The Virgin Birth

by A.E. Knoch

Part One


THE virgin birth of our Lord, Jesus Christ, was an absolute necessity, judging from the genealogies. At first glance the opposite seems to be the logical deduction. Why should His descent be traced back to David and Abraham unless He was their natural Heir? And why go back to Adam unless He had a perfect pedigree? The answer is that both of the genealogies are broken chains, whose physical links are faulty. If it were not so, then Joseph could have claimed all that comes to Christ, and a brother of our Lord was entitled to His honors at His death. But we shall show that Joseph could not claim the throne of David or the land of Abraham, because he was the fleshly seed of David's line, nor could he acquire the dignities of Adam's Son.

We shall show that there are two seemingly antagonistic lines of truth running through these genealogies. While they present the only genuine line of descent, they also prove their utter impotence to provide the Messiah. While they convey the legal honors and dignities, on the physical side they are fatally weak. In brief, a child of Joseph could not be the Messiah, yet the Messiah must be the son of Joseph.

As so much difficulty is found with these genealogies by both believers and unbelievers, we shall first seek to show how harmonious the accounts are, and how little ground there is for the objections of those who do not understand them. Today genealogy is a pastime and family trees have no practical value. But in Israel a man's genealogy was his most valuable possession. It was the only title to his land and to his place in the commonwealth of Israel.

Since completing our studies on this subject a friend has sent us a little booklet by Lewis Abramowitch from which we are able to add some interesting evidence from the writings of the rabbis. In Yevamoth 37A, Kid. 69A, of the Babylonian Talmud it is said that ten genealogical registers were brought up from Babylon after the exile. By these they were able to trace the pedigree of their families. Rabbi Levi in Bereshith Rabbah (Midrash) 98,13, says that there was a book of the genealogies in Jerusalem. According to Rabbi Simon ben Azay, in the Babylonian Talmud, there was a scroll even for the offspring of mixed marriages.

After the Babylonian exile, when many of the Jews were scattered in other lands, they still kept up their records. Josephus tells us how careful the priests were in this respect. In his reply to Apion (1,7) he says "this is our practice, not only in Judea, but wherever any body of our nation lives; and even there an exact catalogue of our priests' marriages is kept; I mean at Egypt, and at Babylon, or in any other place of the rest of the inhabited earth, whithersoever our priests are scattered, for they send to Jerusalem the ancient names of their parents in writing as well as those of their remote ancestors, and signify those who are the witnesses also."

Josephus himself, near the beginning of his autobiography, after speaking of his ancestors, says, "Thus have I set down the genealogy of my family, as I have found it described in the public records; and so bid adieu to those who calumniate me, as of a lower origin."

One of the most remarkable concessions made by the Jews is found in the Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 43A. There it is definitely stated that Jesus, the son of Mary, was "akin of the royal family." They would never recognize the authority of the Scriptures. They must have depended on the genealogical records. It is evident that these registers were kept up to a point late in the first century, for two grandsons of Jude, the brother of our Lord, were seized and sent to Rome, and were examined in the presence of Domitian, who was emperor at that time. Eusebius, an early church father, says that they were suspected of being pretenders to the throne on account of their relation to Jesus Christ, Who was a descendant of David. But when the emperor observed how hard-working, they were, and how poor, he stopped persecuting those who were related to the royal line (Eusebius. Hist. Ecc.3:19,20). It seems that some rumor of Christ's claim to world-wide dominion led the emperor to fear for the imperial throne.

But it is to the Scriptures that we must turn to see how carefully the Jews kept their genealogical registers. All Israel was reckoned by genealogies (1 Chron.9:1). Only brief extracts found their way into the inspired records. It was only because these registers had been accurately kept that they were able to go to their own cities (Ezra 2:1) at the return from Babylon. Those who could not produce their genealogy were degraded from the priesthood (Ezra 2:62).

The law of the jubilee, one of the grandest statutes that was ever written into the constitution of any land made it imperative that every one produce his pedigree at least twice in each century. The Israelite had no other deed to his allotment. If he should lose his patrimony, he could recover it only by showing his ancestral right. No one ever lost sight of his allotment.

Many remained on it. Those who left, as Joseph and Mary, were recalled on such occasions as the enrollment under Cyrenius (Luke 2:2). They went to Bethlehem because they were of the house and lineage of David.

During our Lord's life His Messiahship was continually in question. Those who thought Him a native of Galilee were quick to denounce His claims. No one ever disputed that He was the Son of David. The Sanhedrin sought testimony against Him. Nothing would have been more effective or more easily obtained than His genealogy, and they certainly would have brought it against Him if He were not of the royal line. On the contrary, the Talmud, along with the bitterest denunciation states expressly "He was related to the kingdom."

The destruction of Jerusalem by Titus did not occur till some time after these pedigrees were published. Yet no objection was ever found to them during the first century, while the official documents were still available or men remembered their ancestors. Long after this private records were kept, but the continual persecution of the Jews has resulted in the loss of every document which could disprove the accuracy of these genealogies.

It is almost inconceivable that Matthew or Luke should publish a pedigree not in accordance with the facts. For some time after they wrote, the records still remained in Jerusalem. No one, so far as we are aware, attacked their genuineness when the evidence was at hand. The enemies of the truth confirmed the accuracy of these lists, for they surely would have pointed out the mistakes, if any existed. It remained for the ignorant pretentious of later days to invent their "discrepancies" and "inconsistencies." We hope, not only to vindicate the record, but to dig down to the spiritual lesson underlying the supposed difficulties.

