,
THE SON OF DAVID, THE SON OF ABRAHAM.

Abraham
Isaac
Jacob
Judah
Perez
Hezron
Ram
Amminadab
Nahshon
Salmon
Boaz
Obed
Jesse
David
Solomon
Rehoboam
Abijah
Asa
Jehoshaphat
Joram
Uzziah
Jotham
Ahaz
Hezekiah
Manasseh
Amos
Josiah

 

 

 

Jechoniah
Shealtiel
Zerubbabel
Abiud
Eliakim
Azor
Zadok
Achim
Eliud
Eleazar
Matthan
Jacob

was the father of
was the father of
was the father of
was the father of
was the father of
was the father of
was the father of
was the father of
was the father of
was the father of
was the father of
was the father of
was the father of
was the father of
was the father of
was the father of
was the father of
was the father of
was the father of
was the father of
was the father of
was the father of
was the father of
was the father of
was the father of
was the father of
was the father of
at the time of the deportation to Babylon.

 


After the deportation to Babylon:

was the father of
was the father of
was the father of
was the father of
was the father of
was the father of
was the father of
was the father of
was the father of
was the father of
was the father of
was the father of
of whom Jesus was born, who

Isaac
Jacob
Judah and his brothers
Perez and Zerah by Tamar
Hezron
Ram
Amminadab
Nahshon
Salmon
Boaz by Rahab
Obed by Ruth
Jesse
David the king
Solomon by the wife of Uriah
Rehoboam
Abijah
Asa
Jehoshaphat
Joram
Uzziah
Jotham
Ahaz
Hezekiah
Manasseh
Amos
Josiah
Jechoniah and his brothers
 

Shealtiel
Zerubbabel
Abiud
Eliakim
Azor
Zadok
Achim
Eliud
Eleazar
Matthan
Jacob
Joseph the husband of Mary
was called Christ.

 

So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations”. (Matthew, I, 1-17)

The genealogy given by Luke (3, 23-38) is different from Matthew. The text reproduced here is from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible:

“Jesus, when he began his ministry, was about thirty years of age, being the son (as was supposed) of Joseph, the son of Heli, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Melchi, the son of Jannai, the son of Joseph, the son of Mattathias, the son of Amos, the son of Nahum, the son of Esli, the son of Naggai, the son of Maath, the son of Mattathias, the son of Semein, the son of Josech, the son of Joda, the son of Joanan, the son of Rhesa, the son of Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel, the son of Neri, the sOn of Melchi, the son of Addi, the son of Cosam, the son of Elmadam, the son of Er, the son of Joshua, the son of Eliezer, the son of Jorim, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Simeon, the son of Judah, the son of Joseph, the son of Jonam, the son of Eliakim, the son of Melea, the son of Menna, the son of Mattatha, the son of Nathan, the son of David, the son of Jesse, the son of Obed, the son of Boaz, the son of Sala, the son of Nahshon, the son of Amminadab, the son of Admin, the son of Ami, the SOD of Hezron, the son of Perez, the son of Judah, the son of Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham, the son of Terah, the son of Nahor, the son of Serug, the son of Reu, the son of Peleg, the son of Eber, the son of Shelah, the son of Cainan, the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem, the son of Noah, the son of Lamech, the son of Methuselah, the son of Enoch, the son of Jared, the son of Mahalaleel, the son of Cainan, the son of Enos, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.”

The genealogies appear more clearly when presented in two tables, one showing the genealogy before David and the other after him.

GENEALOGY OF JESUS, BEFORE DAVID

According to Marrhew                      Matthew does not mention
any name before Abraham.

