THE TWO GENEALOGIES OF OUR LORD
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
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
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
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.
A COMPARISON OF THE GENEALOGIES OF OUR LORD
||JESUS, THE CHRIST
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
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.
THE CURSE OF CONIAH
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!
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
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
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. Ozias (Uzziah or Azariah)
||2. Joatham (Jotham)
|3. Roboam (Rehoboam)
||3. Achaz (Ahaz)
|4. Abijah (Abia)
|5. Asaph (Asa)
|6. Josaphat (Jehoshaphat)
|7. Joram (Jehoram)
[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
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.
THE SECOND MAN
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
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
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
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
Salathiel are in
|From David to
Abraham is in
groups of twenty
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
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
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.