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Books Section > Jesus in Heaven on Earth [Journey of Jesus to Kashmir, his preaching to the Lost Tribes of Israel and death and burial in Srinagar] by Khwaja Nazir Ahmad > Chapter 4: Davidic Descent (of Jesus Christ)


Chapter 4:
Davidic Descent:

The first and the third Gospels, which give details of the virgin birth, are also designed to exhibit the descent of Jesus from David. They contain two genealogies of Jesus. The belief that the blessed son of Jehovah, the Messiah, had to be from the seed of David was a religious postulate based on some Biblical prophecies (Ps., 132: 11; Isa., 11 : 1; Jer., 23 : 5).

Joseph, the humble father of Jesus, was made to be in a direct line to the King chosen of old by Jehovah. There was no question of finding out if such a relationship did exist, or could be proved to exist, or even made to appear plausible. The hagiographers did not trouble themselves with such details or scruples. They had to establish that the prophets of old were not false and did not take the trouble of verifying whether they did really say what was being attributed to them. The prophecies found in the "Old Book" had to be fulfilled. Jesus was the Messiah and evidence of his descent from David was created. The sceptics demanded proof, and as there was none in existence, they put forward the two genealogies, taking names of generations, as far as they could, from the "Old Book" and where it would not help them, they resorted to their own resourceful imagination.

These two genealogies, considered each in itself or both together, afford so important a key to the character of the evangelic records that a close examination of them is rendered imperative. A moment's scrutiny of the genealogy of Matthew will reveal its artificiality, in fact, it is naively exhibited in the last verse:

"So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; and from David until the carrying away into Babylon are fourteen generations; and from the carrying away into Babylon unto Christ are fourteen generations" (Matt., 1 : 17).

In other words, for reasons unknown, the author has constructed a framework which has no historical basis and thus made it as he thought fit. If the number of names given is computed, it is found that the last division, from Jechonias to Jesus, comprises only thirteen generations. It has been suggested that one of the names in the third division had been dropped by an error of a transcriber (Paulus, Comm : Matt., 292); but this cannot be a sound explanation because the deficiency was mentioned at an early stage by Porphyry (Hieyon in Daniel, 145).

If we compare this genealogy with the corresponding passages in the Old Testament, we discover many discrepancies; many names there recorded are omitted by Matthew. The series of generations from Abraham to Judah, Pharez and Esrom (Hezron) are sufficiently well known from the Book of Genesis; and from Pharez to David are to be found at the end of the Book of Ruth (Ruth, 4 : 18-22), and from David to Zorobabel in the third Chapter of the same Book.

Now, Matthew's first division of fourteen is identical with the names of men given in the Old Testament. But many discrepancies are found in the second division. Firstly, according to Matthew, "Joram begat Ozias" (Matt., 1 : 8), whereas we know that Uzziah was not the son, but the grandson of Joram, and that three kings - Ahaziah, Joash and Amaziah occur between them - and then comes Uzziah (1 Chron., 3: 11-12. Here, as in 2 Kings, 14: 21, Uzziah is called Azariah). Secondly, Matthew says: "Josias begat Jechonias and his brethren" (Matt., 1 : 11), but according to the Old Testament, the son and successor of Josiah was Jehoiakim (1 Chron., 3 : 15), after whom comes his son and successor, Jeconiah, and no mention is made of his brethren. Jehoiakim, however, had brethren. This is not a case of accidental forgetfulness or casual inaccuracy; Matthew has simply cut out anything which interfered with his plan. Thirdly, Zorobabel is described as a son of Salathiel (Matt., 1 : 12), but according to the Old Testament, he descended from Jeconiah, not through Salathiel, but through his brother Pedaiah (1 Chron., 3 : 19).

It is, however, the omission of the three names which - for it falls in so happily with the threefold fourteen generations - forces us to believe, with Jerome, that it was made with a definite purpose (Bible Common., 46. n). Olshausen is unconvincing when he conjectures that the number fourteen was specially chosen as being the numerical value of the name of David. Fritsche attributes it to a desire to repeat the number fourteen which had accidentally presented itself, since it was a notion of the Jews that signal divine visitations, whether of prosperity or adversity, recurred at regular periodical intervals. De Wette and Schneckenburger agree with this conclusion of Fritsche and the latter points out that the most ancient genealogies in Genesis exhibit the same uniformity. The conclusion is irresistible that it is not a case of accidental forgetfulness or casual inaccuracy.

