2007-09-26

The Jesus Genealogies: their different theological significances

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey

A late date and anti-Marcionite context for Luke-Acts not only has the power to explain why Luke may have rejected Matthew’s story of the birth of Jesus, but even more directly why Luke’s genealogy of Jesus is so different from Matthew’s. (The common belief that Luke records Mary’s family line and Matthew Joseph’s is a simplistic rationalization that defies the textual evidence.)

Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus goes back to Abraham and is traced through Solomon. Luke’s bypasses Solomon and traces back to Adam and God himself.

There’s another fact worth keeping in mind too. The writings apparently penned by Justin Martyr around the mid-second century c.e. insisted that Jesus had no genealogy and that this fact was one of the proofs of his divine origin. Justin also expressed his conviction that it was Mary who belonged to the blood-line of David, while the canonical gospels instead trace Joseph to David, and Mary is only brought in to the family tree by marriage. See my table of Justin’s knowledge of canonical and noncanonical gospels for references. (Most scholars nevertheless believe that Justin knew some form of our current gospels that he called “the memoirs of the apostles”.)

Luke’s genealogy

As in my last post, I’m playing with the model that our canonical Luke-Acts was the product of a second-century anti-Marcionite cause. Marcionism was a form of Christianity that some authors suggest was more widespread and dominant in the early second century than what we might call “proto-orthodox” Christianity. One of its beliefs was that Jesus came from a hitherto unknown or “Alien” God and not from the God who created this world. The God of this world, the creator of Adam and giver of the Ten Commandments at Sinai, was believed to be a capricious, often cruel and blind God who was unaware of his subordinate place to the higher unknown God.

If Luke as we know it was written as a response to Marcionism (Tyson and others) then we can readily understand why it traced the genealogy of Jesus back to the God of Genesis, the creator God of the Jewish scriptures. This genealogy was a rebuttal of the Marcionite doctrine that Jesus was sent by another God who was higher than this “biblical” God.

But why would Luke’s genealogy bypass Solomon, and most notably avoid any mention of the famous women in Matthew’s genealogy?

One of Marcion’s beliefs was that the God of the Jewish scriptures was often an immoral God, capricious and inconsistent. Matthew’s genealogy highlighted the role of women tainted with racial or moral dubiousness. Solomon was the son of murder and adultery, and despite this he was honoured as the rightful heir to David by the creator God of this world.

Luke’s genealogy appears to be a response to this — in the context of taking up the challenge of Marcionism — and thus proclamation that Jesus line could not only be traced back to the Creator God of Genesis but also that it could be done so legitimately and honourably. The genealogy was a statement that the God of Jesus and this world was a righteous God and not as the Marcionites portrayed him.

Matthew’s genealogy

Matthew’s genealogy appears to have originated among Christians — perhaps adoptionists like Mark — who believed that Jesus was of human origin although he later became God (at the resurrection or at baptism) or temporarily possessed by the Spirit of Christ (until his death on the cross). There are indications of these positions in our current Pauline epistles (e.g. Romans 1:4) and the Gospel of Mark (e.g. Mark 1:11), and these were all well-known variations of Christian beliefs out of which the “orthodoxy” with which we are familiar eventually emerged.

If Jesus was understood to be the illegitimate son of Mary — an accusation not unknown in the gospels — then was this genealogy responding with, So what? She was nevertheless married into a line which was sustained by Bathsheba who adulterously conceived Solomon; by Ruth who was a gentile and who teamed up with Boaz through a the euphemistically labelled custom of “uncovering his feet” when he was asleep; by a Rahab, a gentile prostitute; and by Tamar, a daughter of Judah when she turned to prostitution.

I wish I could recall where I originally read this interpretation of Matthew’s genealogy — that it belongs to an early form of Christianity that believed Jesus at least started out as fully human and only later became Christ or possessed by the Spirit of God.

