Beyond Tradition

The She Seed

 by Sean D. Harmon


We pretty much established the fact that the virgin birth was not a myth creation, as per what I covered in previous articles (starting here: Jesus Christmas). However, the explanation for the reason behind the virgin birth can also play an important factor here in determining either the motive behind it or its genuineness. Since we don't find the reason for the virgin birth in the Nativity story itself, or first century Christian commentary about the theology of it (one among many important factors supporting it's legitimacy, as noted in that article) Christians have reached for various interpretations to explain the necessity of it, and some of these explanations are so convoluted they've probably served as the greatest raison d'etre for some of the skepticism surrounding it. Bear with me for a moment, because we're going to dwell in some heavy theology.

 
The Adamic curse

One of the popular theological explanations was that it was used by God to avoid the corrupt nature or curse that inherently plagued mankind as a result of Adam's fall when he sent his Son to be born of flesh. In other words, for Christ to have remained pure from sin, he had to somehow bypass Adam's cursed ascendancy. This argument is extremely speculative because no one knows how deep this "curse" was/is, whether it was just spiritual, whether it was physical or a combination of both, and if either the latter is true, just where that curse actually exists (is it biological, is it in our genes, our DNA, etc?). Theologians who hold this view often refer to what Paul said in his Romans letter…

 
Romans 5:12 "Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned…"

 
However, not only is this theory of an Adamic curse unprovable, and not only does it not make any sense, but doesn't seem to explain Paul declaring that it "entered into the world," as opposed to just entering into Adam's "seed" or his male gene. Moreover, Paul also used the generalized Greek word anthropos for "men," which denotes mankind in a general human being sense, as opposed to men specifically. Further passages from Paul also starkly contradict this theology…


Romans 3:23: "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."

 
Galatians 3:22: "But the Scripture has shut up everyone under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe." 

Titus 2:14: "And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression."

 
This makes it clear that women were just as much under this curse (whatever the curse was/is) as men were, thus Mary (despite later iconic adoration of her as a deified sinless saint) needed the same grace and salvation that theologians argue mankind in general needs as a result of their cursed and sinful nature. So, by this reasoning, Jesus should have never been born at all, but formed from the dust as Adam was, or simply descended out of the sky already created in the same way he left afterwards, which of course dangerously leans towards ideas of docetism or other vague doctrine that was deemed heretical.[1] This supposed Adamic curse is also found nowhere else in the teachings of any of the canon epistle writers who had every opportunity to mention it (see Romans 3:19-23, 5:14-21, 7:14-25; 1 Corinthians 15:45-48; Galatians 3:13; 1 Peter 2:21-25). Others suppose that the Adamic curse is passed on reproductively between a man and a woman or: "like produces like," thus Jesus had to specifically avoid a reproductive curse which comes about through a human union. Whether this theology holds any weight or not, this shaky and abstract explanation not only can not be proven, but would be lost even on most Christians, let alone anyone else.

 
Immanuel

Another explanation was so that Jesus fulfilled Isaiah's promise about a virgin who would conceive a son named Immanuel (God with us) (Isaiah 7:14) (discussed here: Jesus Christmas, The virgin controversy). Though I don't deny this, this passage is highly controversial and has been susceptible to a slew of repudiation by opposing skeptics. Whether Isaiah intended his passage to be a future prophecy about a virgin born child or not, it's more likely that Matthew took it upon himself and presented a deeper theological meaning to the Isaiah passage; and the fact that the passage in the Septuagint uses the Greek word parthenos, which definitively translates as "virgin," this could be seen as just a stark coincidence that happened to work in Matthew's favor. None of the Judeo-Christian writers acknowledged the passage in Isaiah other than Matthew, and neither the ancient skeptics then, nor the skeptics of today, secular or Jewish, specifically accepted Isaiah's announcement as pertaining to a virgin birth. Though I personally believe it did, the issue has become rife with debate, and whether it did or not is beside the point, because it would certainly seem more conceivable that God would have presented more of a definitive sign that was not as questionable or easily disputed.

 
The God-man

That the story served as a sign of Jesus' dual God/human nature is another explanation, arguably backed by John's identification of Jesus' preexistence as the incarnated logos in the beginning of his gospel (John 1:1-14). This is probably also the primary factor that has fueled the decries of "myth influence" often heard from skeptics because trying to tie the figure of worship and adoration to the immortal realm via his origins was quite common with the demigods of mystery religions. Even John's Logos theology doesn't completely justify the necessity of a virgin birth, because after all, Jesus being the result of a normal human union certainly would not nullify God's control over the birth itself (see Genesis 29:31-32, Judges 13:5; Job 31:15; Isaiah 44:2; Jeremiah 1:5). Of course, there is no reason for a theologian to deny Jesus' divinity, particularly when Luke (1:35) undeniably confirms this. But if God really wanted to use the virgin birth itself as a sign to illustrate Jesus' divinity, once again, he could have used a method that was more pronounced and less susceptible to arguments against it, particularly from the perspective of a Jewish culture that considered esoteric ideas of deified men born of immortal women an anathema to their laws and belief systems; belief systems that were rooted in specific criteria God had given them against such notions in the first place. Again, whether Jesus had been born miraculously or from a human union still would not have taken anything away from his deity or the ability of God to "fashion" him within the womb even if natural reproductive processes was the end result.