  • Abraham
  • Isaac
  • Jacob
  • Judah
  • Perez
  • Hezron
  • Ram
  • Amminadab
  • Nahshon
  • Salmon
  • Boaz
  • Obed
  • Jesse
  • David
According to Luke

  1. Adam
  2. Seth
  3. Enos
  4. Cainan
  5. Mahalaleel
  6. Jared
  7. Enoch
  8. Methuselah
  9. Lamech
  10. Noah
  11. Shem
  12. Arphaxad
  13. Cainan
  14. Shelah
  15. Eber
  16. Peleg
  17. Reu
  18. Serug
  19. Nahor
  20. Terah
  21. Abraham
  22. Isaac
  23. Jacob
  24. Judah
  25. Perez
  26. Hezron
  27. Arni
  28. Admin
  29. Amminadab
  30. Nahshon
  31. Sala
  32. Boaz
  33. Obed
  34. Jesse
  35. David                           


GENEALOGY OF JESUS, AFTER DAVID

According to Matthew14 David
15 Solomon
16 Rehoboam
17 Abijah
18 Am
19 Jehoshaphat
20 Joram
21 Uzziah
22 Jotham
23 Ahaz
24 Hezekiah
25 Manasseh
26 Amos
27 Josiah
28 Jechoniah

Deportation to Babylon

29 Shealtiel
30 Zerubbabel
31 Abiud
32 Eliakim
33 Azor
34 Zadok
35 Achim
36 Eliud
37 Eleazar
38 Matthan
39 Jacob
40 Joseph
41 Jesus

According to Luke35 David
36 Nathan
37 Mattatha
38 Menna
39 Melea
40 Eliakim
41 Jonam
42 Joseph
43 Judah
44 Simeon
45 Levi
46 Matthat
47 Jorim
48 Eliezer
49 Joshua
50 Er
51 Elmadam
52 Cosam
53 Addi
54 Melchi
55 Neri
56 Shealtiel
57 Zerubbabel
58 Rhesa
59 Joanan
60 Joda
61 Josech
62 Semein
63 Mattathias
64 Maath
65 Naggai
66 Esli
67 Nahum
68 Amos
69 Mattathias
70 Joseph
71 Jannai
72 Melchi
73 Levi
74 Matthat
75 Heli
76 Joseph
77 Jesus

 

 

VARIATIONS IN THE MANUSCRIPTS AND IN RELATION TO THE OLD TESTAMENT

Apart from variations in spelling, the following must be mentioned:

a) Matthew’s Gospel

The genealogy has disappeared from the Codex Bezae Cantabrigiensis, a very important Six century manuscript in both Greek and Latin. It has completely disappeared from the Greek text and also a large part of the Latin text. It may quite simply be that the first pages were lost.

One must note here the great liberties Matthew has taken with the Old Testament. He has pared down the genealogies for the sake of a strange numerical demonstration (which, in the end, he does not give, as we shall see).

b) Luke’s Gospel

  • Before Abraham: Luke mentions 20 names; the Old Testament only mentions 19 (see table of Adam’s descendants in the Old Testament section of this work). After Arphaxad (No. 12) , Luke has added a person called Cainan (No. 13), who is not mentioned in Genesis as the son of Arphaxad. 

  • From Abraham to David: 14 to 16 names are found according to the manuscripts. 

  • From David to Jesus.

The most important variation is the Codex Bezae Cantabrigiensis which attributes to Luke a whimsical genealogy taken from Matthew and to which the scribe has added five names. Unfortunately, the genealogy of Matthew’s Gospel has disappeared from this manuscript, so that comparison is no longer possible.

 

CRITICAL EXAMINATION OF THE TEXTS

We are here faced with two different genealogies having one essential point in common, i.e. they both pass via Abraham and David. To make this examination easier, we shall separate the whole into three critical sections:

-From Adam to Abraham.
-From Abraham to David.
-From David to Jesus.


1. The Period from Adam to Abraham

Matthew began his genealogy with Abraham so we are not concerned with his text here. Luke alone provides information on Abraham’s ancestors going back to Adam: 20 names, 19 of which are to be found in Genesis (chapters 4, 5 and 11), as has already been stated.

