Yesterday, we looked at the startling fact that the genealogies of Jesus that are recorded in Matthew 1 and Luke 3 are completely different – and explored a couple of theories put forward by biblical scholars to explain the discrepancy.
Both theories feel a little contrived, but as we said yesterday, perhaps they’re plausible enough to set the disconnect aside and move along.
But on a different level (and at the risk of rationalizing), I find it a bit reassuring that these genealogies both exist.
Imagine, if you will, that Luke got his version of Joseph’s lineage from Mary’s Aunt Freida, who, due to a misunderstanding (maybe she was a little hard of hearing), actually provided him with a flawless account of Mary’s genealogy, while Matthew’s source was Joseph’s Uncle Ezra, who supplied an accurate record of Joseph’s ancestry.
Many decades later, when it came time for the church to standardize the Bible, leaders encountered the conflicting genealogies and … embraced them both.
The early church excluded some versions of the gospels and other texts from the Biblical Canon for various reasons, so clearly its leaders felt they had the authority to suppress writings that they felt didn’t jibe with the rest of Scripture.
And in this case, they chose not to exercise that authority.
Which genealogy is correct – Luke’s or Matthew’s?
Hmm. Better to keep them both than risk excluding the correct one.
There’s no apologetic commentary to help the reader navigate the difference, no words of caution or explanation, just the text, for us to read and wrestle with. And I find that kind of good-faith transparency on the part of the church founders to be very encouraging.
This is one of a number of examples in the Bible where a tension is allowed to exist, because tension is not only OK, it’s often instructive for us. We want things to be either-or, but in God’s economy, they seem to often be both-and.
I think maybe the dual genealogies also point to the reality that despite our efforts to categorize Jesus as belonging to one particular lineage – or one family, or one tribe, or one people group, or one ethnicity – He cannot be contained.
Both genealogies trace his ancestry back to David, but Jesus Himself warns us not to put all our Easter eggs in that basket, in Matthew 22:41-46:
While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, “What do you think about the Messiah? Whose son is he?”
“The son of David,” they replied.
He said to them, “How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him ‘Lord’? For he says,
“‘The Lord said to my Lord:
“Sit at my right hand
until I put your enemies
under your feet.”’
If then David calls him ‘Lord,’ how can he be his son?” No one could say a word in reply, and from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions.
The fact that this exchange appears near the end of the same Gospel that opens with one of these David-centred genealogies speaks volumes for me.
Luke, not to be outdone, begins his genealogy by subtly reminding us that both ancestries point only to an earthly reality …
Now Jesus himself was about thirty years old when he began his ministry. He was the son, so it was thought, of Joseph… (Verse 23)
… and ends it with these three notable figures:
the son of Enosh, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.(Verse 38)
I tend to think of Adam as the sculpture of God, but Luke describes him here as the son of God.
And when I look at this while remembering what it says about Jesus in John 1 …
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.
So Jesus is, in a sense, the father of Adam mentioned in Verse 38. And He is also quite literally the descendant of Adam mentioned in Verse 23. Meanwhile, according to 1 Corinthians 15:45, Jesus is the last Adam – even though many generations of Adams and Eves have come and gone since the last Adam’s death and resurrection.
As John the Baptist says famously in John 1: 15, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’
Next to this paradigm-vaporizing reality, does the question of whether Heli or Jacob was Jesus’ real Granddad even matter? In a sense, the answer is both – and neither.
Jesus is father and brother and master and servant and advocate and judge and mentor and model and savior(!) of all.
“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”’ – Revelation 1:8
O come, let us adore Him.
Peace be with you.
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