King Jeconiah's curse

The seemingly most contradictory and complicated puzzle about the virgin birth to try and solve is Jesus' genealogies, and since it was part of the virgin story paradigm, it might serve as one of the reasons early Christians avoided the story altogether. As we discussed in another article (here: Vain Genealogies), genealogical records were critical to the Jewish culture, serving as the only way to determine kingly or priestly birthrights, inheritance rights and legitimacy. One thing that is universally agreed between Jews and Christians is that the Messiah would come from the bloodline of David (see Isaiah 11:1-10; Jeremiah 30:8-9; Ezekiel 34:22-25; 37:24-25; Hosea 3:4-5). The only problem is that the Davidic Judah line -- the royal line -- well before the turn of the Common Era, became corrupt with royal scoundrels, and this continued down the line of a succession of evil Jewish kings (some obviously more than others), such as:

 

 

So, God got fed up and finally cursed Jeconiah (Coniah or Jehoiachin) not only with his defeat at the hands of the Babylonians, but denied him a child to carry on his royal legacy through Solomon's royal line after his death…

 

Jeremiah 22:24-30 "'As I live,' declares the LORD, 'even though Coniah the son of Jehoiakim king of Judah were a signet ring on My right hand, yet I would pull you off; and I will give you over into the hand of those who are seeking your life, yes, into the hand of those whom you dread, even into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and into the hand of the Chaldeans. I will hurl you and your mother who bore you into another country where you were not born, and there you will die. But as for the land to which they desire to return, they will not return to it.' Is this man Coniah a despised, shattered jar? Or is he an undesirable vessel? Why have he and his descendants been hurled out and cast into a land that they had not known? O land, land, land, hear the word of the LORD! Thus says the LORD, 'Write this man down childless, a man who will not prosper in his days; for no man of his descendants will prosper sitting on the throne of David or ruling again in Judah.'"

 

This happened when Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, sieged Jerusalem in 597 BCE (2 Chronicles 36:9-10) and dragged Jeconiah and his sons to Babylon into captivity. Since God explicitly declared that Messiah would come from David's line, this presented a problem because it narrowed the selection God could use to fulfill this promise, which takes us to the two genealogies of Jesus in Matthew and Luke:

Matthew 1:1-17:                                                                                   Luke 3:23-38:

The record of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham:

Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers.

Judah was the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, Perez was the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram.

Ram was the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon.

Salmon was the father of Boaz by Rahab, Boaz was the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse.

Jesse was the father of David the king. David was the father of Solomon by Bathsheba who had been the wife of Uriah.

Solomon was the father of Rehoboam, Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asa.

Asa was the father of Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah.

Uzziah was the father of Jotham, Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah.

Hezekiah was the father of Manasseh, Manasseh the father of Amon, and Amon the father of Josiah.

Josiah became the father of Jeconiah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.

After the deportation to Babylon: Jeconiah became the father of Shealtiel, and Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel.

Zerubbabel was the father of Abihud, Abihud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor.

Azor was the father of Zadok, Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud.

Eliud was the father of Eleazar, Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob.

Jacob was the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, by whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah.

So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; from David to the deportation to Babylon, fourteen generations; and from the deportation to Babylon to the Messiah, fourteen generations.

When He began His ministry, Jesus Himself was about thirty years of age, being, as was supposed, the son of Joseph, the son of Eli,

the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Melchi, the son of Jannai, the son of Joseph,

the son of Mattathias, the son of Amos, the son of Nahum, the son of Hesli, the son of Naggai,

the son of Maath, the son of Mattathias, the son of Semein, the son of Josech, the son of Joda,

the son of Joanan, the son of Rhesa, the son of Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel, the son of Neri,

the son of Melchi, the son of Addi, the son of Cosam, the son of Elmadam, the son of Er,

the son of Joshua, the son of Eliezer, the son of Jorim, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi,

the son of Simeon, the son of Judah, the son of Joseph, the son of Jonam, the son of Eliakim,

the son of Melea, the son of Menna, the son of Mattatha, the son of Nathan, the son of David,

the son of Jesse, the son of Obed, the son of Boaz, the son of Salmon, the son of Nahshon,

the son of Amminadab, the son of Admin, the son of Ram, the son of Hezron, the son of Perez, the son of Judah,

the son of Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham, the son of Terah, the son of Nahor,

the son of Serug, the son of Reu, the son of Peleg, the son of Heber, the son of Shelah,

the son of Cainan, the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem, the son of Noah, the son of Lamech,

the son of Methuselah, the son of Enoch, the son of Jared, the son of Mahalaleel, the son of Cainan,

the son of Enosh, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.