Is it possible to believe that only 19 or 20 generations of human beings existed before Abraham? The problem has been examined in the discussion of the Old Testament. If one looks at the table of Adam’s descendants, based on Genesis and giving figures for the time element contained in the Biblical text, one can see that roughly nineteen centuries passed between man’s appearance on earth and the birth of Abraham. Today it is estimated that Abraham Was alive in circa 1850 B.C. and it has been deduced from this that the information provided by the Old Testament places man’s appearance on earth at roughly thirty-eight centuries B.C. Luke was obviously guided by these data for his Gospel. He expresses a blatant untruth for having copied them down and we have already seen the decisive historical arguments leading to this statement.

The idea that Old Testament data are unacceptable in the present day is duly admitted; they belong to the ‘obsolete’ material referred to by the Second Vatican Council. The fact, however that the Gospels take up the same scientifically incompatible data is an extremely serious observation which may be used to oppose those who defend the historical accuracy of the Gospel texts.

Commentators have quickly sensed this danger. They try to get round the difficulty by saying that it is not a complete genealogical tree, that the evangelist has missed names out. They claim that this was done quite deliberately, and that his sole “intention was to establish the broad lines or essential elements of a line of descent based on historical reality.” [ A. Tricot, Little Dictionary of the New Testament (Petit Dictionnaire du Nouveau Testament in “La Sainte Bible”, Desclée, Pub. Paris)]There is nothing in the texts that permits them to form this hypothesis. In the text it says quite clearly: A was the father of B, or B was the son of A. For the part preceding Abraham in particular, the evangelist draws moreover on the Old Testament where the genealogies are set out in the following form:

When X had lived n years, he became the father of Y . . . When Y had lived n years, he became the father of Z. . . .
There is therefore no break.
The part of Jesus’s genealogy according to Luke, which precedes Abraham, is not acceptable in the light of modern knowledge.
 


2. The Period from Abraham to David.

Here the two genealogies tally (or almost), excepting one or two names: the difference may be explained by copiers’ errors.

Does this mean that the evangelists are to be considered accurate?

History situates David at circa 1000 B.C. and Abraham at 1800-1860 B.C.: 14 to 16 generations for roughly eight centuries. Can one believe this? One might say that for this period the Gospel texts are at the very limit of the admissible. 


3. The Post-David Period.

It is a great pity, but unfortunately the texts no longer tally at all when it comes to establishing Joseph’s line from David, and figuratively speaking, Jesus’s, for the Gospel.

Leaving aside the obvious falsification in the Codex Bezae Cantabrigiensis concerning Luke, let us now compare what the two most venerable manuscripts have to offer: the Codex Vaticanus and the Codex Sinaiticus.

In the genealogy according to Luke 42 names are placed after David (No. 35) down to Jesus (No. 77). In the genealogy according to Matthew 27 are mentioned after David (No. 14) down to Jesus (No. 41). The number of (fictitious) ancestors given to Jesus after David is therefore different in the two Gospels. The names themselves are different as well.

This is not all.

Matthew tells us that he discovered how Jesus’s genealogy split up after Abraham into three groups of 14 names; first group from Abraham to David; second from David to the deportation to Babylon; third from the deportation to Jesus. His text does indeed contain 14 names in the first two groups, but in the third-from the deportation to Jesus-there are only 13 and not 14, as expected; the table shows that Shealthiel is No. 29 and Jesus No. 41. There is no variation of Matthew that gives 14 names for this group.

To enable himself to have 14 names in his second group, Matthew takes very great liberties with the Old Testament text. The names of the first six descendants of David (No. 15 to 20) tally with the data in the Old Testament, but the three descendants of Ioram (No. 20), given in Chronicles 11 of the Bible as Ahaziah, Joash, and Amaziah, are suppressed by Matthew. Elsewhere, Jechoniah (No. 28) is for Matthew the son of Josiah, although Kings II of the Bible tells us that Eliakim comes between Josiah and Jechoniah.