The author of the First Gospel has deliberately cut out anything that interfered with the symbolic structure of fourteen generations into the second and third divisions, irrespective of the fact that he was introducing falsehood into a Gospel.

The author of Luke is equally indifferent to facts of history. His genealogy comprises seventy-seven names, with God at one end and Jesus at the other. This genealogy cannot, unfortunately, be tested so minutely; for, from David to Nathan, the line traced by Luke has no corresponding table in the Old Testament; and we do not know from where he got these names. With regard to only two of them - Salathiel and Zorobabel - there is a contradiction. Luke styles Salathiel as the son of Neri (Luke, 3 : 27) while he is actually the son of Jeconiah (1 Chron., 3 : 17). Luke mentions Rhesa as the son of Zorobabell (Luke, 3 : 27) but that name does not appear in the Old Testament amongst the children of Zorobabel (1 Chron., 3 : 19). These two names could not be omitted by either Matthew or Luke because they were indissolubly connected with the Return. Again, Luke inserts in the series before Abraham one Cainan (Luke, 3 : 36) who is not to be found in the Hebrew text of Genesis (Gen., 10 : 6 - Revised Version) though in another place (Gen., 9 : 22) he is shown as the son of Ham, that is, the third series from Adam, and appears to have been transplanted to this place by Luke from the Greek Bible.

On comparing the two genealogies together some remarkable discrepancies appear on the face of them; some of which are due to the fact that Luke carries the line back to Adam and even beyond. This seems to have been done to make it more consonant with the doctrine of Paul. If we consider the generations between David and Jesus only, the number of generations according to Luke is forty-one and according to Matthew twenty-six. From Jesus to Abraham, Luke enumerates fifty-six generations; Matthew gives only forty.

Again, in the two Gospels totally different individuals are made ancestors of Jesus. Further, except for the fact that both trace the descent of Jesus from David through Joseph, described as the father of Jesus, the entire names given by the two between David and Joseph are different - the only exceptions are Salathiel and Zorobabel, which as already pointed out, could not be omitted. In Matthew, the father of Joseph is Jacob, in Luke, Heli. In Matthew, the son of David is Solomon; in Luke, Nathan, and so on.

The most strenuous efforts have been made to reconcile the two genealogies. It would serve no useful purpose to discuss or examine in detail the various solutions so far put forward.

Julius Africanus suggested a Levirate marriage between the parents of Joseph; Augustine, the adopted father theory; but later on he gave up his own theory for that of Africanus (Retract, 2 : 17). Schneckenburger, in rejecting both these theories, rightly pointed out that the wording used in the genealogies excluded all possibility of either of the two suggestions. The Levirate marriage, he contended, could only be possible if both Heli and Jacob had been real brothers. They must, therefore, have the same lineage, but this is not borne out by the genealogies. Eusebius had put forward a really clever solution. He asserted that Jacob and Heli were half-brothers (Eusebius, Ecc. Hist., 1 : 7, 16). If this were so, the paternal grandmother of Joseph must have married twice: once with the Matthan of Matthew, who had descended from David through Solomon; and her second husband must have been the Mattatha of Luke - a descendant of David through Nathan. If this is so, the untoward agreement occurring midway, regarding Salathiel and Zorobabel, cannot be accounted for without introducing another Levirate marriage at these two junctures. This has only to be mentioned to be rejected and thus this theory also falls to the ground. It was not until the 15th century of the Christian era that it was thought that the knot could be loosened in a much easier way by supposing that in one of the Gospels the genealogy of Mary is given (Olshausen, Bible Comm., S. 48. Epiphanius, Grotius, S. 97). This theory was based on the idea that in Jesus the priestly and the kingly dignity ought to unite, and advantage was taken of the relationship of Mary with Elisabeth who was of the daughters of Aaron (Luke, 1:5) and thus an effort was made to blend, in the family of Joseph, the races of Judah and Levi. It was, therefore, put forward that Jesus derived his royal lineage from Joseph and priestly race through Mary (Comp. Thilo Cod, Apocr. N. T.1. S. 374). But it was soon realised that an insurmountable obstacle - the Jews did not take account of the female line in their genealogies (Juchasin, F. 55 : 2) - prevented any fruitful discussion, particularly when the thirty-four preceding generations, which are well known to us from the Old Testament, demonstrably indicate throughout the precise relationship of a father. A further difficulty, as already mentioned, is encountered in the occurrence of the two names of Salathiel and Zorobabel. Moreover, in no other part of the New Testament can any trace be found of the descent of Mary through David. On the contrary, passages directly opposed to this theory can be found in Luke (Luke, 1 : 27 ; 2 : 4-5). It is, therefore, impossible to apply either of the genealogies to Mary.

These considerations of the insurmountable difficulties which defy every attempt to bring these genealogies into harmony with one another force one to the conclusion that they are irreconcilable, and consequently that both cannot be true. For reasons already given Matthew's version must be rejected as false. Luke, however, must be scrutinised more carefully inasmuch as it was written with a view to glorify Jesus and trace his descent from God Himself. It is incredible that the genealogy of an insignificant and obscure family like that of Joseph through Nathan could have been preserved, during all the confusion of the exile, for so long a series of generations. Add to this the frequent recurrence of the same names and the conclusions of Hoffmann become irresistible that the genealogy of Luke is equally fictitious.

In fact, the two genealogies remain self-contradictory and irreconcilable, resembling each other only in their common indifference to historical truth and the object of proving that Joseph, the father of Jesus, had, as was expected by Israel, descended from David.

It is significant that we find in the texts no indication that the Messiahship of Jesus was ever deduced from his Davidic descent. The process was just the reverse; the disciples first believed that Jesus was the Messiah and then made him a descendant of David by forging these genealogies. Thus an obscure Galilean, for such was Jesus, whose lineage was utterly unknown and of whom consequently no one could prove that he had or had not descended from David, had acquired the reputation of being the Messiah. It was natural, therefore, that with slightly different material the two evangelists should have succeeded in realising the same purpose, namely, to vindicate the Messianic status of Jesus by proving that he, through his father Joseph, was a member of the house of David. The belief in this illustrious descent was very old. Even Paul knew and accepted that Jesus was born "of the seed of David, according to the flesh " (Rom., 1 : 3). He had to be "the fruit of the loins of David" ( Acts, 2 : 29-30. Cf. Ps., 132: 11).

But the Davidic descent of Jesus can be impugned on other grounds. Jesus never boasted of it; nor did his disciples regard him as such. Neither the appeal of the blind man of Jericho: "Son of David, Jesus, have mercy on me" (Mark, 10 : 47), nor the acclamation on his entry to Jerusalem (Mark, 11 : 9-10), can have the least weight against this double silence of Jesus and his companions. Another, and even more important, objection is that the author of the fourth Gospel does not accept the descent of Jesus from David. The objections raised about the Davidic descent are not answered or refuted by this evangelist (John, 7 : 40-42), and this fact proves that he did not think either of these things to be true. But these considerations did not weigh with the other two evangelists.

The Ebionites, the ancient Judo-Christians, rejected these genealogies (Epiphanius : Haer; 30 : 14) and their opinion appears to be justified by the oldest traditions.

It is, therefore, evident that the belief in the Davidic descent of Jesus found acceptance only amongst a few of the early Christians.

The only fact which stands out signally in the two genealogies, and which remains uncontradicted, is that Jesus was the son of Joseph and his wife Mary. I will presently show that this fact finds ample support in the Gospels and the rest of the New Testament.

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Books Section > Jesus in Heaven on Earth [Journey of Jesus to Kashmir, his preaching to the Lost Tribes of Israel and death and burial in Srinagar] by Khwaja Nazir Ahmad > Chapter 4: Davidic Descent (of Jesus Christ)

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