The first fact that confronts us is that there are two distinct genealogies of our Lord, one in Matthew, beginning with Abraham and ending with Jacob and Joseph, and one in Luke tracing the line backward through Heli all the way to Adam and God. As the great lessons in these genealogies may best be learned by comparing one with the other, we have compiled a table to indicate clearly the contrasts between them and the special points of interest in our present study. We have inserted only those names which are necessary for this. The rest may be readily filled in from the text.


According to
According to
According to
Isaac  [Ishmael]
Jacob  [Esau]
Phares  [Er]
Solomon Nathan
Jechonias Neri
Salathiel  [Pedaiah]
Abiud Rhesa
Jacob Heli

In the first column we have the names peculiar to Matthew's account, in the last those which are found only in Luke. In the center are seen the points of contact. From Abraham to David the lists are the same, and they meet again in Salathiel and Zerubabel and in Joseph. The names in square brackets are not part of the genealogy, but are of special interest at the point of insertion.

The first fact we shall fix is that Matthew gives the actual physical descent. Thirty-nine times we read that so-and-so begets so-and-so. This constant repetition is not necessary for the sense, so is doubtless intended for emphasis, or rather, to startle us with the striking circumlocution in the fortieth generation. Abraham and David and Zerubabel and all those intermediate were the progenitors of the succeeding generations, but Joseph did not, beget Jesus, the Christ. When this point in the genealogy is reached the formula is changed. Mary is introduced as the physical progenitor of our Lord.

Luke gives us a continual contrast to every feature in Matthew's pedigree. Generation introduces an infant into the world, and such we have in Matthew. But Luke does not introduce his genealogy at the beginning, in connection with His birth, but with His mature manhood, when He, according to Jewish custom, attained His majority, at thirty years of age. This line deals with sonship, not with descent (Luke 3:25). Indeed, first of all, He is announced to be the Son of God. "The holy spirit descends on Him in appearance as a dove, and a voice came out of heaven, saying, `Thou art My beloved Son, in Thee I delight.'" At the conclusion of the line Adam is also called a son of God (Luke 3:38). Now it is evident that Adam was not a son by generation but by creation. We shall see later that Joseph was a son of Heli by adoption. This is in fullest harmony with the statement that "Jesus Himself began to be about thirty years of age, being (as to the law) son of Joseph" (Luke 3:23). Legally Adam received his place and authority on earth from God. Neri, as we shall see, had no heir, so Salathiel became his legal son, and Heli was in reality the father of Mary, and, having no sons, his allotment passed to his son-in-law, Joseph. So Jesus being the child of Mary, became the Son of Joseph according to the law.

The A. V. renders the parenthesis as was supposed, instead of as to the law. The word in Greek is enomizeto, literally LAWizED. The A. V. had good grounds for rendering it as was supposed, for that is its usual force in other contexts. There is, in reality, no question of the meaning of the word, but of its usage. What is according to law, is, in a looser sense, that which is customary or what is supposed to be. The first and strict sense of the word is that which is legal. The second, and more usual significance, is that which we would suppose if natural laws operate. In this context, as was supposed gives no satisfactory sense. On the other hand, as our Lord had just arrived at His legal majority, and has now passed out of minority to sonship, and we have been fully informed to the effect that he is not Joseph's natural child, it is most important to know that, in the eyes of the law, He is his Son.

Generation naturally runs forward from father to child. Sonship traces its privileges back to its source. That is why Matthew begins with Abraham and ends with Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Christ was born, but Luke starts with our Lord and traces the line back through Joseph and his father-in-law Heli, back through Adam to God Himself.

A common objection to these accounts is based on the two statements "Jacob begets Joseph" (Matt.1:16) and "Joseph, [son] of Heli" (Luke 3:23). How could Joseph be the son of two different men? The solution is very simple. Since his father's name was Jacob, we have no difficulty there. But how was he the son of Heli? The Talmud of Palestine, Chagigah, 77, 4, calls Mary the daughter of Heli. So that we would probably call Joseph the son-in-law of Heli. But he was far more than we imply by that term. He was also his heir. Heli had no sons. His family would have become extinct if the law of Moses had not made some provision for such cases. Moses wrote "If a man die, and have no son, then ye shall cause his inheritance to pass unto his daughter" (Num.27:8).

The word "son" is used in the Scriptures for a much wider range of thought than is our custom. We need not go outside Luke's list to find an example. Adam was a son of God. It speaks not so much of origin as of character. We read of "the sons of the east" (Gen.29:1), sons of the land (Ezek.30:5), a son of Belial (Judges 19:22), sons of oil (Zech.4:14). It is used more than two thousand times in the Hebrew Scriptures, but often translated "children." All of the descendants of Adam and Abraham and Israel and David are called their sons when male, mature, and of like character or enjoying the same privileges.

Thus "sons of Israel" is a title of dignity, yet "sons of Jacob" a term of reproach. Our Lord was both the Son and the Lord of David. Through Mary He was connected with the king as to his flesh, through Joseph He inherited His royal rights.

The distinction between sonship and birth is especially important for us in this day of grace. Unlike the Circumcision, we are not merely regenerated, but a new creation. We have been given the place of a son (Rom.8:15,23; 9:4; Gal.4:5; Eph.1:5). The usual rendering, "adoption," is not nearly so objectionable as is sometimes supposed. We do not enter God's family as infants, but as mature sons, entitled to the fullest confidences and invested with the high dignities of the relationship. Israel had a physical nearness to Jehovah, so the figure of birth is most apt to represent a renewal on physical lines. We are held by spiritual ties, so our relationship is based on the loftier conception of sonship.