 

 

Luke traces Jesus' heritage all the way back to Adam, while Matthew traces it to Abraham in reverse, and explanations for this is most likely theologically preferential, so I won't get into these specifics. One of the obvious problems is that Matthew has Joseph as the son of Jacob (green highlight in the two lineages on the chart), while Luke has Joseph the son of Eli (or Heli). Of course, there are about as many arguments against these genealogies (a good deal of which indicate ignorance of Hebraic history) as there are arguments to defend them. The critical view is that the two lines are Joseph's genealogies, thus contradict; without giving it even a second thought or any explanation other than the implication that Matthew and Luke simply made it up, which is highly unlikely (more on that in a bit).

The current consensus among apologists, and the one I find the most plausible, seems to be that they are two different genealogies -- Joseph's genealogy in Matthew; Mary's genealogy in Luke -- therefore Eli is actually Mary's father. Skeptics who argue against this usually point out two things against it:

 

  1. Luke does not specifically state that this is Mary's line instead of Joseph.
  2. The genealogical records of women were not counted, and the bloodline was not carried on by women, thus Luke would not have recorded Mary's father's genealogy since Mary as a woman would nullify this lineage.

 

Number one is simply not true, which I''ll cover in a bit. Why would Luke even bother to list Mary's genealogy if we assume this? Obviously Jesus would not have been connected to the Davidic line by blood through Joseph (assuming Jesus had no human father), and Luke apparently wanted a blood connection. First of all, it's not unusual for Luke not to have indicated pointedly that this was Mary's line, so #2 is sort of a half-truth. No, women were not typically counted in genealogical records (however, Matthew strangely deviated from this tradition -- i.e. Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba -- within his list above), which is a protocol Luke in fact followed. However, there were inheritance clauses in the Old Testament that did in fact make inheritances passed onto daughters acceptable if the father died without a son (see Numbers 27:1-11; Joshua 17:3-6; 1 Chronicles 2:34-36; Ezra 2:61). This would have been a necessity of inheritance preservation in a savage time when not only infant mortality rates were much higher, but in a clan-base male system surrounded by hostile enemy nations that were frequently warring.

However, this still does not mean that Mary would be listed, since she was merely the legal "middle man" that redirected the inheritance to her father down to her son, thus the son would be listed in the genealogy, not necessarily the woman; and this is how it was officially categorized in Luke’s genealogy (from Mary's father to her son). It's also possible that Luke, being Gentile, either didn't know about these Jewish legalities or assumed his Gentile readers didn't know about it, thus all they knew, or cared about, was the direct link Jesus had, therefore, Luke's sole intention was to record the direct bloodline.

In any case, outright invention or embellishment usually isn't hard to argue for the typical critic who presupposes they were fiction artists to begin with, thus it didn't matter whether they contradicted each other. But this is not tenable within the historical framework, particularly when the factual details are analyzed more closely.

Mary's father Eli of the Davidic line?

The evidence against outright invention or embellishment, as well as supporting the possible scenario that Eli is Mary's father is as follows (note: this is some of the earliest evidence, and the most factual, whereas later claims of this tradition are squandered in Medieval legend):

 