It may be seen from this that Matthew has altered the genealogical lines in the Old Testament to present an artificial group of 14 names between David and the deportation to Babylon. There is also the fact that one name is missing in Matthew’s third group, so that none of the present-day Gospel texts contains the 42 names mentioned. What is surprising is not so much the existence of the omission itself (explained perhaps by a very old scribe’s error that was subsequently perpetuated), but the almost total silence of commentators on this subject. How can one miss this omission? W. Trilling breaks this pious conspiracy of silence in his book The Gospel According to Matthew (L’Evangile selon Matthieu) [ Pub. Desclée, coll. ‘Parole et Prière’, Paris.] by devoting one line to it. It is a fact which is of considerable importance because the commentators of this Gospel, including the Ecumenical Translation and Cardinal Daniélou among others, stress the great symbolical significance of Matthew’s 3 x 14. This significance was so important for the evangelist that he suppressed Biblical names without hesitation to arrive at his numerical demonstration.

To make this hold good, commentators will, no doubt, construct some reassuring statements of an apologetic nature, justifying the fact that names have been craftily suppressed and carefully avoiding the omission that undermines the whole point of what the evangelist was trying to show.

 

COMMENTARIES OF MODERN EXPERTS IN EXEGESIS

 

In his book The Gospels of Childhood (1967) Les Evangiles de l’Enfance) [ Pub. Editions du Seuil, Paris.], Cardinal Daniélou invests Matthew’s ‘numerical schematisation’ with a symbolic value of paramount importance since it is this that establishes Jesus’s ancestry, which is asserted also by Luke. For him Luke and Matthew are ‘historians’ who have completed their ‘historical investigations’, and the , genealogy’ has been ‘taken down from the archives of Jesus family’. It must be added here that the archives have never been found. [ Although the author assures us that he knows of the existence of these supposed family archives from the Ecclesiastic History by Eusebius Pamphili (about whose respectability much could be said), it is difficult to see why Jesus’s family should have two genealogical trees that were necessarily different just because each of the two so-called ‘historians’ gave a genealogy substantially different from the other concerning the names of those who figure among Jesus’s ancestors.] Cardinal Daniélou condemns out of hand anyone who criticizes his point of view. “It is the Western mentality, ignorance of Judeo-Christianity and the absence of a Semitic outlook that have made so many experts in exegesis loose their way when interpreting the Gospels. They have projected their own categories onto them: (sic) Platonic, Cartesian, Hegelian and Heideggerian. It is easy to see why everything is mixed up in their minds.” Plato, Descartes, Hegel and Heidegger obviously have nothing to do with the critical attitude one may have towards these whimsical genealogies.

In his search for the meaning of Matthew’s 3 x 14, the author expands on strange suppositions. They are worth quoting here: “What may be meant are the common ten weeks of the Jewish Apocalypse. The first three, corresponding to the time from Adam to Abraham, would have been subtracted; seven weeks of years would then remain, the first six would correspond to the six times seven representing the three groups of fourteen and leaving the seventh, started by Christ with whom the seventh age of the world begins.” Explanations like this are beyond comment!

The commentators of the Ecumenical Translation-New Testament-also give us numerical variations of an apologetic nature which are equally unexpected: For Matthew’s 3 x 14:

a) 14 could be the numerical total of the 3 consonants in the Hebrew name David (D= 4, V= 6), hence 4+6+4= 14.

b) 3 x 14 = 6 x 7 and “Jesus came at the end of the sixth week of Holy history beginning with Abraham.”

For Luke, this translation gives 77 names from Adam to Jesus, allowing the number 7 to come up again, this time by dividing 77 by 7 (7x 11= 77). It is quite apparent that for Luke the number of variations where words are added or subtracted is such that a list of 77 names is completely artificial. It does however have the advantage of adapting itself to these numerical games.

The genealogies of Jesus as they appear in the Gospels may perhaps be the subject that has led Christian commentators to perform their most characteristic feats of dialectic acrobatics, on par indeed with Luke’s and Matthew’s imagination.

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