I posted previously on the women in Jesus’ genealogy but wanted to invite discussion on some other aspects of it.
(1) Note that the word translated as â€œgenerationâ€? in verse 1 is, in Greek, â€˜genesisâ€™. This same word is translated as â€œbirthâ€? in verse 18. It may be that the KJV obscures the connection between these verses and/or between them and the first book of the OT.
(2) One theory why David and Abraham are singled out in verse 1 is that the phrase â€œson of Davidâ€? was, at the time the Gospel was written, a reference to the Messiah, while the reference to Abraham alludes to the promises made to the Gentiles through Abraham (see Genesis 18:18). Therefore, the role of Jesus in blessing the Jews and the Gentiles is suggested from the very first verse.
(3) Verse 16 breaks the pattern of the genealogy. What effect does this have on the reader?
(4) Why did Matthew choose the Babylonian captivity as a significant dividing point in the genealogy (see verse 17)?
(5) There are not fourteen generations in the third set of names (see verse 17), unless someone is counted in an unusual way. There are several ways to do this:
(a) counting Mary and Joseph as separate generations
(b) counting Jesus and Christ as separate generations (that is, the mortal Jesus is considered to be a separate generation from the resurrected Christ)
(c) counting David on both the first and the second list
It is also possible that a name was lost during the transmission of Matthewâ€™s Gospel. Do any of these solutions seem reasonable to you?
(6) Judging by verse 17, Matthew felt that it was important for the reader to notice that there are three groups of fourteen generations in Jesusâ€™ genealogy. There are many theories regarding the symbolic meaning of these numbers:
(a) The fourteen generations from the time of the Babylonian captivity to Jesus fulfills Daniel 9:24â€“27 (if you assume thirty-five year generations).
(b) The cycle of the moon is fourteen waxing days followed by fourteen waning days; this up-and-down pattern is reminiscent of Israelâ€™s history.
(c) 3 x 4 = 6 x 7, putting Jesus at the start of the seventh seven, or the â€œdawn of the eternal sabbath.â€?
(d) Others counted fourteen generations from Abraham to David and Matthew expands the series because of a penchant for triple repetitions.
(e) There is a Jewish system for assigning a number to each letter in a word and granting it symbolic significance. The name David (mentioned in verses 1, 6, and 17) has a numerical value of fourteen.
Why did Matthew include verse 17?
(7) Notice JST verse 4 (see KJV verse 16) and JST 2:1 (see KJV 1:18). What difference do these changes make?
(8) Notice footnote â€˜eâ€™ on verse 16. How can this information influence your interpretation of Matthewâ€™s Gospel?
(9) Readers have long noted substantial disagreements between the genealogies found in Matthewâ€™s Gospel and in Luke 3:23â€“38. Warren Carter summarizes the difficulties:
The structure of Matthewâ€™s genealogy, based on three sets of fourteen generations (1:17), presents several problems for the view that this genealogy is a historical record. (1) If one assumes forty years per generation (the biblical reckoning of a generation), the time spans extend over too few or too many years to be covered by fourteen generations (14 x 40 = 560 years). The period from Abraham to David traditionally covers about eight hundred years, from David (ca. 1000) to the Babylonian exile in 587 B.C.E. about four hundred years, and exile to Joseph about six hundred years. (2) In 1:5, Salmon (1 Chr 2:11â€“13, Ruth 4:21â€“22) and Rahab are linked, even though Rahab (Josh 2) lives at the time of the conquest, a hundred or so years before Salmon. (3) In the second span (1:6bâ€“11), Matthew omits fifty-nine years or three kings and a queen between Joram (d. 842) and Uzziah/Azariah (d. 783) in v.8, and omits kings Jehoahaz and Eliakim/Jehoaikim from v. 11 to achieve fourteen generations (see 2 Kgs 23:31â€“24:6; 1 Chr 3:15â€“16). (4) In 1:13â€“15 eleven names cover about six hundred years from Zerubbabel, appointed governor of Judah by the Persians after the return in 539 B.C.E. of those exiled in Babylon, to the time of Joseph. (5) The third section (1:12â€“16) has thirteen names, not fourteen generations.
There are several theories that explain these discrepancies:
(a) Some scholars argue that instead of a literal genealogy, â€œMatthew forsakes a genealogy of physical descent for Joseph, Jesusâ€™ foster father (so Luke 3:23); instead, he lists royal prototypes of Jesus the King of the Jews. The genealogy has become a large figure of speech for Jesusâ€™ messianic kingship.â€?
(b) Luke has Salathielâ€™s physical father Neri but Matthew has Salathielâ€™s â€˜legalâ€™ father Jeconiah because Jeconiahâ€™s real sons were cursed (see Jeremiah 22:24â€“30).
(c) Matthew left wicked kings out of the genealogy.
(d) Either before or after Matthewâ€™s time, errors crept into the record.
(e) Matthew omits some of the linking generations because they were well-known to the audience, who would simply fill in the blanks.
(f) Luke is presenting Maryâ€™s genealogy, not Josephâ€™s. Note in Luke 3:23 that the phrase â€œthe sonâ€? (of Heli) is assumed by the translators. It is possible that this phrase means â€˜of the family of Heliâ€™, that it applies to Jesus, not Joseph, and that Heli is Maryâ€™s father.
(g) Neither genealogy should be taken literally. Reginald Fuller writes, â€œreaders should not be troubled by the discrepancies between Matthewâ€™s genealogy and the one provided by Luke. These genealogies serve not a biological but a theological purpose, and Lukeâ€™s purpose is different.â€?
How do you account for the differences between Matthewâ€™s and Lukeâ€™s genealogies?
(10) What was Matthewâ€™s purpose for beginning the Gospel with a genealogy? What should you learn from it?