Craig Keener: Understanding Jesus’ Genealogy


some people they wonder what the point of having genealogies in the Bible is some people they think well why put genealogies in the Bible the New Testament actually starts with the genealogy and so I want to talk with you about how you can preach or study from matthew’s genealogy ancient biographies which is what the Gospels were often began by praising their subjects ancestors when the ancestors were significant or by praising their subjects upbringing or by recounting significant episodes about the subjects birth or childhood that portend later greatness well Matthew and Luke and their Gospels include all of these ancients usually kept good track of their ancestors so a lot of them had genealogies ancestry ancestry seven generations back could affect your taxation status in ancient Egypt so those who had really significant ancestry in particular would keep track of their ancestors priests would do that somebody descended from the royal line which obviously would include the Messiah and and we we do have other sources that suggest that Jesus relatives were descended from the Royal line they were hailed before a Roman Emperor because of that well Matthew uses Jeannie the genealogy of Jesus to teach us several things we get first of all Jesus official lineage that is it’s his royal lineage through Joseph that was more important than a genetic lineage in terms of who would be king and adoption was regularly used for kings so it’s very important that Matthew shows us if Jesus is king of the Jews Jesus has descended from the royal house of David but Matthew also teaches us something about Jesus spiritual heritage it points through this genealogy as Jewish teachers sometimes did rabbis often used what we call midrashic word place on things in Scripture so for example if you’re reading Matthew chapter 1 in Greek you come across the King Amon it wasn’t really a very nice King he reigned for about two years but Ammon is not really called Ammon in the Greek text of Matthew there’s one letter difference and translators often think well he just met a man it’s just a typo but actually literally it’s a moss so that by that one little change of letter he’s alluding to how Jesus is heir not only of the Royal line of David but Jesus is also the heir of the prophets and ASA who was a kind of a so-so King in chapter 1 and verse 8 becomes Asaph the psalmist Jesus is the climax of all of the Old Testament now if you look at the function of the genealogy biblical genealogies sometimes summarized history between eras you have that in Genesis 5 and 10 and 11 also they could be reminders of God’s sovereignty Jewish teachers would look at them and say hey look arranging marriages is harder than the parting of the Red Sea certainly when I was single I thought that but the most significant point here is that the time has come genealogies often skipped some generations you can see that by comparing Matthew with the second chronicles Matthew kind of rounds to the schematic 14 but but the point is that it was about time for something significant to happen again in Israel’s history significant things had happened at various intervals and now Israel was due for another one and that’s part of Matthew’s point well going by how God had worked in history it’s time for that to happen again Matthew chapter 1 and verse 1 Matthew opens his gospel by saying the book of the genealogy of Jesus but literally in Greek it’s the book of the Genesis of Jesus it’s Evoque ngering that you find in the Greek translation of Genesis where it would often say the book of the genealogy or the book of the Genesis of so-and-so but when you have that phrase in Genesis records not the person’s ancestors but their descendants in this case it records the ancestors because like the descendants and the other genealogies even Jesus ancestors depend on him for their meaning in God’s purpose he climaxes Israel’s history 1:1 says he the son of Abraham the true Israelite and you see that developed in subsequent chapters where he evokes Israel’s history he’s also the son of David that is he’s the expected Messiah we we have him referred to as son of David and Psalms of Solomon and some other ancient Jewish texts ancient genealogies often listed only males and if they were going to include women it would be the most significant women so you would expect if there were women mentioned here in the ancestry it could be the famous matrix like Sarah and Rebecca and then either Rachel or Leia but instead we have Matthew including Tamar from Genesis 38 Rahab from Joshua chapters 2 & 6 Ruth and her that have been the wife of Uriah Uriah’s Widow and if you look at what they have in common Tamar was from Canaan Ruth of course was was a Moabite Asst drill enemy 23-3 says an ammonite or a Moabitess shall not enter the Lord’s congregation – 10th generation but she was welcomed because she cleaved to the Lord God Ruth 1:16 Rahab obviously was from Canaan she was from from Jericho she’s contrasted with somebody from Judah by the name of Aiken in that passage who betrayed his people and brought judgment anise also go well Rahab betrayed her people joined Israel and brought salvation to her household Bathsheba was married to his I too had joined David’s elite troops so these women are three of them are Gentiles one of them is is married to a Gentile she’s associated with Gentiles three ancestors of David and the mother of King Solomon here are Gentiles so this was exceptional because most ancient Jewish Jewish genealogies wanted to highlight the purity Jewish ancestry this genealogy instead highlights the mixed nature of Jesus royal heritage three Gentiles and a Gentiles Widow and this is the beginning of a theme in Matthew’s Gospel that goes on with the Magi the Centurions servant the Canaanite woman with a with the possessed daughter and so on that finally climaxes at the end of the gospel with the mission to make disciples of all the nations that’s no afterthought it’s it’s a continuation of something that God had already begun in Israel’s heritage so there are a number of themes that we see coming out in this genealogy that prepare us for the rest of Matthew’s Gospel genealogists can be very important and matthew’s genealogy is one example of this

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