Stephen C. Carlson and the Matthean genealogy.

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Ben C. Smith
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Stephen C. Carlson and the Matthean genealogy.

Post by Ben C. Smith » Tue Jul 21, 2015 5:20 pm

This post is in response to a nice article penned by Stephen Carlson: The Davidic Key for Counting the Generations in Matthew 1:17.

The genealogy in Matthew 1.1-17 has long triggered exegetical headaches:

Abraham
Isaac
Jacob
Judah
Perez
Hezron
Aram
Amminadab
Nahshon
Salmon
Boaz
Obed
Jesse
David
(14)
Solomon
Rehoboam
Abijah
Asaph
Jehoshaphat
Joram
Uzziah
Jotham
Ahaz
Hezekiah
Manasseh
Amos
Josiah
Jechoniah
(14)
Shealtiel
Zerubbabel
Abiud
Eliakim
Azor
Zadok
Achim
Eliud
Eleazar
Matthan
Jacob
Joseph
Jesus

(13)

The problem is ancient. Matthew tells us that there are 3 groups of 14 each; but 14 + 14 + 14 = 42, and Matthew lists only 41 names. What gives? As Raymond Brown famously asked, can Matthew count?

Carlson first observes the value of the number 14:

As Matt 1:17 informs us, the important number for the genealogy is the number fourteen, though scholars disagree whether the significance of this figure comes from the gematria of David’s name (ד + ו + ד = 4 + 6 + 4) or simply that it is twice seven.

Then Carlson deftly summarizes and then argues against various hypotheses that involve Matthew simply miscounting (notice that Matthew himself never mentions the number 42!) or covertly pointing to missing generations in the genealogy (of which there are several), and then turns to hypotheses that involve doubling up on one of the names in order to get the three sets of fourteen. For example, here is an arrangement that doubles up on Jechoniah (the arrangement I used to prefer):

Abraham
Isaac
Jacob
Judah
Perez
Hezron
Aram
Amminadab
Nahshon
Salmon
Boaz
Obed
Jesse
David
(14)
Solomon
Rehoboam
Abijah
Asaph
Jehoshaphat
Joram
Uzziah
Jotham
Ahaz
Hezekiah
Manasseh
Amos
Josiah
Jechoniah
(14)
Jechoniah
Shealtiel
Zerubbabel
Abiud
Eliakim
Azor
Zadok
Achim
Eliud
Eleazar
Matthan
Jacob
Joseph
Jesus
(14)

However, Carlson argues for the doubling up of David instead of Jechoniah, since that is how Matthew 1.17 is actually worded:

All the generations, therefore, from Abraham to David are fourteen generations, and from David until the exile to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the exile to Babylon until the Christ fourteen generations.

He also mentally positions the Babylonian exile in between Josiah and Jechoniah, thus doubling up on neither of the two:

Abraham
Isaac
Jacob
Judah
Perez
Hezron
Aram
Amminadab
Nahshon
Salmon
Boaz
Obed
Jesse
David
(14)
David
Solomon
Rehoboam
Abijah
Asaph
Jehoshaphat
Joram
Uzziah
Jotham
Ahaz
Hezekiah
Manasseh
Amos
Josiah
(14)
Jechoniah
Shealtiel
Zerubbabel
Abiud
Eliakim
Azor
Zadok
Achim
Eliud
Eleazar
Matthan
Jacob
Joseph
Jesus
(14)

This is, I admit, now my preferred arrangement. It is faithful to the Matthean text, especially the wording of 1.17 (which names David twice). However, there is more to be said here.

Critics have long postulated that Matthew himself did not originally draft this genealogy. The evidence derives from several mismatches of genealogical content and the broader Matthean context:
  1. The genealogy has to be somewhat forced (content) into an arrangement that yields three sets of 14 (context). And the results, of course, have to double up on David between sets 1 and 2, but not on anyone between sets 2 and 3. It is assymetrical.
  2. The genealogy gives the patrilineal descent (content) of somebody whom Matthew asserts was born of a virgin (context).
  3. The genealogy makes passing mention of the brothers of Judah (verse 2), Perez (verse 3), and Jechoniah (verse 12). Why this interest in brothers? The more commonly noticed women who merit mention in the genealogy (Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, the wife of Uriah, and Mary herself) would fit in with the overall Matthean theme of the virgin birth by noticing important or unusual feminine contributions to lineage; but the brothers are a mismatch, given that Matthew, following Mark, has let Jesus redefine what family is (Matthew 12.50) so as to exclude flesh and blood relationships. So the interest in brothers in the genealogy (content) probably predates the composition of the gospel of Matthew (context).
Here Carlson draws on an idea from Ernst Lerle, one which was originally intended to explain Matthew, but which Carlson has pressed into service in order to explain the genealogy that Matthew reworked. He proposes that the original genealogy contained the mentions of brothers, while Matthew himself added the women in anticipation of the virgin birth from Mary. He also proposes that the original genealogy was as symmetrical as one might wish, but ended at Joseph, and Matthew had to spoil the symmetry a bit by adding Jesus:

Abraham
Isaac
Jacob
Judah
Perez
Hezron
Aram
Amminadab
Nahshon
Salmon
Boaz
Obed
Jesse
David
(14)
David
Solomon
Rehoboam
Abijah
Asaph
Jehoshaphat
Joram
Uzziah
Jotham
Ahaz
Hezekiah
Manasseh
Amos
Josiah
(14)
Josiah
Jechoniah
Shealtiel
Zerubbabel
Abiud
Eliakim
Azor
Zadok
Achim
Eliud
Eleazar
Matthan
Jacob
Joseph
(14)

Notice that there are now 40 generations in total from Abraham to Joseph, counting inclusively: 40, with all its heavy scriptural symbolism. Notice also that both David (the messianic king par excellence) and Josiah (the last good king) are doubled up. This is a royal lineage, to be sure.

It is here that Carlson proposes something, however, that I do not follow:

Certainly, there were early Christians whose view of the Messiah was closely tied to his being of the seed of David (see Rom 1:3), and Matthew’s genealogy maintains that Joseph was a descendant of David. Interestingly, a genealogy structured around establishing the Davidic patrimony of Joseph legitimizes not only Jesus but any son of Joseph as the seed of David. According to the logic of the genealogy, if Joseph is heir to the Davidic throne, so must then be his other sons, Jesus’ brothers.

While the genealogical mention of various brothers might well be read as a reminder that royal lines can sometimes be diverted fraternally, my issue with the specific point that Carlson makes here is that the same 40-generation genealogy which mentions those brothers also ends at Joseph. In other words, the various brothers, to his mind, are apparently mentioned in order to justify the Davidic lineage of men whose brother (Jesus) does not even appear in the genealogy!

I think a better solution presents itself. Eusebius notes in History of the Church 3.11.1-2 (http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/250103.htm):

After the martyrdom of James and the conquest of Jerusalem which immediately followed, it is said that those of the apostles and disciples of the Lord that were still living came together from all directions with those that were related to the Lord according to the flesh (for the majority of them also were still alive) to take counsel as to who was worthy to succeed James. They all with one consent pronounced Symeon, the son of Clopas, of whom the Gospel also makes mention; to be worthy of the episcopal throne of that parish. He was a cousin, as they say, of the Saviour. For Hegesippus records that Clopas was a brother of Joseph.

I submit that, if anybody can lay claim to being the brother whose line the genealogy was meant to justify, Clopas is he. The original genealogy, with its fraternal emphases and its termination at Joseph, does a much better job of explaining how Symeon, son of Clopas, came to replace James as leader of the church in Jerusalem than it does of justifying the lines of the putative brothers of Jesus. The brothers at issue are those of the last name on the list: Joseph.

Ben.
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Re: Stephen C. Carlson and the Matthean genealogy.

Post by Secret Alias » Wed Jul 22, 2015 6:52 am

I think Carlson is basically correct. Yet it is important to emphasize - there never were any brothers of Jesus. So what is the point of this literary exercise? Why did Hegesippus create a false genealogy? This is the question. My answer is that there must have been ANOTHER heretical 'genealogy' or episcopal tradition that was being rejected, the one early Christian tradition that never appears or had little influence or notoriety in any other orthodox sources (even though it was in fact early and influential) - the Alexandrian tradition. The invention of a mythical 'house of Jesus' which allegedly 'established itself' in Jerusalem was developed in order to counter the influence of Alexandrian Christianity.
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Apologists Now! God I Love the Sound of Psalms in the Mornin

Post by JoeWallack » Wed Jul 22, 2015 7:19 am

JW:
Ben, have you ever known Carlson to write an article arguing for error?

