Friday, September 02, 2005

The Genealogy of Matthew

Here is my first draft of my analyzation of the genealogy of the Gospel of Matthew. Critical comments are very welcome. - Chris

Edited - I realized that Blogger doesn't play well with Microsoft's Word's footnotes, so I fixed the little buggers myself. If you click on them now, it should work properly. - Chris

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
Χριστος and υιου Δαυιδ υιου Αβρααμ. 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
Ιακωβ instead of Ισραηλ in verse 2. The official genealogy at Chronicles uses the name ישראל at both occurrences in the Hebrew and Syriac at verses 1.34 and 2.1. The Septuagint, however, uses the name Ιακωβ at 1.34 and Ισραηλ 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
Αραμ and Ραμ, but in two different situations. The first, which is most common, is “και ο Ραμ, και ο Χαλεβ, και Αραμ.” However, the other version is “και ο Αραμ και ο Χαλεβ.” The oldest manuscripts of Matthew have the name as Αραμ while the Byzantine correction is Ραμ, which correlates better with the Hebrew. The Hebrew Chronicles has the name spelt רם, and the Syriac here agrees. But the Peshitta has Matthew’s spelling as ארם.

What probably happened is very complex, but perhaps goes along the line of thus: the original Greek had
Αραμ, who was probably confused with the other people by that name (indeed, Αραμ 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 “και ο Ραμ, και ο Χαλεβ, και Αραμ.” 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,
Ωβηδ as Ιωβηδ, Σαλωμων as Σολομων, and Ασα as Ασαφ, 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 Ιωραμ to ΟζιαςΟχοζια, Ιωας, and Αμασιας. Secondly, there is no attested Οζιας in the LXX. Through the Syriac, it is identified with Αζαρια, but it could possibly be Οχοζια and then Αζαρια would be the third generation left out of the genealogy. But the Syriac has Αζαρια’s name spelt עוזיא in both Chronicles and Matthew, thus it was probably here that the name was taken.

This is the almost exactly the same as the
Αραμ-Ραμ 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
Ιωακιμ, but soon after he brings up another even more intriguing textual problem. In verse 12, Matthew lists the son of Σαλαθιηλ as Ζοροβαβελ. 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 זרבבל was the son of פדיה. However, the books of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Haggai all agree that זרבבל was the son of שאלתיאל. Luke also has the son of Σαλαθιηλ as Ζοροβαβελ. 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 Zerubabel was the nephew of Scheatiel, but their use of בן 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 Zerubabel is most likely theologically motivated. Zerubabel 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 Zerubabel 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
Ιεχονιας 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 Ιεχονιας and not Ιωακιμ, 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
ανηρ.

Although Greek use of
ανηρ 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 ανηρ once read πατηρ, 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:
Θαμαρ, Ραχαβ, Ρουθ, η του Ουριου, and Μαριας. 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 “
η του Ουριου” 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 “
η αλλη Μαρια[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

[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

3 Comments:

Blogger Aspirin99 said...

Nicely done, Chris. I enjoy reading your posts.

I know this is a bit off your topic, but, if you're interested, could you comment on the following. I've read that the ancient view was that the man's seed was believed to contain everything needed to grow a human. The woman was only viewed as the soil into which this seed was planted (the ovum being a relatively new discovery). Therefore, it would be impossible to have female genealogies (I cannot validate the source of that idea yet). This would be a nice retort to the claim that Jesus could have been "of the seed of David" through Mary. However, this objection seems to be nullified by the inclusion of the four women in the genealogy. Comments?

7:21 AM  
Blogger Chris Weimer said...

The four women in the genealogy, as I seem to have not made it clear enough, are included for theological purposes, not historical purposes. Besides the unnamed one, the other women either were prostitutes (Tamar and Rahab) or foreigners (Ruth). But in Matthew's theology, Jesus came for everyone, so you could consider the women a pre-apology for Jesus' ministry. As for male v. female and births, I believe that what you wrote was believed by the Graeco-Romans, but I have no idea if Jews thought that. If I find anything about it, I'll let you know.

8:53 PM  
Blogger Aspirin99 said...

Thanks, Chris. No, you made it clear, and I don't disagree with you. I've also read that Matthew may have been covering his bases in case the infidelity of Mary was discovered. If the messiah had women of impropriety in his genealogy what's one more going to hurt?

However, my point is more on the acceptability of using women in genealogies (ignoring the man and using the woman's name in the genealogy). Was this acceptible?

To the point on the contribution of women to the birth, one concept that seems to shed light on it is the barren womb. You never read in the Bible of a man with a low sperm count. This is, at least, anecdotal evidence that the Jews did not see that the woman was contributing anything to the growing of the human other than a womb.

6:51 AM  

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