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Introduction and the Genealogy of Matthew

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  • Chris Weimer
    Hello all, I am Chris Weimer, and I was invited here by Larry Swain. He actually asked me to come and share my thoughts on Matthew s portrayal of Jesus as
    Message 1 of 3 , Sep 3, 2005
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      Hello all,

      I am Chris Weimer, and I was invited here by Larry Swain. He actually
      asked me to come and share my thoughts on Matthew's portrayal of Jesus
      as Moses, but this is not yet ready for presentation even for a Yahoo
      list. So before I discuss my thoughts on that, I'd like to share my
      analysis of the genealogy of the gospel of Matthew. Any criticism or
      comments are very welcome.

      Previewing this alerted me to Yahoo's incompatability with Unicode, so
      I had to change all the Greek and Hebrew to Beta Code and consonantal
      transliteration respectively. I urge anyone interested or seeking
      clarification to see the original article on my blog at
      http://neonostalgia.blogspot.com/2005/09/genealogy-of-matthew.html

      -----------------------

      The Gospel of Matthew is the first book of the Christian Testament and
      one of the most intriguing of the entire corpus. Its composition truly
      reflects its dynamic beginning as Christian separatists defining
      themselves against both their Jewish origin and fellow Christians.

      The Gospel of Matthew begins with an extensive genealogy of Jesus from
      Abraham onwards. In the introductory passages, Jesus is called both
      Xristos and uiou Dauid uiou Abraam. This is to establish the
      legitimacy of Jesus as the Messiah, the son of God, and a descendent
      of the "father of all nations"[1].

      The genealogy was taken mostly from the first four chapters of 1st
      Chronicles, although not entirely – some of it taken from other
      books. There are several discrepancies with the genealogy, agreeing
      both with the Greek Septuagint against the Hebrew and also against the
      Greek and Hebrew. Moreover, there are peculiar similarities between
      the Syriac as well.

      Comparing his genealogy in both Greek and Syriac, there is not a
      simple answer which would solve all questions. Instead, each name must
      be taken individually and analyzed in turn.

      The first occurrence of something odd is Matthew using the name Iakwb
      instead of Israhl in verse 2. The official genealogy at Chronicles
      uses the name YShR)L at both occurrences in the Hebrew and Syriac at
      verses 1.34 and 2.1. The Septuagint, however, uses the name Iakwb at
      1.34 and Israhl at 2.1. This either signifies that the author used the
      Greek text or he felt the need to minimize the name Israel for
      theological and political purposes, or perhaps both, but that will be
      discussed later.

      The next discrepancy is at the verses 3 and 4, in particular the name
      Ram. This is somewhat of a puzzle, and nothing here is for certain.
      The Greek Chronicles 2.9 has both Aram and Ram, but in two different
      situations. The first, which is most common, is "kai o Ram, kai o
      Xaleb, kai Aram." However, the other version is "kai o Aram kai o
      Xaleb." The first is from Rhalfs' Critical text, while the latter
      from Brenton's text. The oldest manuscripts of Matthew have the name
      as Aram while the Byzantine correction is Ram, which correlates better
      with the Hebrew. The Hebrew Chronicles has the name spelt RM, and the
      Syriac here agrees. But the Peshitta has Matthew's spelling as
      )RM.

      What probably happened is very complex, but perhaps goes along the
      line of thus: the original Greek had Aram, who was probably confused
      with the other people by that name (indeed, Aram is quite common in
      the LXX). Matthew, using this version of the Greek, copied it
      likewise, but a later revisionist of the Septuagint changed the minor
      spelling mistake. Then afterwards, Christian scribes noticed the
      discrepancy and decided to "correct" the LXX, leading to the
      common reading "kai o Ram, kai o Xaleb, kai Aram." This is
      evidenced by the lack of a definite article in this sequence though it
      is included with the other two. The scribes who copied the Byzantine
      text changed Matthew instead to go along with the Hebrew. The Syriac,
      when translated from the Greek, kept Matthew's error, which
      explains the discrepancy between Chronicles and Matthew in Syriac but
      not Greek.