In general, one would get the impression from Carlson's article that there are no errors in GMatthew's genealogy. The only Bible story I'm more familiar with than the ending of GMark is the GMatthew genealogy and I think there are more errors there than in any other Bible story.

Specifically, Carlson writes:
A fuller genealogy follows in Matt 1:2-16. The first part of it, from Abraham
to Zerubbabel, could easily derive from the OT, especially 1 Chronicles 1-3. The
main difference from the OT genealogies is that the Matthean genealogy drops
three generations of kings from v. 8—Ahaziah, Joaz, and Amaziah—and one generation,
Jehoiakim, from v. 11. The omission of these generations is consistent,
however, with a common Near Eastern genealogical practice of aligning important
ancestors at numerically significant positions in the lineage.2
JW:
From a strict literal standpoint "Matthew" (author) is in error when he says there are fewer generations than there really were. The definition of error has two primary ingredients:
  • 1) Inaccuracy

    2) Lack of intent
If "Matthew" deliberately omitted generations than he may not be guilty of the technical definition of error. However, if he did this with the intent of making his audience think there really were the number of generations he said there were, well than there's another word for that which starts with an "l" and which non-apologists would still classify as error.

Specifically regarding:
The omission of these generations is consistent,
however, with a common Near Eastern genealogical practice of aligning important
ancestors at numerically significant positions in the lineage.2
we have the following reasons not to accept this as defense against error:
  • 1) The specific wording at the start and end of the genealogy and explicit repeated use of "14" indicates the Reader would understand that a complete Genealogy was being presented.

    2) "Matthew" uses "begat" instead of "father/son of" indicating no omissions were intended.

    3) The necessity of transliteration of no longer used Hebrew names and resultant spelling variation and similar names would make it easier for names in between two such similar names to be omitted unintentionally or intentionally.

    4) We will see that "Matthew" has other omissions in his list.

    5) The likely best parallel to compare "Matthew's" Genealogy to, Chronicles, appears to have intended to present a complete listing for the Davidic line.

    6) "Luke" has no known omissions in her Genealogy and doesn't even use "begat"! For the Monarchical period Brown Confesses to us that 'Luke" has 21 Names compared to "Matthew's" 15.

    7) We have no evidence that such omissions in Greek writings were the Rule rather than the exception.

    8) The Jewish Bible has no known omission when presenting the line of Kings.

    9) There are many more examples of "Matthew's" problems with names in the genealogy.

    10) Origen confesses to us that in his time the Greek manuscripts were filled with errors regarding Hebrew names. This would have been well before any extant manuscripts.

    11) And listen to this (waving arms around excitedly on sidelines ala "John" Maddin!) Bezae, Curetonian, Epiphanes and Th-Mop (I tell you the Truth, ICC mentions this but I have absolutely no idea what it refers to but it sure sounds impressive) all add the three issing Kings to "Matthew" indicating they thought the omission was an error.

    12) Famed Internet Apologist JP Holding declined to argue this Error at this time indicating he understands the strength of the Pro argument.

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Re: Apologists Now! God I Love the Sound of Psalms in the Mo

Post by Ben C. Smith » Wed Jul 22, 2015 7:45 am

Underlining mine:
JoeWallack wrote:Ben, have you ever known Carlson to write an article arguing for error?

In general, one would get the impression from Carlson's article that there are no errors in GMatthew's genealogy. The only Bible story I'm more familiar with than the ending of GMark is the GMatthew genealogy and I think there are more errors there than in any other Bible story. ....

If "Matthew" deliberately omitted generations than he may not be guilty of the technical definition of error. However, if he did this with the intent of making his audience think there really were the number of generations he said there were, well than there's another word for that which starts with an "l" and which non-apologists would still classify as error.
Joe, I cannot express with ordinary English syntax how very little interest I have in debating either (in)errancy or apologetics. My interest here is what the Matthean genealogy may (or may not) tell us about the putative family of Jesus. Period.

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Re: Apologists Now! God I Love the Sound of Psalms in the Mo

Post by JoeWallack » Wed Jul 22, 2015 8:09 am

Ben C. Smith wrote:Underlining mine:
JoeWallack wrote:Ben, have you ever known Carlson to write an article arguing for error?