  1. Luke not only stated that he had researched things carefully prior to writing his gospel (Luke 1:1-3), but was particular about the facts, thus fabricating genealogies about your contemporaries just wasn't done for obvious reasons, not just because it was unconventional, but because it just wasn't all that smart. Jesus as the "Son of David" was ingrained in oral tradition of the movement from the very beginning (the extensive discussion is here: The Messiah Matrix Part IV; Known to the Gentiles worldwide). As we detailed in another article, firm evidence suggests that Davidic genealogical records were still accessible, at least up to the time of the Roman Emperor Domitian. A first century ossuary was also recently found that had the inscription: "belonging to the house of David" that dates to the first century; and the Talmud (Ta’anit 4:5) declares that the members of the "family of David, of the house of the tribe of Judah" brought wood offerings to the second Temple (discussed here: Vain Genealogies; Genealogies of the first century). So, supposing they fabricated the lineages of a contemporary, or that they were even careless about it is not just question begging but, within this historical context, not that plausible. Considering Jews were sticklers about this issue, and that such a claim of Davidic ascendancy was a very bold and audacious one in this culture, it's extremely difficult if not impossible to suppose no one had an inclination to verify Jesus' Davidic claim (again, that was proclaimed very early in the movement); something the conveyors of this claim themselves were presumably aware of. 
  2. Luke and Matthew would have been doomed because they were writing to readers who could have easily compared their genealogical records to the one recorded in Jewish scripture that everyone had available -- the Old Testament book of Chronicles (1 Chronicles 3:17-19), thus easily discrediting any sort of attempt of a fabrication. Being this would have raised obvious questions since the genealogical records in each account contain different information, it seems logical that they had access to public records their readers also had access to or were at least privy to the fact that they were recording additional fathers and sons that were not recorded in Chronicles.
  3. Error is one thing, but outright fabrication or embellishment is even less likely in light of the previous two points, but most of all, because it runs in stark contrast to the patterns against fiction artists or embellishers, particularly of this caliber, which I established in another article (here: The Evangelists). This is also in addition to other elements that work against blatant invention of the entire virgin birth story itself (discussed here: Jesus Christmas; Church collusion).
  4. Luke was clearly intent on establishing the "seed" (his use of the Greek word sperma -- the direct connotation of offspring -- translated as "descendants" makes this obvious) or the direct line that was promised to Abraham and her fathers before him (Luke 1:54-55). He indeed traced it back to Adam (Luke 3:38), establishing an unbroken bloodline from the very beginning. Also, Luke not only told intimate details of the family, which is indicative of personal contact with the family, but told the entire story from Mary's perspective, whereas Matthew told it from Joseph's, so it might stand to reason that Luke would record Mary's ancestry, and Matthew Joseph's.
  5. Luke was obviously proving Jesus was the Son of David or a descendant of David (Luke 1:32-33). Stating he was the "supposed" son of Joseph (2:23) would have been a rather odd thing for Luke to claim if we assume he was actually recording Joseph's genealogy, because his Gentile readers would have been left with a conundrum of why Luke listed Joseph's genealogy and how Jesus was a descendent of David as a result.
  6. It is clear from the beginning of his work that Luke's intent is to prove that Jesus is the Jewish Messiah (Luke 1:32-33, 1:46-55, 2:21-24). There are two issues here if his readers assumed he was recording the genealogy of Joseph: 1) since he had no biological father, his readers were left wondering how he was a legal Jew by blood if we they didn't know what lineage Mary descended from; 2) in Roman law,[3] the child's nationality was identified through the mother when the father's involvement could not be confirmed. Because of these two points, if Luke was not recording Mary's lineage, this implied Jesus was illegitimate or his nationality uncertain, or even a non-Jew according to Roman law.
  7. The Protevangelium of James, a second century apocryphal work, indicates that Mary was of the family of David (section 10); and though not much factual weight should be given to the actual story itself -- being a possible fictional rendition of Luke's version of Zacharias and Elisabeth -- as well as connotations of Mary's perpetual virginity legend being expressed in this later work, it's interesting to note the highlight of Mary's Davidic bloodline being expressed in a written work as early as the second century. Also, the father of Mary in the legend is named Joachim (or Joakim), which has a similar Jewish name rendition with Eliakim (Eli), such as in the second book of Kings where Pharaoh changes the name of Josiah's son Eliakim to Jehoiakim (2 Kings 23:34).    
  8. Paul declared that Jesus was "born of a woman, born under the law" (Galatians 4:4), which was rather redundant and unnecessary to proclaim since everyone had a mother and every Jew was born under the law, something the Galatians, who were Christian, certainly would have already known about Jesus. "Born under the law" was all that was required to get Paul's point across which, in the context of what he was arguing, was based on being freed from the law (Galatians 4). Paul was apparently expressing a distinct ancestry that was based on a woman (Mary) that they were aware of that qualified Jesus as the Messiah and Savior; a "descendant of David" that Paul also acknowledged elsewhere in his letters (Romans 1:3).

 

The only thing that complicates this argument -- if it can really be viewed as a complication -- is that we must assume Mary's father had no sons in order to meet the qualification specified in Numbers (27:1-11), otherwise, Mary's brothers would have gotten the inheritance from Eli, which would have passed down to their sons instead. We know that Mary had a sister also named Mary according to John (19:25), yet no record mentions she had any brothers, so we're essentially weighing the previous evidence we stated alongside the reliability of an argument from silence (the gospels mentioned no bothers she had). However, in the Papias fragment called From the Exposition of the Oracles of the Lord, where Papias mentions that Mary had a sister with the name Mary, wife of Alpaeus, who John identified as Clopus (practically identical to Papias' Cleophus), Papias does not mention she had a brother.[5] Of course, this too has a limited context and could merely be a place where Papias was just sorting out the different Mary's in scripture so as to clear up the confusion with these four women. Basically, it is an argument from silence, although I should note that there is nowhere in even early legend that indicates Mary had a brother.

 

Royal line or "seed" line?

It probably also should be noted here that the universal certainty was that the Messiah would come from the "seed" of David, and that fact would never change among the Jews (Psalm 89:34-37). However, contrary to the claims of some, this did not strictly mean he had to come from any particular Davidic line, including the royal line. The royal line and bloodline (seed) are separate issues and they often get convoluted in this case. David's royal line was perpetuated through his son Solomon, and though Solomon's royal legacy was promised to thrive forever, this was based on clear conditions that Solomon not stray from God's commandments (see 1 Chronicles; 22:9-13; 28:5-7). Unfortunately, as we previously noted, Solomon did not keep those conditions, nor his descendants, and the fact that God cursed Jeconiah, who was a direct descendant of Solomon, is proof positive that God had had enough dealing with this evil lineage.

So, even though the bloodline of Messiah from David never changed, there is nothing against suggesting that God also shifted the royal line to a different bloodline as a result of Solomon and his descendant's disobedience (after all, it was God who called the shots in these matters anyway). However, as we will explore more in bit, Jesus fulfilled the messianic promise of the "root" of David (Isaiah 11:1-10) by being born directly into his bloodline through Mary's father (Eli) to David's son Nathan (noted in Luke), yet still fulfilled the royal right to sit on the throne of Judah via adoption into Joseph's royal line through his father (Jacob) from David's other son Solomon (noted in Matthew).