Luke gives us the line of sonship. Jesus was not the child of Joseph. He became his Son when He attained the age of thirty years. Joseph was not the child of Heli, but he became his sole male heir through Mary. Salathiel was not Neri's offspring, but carried on his line through marriage with his daughter. The sinister spiritual significance of these failures in the physical line will engage us again. We shall never learn the lesson of Luke's genealogy until we see that on at least two occasions it died out.

We will now take up Matthew's account and, after dealing with some difficult details, show how impossible it is for Messiah to spring from that line, according to the flesh.

Part Two


MATTHEW'S genealogy is divided into three sections, as we read: "Then all the generations from Abraham till David are fourteen generations, and from David till the Babylonian exile are fourteen generations, and from the Babylonian exile till Christ are fourteen generations" (Matt.1:17). This gives us the keynote of Matthew's account. It is concerned with the King and kingdom, or, rather, with their rejection. Its theme is government. Christ is given many titles, but His glories as the Son of David are most prominent. These three groups of fourteen generations deal with three distinct phases of the government of Jehovah's people Israel. Each closed in failure. What a fit Preparation to introduce the Messiah, Who will retrieve all their failure, even though they despise and reject Him!

The first fourteen generations, from Abraham to David, found the nation under the direct government of Jehovah. It was a theocracy. From David to the Babylonian exile was the period of the kings. Israel was a monarchy. The third group was the era of the nations. Israel was ruled by aliens, and the birth of Christ found them subject to the Roman yoke. What apostasy and declension is revealed in this survey of the nation which was called out to rule the world! Theocracy a failure! The monarchy a failure! And even the foreign domination is a failure, for it leads to their being rooted out of the land and dispersed among all the nations of the earth.

Jehovah communed with Abraham face to face, and appeared to Isaac and Jacob. Moses saw Him on the mount and received His laws for their guidance. When He brought them out of Egypt into the promised land He gave them no king, for He was Himself their Sovereign. In their departure and distress He sent judges or rulers to deliver them and sent them prophets to lead them back to Himself. But they drifted further and further from Him. Every man did what was right in his own eyes (Judges 21:25).

When Samuel's sons perverted judgment, the elders of Israel gathered themselves together and said to Samuel, "Now make us a king to judge us like all the nations. And the Lord said to Samuel, `Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them.'" (1 Sam.8:5- 7).

Samuel protested, and told them of the oppression which would come with a king and warned them that they would regret it, but they insisted: "Nay; but we will have a king over us; that we also may be like all the nations" (1 Sam.8:19,20). So the era of the theocracy ended in their rejection of Jehovah. He gave them a king in His anger and took him away in His indignation. Then He chose David, a man after His own heart, to be their king.

From David to the exile is the era of the monarchy. In giving them David, Jehovah not only typified the true King, Messiah, but gave the kingdom period a proper commencement, a divine impetus, so that its degeneration and collapse might be more marked. How great was the failure of the kings is the common knowledge of every reader of the Bible. Solomon, who brought the kingdom to its highest pitch of prosperity, sowed the seeds of dissension which resulted in the severance of the ten tribes soon after his death. Occasional returns to Jehovah gave little relief. "And Jehovah, God of their fathers, sent to them by His messengers, rising up betimes and sending; because He had compassion on His people, and on His dwelling place: but they mocked the messengers of God, and despised His words, and misused His prophets, until the wrath of Jehovah arose against His people, till there was no remedy" (2 Chron.36: 15,16).

Critics have not been slow to point out certain "discrepancies" in Matthew's list of kings. Five names have been entirely omitted. Ahaziah, Joash, Amaziah are not there. The two sons of Josiah, Jehoahaz and Jehoiakim do not appear, while Jechoniah is included in the last group. There cannot be the slightest doubt that these names have been purposely left out. The most ignorant of men could merely copy the list out of the books of the Kings or could "correct" it by comparing it with the records. But it took a high degree of spirituality to leave out those names which God had blotted out because of their idolatry.

Ahaziah (or Azariah or Jehoahaz) walked in the ways of Ahab and was slain by Jehu (2 Chron.22:3,9). Joash served Jehovah so long as the priest Jehoiada lived, but afterward the princes of Judah served idols, and he slew the son of Jehoiada who remonstrated. Hence the servants of King Joash slew him and would not bury him in the tombs of the kings (2 Chron.24:17,25).

Amaziah also bowed down to the gods of the sons of Seir, and was slain by the people of Jerusalem (2 Chron.25:15,27). To imagine that Matthew did not know of these kings, who played such a prominent part in Judah, is nearly as foolish as to suppose that none of his readers were aware of them. He left them out because he did know, and, being under the control of God's spirit, he carried out God's judgment by blotting out their names according to the law (Deut.29:20).

The line of kings ends with Josiah, for Jehoiakim (also called Shallum), instead of obeying the prophet Jeremiah's warnings (Jer.22:1-7) forsook the covenant and turned to other gods. Moreover, in the books of the Chronicles, which give us the religious aspect of his apostasy, mention is made, not only of his abominations, which refer to idolatry, but to "that which was found in him," or on him (2 Chron.36:8). It is probable that he actually made cuttings in his flesh, or printed marks on him (Lev.19:28) in the nature of tattooing, as a sign of his allegiance to other gods. Is not this the reason why he was denied human burial, and his name is blotted out of the register of the line of the kings? In the law it was written that any man whose heart turns away from Jehovah their God, and serves the gods of the nations, the Lord would not spare him but shall blot out his name from under heaven (Deut.29:18-20).

The last period, that of gentile rule, is aptly introduced by a king who lost not only his own throne, but regal rights for his descendants. Jechoniah begins the period of servitude, and, notwithstanding all the heroic efforts of the Maccabees, none of David's sons succeeded to the throne of Israel. Babylon, Medo- Persia, Greece--all bore sway over the holy people. Rome ruled when Christ came.