In general, one would get the impression from Carlson's article that there are no errors in GMatthew's genealogy. The only Bible story I'm more familiar with than the ending of GMark is the GMatthew genealogy and I think there are more errors there than in any other Bible story. ....

If "Matthew" deliberately omitted generations than he may not be guilty of the technical definition of error. However, if he did this with the intent of making his audience think there really were the number of generations he said there were, well than there's another word for that which starts with an "l" and which non-apologists would still classify as error.
Joe, I cannot express with ordinary English syntax how very little interest I have in debating either (in)errancy or apologetics. My interest here is what the Matthean genealogy may (or may not) tell us about the putative family of Jesus. Period.

Ben.
JW:
My interest here is what the Matthean genealogy may (or may not) tell us about the putative family of Jesus. Period.
What does this mean?:
  • 1) You are only interested in what "Matthew" likely meant?

    2) You are only interested in "Matthew's" evidence for historicity?

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Re: Apologists Now! God I Love the Sound of Psalms in the Mo

Post by Ben C. Smith » Wed Jul 22, 2015 8:26 am

JoeWallack wrote:
My interest here is what the Matthean genealogy may (or may not) tell us about the putative family of Jesus. Period.
What does this mean?:
  • 1) You are only interested in what "Matthew" likely meant?

    2) You are only interested in "Matthew's" evidence for historicity?
I am interested in both of those insofar as they help illuminate what is going on with the putative family of Jesus. I am even interested in the phenomena that you are (not unjustly) calling errors, just so long as they illuminate what is going on with the putative family of Jesus. If the payload is a measure of understanding concerning early Christian history (including, especially in this case, matters related to the family of Jesus), then I am interested. If the payload is that Matthew did or did not commit errors, then I could not care less.
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Re: Apologists Now! God I Love the Sound of Psalms in the Mo

Post by JoeWallack » Wed Jul 22, 2015 8:45 am

Ben C. Smith wrote:
JoeWallack wrote:
My interest here is what the Matthean genealogy may (or may not) tell us about the putative family of Jesus. Period.
What does this mean?:
  • 1) You are only interested in what "Matthew" likely meant?

    2) You are only interested in "Matthew's" evidence for historicity?
I am interested in both of those insofar as they help illuminate what is going on with the putative family of Jesus. I am even interested in the phenomena that you are (not unjustly) calling errors, just so long as they illuminate what is going on with the putative family of Jesus. If the payload is a measure of understanding concerning early Christian history (including, especially in this case, matters related to the family of Jesus), then I am interested. If the payload is that Matthew did or did not commit errors, then I could not care less.
JW:
I think that what you are describing that you want to discuss here does include conclusions as to whether or not "Matthew" made an error. I think that what you do not want is emphasis on this.

As creator of this Thread I will respect whatever conditions you put on participation. Again, I think at a minimum that Carlson's article is misleading/deceptive and I think it is fair game to call him on that here and if I do I need to explain why.


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Re: Apologists Now! God I Love the Sound of Psalms in the Mo

Post by Ben C. Smith » Wed Jul 22, 2015 8:56 am

JoeWallack wrote:I think that what you are describing that you want to discuss here does include conclusions as to whether or not "Matthew" made an error. I think that what you do not want is emphasis on this.
I agree with both of those statements.
As creator of this Thread I will respect whatever conditions you put on participation. Again, I think at a minimum that Carlson's article is misleading/deceptive and I think it is fair game to call him on that here and if I do I need to explain why.
Oh, no no no... sorry, did not mean to mislead. I do not at all mind you participating on your own (in)errancy-based terms. It is just that you addressed me specifically, by name, in your response, and I was letting you know why I might not be responding to you in full. Carry on, by all means. As you said, whether or not Matthew made an error may have relevance to other matters.

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Re: Stephen C. Carlson and the Matthean genealogy.

Post by Secret Alias » Wed Jul 22, 2015 9:38 am

The other corollary of an alleged 'royal lineage' of Jesus is that it confirms that (a) Jesus was a human being and (b) a human king - things which were certainly 'in dispute' in the period Hegesippus was writing.
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Re: Stephen C. Carlson and the Matthean genealogy.

Post by Diogenes the Cynic » Wed Jul 22, 2015 10:35 am

That's a lot of work when it's much more parsimonious just to assume that Matthew fucked up. It's not like it was the only time (e,g. the rodeo ride into Jerusalem). It's not even the only error he makes in the genealogy. He skips names.

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