3 Comments

  • J.L. Hinman (Metacrock)
    2007-09-26 10:41:24 UTC - 10:41 | Permalink

    A late date and anti-Marcionite context for Luke-Acts not only has the power to explain why Luke may have rejected Matthew’s story of the birth of Jesus, but even more directly why Luke’s genealogy of Jesus is so different from Matthew’s. (The common belief that Luke records Mary’s family line and Matthew Joseph’s is a simplistic rationalization that defies the textual evidence.)

    when you say “defies textual evidence” you mean the veg comment about ‘thought to be the father” in Mat? that’s hardly textual evidence. the Luke genealogy is given as Mary’s in the Talmud. The claim there is that the independent investigation which has nothing to do with Luke produces the genealogy of “such a one’s” mother and it is a woman named Mary and the same father as the Luke genealogy.

    Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus goes back to Abraham and is traced through Solomon. Luke’s bypasses Solomon and traces back to Adam and God himself.

    all the more reason to think these are two different lines rather than an two attempts to construct the same line.

    There’s another fact worth keeping in mind too. The writings apparently penned by Justin Martyr around the mid-second century c.e. insisted that Jesus had no genealogy and that this fact was one of the proofs of his divine origin.

    If he was born of a woman he had to have one. why take Justin over the NT?

    Justin also expressed his conviction that it was Mary who belonged to the blood-line of David, while the canonical gospels instead trace Joseph to David, and Mary is only brought in to the family tree by marriage.

    Nope! so sorry you are quite wrong. You just said Luke’s bypasses Solomon but that doesn’t mean it bypasses David. it goes through David’s other son Nathan!

    See my table of Justin’s knowledge of canonical and noncanonical gospels for references. (Most scholars nevertheless believe that Justin knew some form of our current gospels that he called “the memoirs of the apostles”.)

    Luke’s genealogy

    As in my last post, I’m playing with the model that our canonical Luke-Acts was the product of a second-century anti-Marcionite cause. Marcionism was a form of Christianity that some authors suggest was more widespread and dominant in the early second century than what we might call “proto-orthodox” Christianity. One of its beliefs was that Jesus came from a hitherto unknown or “Alien” God and not from the God who created this world. The God of this world, the creator of Adam and giver of the Ten Commandments at Sinai, was believed to be a capricious, often cruel and blind God who was unaware of his subordinate place to the higher unknown God.

    Marcion was a proto Gnostic Or a full blown ghostic. He saw the God fo the Jews as the damuerge and he saw Jesus as the son of the true uber God who created the damuerge. (sorry about that spelling I don’t have Greek font).

    If Luke as we know it was written as a response to Marcionism (Tyson and others) then we can readily understand why it traced the genealogy of Jesus back to the God of Genesis, the creator God of the Jewish scriptures. This genealogy was a rebuttal of the Marcionite doctrine that Jesus was sent by another God who was higher than this “biblical” God.

    But why would Luke’s genealogy bypass Solomon, and most notably avoid any mention of the famous women in Matthew’s genealogy?

    good question. it’s not an attempt to construct Jo’s genealogy but is a trace of Mary’s line.

    One of Marcion’s beliefs was that the God of the Jewish scriptures was often an immoral God, capricious and inconsistent. Matthew’s genealogy highlighted the role of women tainted with racial or moral dubiousness. Solomon was the son of murder and adultery, and despite this he was honoured as the rightful heir to David by the creator God of this world.

    Luke’s genealogy appears to be a response to this — in the context of taking up the challenge of Marcionism — and thus proclamation that Jesus line could not only be traced back to the Creator God of Genesis but also that it could be done so legitimately and honourably. The genealogy was a statement that the God of Jesus and this world was a righteous God and not as the Marcionites portrayed him.

    Matthew’s genealogy

    Matthew’s genealogy appears to have originated among Christians — perhaps adoptionists like Mark — who believed that Jesus was of human origin although he later became God (at the resurrection or at baptism) or temporarily possessed by the Spirit of Christ (until his death on the cross). There are indications of these positions in our current Pauline epistles (e.g. Romans 1:4) and the Gospel of Mark (e.g. Mark 1:11), and these were all well-known variations of Christian beliefs out of which the “orthodoxy” with which we are familiar eventually emerged.