Though we can assume that the discrepancy between Joseph's supposed "two-father" issue is solved, there is yet another problem. If you'll notice (in black bolded text on the chart above), Mary and Joseph seem to be from this same cursed line of Shealtiel and his son Zerubbabel who, according to Matthew, were direct descendants of Jeconiah, the cursed one (Jeremiah 22:30). It would seem that we once again have a problem here, thus invoking a few other explanations from various apologetics:

 
1) The curse was eventually lifted:

God simply lifted Jeconiah's curse after he died, which seems to be supported by God's favor towards Shealtiel's son Zerubbabel, who he declared would be his "signet ring" in spite of his grandfather's curse (Haggai 2:23). B.R. Burton makes a pretty strong case for this.[6]

 
2) Same names, different pairs:

Both sets of Zerubbabel and Shealtiel in Matthew and Luke's list are entirely different people. Augustine seemed to hold this view and argued that Matthew traced the kingly line while Luke traced the actual bloodline, and if you'll notice, Luke's Zerubbabel and Shealtiel came from Neri not Jeconiah (in bold above). The arguments that the two sets -- Shealtiel and Zerubbabel -- are different people are as follows:

 

  • They have different fathers (Neri and Jeconiah)
  • They have different children (Rhesa and Abihud)
  • They are descended from different sons of David -- from Solomon in Matthew, from Nathan in Luke (in red text)

 

Though the coincidence that both sets in Matthew and Luke would be father and son might seem stark to us, there are a myriad number of factors to explain this. Joseph's father was named Jacob in Matthew (green text above), and yet the most famous Patriarch in Hebrew history was Jacob who also had a son named Joseph, another famous Patriarch. There were undoubtedly thousands of Joseph's in Judea who had a son named Joshua (cognate of Jesus). Hebrew names were commonly carried on between father and son, or just out of popularity and admiration; and common names were passed down from generation to generation (notice that Melchi, Matthat, Mattathias, Joseph, and Judah, in Luke's list, are examples of this, repeated more than once). Zerubbabel means "stranger in Babylon," while Shealtiel means "I have asked of God (for this son)," so if Luke's pair was during or after the Babylonian era, then it's certainly plausible to believe these names became popular patriarchal icons in the Jewish community, particularly Zerubbabel who not only led the first Jews back from Babylonian captivity into their own land but who laid the first foundation of the second Temple in Jerusalem.

 
3) Adoption:

Could we be overlooking legal adoptions here? This can get rather complicated, so I'll try and make it as simple as I can. The Hebrew word for "descendants" used in the curse delivered to Jeconiah in Jeremiah (22:30) is zera, and would be correctly translated as "seed" or "offspring," which specifically represented Jeconiah's direct offspring. This curse would have been avoided if adoption had occurred somewhere between Jeconiah's descendants to Joseph and Mary. Though God specifically cursed Jeconiah's "descendant" (seed), he certainly said nothing about legally adopted heirs. Some have tried to discredit the adoption argument as something that never occurred under legal Hebraic guidelines, which is utterly false. Five examples for cases of adoption in the Old Testament are:

 

  • Joseph's father Jacob adopted his sons because Jacob's wife died and left him fatherless (Genesis 48:1-7).
  • Mordecai adopted Hadassah (Esther), because her parents were both dead (Esther 2:7-17).
  • Moses was adopted by Pharaoh's daughter (Exodus 2:1-10) and according to rabbis in the Talmud, she was either partially Jewish by blood or a Jewish proselyte.[7] 
  • Michal died childless because she mocked David her husband (2 Sam 6:20-23); yet the scriptures seem to later contradict this and indicate Michal had five sons (2 Samuel 21:8). If you notice the footnote below the passage on the biblegateway site (in the previous link), the verse: "together with the five sons of Saul's daughter Merab," actually says: "together with the five sons of Saul's daughter Michal," in the original Hebrew text that the English was translated from. The reason the translators of most English versions changed Michal to Merab was in light of the seeming contradiction we previously mentioned in Samuel (2 Sam 6:20-23) that indicated Michal died childless. The Masoretic [21:8] text indeed confirms the footnote and has the name Michal as the original name, as does the English Tanach (21:8). The only way to explain this contradiction is that this was either an error in the original Hebrew text, or the five sons mentioned later in Samuel (2 Samuel 21:8) were given to Michal for adoption; and though she indeed died childless with no children via blood, the children were recognized as her sons in the later Samuel passage. Rabbis in the Talmud indeed concur with this solution…

 

"Now as to R. Joshua b. Korha, surely it is written, And the five sons of Michal the daughter of Saul whom she bore to Adriel. — R. Joshua [b. Korha] answers thee: Was it then Michal who bore them? Surely it was rather Merab who bore them! But Merab bore and Michal brought them up; therefore they were called by her name. This teaches thee that whoever brings up an orphan in his home, Scripture ascribes it to him as though he had begotten him."[8]