Jeconiah means Jehovah stands up, or Jehovah establishes. Yet so hateful did he become in the sight of the Lord that God cut off the Je-- (which stands for Jehovah) and called him Coniah, to show that He would not establish him. So great is the bearing of this on the genealogy that we will quote at length concerning God's dealings with the last of Judah's kings.

"As I live, saith the Lord, though Coniah the son of Jehoiakim king of Judah were the signet upon my right hand, yet would I pluck thee thence; and I will give thee into the hand of them that seek thy soul, and into the hand of them whose face thou fearest, even into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and into the hand of the Chaldeans. And I will cast thee out, and thy mother that bare thee, into another country, where ye were not born; and there shall ye die. But to the land whereunto they desire to return, thither shall they not return. Is this man Coniah a despised broken idol? Is he a vessel wherein is no pleasure? Wherefore are they cast out, he and his seed, and are cast into a land of which they know not? O earth, earth, earth, hear the word of the Lord. Thus saith the Lord, Write ye this man childless, a man that shall not prosper in his days: for no man of his seed shall prosper, sitting upon the throne of David, and ruling any more in Judah (Jeremiah 22:24-30).

Jechoniah had seven sons (1 Chron.3:17,18). Hence his bereavement lay in the fact that not one of them was heir to his throne.

No man of Cohiah's seed should prosper, sitting on the throne of David, and ruling any more in Judah. We must let the full force of this sink in. It is not without significance that no one of the royal race ruled in Jerusalem from that time forth. But this goes deeper than that. It was absolutely impossible for anyone of the royal line to prosper on the throne. The curse of Coniah lies on the genealogy from Salathiel to Joseph. If our Lord were Coniah's seed, He could not be the Messiah.

It is the evident intention of this genealogy to lead us into a grave dilemma. The Messiah must be the Son of David, yet He must not be of Coniah's accursed seed. His honors must come through the male line, yet it was a dishonor to be of Coniah's descent. Joseph could carry the honors to his son, but he must carry the curse to his seed. Hence Messiah could not be his seed, though he must be his son.

The great spiritual lessons of this genealogy may be said to be found in the names that are not there. Ishmael, Esau, Er, Saul, the first king of Israel, Amnon, David's firstborn son, and, as we have seen, Ahaziah, Joash, and Amaziah, the third and fourth generation of idolatrous Joram, as well as Jehoahaz and Jehoiakim, who transgressed the first commandment. Beginning with the father of the faithful, it is the line of faith, in which the flesh is constantly at a discount.

Ishmael was the firstborn of Abraham's flesh. But he was rejected, and, Isaac, who was born after the spirit, and is a type of Him Whose generation was even more miraculous, took his place.

Esau was Jacob's elder brother, yet he, too, was set aside for lack of faith. Of Judah's sons, both Er and Zarah give place to Phares. Even David was the least in his father's house, so that his father did not consider him at all when Samuel sought the one whom God had chosen.

This is the lesson of the line from Abraham to David. The energy of the flesh is a complete failure. It is displaced by the power of faith.

The era of the kingdom was a still more striking exhibition of the complete collapse of the ability of the flesh to generate a king in accord with the counsel of God. Not only were the names of the worst offenders blotted out, but the throne was taken from them and a curse put upon the royal seed.

Nothing could be more futile than to expect Messiah to be born of this line according to the flesh. If Abraham could generate an Ishmael, and David an Amnon, apart from divine interposition, what can we expect of Joseph? But, in his case, there is divine interposition, for Coniah's curse conspires with the infirmity of the flesh to utterly incapacitate him and his seed for the throne of David.

There has been a tendency to limit Coniah's disability to "his days." But, in fact, it extended along the whole line which he heads and the passage is clearly final. Not only was prosperity to avoid him in His days, but no man of his seed should prosper, sitting on the throne of David, and ruling any more in Judah.

It is only as we discern the dilemma created by the genealogy that we fully appreciate the force of the words which immediately follow: "Now the generating of Jesus Christ was thus" (Matt.1: 18). Then we are given full particulars of the manner in which Christ came, which was the only possible way of escaping the curse of Coniah and the infirmity of the flesh. Christ is not a degenerate descendant of Abraham or an ignoble offspring of David, but more than Abraham, and David's Lord as well as David's Son.

Infidels have scoffed at and saints have puzzled over the apparent discrepancy between the number of names in Matthew's genealogy and the formula which divides them into three groups of fourteen generations each. With characteristic western prejudice, we imagine that such a list must necessarily consist of thrice fourteen names. It is generally supposed that the "error" is at the end of the list, so that one more generation would correct it. But the real difficulty for us is in the first group of fourteen generations.

As the first fourteen generations are "from" Abraham we must begin the list with his name. And as the next fourteen are "from" David, we must also begin the second list with his name. But this leaves only thirteen generations from Abraham up to David. There can be no question of the correctness of these generations, for they are found, not only in Matthew, but in Luke, and are confirmed by the Hebrew records. There was (1) Abraham, (2) Isaac, (3) Jacob, (4) Judas, (5) Phares, (6) Esrom, (7) Aram, (8) Aminadab, (9) Naasson, (10) Salmon, (11) Boaz, (12) Obed, (13) Jesse--only thirteen generations, unless we include David.