    If Jesus was understood to be the illegitimate son of Mary — an accusation not unknown in the gospels — then was this genealogy responding with, So what? She was nevertheless married into a line which was sustained by Bathsheba who adulterously conceived Solomon; by Ruth who was a gentile and who teamed up with Boaz through a the euphemistically labelled custom of “uncovering his feet” when he was asleep; by a Rahab, a gentile prostitute; and by Tamar, a daughter of Judah when she turned to prostitution.

    I wish I could recall where I originally read this interpretation of Matthew’s genealogy — that it belongs to an early form of Christianity that believed Jesus at least started out as fully human and only later became Christ or possessed by the Spirit of God.

    a second alternative is that Luke’s genealogy is an emendation, since it is not found in the two earliest copies of Luke. Matt’s could then be Mary’s genealogy. The throne of Israel could pass through a woman, Israel had a queen at one point.

  • 2007-09-27 17:49:37 UTC - 17:49 | Permalink

    Comment on The Jesus Genealogies: their different theological significances J.L. Hinman (Metacrock)

    A late date and anti-Marcionite context for Luke-Acts not only has the power to explain why Luke may have rejected Matthew’s story of the birth of Jesus, but even more directly why Luke’s genealogy of Jesus is so different from Matthew’s. (The common belief that Luke records Mary’s family line and Matthew Joseph’s is a simplistic rationalization that defies the textual evidence.)

    when you say “defies textual evidence” you mean the veg comment about ‘thought to be the father” in Mat? that’s hardly textual evidence. the Luke genealogy is given as Mary’s in the Talmud. The claim there is that the independent investigation which has nothing to do with Luke produces the genealogy of “such a one’s” mother and it is a woman named Mary and the same father as the Luke genealogy.

    that’s not what i meant by ‘textual evidence’ despite your assertion

    the babylonian talmud written 5 to 6 hundred years after Jesus time is irrelevant as evidence — especially since it speaks of mary magdala as if that were the mother in question — the talmud addresses issues it knew from its own time, anachronistically drawing on names from other periods that were never contemporaneous.

    Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus goes back to Abraham and is traced through Solomon. Luke’s bypasses Solomon and traces back to Adam and God himself.

    all the more reason to think these are two different lines rather than an two attempts to construct the same line.

    There’s another fact worth keeping in mind too. The writings apparently penned by Justin Martyr around the mid-second century c.e. insisted that Jesus had no genealogy and that this fact was one of the proofs of his divine origin.

    If he was born of a woman he had to have one. why take Justin over the NT?

    no one is “taking justin over the NT”

    Justin also expressed his conviction that it was Mary who belonged to the blood-line of David, while the canonical gospels instead trace Joseph to David, and Mary is only brought in to the family tree by marriage.

    Nope! so sorry you are quite wrong. You just said Luke’s bypasses Solomon but that doesn’t mean it bypasses David. it goes through David’s other son Nathan!

    your comment makes no sense, since i nowhere deny the obvious that i assume we can all read and that we all know — that luke traces jesus’ genealogy through nathan.

    See my table of Justin’s knowledge of canonical and noncanonical gospels for references. (Most scholars nevertheless believe that Justin knew some form of our current gospels that he called “the memoirs of the apostles”.)

    Luke’s genealogy

    As in my last post, I’m playing with the model that our canonical Luke-Acts was the product of a second-century anti-Marcionite cause. Marcionism was a form of Christianity that some authors suggest was more widespread and dominant in the early second century than what we might call “proto-orthodox” Christianity. One of its beliefs was that Jesus came from a hitherto unknown or “Alien” God and not from the God who created this world. The God of this world, the creator of Adam and giver of the Ten Commandments at Sinai, was believed to be a capricious, often cruel and blind God who was unaware of his subordinate place to the higher unknown God.

    Marcion was a proto Gnostic Or a full blown ghostic. He saw the God fo the Jews as the damuerge and he saw Jesus as the son of the true uber God who created the damuerge. (sorry about that spelling I don’t have Greek font).

    i know, but how does that contradict or have anything new to add to what i said?

    If Luke as we know it was written as a response to Marcionism (Tyson and others) then we can readily understand why it traced the genealogy of Jesus back to the God of Genesis, the creator God of the Jewish scriptures. This genealogy was a rebuttal of the Marcionite doctrine that Jesus was sent by another God who was higher than this “biblical” God.