 

We have therefore established from scripture that adoptions occurred and that they were legal in determining inheritances and birthrights. There is also remarkably a Babylonian cuneiform found near the Ishtar gate, which recorded that Jeconiah (Jehoiachin) was fed rations by the Babylonian court until he died, confirming the historical veracity of this account in the bible (2 Kings 25:29-30).[9] The cuneiform also recorded that Jeconiah and his sons were made eunuchs while in captivity, which would certainly attest to God's curse that he would literally remain childless with no blood descendant to ever rule from the Davidic throne;[10] and it would also confirm Isaiah's (39:5-7) prophecy against king Hezekiah, which stated that his sons would be dragged to Babylon and made eunuchs ("officials"),[11] with little doubt that he was referring to Jeconiah and his sons later on, Hezekiah's descendants. Strangely though, the cuneiform records that Jeconiah had only five sons,[12] whereas the Old Testament book Chronicles records that he had seven (1 Chronicles 3:17-19).

So, with the bits of scattered information to work with from both scripture and archeology, and the information from the genealogy of Luke, we can construct a theoretical adoption scenario. Either the seven sons in Chronicles were actually adopted from Neri, a descendant of David's son Nathan (indicated in Luke), or two of Neri's sons were adopted, Shealtiel and Pedaiah, and added to Jeconiah's five castrated sons, possibly because Jeconiah either felt desperate to continue the legacy of his throne or because Neri died sometime in the conflict. It wouldn't be hard to imagine that within the era of the Babylonian conflict and exile, males were being slaughtered or castrated at an exorbitant rate, making royal adoptions alarmingly necessary.

From the Chronicles record we see that Shealtiel's son Zerubbabel is actually the son of Pedaiah (1 Chronicles 3:17-19), who was the son of king Jeconiah. It seems clear that Shealtiel also died childless, since his lineage is strangely negated and directed to Pedaiah. Hence, we could imagine that Pedaiah fulfilled his duty, as per levirate marriage, where the man of a slain brother (Shealtiel) was commanded to marry his wife to continue his name and inheritance (Deuteronomy 25:5-6), and thus married Shealtiel's wife which transferred the royal heritage to Shealtiel's son Zerubbabel. Thus, since Zerubbabel carried on Shealtiel's name as his son elsewhere throughout scripture (Ezra 3:2; Nehemiah 12:1; Haggai 1:1), he therefore carried both the bloodline of David's son Nathan down to Neri -- Shealtiel's father (in Luke) -- and Jeconiah's royal line via adoption from Solomon to Jeconiah (in Matthew), avoiding Jeconiah's cursed "seed" (offspring). So to summarize the things we know and can prove:

 

  • Adoptions were a part of this culture and considered official protocol in regards to birthrights.
  • There was a cuneiform which recorded that Jeconiah and his sons were castrated.
  • The cuneiform also stated that Jeconiah had five sons, when scripture states he had seven sons.
  • Chronicles records that Pedaiah, the son of Jeconiah, was the father of Zerubbabel, when in fact the scriptures everywhere else state Shealtiel was the father of Zerubbabel.
  • Shealtiel's lineage is strangely not recorded anywhere in scripture.

 

The facts in option #3 are aspects about Shealtiel and Zerubbabel that need a bit of speculation to connect the dots, but I believe #3 as the most viable option -- Zerubbabel was adopted and had two Davidic heritages; one tracing through Solomon (adoption) and the other through Nathan (bloodline). Also, king Zedekiah was apparently the last blood descendant of Solomon's line, which was the royal bloodline of Judah (Jeremiah 52:9-11). Even though some have argued that Solomon's royal bloodline and heritage was actually preserved through Zedekiah's daughters (Jeremiah 43:5-7), and were used to "rebuild" the remnants of Judah that God had promised after Babylon (Isaiah 37-31-32), #3 is more than adequate to explain how Joseph continued the royal line from Zerubbabel to Jesus via adoption, thus avoided the Jeconiah curse.

 

Point being

There are obviously a few feasible scenarios we proposed to explain these so-called discrepancies that would certainly work better than just assuming them as contradictions. To assume that both genealogies contradictorily represent Joseph is a weak and slipshod argument. We're forced to ask the question where Matthew and Luke got their information and why they contradict, unless we simply assume they just haphazardly made it up. The latter is not really all that tenable as per what we previously discussed above (a-h), in addition to the fact that it would have obviously been very problematic, especially with Matthew. It's highly unlikely Matthew, who was a Jew writing to Jews, would have included Jeconiah's cursed lineage (something Jews were certainly privy to) if he was fudging the genealogy, as opposed to just making up a genealogy that bypassed Jeconiah's curse all together.