The solution is most simple. It lies in the different modes of thought, especially in computation, between the Hebrews and ourselves. Their method was to string the fourteens together like the links of a chain which necessarily double at their points of contact. It is most appropriate that David's one generation should be counted twice and thus brought into the greatest prominence. It is not that he is counted once as a lay member of the first fourteen generations and then later as a royal member of the second list. Nor his reign divided and a part assigned to each. His generation can be but one. But, in the formula which follows, it is doubled because it is the last of one as well as the first of the succeeding group.

But, some may suggest, if this is the case, why was it not repeated where the second and third groups come together? Why is not Jechoniah counted twice, as well as David?

As a matter of fact the same method is used, but, such is the wisdom of God that the spiritual values are maintained, instead of being upset by the repetition of the name of Coniah. Note carefully how this is done. The overlapping link is not the name of a man but an event. The exile into Babylon ends the second list and also begins the third. It is counted twice, just as David's generation was counted twice.

By changing the link from a man to an event, no generation is doubled, but, rather, some are omitted. The link is broken at this point. Kings there are in plenty, but none whose name is worthy of repetition. Jehoahaz and Jehoiakim (or Eliakim) were both sons of Josiah and reigned as vassals of a foreign power. The latter was guilty of cutting the word of the Lord in pieces and casting it into the fire (Jer.36:9-32).

Moreover, though Jeconiah reigned three months in Jerusalem (2 Kings 24:8), he too, is stricken from the roll of kings, for he did that which was evil in the sight of Jehovah, according to all that his father had done. So that there are altogether six names lacking from the list of kings. There were, in fact, twenty kings, in two groups of ten each. The first seven names of each group are counted, the last three are blotted out. To show this more clearly we give a list of them, putting the unworthy ones in square brackets:

The Twenty Generations of the Kings of Judah

1. David 1. Ozias (Uzziah or Azariah)
2. Solomon 2. Joatham (Jotham)
3. Roboam (Rehoboam) 3. Achaz (Ahaz)
4. Abijah (Abia) 4. Hezekiah
5. Asaph (Asa) 5. Manasseh
6. Josaphat (Jehoshaphat) 6. Amos
7. Joram (Jehoram) 7. Josiah
            [Ahaziah]             [Jehoahaz]
            [Joash]             [Jehoiakim]
            [Amaziah]             [Jechoniah (or Jehoiachin)]

Josiah, the last good king in Israel, is the fourteenth from David. Hence it is a mistake to include Jechoniah in the royal generations. He is the head of a new group which can transmit the royal rights but is impotent to provide an heir to the throne. The devout student will revel in the inimitable wisdom hidden in the very wording of the formula in Matthew. It is only another illustration of the great truth that the solution of such difficulties lies, not in going far afield for explanations, or altering the record, but in an intense devotion to the minutes detail indicted by the spirit.

A similar disability may be seen in the case of David's progenitors as far back as Phares. The law declared that an illegitimate child should not enter into the congregation of the Lord, even to the tenth generation (Deut.23:2). This would exclude Phares, Esrom, Aram, Aminadab, Naason, Salmon, Boaz, Obed, and Jesse. David and his brothers were the first of his line for a long period who could enter into the congregation. Here the prohibition is limited to the tenth generation, but in the case of Coniah there is no limit.

It is sometimes supposed that, if the special and detailed accounts of our Lord's generation were proven to be spurious, the virgin birth would go with them. It must be acknowledged that the recitals of both Matthew and Luke are as well authenticated, for all practical purposes, as any portion of the sacred text. No edition or editor that we have ever heard of even suggests their removal. It is not worth while to go into details, the evidence is so complete and overwhelming.

Yet even if every direct statement in these accounts were to vanish, the genealogy alone would be sufficient proof to the spiritual mind that He was indeed Immanuel. If He were Joseph's child He would be of Coniah's accursed seed. He could not prosper on the throne of David or rule in Judah. So that the genealogy of Matthew introduces a dilemma which can only be solved by the ensuing narrative of the virgin birth. Take out the divine begettal and the rest of the book is worthless, the claims of its Christ are false and the promises of the kingdom futile.

If he is Coniah's seed, no change in his character or filling of the spirit can counteract the curse that rests upon his royal aspirations. As such he would be the last and least of a degenerate line, which has proved nothing so clearly as their incapacity to govern the holy nation.

But enough of this! He is of the seed of David, through Mary, His mother, but He is not of the seed of Coniah. But His royal rights are not based on this. They are built on the fact that He is the Son of David and Jechoniah and Joseph and inherits all their royal honors without their moral disabilities.

Part Three


THE SECOND MAN is the Lord out of heaven (1 Cor.15:47). In God's reckoning there are only two men, neither of whom came by the usual method of generation. It is not necessary to have a man for a father to be human. That would prove that Adam, who has the best claim to the name, was not human! He had neither father nor mother. It is quite conceivable that God could have taken some celestial spirit and clothed it with a form of earth and so begun the human race. But that was not His way. The first man was out of the earth, soilish. But the second Man came from above.

Man is created in the image of Elohim (Gen.1:27). He is not an isolated, unrelated creation, different from every other form of life in the universe. He is a copy of the Creator Himself. His present low estate is not essential to his humanity. He is made some whit inferior to the messengers, but all creation shall yet be placed underneath his feet (Heb.2:6,7). He will be next to the Creator in rank. As Adam had a son after his image (Gen.5:3), so man is made in the image of Elohim.

Moreover, Christ is the Image of the invisible God (Col.1:15; 2 Cor.4:4). He is the Elohim of the Hebrew Scriptures, for an Image is known by the name of the Original. Hence we read in the Psalms (45:6,7; see Heb.1:8):

Thy throne, O Elohim, is for the eon of the eon
And a scepter of rectitude is the scepter of Thy kingdom;
Thou lovest righteousness and hatest injustice,
Therefore Elohim, Thy Elohim, anoints Thee with the oil of exultation beyond Thy partners."

Here we find the invisible God calling His Image by His own name. We have no hesitancy, then, in applying the divine title Elohim to both the Father and the Son. If, then, Christ is Elohim, and man was made in the image of Elohim, there must be a close and vital likeness between them. The image of Caesar, whether stamped on clay or the most fine gold, would not be mistaken for another. Hence we conclude that Christ was the Pattern after which man was made. He was Adam's Companion in the garden. All creation affords no creature as close to humanity as Elohim.

In the early history of the race it is probable that there was unlawful intercourse between the daughters of men and the sons of Elohim (Gen.6:4). As a result there were monstrous hybrids in the earth, whose fame has come down to us in the myths and legends of antiquity. They were human, and probably greatly superior to most men in physical prowess and stature. These messengers, after they had left their own habitation (see 2 Cor.5:2), were sufficiently akin to mankind to mingle with the race, but left a progeny unnatural and debased because they had broken down the barriers which separated them from humankind. They were Satan's travesty on the virgin birth.

The point we wish to press is this: Christ, before His incarnation, was so closely akin to mankind, that His union with the race broke down no divine barriers, produced no mongrel monstrosity, no half-human, half-angelic hybrid, such as corrupted the race of old, but brought into the world a Being more intensely human than even Adam at his creation. Adam, though real, was not ideal. As the Hebrew puts it, he was created to be made (Gen.2:3, "created to make"). He was morally crude, unfinished, the raw material for God's further workmanship.

Christ is the last Adam (1 Cor.15:45). If humanity were complete in the first Adam, what need for Another? And if Christ is simply a descendant of the first, how can He, in any sense, head a new humanity? The virgin birth does not deny the real humanity of Christ but affirms His ideal humanity: He is not merely a man, but the Man--humanity raised to its highest power and fullest perfection.

In accord with the character of Luke's account, he traces the line of our Lord through Mary, His mother, to its source in Adam and God. Christ is presented as the seed of the woman (Gen.3:15), the Saviour of Mankind. Twice the male line fails and the pedigree flows through a female. Both Neri and Heli were without male issue, and, in both these instances the line is merged in the royal line of Joseph.

Every step in Luke's genealogy is a lesson in the frailty and insufficiency of mankind. This is especially marked at the beginning. We cannot go back to Adam without involving ourselves in sin and death. Through him sin not only entered into the world and death by sin, but it passed on to all his posterity so that all sinned. If we were called upon to give a list of sinners, we could copy every name in the genealogy from Adam down--until the last.

Here was a Man Whose ancestry consists of over seventy sinners, and He is not merely sinless, but holy, undefiled, separated from sinners. If there had been but one of like character in His ancestors, or another like Him among all mankind, we might not be so positive. But it is absolutely irrational to expect and impossible to believe that the Sinless One came forth from sinners such as these. Hence, at the very beginning the promised One is not the seed of Adam, but the seed of the woman (Gen.3:15).

Adam and Eve hoped to have Him when their first-born, Cain, was born. Hence Eve said, "I have acquired a man, Jehovah." So she called him Cain, that is, "Acquired." Here was the promised Seed, Who would bruise the serpent's head! The fact that he was Adam's seed did not seem any hindrance to her. We do not need to be informed how unfounded was her faith and how terribly Cain attested the fact that he was not the woman's promised Seed. He was the seed of Adam. Need we any further proof that all of Adam's race are slaves of sin and utterly unable to save themselves, far less others, from its effects?

When the promise was expanded in Abraham, we are once more reminded that it is not in the power of the flesh to gender the promised Seed. Abraham may implore, "O that Ishmael might live before Thee!" (Gen.17:18), but God insists that "In Isaac shall thy seed be called." The lesson is repeated in the succeeding generation. Esau was the line of the flesh, Jacob the line of faith. Jesse's seven sons are all rejected by the Lord and the line of promise runs through the last and least, one who was, indeed, not counted among his seed, so that he was not even presented before Samuel. David's eldest son Amnon was a true companion of Cain.

A comparison of Luke's line with Matthew's genealogy shows that, in two cases, Neri and Heli, the male line died out. Neri was succeeded by Salathiel his adopted son as well as son-in-law. Heli likewise had no male issue to carry on his line, so it fell to Joseph the husband of his daughter Mary, the mother of our Lord. This speaks volumes to the hearing ear. It teaches us that we are here concerned with the seed of the woman, not the seed of the man. The male line is twice dead, doubly impotent.

Look down the long line of His ancestors in Luke. Which one would you choose to play the part of the second Man? Where is the seed of the woman who should crush the serpent's head? David is, perhaps, the most likely one, but if we should expose his history in connection with Bathsheba, the mother of Nathan, the next in line (1 Chron.3:5), his fitness would vanish. Of course, we could not consider such names as Phares, or Jacob, or Noah, because we know of their delinquencies.

Nor need we stop to prove that all were sinners, for no one would care to gainsay it. If Messiah was born of such ancestors, how can He be sinless? If He is born in their likeness, how can He save others?

It is full of significance that the lines of Solomon and David unite again in the descendants of Jechoniah. Salathiel's name, occurring in both genealogies, informs us of the physical failure of Nathan's line, so that the descent was confined to the spiritually accursed sons of Jechoniah.

Luke carefully guards against the idea of direct descent. Not only is Joseph said to be of Heli, rather than of his begetter Jacob, as in Matthew's genealogy, but Adam is of God. Now we know that Adam was not generated but created by God. In Luke, then, the relation is not necessarily that of nature, but of law. Joseph was the son (in law) of Heli, who was Mary's father, but without sons of his own.