    But why would Luke’s genealogy bypass Solomon, and most notably avoid any mention of the famous women in Matthew’s genealogy?

    good question. it’s not an attempt to construct Jo’s genealogy but is a trace of Mary’s line.

    One of Marcion’s beliefs was that the God of the Jewish scriptures was often an immoral God, capricious and inconsistent. Matthew’s genealogy highlighted the role of women tainted with racial or moral dubiousness. Solomon was the son of murder and adultery, and despite this he was honoured as the rightful heir to David by the creator God of this world.

    Luke’s genealogy appears to be a response to this — in the context of taking up the challenge of Marcionism — and thus proclamation that Jesus line could not only be traced back to the Creator God of Genesis but also that it could be done so legitimately and honourably. The genealogy was a statement that the God of Jesus and this world was a righteous God and not as the Marcionites portrayed him.

    Matthew’s genealogy

    Matthew’s genealogy appears to have originated among Christians — perhaps adoptionists like Mark — who believed that Jesus was of human origin although he later became God (at the resurrection or at baptism) or temporarily possessed by the Spirit of Christ (until his death on the cross). There are indications of these positions in our current Pauline epistles (e.g. Romans 1:4) and the Gospel of Mark (e.g. Mark 1:11), and these were all well-known variations of Christian beliefs out of which the “orthodoxy” with which we are familiar eventually emerged.

    If Jesus was understood to be the illegitimate son of Mary — an accusation not unknown in the gospels — then was this genealogy responding with, So what? She was nevertheless married into a line which was sustained by Bathsheba who adulterously conceived Solomon; by Ruth who was a gentile and who teamed up with Boaz through a the euphemistically labelled custom of “uncovering his feet” when he was asleep; by a Rahab, a gentile prostitute; and by Tamar, a daughter of Judah when she turned to prostitution.

    I wish I could recall where I originally read this interpretation of Matthew’s genealogy — that it belongs to an early form of Christianity that believed Jesus at least started out as fully human and only later became Christ or possessed by the Spirit of God.

    a second alternative is that Luke’s genealogy is an emendation, since it is not found in the two earliest copies of Luke. Matt’s could then be Mary’s genealogy. The throne of Israel could pass through a woman, Israel had a queen at one point.

    yep, it could be too. it could also have been inspired by an angel or heard from an eyewitness or read from a now lost document or been an inspired guess? any evidence to support one “could have happened” guess over another?

    Sep 26, 10:41 AM

    Comment on Bauckham: reply to JD Walters Joe Hinman (aka Metacrock)

    You obviously do not know the book Social Sciences as Sorcery — written by an intellectual (Andreski) and well received throughout the academy — so your accusation of anti-intellectual bellyaching is fatuous.(Besides, I do have a couple degrees from the University of Queensland and a few other post grad bits of paper by the way.)

    Yes it is ture I do not know that book. It may be a fine book. You may have a passel of degrees. But you want to instigate a hermeneutic of suspecting against any bible scholar merely because he is a bible scholar on the basis of a book about social sciences. Bible scholars are not social scientist and while I’m sure a lot of the same thing apply, I was a sociology major and i can tell you pretty much exactly what that book says and its’ probably totally right on. It’s probably right out of C. Wright Mills and if it is not it should be. But you are using it it out of context and cast doubt ona body of work and discipline to which it does not even apply.

    so first you accuse me of anti-intellectual bellyaching and when i demonstrate that is not the case you accuse me of something else and proceed to claim to know what a book contains though you know nothing about it. it was at this point i could no longer deny you are not interested in a conversation of any kind.

    Sep 26, 10:17 AM

  • 2008-06-22 08:09:07 UTC - 08:09 | Permalink

    I have since this post set out notes from Tyson’s discussion of Luke. Tyson points out there are reasons to think that Luke’s genealogy belongs to a pre-Marcionte version of Luke (its placement after 3:1, its contradiction of the Infancy Narrative). If there is anything to both the argument above and to Tyson’s argument, then I can only suggest Luke redacted the genealogy in more places than by adding the parenthetical statement that Joseph was thought to be the father of Jesus.

  • Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *