the faith hope

an ongoing exploration of a thankless subject

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Location: Adelaide, Australia

Founding secretary of the Urbane Society for Sceptical Romantics, a club I take very seriously indeed.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

genealogical animadversions

genealogical lines from here to eternity

A brief response to my last post - I'm told that my conversationalist didn't get her info fromTabor, so I'm sorry bout that, but the point I was really making is that believers, being understandably defensive about the lack of empirical evidence about Jesus, would naturally latch onto any source that encourages them to think that more is known about Jesus than other characters of the period. When those sources use the gospels to back them up, or when those sources are the gospels themselves, we must be sceptical. The gospels are not trustworthy as history.

Before examining what I can make of Jesus' character, I'll comment on what I read this morning in the book of Luke. This was the 'genealogy' of Jesus, and it traces his lineage back to Adam, proving that, since Adam was 'the son of god', so was Jesus. Unfortunately, it fails to recognise that we must all be able to trace our lineage back to Adam, the first man, so we're all the children of God and Jesus is no different from the rest of us.

Perhaps more importantly, Luke uses the genealogy to connect Jesus to David, the former King of Israel, or at least of Judah. He also includes some other Big Names, like Abraham and Noah.

Naturally, there's no mention of how Luke obtained this genealogy. Presumably God slipped it to him. This raises a bit of a difficulty as there's another genealogy of Jesus in the first chapter of Matthew. That one is given in the reverse direction, and only begins with Abraham. Needless to say, it's completely inconsistent with the one in Luke.

Genealogies were of course very important (as they still are to some extent) as proof of legitimacy. The number of bogus genealogies would've outweighed the accurate ones by an astronomical factor, and this was well recognised even in biblical times - two New Testament passages admonish against the writing of or paying heed to genealogies - yet there was no other obvious way to back up Messianic claims. Surprising then that the early biblical redactors and scribes, who weren't by any means averse to eliminating awkward passages here and there, didn't try to match up these two genealogies, or to chuck out one of them.

In Luke, too, Jesus often likes to refer to himself as the Son of Man (I'm using Eugene Peterson's version). I'm not sure what the significance of this is.


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