      After that, Matthew is pretty quiet except for two small errors. He
      spells the name, Wbhd as Iwbhd, Salwmwn as Solomwn, and Asa as Asaf,
      the latter which is accounted for by the Asaph mentioned in Ezra. The
      next problem arises in verses 8 and 9. First of all, he leaves out
      three generations from Iwram to Ozias – Oxozia, Iwas, and Amasias.
      Secondly, there is no attested Ozias in the LXX. Through the Syriac,
      it is identified with Azaria, but it could possibly be Oxozia, and
      then Azaria would be the third generation left out of the genealogy.
      But the Syriac has Azaria's name spelt (WZY) in both Chronicles
      and Matthew, thus it was probably here that the name was taken.

      This is the almost exactly the same as the Aram-Ram problem above,
      except backwards. This time, the Greek has an unattested form and the
      Syriac agrees in both places. If indeed Matthew was written in Greek,
      he likely received the name from a pre-revised version of the LXX, or
      even more plausible is that he received it from the Aramaic influence
      that surrounded him. Perhaps Matthew took the genealogy from an
      already circulating genealogy tradition lost to us all. It is noted,
      though, that this is one of the few places that lends evidence to
      Aramaic priority.

      Matthew again is quiet except for missing one generation, a Iwakim,
      but soon after he brings up another even more intriguing textual
      problem. In verse 12, Matthew lists the son of Salaqihl as Zorobabel.
      This would be expected if he were reading the LXX, but not if he knew
      the Masoretic Text or the Syriac, both which say in Chronicles that
      the ZRBBL was the son of PDY). However, the books of Ezra, Nehemiah,
      and Haggai all agree that ZRBBL was the son of Sh)LTY)L. Luke also has
      the son of Salaqihl as Zorobabel. Since this passage of Chronicles was
      not found among the Dead Sea Scrolls, it is impossible to say with
      certainty if it reflects a different tradition or if it was changed by
      later Hebrew scribes. Another possibility is that the passages of Ezra
      and Haggai were aware that Zerubbabel was the nephew of Scheatiel, but
      their use of BN implies not a literal son but a relative, in this case
      nephew, a position which is speculative at best.

      Concerning theological purposes, they are strewn throughout genealogy.
      Of course, there is the obvious one, which is that the Messiah has to
      be from a "branch" of David[2] and from the tribe of
      Judah[3]. Another
      one aforementioned is the impact of changing the name Israel to Jacob,
      or rather keeping the name Jacob instead of using Israel. This
      probably is more evidence of Greek primacy countering Aramaic primacy
      instead of any intended theology, but it could have possibly been used
      as an anti-Jewish sentiment steeped in Matthew's gospel, but it
      is not
      likely.

      On the other hand, having Jesus as a descendent of Zerubbabel is most
      likely theologically motivated. Zerubbabel was a governor of Judah
      after the return from the exile and one of the two prominent figures
      associated with the rebuilding of the temple, along with Jeshua
      (Jesus) son of Josedech.[4] It may not be by coincidence then that he
      was an ancestor of Jesus son of Joseph. This allusion probably stems
      from Jewish messianic expectations that the Messiah would
      "rebuild"
      the temple and thus restore Israel. Some may construe this allusion
      also as a statement against the Gentiles, since Zerubbabel refused to
      let the "enemies of Judah and Benjamin" to help rebuild the
      temple,
      but it is doubtful whether or not Matthew was aware of this
      interpretation that came along with this tradition.

      There is one descendent who is often marked for criticism in
      Matthew's gospel. In verses 11 and 12, Matthew lists Iexonias as
      an ancestor of Jesus, but oddly leaves out his father Jehoiaqim. This
      may be due to Jekoniah (or Jehoiakin) being cursed by the Lord in
      Jeremiah[5], but then it is strange that Matthew would list him but
      not his father who, even though still did evil in the Lord's
      eyes, did
      not have the curse. It is significant that Matthew used Iexonias and
      not Iwakim, which according to the Septuagint is the name for both
      father and son. But in Jeremiah, the name is slightly different than
      that in Kings. Thus, Matthew picked the wrong name of the wrong person
      – wrong on both accounts.