In confirmation of this, Luke carefully explains that Jesus Himself began to be about thirty years of age, being as to the law hoos enomizetoo--literally, AS WAS-LAWizED), son of Joseph. Immediately before this He is emphatically declared to be the Son of God (Luke 3:22). If He is the Son of God, how can He also be the Son of Joseph? Because Joseph is the husband of Mary, His mother. And therefore the genealogy follows her pedigree, not his. As He was no child of Joseph, so Joseph was no child of Heli. All of this points to the fact that He was not a child of Adam. He is the seed of the woman, not of the man.

Though not vital to our present inquiry, it may be well to suggest a few thoughts on some of the supposed difficulties in this genealogy. Unlike Matthew's account, the critics do not claim that anyone has been omitted but seem to think there are too many names to correspond with Matthew's list. A real investigator would expect a reasonable variation in the number of names in the two lines, and would look upon minor differences as an indication that the lists have not been tampered with in order to produce an artificial similarity.

The second Cainan is particularly objected to, as his name does not occur in the Hebrew texts which we have today. A very strong, yet inconclusive case can be made against the retention of his name in this list. An equally interesting case can be made for it, based on the numeric harmonies. It is very suggestive and interesting to note that, with the second Cainan, the genealogy consists of seventy-seven names. This number really proves nothing, but, so long as the evidence is so inconclusive, a numeral of such striking characteristics has its appeal, and our instinctive sense of harmony may be a safer guide than elaborate reasoning on slender and doubtful premises. The subject of the true text of the Hebrew Scriptures is a very difficult one, because the Greek translation is much older than any Hebrew manuscript and may preserve much that was lost or changed before the Massorah was formed. The chronology of the Septuagint adds a hundred years to the lives of most of the patriarchs. We have thought best to retain the second Cainan.

Furthermore, if we should write a full list of the names in this genealogy, and strike out all who are found in Matthew's account, we should get three groups of exactly twenty names each. As the life of our Lord is not counted in Matthew, and Mary here takes the place of Joseph, the seeming lack of two names in the first group is really indirect evidence of the difference between the two records. If Luke's line came through Joseph and ended with Christ's birth, we could hardly count His name and His mother's. As it is, the fact that the variations of Luke fall into three distinct groups of precisely the same numerical length makes it difficult to deny the presence of design, and suggests great caution in cutting out the name of the second Cainan or Rhesa or any other. We subjoin the three groups:

1. JESUS 1. Neri 1. Thara
2. [Mary] 2. Melchi  2. Nachor
3. Heli 3. Addi 3. Seruch
4. Matthat 4. Cosam 4. Ragau
5. Levi 5. Elmadan 5. Phalec
6. Melchi 6. Er 6. Eber
7. Jannai 7. Jesus 7. Sala
8. Joseph 8. Eliezer  8. Cainan
9. Mattathias 9. Jorim 9. Arphaxad
10. Amos 10. Matthat 10. Shem
11. Nahum 11. Levi  11. Noah
12. Esli 12. Simeon  12. Lamech
13. Naggai 13. Judas 13. Methuselah
14. Maath 14. Joseph 14. Enoch
15. Mattathias 15. Jonam 15. Jared
16. Semein 16. Eliakim 16. Maleleel
17. Joseph 17. Melea 17. Cainan
18. Joda 18. Menna 18. Enos
19. Joanan  19. Mattatha 19. Seth
20. Rhesa 20. Nathan 20. Adam
Zerubbabel and
Salathiel are in
From David to
Abraham is in
Making three
groups of twenty

names each


Zerubbabel is sometimes confused with another of the same name, who was the son of Pedaiah, a brother of Salathiel (1 Chron. 3:19). Zerubbabel is called the son of Shealtiel, the Hebrew for Salathiel, nine times in the Hebrew Scriptures (Ezra 3:2,8; 5:2; Neh.12:1; Haggai 1:1,12,14; 2:2,23) as well as in the apocrypha and Josephus. Indeed, we wonder why the name of his father is added so often until we see the necessity of keeping him distinct from his cousin. Moreover, Zerubbabel the son of Pedaiah had several sons, but none of them are named Abiud or Rhesa. Zerubbabel means "born in Babylon," and it is not strange that more than one man was called by that name during the captivity.

Some who object to the virgin birth do so on "scientific" grounds. That is, they object to it as contrary to the ordinary course of nature, and seek to convey the impression that everything supernatural is also unscientific. Nothing could be further from true science and sound reason. On the contrary, altogether apart from the special accounts of our Lord's birth, its supernatural nature could easily he established by reasoning from the established principles of science.

Most of the popular science of today consists of the unburied corpses of the dead theories of yesterday. All the latest advances in science have confuted its own immature conclusions and have vindicated the Scriptures. The one-time "scientific" dictum that matter in its present state is eternal has been absolutely disproven since radio-activity has been studied. Matter is disintegrating. Creation is as indelibly impressed on nature as on revelation.

Time was when scientists thought they could originate new species by juggling with plants and animals. Like the inventor of a perpetual motion machine, they tried to deceive themselves into thinking that they could get effects quite independent of causes. They managed to get some startling results, but an analysis always proved that they simply brought to the surface what was within. Thousands of experimenters and millions of experiments have made it a scientific axiom that no living creature possesses a single quality which was not latent in its parents.