Moreover, it's not like Matthew's readers could not have simply checked his record against the book of Chronicles and saw the discrepancies between the two. In light of these issues, it seems logical that Matthew had access to ancient genealogical records that his readers also had access to that we have lost. It amazes me how some critics actually use either the curse of Jeconiah to disqualify Jesus as the Messiah, or use the fact that Matthew's record conflicts with the Chronicles record, as if Matthew was totally ignorant of this fact and wouldn't have regarded it as a problem himself and to his Jewish readers.

 
Eve's seed

This brings us to the main theological point of the virgin birth. It most likely was to fulfill God's impossible promise he gave to the first woman Eve as follows…

 

 
Genesis 3:14-15 "The LORD God said to the serpent, 'because you have done this, cursed are you more than all cattle, and more than every beast of the field; on your belly you will go, and dust you will eat all the days of your life; and I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.'"[13]

 

By the way -- as a side note -- the curse of the Serpent was not making him a "snake," and from this, the writer of Genesis believed that snakes supposedly came into existence as a result. Snakes obviously don’t eat dirt. Moreover, the Hebrew word remes, which is usually translated as "creeping thing," was the proper word used to describe crawling or slithering creatures (i.e. lizards, snakes, insects, etc.); but this was not the word used to describe Satan. The term "beast of the field" in Genesis (3:1), where Satan is first introduced, is actually a bad English translation because it uses the Hebrew word chay, which simply means he "was more crafty than any living creature" that God had created. The curse was on Satan himself, apparently making him emulate a snake (perhaps where he acquired the name Serpent?), or else it was a metaphor that represented him being humbled -- or held low -- below the rest of God's creation. Whether one accepts the existence of Satan or not, fact is, Jesus believed in him; and if the resurrection is a fact, that alone is good enough for me to be confident in Jesus' authority on the matter (for the discussion of the resurrection go here: Onward Christian Martyrs).

In any event, God made this declaration to Satan about a future human descendant whom Satan would injure temporarily ("on the heel"), yet who would inflict a fatal blow to Satan in return ("on the head"), and who would specifically come from Eve's seed instead of Adam's seed, which was unusual. Women didn't have "seeds," which was the Hebrew word zera, because "seed" implied the actual sperm. Such a designation would typically have been given to the male in this culture; a Jewish child was always recognized as the male seed or "son of" (Numbers 1:1-22, 3:15-40). Even though inheritances were sometimes passed through daughters, as we previously discussed, they were still not recognized as the official ancestral progenitors, or "seed" providers, which is why they were typically excluded from genealogies. Therefore, the only way to fulfill this unusual proclamation God had made in the beginning, in its most precise and literal form and in face of Jewish culture to the contrary, was for God to intervene and miraculously force the issue; having Jesus born in the absence of an immediate male seed.

Paul rightly identified Jesus as the "descendant of David" (Romans 1:3), and the Greek word Paul used, which is translated as "descendent," is sperma, the specific equivalent of the Hebrew word zera (seed). Anyone not privy to Jesus' unusual birth would have naturally taken what Paul said and just assumed Jesus was the seed of Joseph or some other supposed male suitor. Looking back at the prophecy, designating the seed through Eve as opposed to Adam or both Adam and Eve ("their" seed) was unusual. However, there is one woman in all of history that this was true, and that was Mary. Thus God intentionally made it a strange prophecy to bring attention to it and then forced it to happen that way via the virgin birth. Thus Jesus was the literal "son of Mary" (Mark 6:3) and "sperma of David" (Romans 1:3), not via a man but Mary alone (seed of the woman), which is a statement that could only have been made possible miraculously. Hence, this can be summed up in the following scenario:

 

  • Jesus was born in David's direct bloodline -- the Son of David -- through Mary/Eli down from David's son Nathan.
  • Legally, he was the royal Davidic heir in Joseph's lineage from David's other son Solomon via adoption.
  • Though he has the legal right to the royal throne, he still avoided the cursed "seed" (bloodline) of Jeconiah.
  • He literally fulfilled the promised "seed of the women" in its precise fulfillment even though this was impossible naturally via Jewish culture, which was the primary theological reason for the virgin birth.

 

And this was all fulfilled all at once. 

 

Each author's specific purpose of the genealogies

 

Luke: I've heard critics argue that Luke traced it back to Adam specifically because he wanted to establish more of a theological correlation with Jesus as the true Son of God. There's no reason to think it was necessary for Luke to point this out because:

 

  • Once again, genealogies were serious business in this culture, used to establish specific birthrights, not use to convey theological messages. 
  • Luke was writing to Christians who were already familiar with Christian theology, which he clearly indicates in the beginning of his work (Luke 1:3-4); thus the fact they believed Jesus was the Son of God would have been par for the course, and certainly didn't need the gospel of Luke to help them come to this conclusion.
  • Anyone who believed the Genesis story would have known Jesus was naturally a descendant of Adam and thus the descendant of God, as it was common knowledge to anyone who believed the Jewish scriptures that all races of humanity descended from that one man, thus didn't need Luke to point this out.