      Matthew also tries to make the genealogy theologically significant by
      numerology. He claims that from Abraham to Jesus are three sets of
      fourteen or six sets of seven. However, with the text that we have
      currently, there are only five sets of seven and one set of six, one
      ancestor shy the intended result. This has been attributed to several
      factors, most popular ones being Matthew's error, deliberate
      editing
      for theological purposes, or just merely lost in the gospel's
      infancy[6].

      Out of those three, the only one really requiring positive evidence is
      the deliberate theological editing. The main theory coming from that
      is that in the original gospel story, Joseph was twofold. There was a
      Joseph who was the father of Mary, thus making the entire line through
      Mary[7] and not Joseph, and the other Joseph was the husband of Mary.
      I would not be surprised if there were some who claim that Joseph was
      both the father and the husband of Mary, though I have not actually
      seen someone propose such an indication. As for the Joseph confusion,
      this argument primarily lies around the use of anhr.

      Although Greek use of anhr is fairly well defined, meaning either man,
      husband or something very similar, it can be argued that it possibly
      meant "father". However, the reading would be peculiar and
      lies with
      no solid evidence. The other related argument is that the first anhr
      once read pathr, and copiers later changed it either deliberately or
      merely thinking the author was confused. There is some evidence for
      the latter. Many manuscripts have edited verse 16, but this usually is
      for theological purposes to make it more apparent that Joseph is not
      the biological father of Jesus. This perhaps is an indication that
      something else may have been there originally that is now lost in all
      manuscripts. There are other signs of tampering with the birth
      narrative, but that will also be discussed later.

      Found among the names of 41 men are five women: Qamar, Raxab, Rouq, h
      tou Ouriou, and Marias. Proponents of the theory that the genealogy is
      of Mary often use the women mentioned as evidence that Matthew was
      feminine-friendly.

      The first woman, Thamar, is the daughter-in-law of Judah. As the story
      goes, Judah sees her and mistakes her to be a harlot. He then
      "knows"
      her, to use the Biblical euphemism, and when she is found pregnant,
      Judah realizes that he was the father, having given her his bracelets,
      staff, and signet beforehand. He then proclaims her to be
      righteous.[8] The key here seems to be redemption and righteousness
      out of sin.

      Rachab, the second on the list, was a harlot of Jericho who helped
      Joshua overcome the city by hiding his spies. For that act, her life
      was spared.[9] Matthew may have known the Epistle to the Hebrews,
      since its author also commends her. Again, we see righteousness and
      redemption out of a sinful lifestyle.[10]

      Ruth was the third woman listed. Instead of prostitution, her
      "crime" was that she was from Moab and not from one of the
      tribes of
      Israel.[11] Her inclusion may be a sign that Matthew wanted to extend
      the ministry of Jesus to Gentiles, since without this Gentile there
      would be no David, hence no Jesus.

      The phrase "h tou Ouriou" refers to Bathsheba, the woman
      married to
      Uriah whom David committed adultery with.[12] There is nothing
      exceptionally forgiving about her, but this may be why her name is not
      said directly.

      The final woman was by necessity Mary, the mother of Jesus. Her
      importance is actually understated in Matthew's gospel, but being
      the mother of Jesus, even to the point of being called "h allh
      Maria"[13] later in the gospel, she could not have been left out.

