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The Messiah’s Descent

No. 2.

Mr. Editor:—

I trust you did not suppose that I had finished this reply without touching the great difficulty that Luke gives a genealogy for the most part different from Matthew’s. At an early day in the Christian church, it was contended by some learned men that <<402>>Joseph must have had a legal father, different from his natural father; that he was the natural son of a brother who, according to the Jewish law, raised up seed to his deceased brother. It was farther necessary to assume that these two successive husbands of the same wife were not full brothers, that they had not one father, and therefore give two genealogies. The simpler explanation is in all probability the true one, that Matthew gives the genealogy of Joseph, and Luke that of Mary. There is no objection to this theory that may not be easily answered. Luke introduces his register so: “And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, of Heli, of Matthat.” Let us lay an emphasis on the words “being, as was supposed, the son of Joseph.” It is a very natural interpretation that Jesus was only supposed to be the son of Joseph, that he was called so in accordance with the custom, but that so far as he had any natural, real father on earth, he was the son of Heli, the father of Mary. Or, if Mary was an heiress, Joseph must, in the transmission of the estate, have been considered as the son of her father, according to the law given in the history the daughters of Zelophehad.

It has been asserted that a man among the Jews never takes the name of his wife’s father. What, then, does the following passage mean (Ezra ii. 60? “And of the children of the priests: the children of Habaiah, the children of Koz, the children of Barzillai, which took a wife of the daughters of Barzillai, the Gileadite, and was called after their name.” If we interpret this passage correctly, it teaches that a priest and his children took the name of his father-in-law, and so lost their register among  the priests.

It was in many points of view important that the genealogy of Mary should be given, as well as that of Joseph. The angel had said to Mary, in relation to the promised son: “He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest, and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David.” Hence the obvious propriety in proving his mother a daughter of David. A distinguishing prominence is given to woman in the prophecies of the Messiah. The first promise was that the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent’s head. Luke, therefore, traces the descent of the mother of Jesus back through thousands of <<403>>years to the first mother who received the promise of this seed. Isaiah prophesied that a virgin should have a son, whose name should be Immanuel. Another prophet looked forward to the time when “she which travaileth hath brought forth.” (Micah v. 3.) These facts strove the circumstances of the mother of the Messiah so peculiar, that we feel as much interest in her descent as in that of the real father. It is, Moreover, worthy of mention  that the Mahometans always call Jesus, the son of Mary, and that, according to Horne’s Introduction, the Jewish tradition calls Mary the daughter of Heli.

There does appear to be one serious difficulty in the genealogy of Luke: this is the introduction of Cainan between Arphaxad and Sala, while the Old Testament has no such name in its register. We know not how Cainan has been introduced into Luke, nor how it comes to stand in the Septuagint, which is a translation centuries older than the New Testament. It may have been transferred from the Septuagint to Luke. In every other respect Luke’s genealogy bears every mark of the most exact exhibition of natural descent. It gives us forty-one names between David and Christ, which gives about twenty-four years to each generation. This furnishes strong probable evidence that Luke,

In giving the real descent of Jesus from David, was very careful to follow the line of natural descent from father to son without any omission. Matthew, on the contrary, tracing the regal line, left out some names from the natural line. No genealogy furnishes on its face a greater probability of truth than this genealogy of Luke.

I once heard a believer in the Old Testament assert that Mary could not possibly be of the descent of David. Why, said he, Mary was the cousin of Elizabeth, and Elizabeth was of the daughters of Aaron; therefore Mary must have been of the tribe of Levi, and not of the tribe of Judah, and descent of David. You remember, I replied, that Jehoshabeath was the daughter of King Jehoram, and became the wife of the priest Jehoiada. Now, her children, who would be reckoned of the tribe of Levi, would be, nevertheless, the full cousins of her royal brother’s children, who would be of the tribe of Judah and descent of David. What a poor argument against Christianity!

Jesus then, indeed, that Branch from the roots of Jesse of which Isaiah spoke? Is he, at the same time, the Branch of the <<404>>Lord; and has he, according to several prophecies which we have mentioned, God for his father? I am afraid, Mr. Editor, that your impressions are very different; but I feel upon the review of this whole subject, deeply impressed with the evidence which these genealogies afford, that my faith in Jesus as the promised son of David is not an error.

Yours, most respectfully,

M. R. Miller.