 

It seems more logical that Luke had a specific intent in mind. Though we know daughters were used to carry on the names and inheritances of the males, Luke indeed followed the genealogical protocol of only categorizing the males in his record, including down to Adam, even though the promised seed was specifically associated with Eve (Genesis 3:15). So he included Mary's lineage from her father Eli to Jesus with the expressed intent to demonstrate the unbroken bloodline through Mary, the literal "seed" promised to her ancestor Abraham and the fathers before him (see Genesis 17:7; Galatians 3:16-18). He didn't bother with Joseph since Gentiles would not have been privy to Jewish adoption technicalities. Hence, Luke traced this specific seed back to David through his son Nathan, back to Abraham, and back to the very first bloodline (seed) of the messianic promise given in Genesis (Genesis 3:15), which confirmed Jesus was "the she seed" (Mary's seed) that fulfilled the promise given specifically to the woman about her future seed during the beginning of human existence. 

Matthew: why would Matthew include Joseph's lineage if this was not the bloodline? It makes sense now. Matthew was writing to Jews, thus Matthew wanted to demonstrate how Jesus is justifiably the royal "Son of David" (a title that is bestowed on Jesus in Matthew's gospel narrative more than the other gospels combined) through Solomon; and how God was able to legally connect Jesus to Solomon's royal line by avoiding his son Jeconiah's cursed seed (bloodline). His readers, who were Jews, not only understood these legal ramifications, but no doubt wondered beforehand as they combed through the Jewish scriptures how God would present the Davidic king in spite of the royal Davidic line that was now cut off at Jeconiah, and yet still be qualified as a blood born Jew. Thus they're level of knowledge and understanding with this issue would have allowed them to comprehend God's astounding feat in how he avoided this dilemma through the virgin birth, yet still legally qualified him for the royal scepter of Judah and the right to rule (Genesis 49:10).

It's truly strange that no New Testament writer pointed this out. Perhaps they considered it problematic for the very reason that it didn't adhere to cultural protocol about "seeds" and offspring. It's especially ironic that Matthew (1:22-23) picked the Immanuel prophecy from Isaiah in order to tie his virgin birth version to Jewish scripture (discussed here: Jesus Christmas, The virgin controversy), yet ignored the very first messianic prophecy given in the beginning of Jewish scripture (Genesis 3:14-15), especially when the Isaiah prophecy pales in comparison because of the controversy behind it. In other words, the first messianic prophecy in the beginning of time of written Jewish history was given to Satan about a seed that would serve as his foe, and a seed that was unusual because it was not only designated to the woman when it should have been designated to the man (i.e. "his seed"), but in addition to the fact that Eve was specifically relegated as inferior to Adam due to the curse under the very same circumstances (Genesis 3:16). Thus, God's unusual designation here was obviously to highlight the prophecy and give it special attention as a historical signet.

So, since it appears this was not the specific scripture either Matthew, Luke or the supposed inventor had in mind, the critic who assumes the virgin birth story was fiction would have to assume the story just accidentally fell into alignment with this unusual messianic prophecy (that wasn't given any attention) about this remarkable and mysterious "she seed." 

 
Go home
 

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Source References

1. See Docetism.

2. Michael R. Licona, The Resurrection of Jesus, pp.220-221; 2010.

   James D. G. Dunn and Doris Donnelly, Jesus: A Colloquium in the Holy Land, pp.47-64; 2001. 

3. Shaye J. D. Cohen, The Beginnings of Jewishness, pp. 290, 305-306; 2001.

4. James D. Tabor, The Jesus Dynasty, p.52; 2007.

5. Papias, From the Exposition of the Oracles of the Lord, section X (www.newadvent.org).

6. B. R. Burton, The Curse of Jeconiah and the Signet Ring (www.messianicart.com).

7. Talmud, Megilah 13a (pdf). Talmud, Sanhedrin 19b (www.come-and-hear.com).

8. Talmud, Sanhedrin 19b (www.come-and-hear.com).

9. Bruce M. Metzger, Michael D. Coogan, The Oxford Companion to the Bible, p.53; 1993.

10. Walter C. Kaiser, Peter H. Davids, Frederick Fyvie Bruce, and Manfred T. Brauch, Hard Sayings of the Bible, p.310; 1996.

     Larry Richards, Baffling Bible Questions Answered, p.196; 2000.

11. Hans Wildberger, Thomas H. Trapp, Isaiah 28-39: A Continental Commentary, pp.477-478; 2002. Most modern bibles translate it as "officials" or "officers" but few scholars dispute the fact that the Hebrew word sares used to describe Hezekiah's fate in Babylon clearly meant "eunuchs," which can also logically be deduced from the obvious fact that God stated it would happen as a punishment; see Emil G. Hirsch, Wilhelm Nowack, Solomon Schechter, and M. Seligsohn, Eunuchs, Jewish Encyclopedia (www.jewishencyclopedia.com).

12. Walter C. Kaiser, The Old Testament Documents, p.100; 2001.

13. Aaron J. Kligerman, Old Testament Messianic Prophecy, pp. 13-14; 1957.

      Charles A. Briggs, Messianic Prophecy: The Prediction of the Fulfillment of Redemption through the Messiah, p.77; 1988.