      [1] Genesis 22.18

      [2] Isaiah 11.1-2, 10

      [3] Genesis 49.10

      [4] Ezra 3.2; Haggai 1.1

      [5] Jeremiah 22.24-30

      [6] I'm not sure if I intended that pun or not…

      [7] This theory is often dwarfed by the theory that Luke's
      genealogy
      is Mary's and not Matthew's

      [8] Genesis 38.6-26

      [9] Joshua 21.1-24

      [10] Hebrews 11.30-31

      [11] Ruth 1.1-4.22

      [12] 2 Samuel 11.1-27

      [13] Matthew 28.1
    • MillerJimE@AOL.COM
      My apologies for a late response to this topic. I have been away for a family funeral. I realize that this is just one point in this study, but I am always
      Message 2 of 3 , Sep 10, 2005
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        My apologies for a late response to this topic. I have been away for a
        family funeral.
        I realize that this is just one point in this study, but I am always
        amazed at how many scholars assume that the genealogies of Matthew and Luke must
        somehow be blood-line biological genealogies, creating a problem with these
        genealogies of Joseph. Luke is more explicit than Matthew, stating that Jesus
        was "as it was supposed" the son of Joseph, and that Mary's pregnancy was
        amazing because "I have not known a man." (3:23; 1:34) Luke and his community seem
        to have no problem with a genealogy of the legal father of Jesus who was
        explicitly NOT the biological father. Why should we suppose that Matthew or his
        community did require a biological genealogy?
        Yet, there are plenty of commentators who work any potential ambiguity of
        Matthew to try and make this genealogy a biological genealogy of the
        biological mother of Jesus. It seems to be a misplaced effort. First, the interest
        in the genealogy is to establish the legal inheritance of Jesus. As written,
        the natural reading of the genealogy is that of Joseph, husband of Mary.
        None of the other women in the genealogy are given patronyms or other
        genealogical data. Also, the New Testament as a whole turns its back on sexual
        reproduction, taking more interest in conversion and charism.
        Finally, a common way to square the two genealogiesis has the non-royal
        Davidic line as heirs of David's line when the royal line is made eunuchs
        during the exile. This explanation goes back at least as far as Tyndale who places
        it in the margin of his translation of Matthew 1. Even for conservatives it
        is unnecessary to make one of the genealogies biological.

        Jim Miller


        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      • Chris Weimer
        Thank you for your response, Jim (if I may call you that). Also, if I may quote freely, Why should we suppose that Matthew or his community did require a
        Message 3 of 3 , Sep 12, 2005
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          Thank you for your response, Jim (if I may call you that). Also, if I
          may quote freely,

          "Why should we suppose that Matthew or his community did require a
          biological genealogy?"

          I think for the most part people had assumed that Matthew was more
          Judaistic in his gospel, thus for the tight regulations regarding
          genealogical descent and whatnot. Even scholars like Loisy reconstruct
          1.16 as "And Joseph begat Jesus, called Christ" citing embarrassment
          to such a minimal theologically passage. However, there really isn't a
          need to assume that Matthew's community (from what we can evince
          thereof) were so tight regarding such.

          "Yet, there are plenty of commentators who work any potential
          ambiguity of Matthew to try and make this genealogy a biological
          genealogy of the biological mother of Jesus. It seems to be a
          misplaced effort. First, the interest in the genealogy is to
          establish the legal inheritance of Jesus. As written, the natural
          reading of the genealogy is that of Joseph, husband of Mary. None of
          the other women in the genealogy are given patronyms or other
          genealogical data. Also, the New Testament as a whole turns its back
          on sexual reproduction, taking more interest in conversion and
          charism. Finally, a common way to square the two genealogiesis has
          the non-royal Davidic line as heirs of David's line when the royal
          line is made eunuchs during the exile. This explanation goes back at
          least as far as Tyndale who places it in the margin of his translation
          of Matthew 1. Even for conservatives it is unnecessary to make one of
          the genealogies biological."

          I myself do not assume such a position, though I have argued for it
          before, because of the tampering one would have to do with the text. I
          merely placed it there to refute some of their theories which now seem
          ludicrous. However, prior tampering is evident, and the lack of one
          genealogy does make it seem suspect. What was originally there?
          Perhaps we will never know. My own theory indicates that whatever may
          have originally been there is now lost, most likely altered by the
          final editor of Matthew before major circulation.

          Chris Weimer
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