For many years the evolutionists tried to prove that "natural selection" or "the struggle for existence" improved living creatures, and that they passed these advances on to their offspring. But every experiment showed that parental experiences or "acquired characters" were not transmitted. Mendel showed that variations in offspring were due to latent properties in parents, not to the effect of environment. There is no law in science more settled than that the parent can pass on to its offspring only the elements and properties which it possesses itself.

According to the unscientific evolutionary hypothesis, the lines in Luke and Matthew should show a constant upward progression. As each ancestor improved his own character he would pass on his added qualities to the next in line, and so on, until perfection is attained in the Christ. The folly of this is so apparent that it need not be answered. The line did not progress or retrograde according to any known natural law, unless there was a slight constant physical deterioration as indicated by the lowering average of the length of life.

But there were at least three crises in which a very notable elevation in character is apparent. Abraham, David and Zerubbabel stand at the three points where these genealogies converge. And, beyond all question, these men stand far above the rest in likeness to their Lord and Son. It is highly scientific to ask, Whence came this moral rejuvenation, this spiritual energy, which made them so superior to the rest?

It is very evident that Abraham's faith was not inherited from Terah. In fact, if we will but read between the lines we will see that Abraham was detained by Terah in Haran, so that he did not obey the call of God fully until his father was dead. Terah was a hindrance to Abraham. The only possible scientific explanation of Abraham's life and faith lies in the direct interposition of God, Who appeared to him and made him what he was.

The same is true of David. He was one of many brothers. If his character was the natural result of heredity we should have had at least seven others in Israel at that same time who could rule and write as well as he. Yet we hardly hear about his brothers. Again we say, it is most unscientific to suppose that so rich a character and such a surpassing genius could be a natural product of his progenitors. There must be a cause. Only the spirit of God is sufficient to account for his character or his work.

Even if Christ were the immediate Son of Abraham or David it would not account for His inimitable life. Abraham had a son, Ishmael. Did he have even a measure of his father's most generous enduement of faith? David's older sons were not fit to follow him on his throne. Solomon is a reminder of David's sin. Was Solomon's wisdom perpetuated in his line? His son was so foolish that he lost most of the kingdom at the very threshold of his reign.

The lesson of all this is lost upon us if we imagine that there is the slightest possibility that Christ could come from this line apart from divine interposition. Visions of God might make Him a second Abraham, the spirit might make Him a second David, but there is an infinite gulf between Him and His most honored progenitors. Abraham failed in his strongest quality, David's sin is a by-word to this day, but who will convict their greater Son of a single wrong thought or word or deed?

It is a great deal less of a strain on our mental faculties to imagine a world "jus' grow," like Topsy, than to evolve the Christ from the sad succession of sinners who have the high honor of a place in His genealogy. In one case we have neutral nothingness, in the other the positive presence of sin. Sinlessness is a quality entirely absent from the Adamic race. No merely human being has been or ever can be born without its taint. Its absence alone, without the marvelous powers which proved Him superhuman, are proof positive of a sin-repelling Parentage.

Pure reason could find enough evidence in the world today to postulate the presence of the Perfect One as the necessary Cause of the transforming power which His life and death has had upon the slaves of sin. But it could not stop there. It would not be satisfied until it found in God, the great Cause of all, the sufficient and only explanation for His character and accomplishments. If God was not His Father, He is nothing but a myth.

To those who accept the plain statements given us in the Scriptures concerning the generation of Jesus Christ our Lord, there is no need to prove that He was begotten by God and had no human father. Such assertions as are found in Matthew 1:18,19, 20,25, and in Luke 1:34,35 cannot be misunderstood. These passages are as well authenticated as any portion of the text, and to reject them would logically involve the rejection of the whole canon of Scripture. Moreover, scores of passages, throughout the subsequent parts of Scripture, confirm the great truth that the second Man is the Lord from heaven.

Our Lord Himself silenced those who refused to acknowledge His divinity by a simple question. He said to the Pharisees, "What is your supposition concerning Christ? Whose Son is He?" They said to Him "Of David." Then He asked them, "How then is David, in spirit, calling Him Lord, saying

"The Lord said to My Lord
`Be sitting at My right,
Till I should be placing
Thy enemies underneath Thy feet?'"

"If, then, David is calling Him Lord, how is He his Son?"

It is significantly added that no one was able to answer a word, neither dared to inquire of Him from that day (Matt.22:41- 45). David knew that the Messiah was not merely his Son but his Lord. If any explanation of this could be offered which does not involve His divinity, the Pharisees would have found it, for they were far better equipped to meet His words than any of their followers in these degenerate days.

When our Lord told the Jews that Abraham was acquainted with His day, they said, "You are not yet fifty years, and you have seen Abraham!" He replied, "Verily, verily, I am saying to you, ere Abraham came into being, I am" (John 8:56-59). So that He is not merely the Son of Abraham, but was before him. The Jews would not seek to stone Him for any claim less than divinity.

We have already seen that He was the Elohim in Whose image Adam was formed. So that He is before and above the three greatest characters of the Hebrew revelation. Adam, Abraham and David bow before Him and acknowledge Him first in time as well as place. But, as usual, it is to Paul's epistles we must turn for the clearest light. There we find that He subsisted in the form of God, and, before He could come in the likeness of humanity, He must empty Himself. No other man subsisted before in any form. No other man emptied himself. He was the Lord from heaven.

We shall never know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ unless we realize somewhat of the riches which He relinquished for our sakes. When He was on earth He was the poorest of the poor. He was dependent on His friends for His food. His very clothes were forfeited to the soldiers who crucified Him. But the grace of it is hid from us unless we know that He is the Owner of all. He was rich. Because of us He became poor that we, through His poverty, should be rich. We rob ourselves, as well as Him, of wealth immeasurable when we deny His divinity.

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