Friday, April 08, 2005

Luke's Genealogy (Part 2)

In Luke’s genealogy, the last thirty-seven names (or first chronologically), from God to Nathan, match perfectly, save Luke’s puzzling addition of Admin (3.33b: see Metzger’s Textual Commentary to the Greek New Testament on this text), the genealogy of 1 Chronicles 1.1-4.9 (cf. also Jos. Ant. 1.3.2 [79], like Luke, descending from Noah to Adam). It is at this point where Luke’s genealogy differs from Matthew’s, who goes from David to Solomon rather than to Nathan. Nathan is said to be the father of Mattatha, the first of the many names having no record elsewhere.

G. Kuhn suggests that the seemingly lengthy genealogy ought to be understood as two shorter lists. (I have not yet acquired Kuhn’s book, but found this information in I. H. Marshall’s commentary on Luke [NIGTC], 159. I hope to read fully Kuhn’s argument.) These shorter lists are to be read as descending parallels, found in 3.23-26 and 3.29-31 (given here in RSV translation):

3.23-26 :::::::: 3.29-31

Jesus :::::::: Joshua
Joseph :::::::: [none]
Heli :::::::: Eliezer
[none] :::::::: Jorim
Matthat :::::::: Matthat
Levi :::::::: Levi
Melchi :::::::: Simeon
Jannai :::::::: Judah
Joseph :::::::: Joseph
Mattathias :::::::: [none]
Amos :::::::: [none]
Nahum :::::::: Jonam
Esli :::::::: Eliakim
Naggai :::::::: Melea
Maath :::::::: Menna
Mattathias :::::::: Mattatha

It is interesting to note that, in the second list, from Levi to Joseph are four partriachal names. This seems deliberate, and accounts for a good deal of the dissimilarity between the two lists. Are these patriarchal figures important to Jesus’ status and honor? Also, there is another reference to the otherwise unknown Melchi in the first list which is not in the second list, but rather in 3.28. Is there any significance? I am reminded of Melchizedek, the “high priest forever”.

Nathan is the next name following Mattatha in 3.31, which continues the descent toward Adam, “son of God” (3.38), the section corresponding to 1 Chronicles 1.1-4.9.

There are, however, several names which are unknown, or at least seem misplaced:

Semein: otherwise unknown
Josech: otherwise unknown
Joda: otherwise unknown
Joanan: otherwise unknown
Rhesa: otherwise unknown (possibly transl. of Aramaic “prince”? so Marshall, 163)
Zerubbabel: son of Shealtiel (1Chr3.19; Neh12.1; Hag1.12, et. al.; cf. Mt1.12)
Shealtiel: father of Zerubbabel (1Chr3.19; Neh12.1; Hag1.12, et. al.; cf. Mt1.12)
Neri: otherwise unknown
Melchi: otherwise unknown
Addi: otherwise unknown
Cosam: otherwise unknown
Elmadam: otherwise unknown
Er: Genesis 46.12-13 reads thus: “The sons of Judah: Er, …Perez…. And the sons of Perez were Hezron…” (cf. also Num26.19; 1Chr2.3). Ruth 4.18-19 reads thus: “Now these are the descendents of Perez: Perez was the father of Hezron, Hezron of Ram, Ram of Amminadab, Amminidab of Nashon, Hashon of Salmon, Salmon of Boaz, Boaz of Obed, Obed of Jesse, and Jesse of David.” The Ruth passage coincides perfectly with the genealogy of 1 Chronicles 1-4. These names appear in the same order in Luke’s genealogy at 3.31-33. Could it be that by mentioning Er, Luke is making yet another parallel, though implicit, to that of the latter section of his genealogy up to David?

Supposing Kuhn is right to suggest the parallel of Luke 3.23-26 and 3.29-31, an extended diagram of Luke’s genealogy would look like so:

3.23-26b = Jesus to Mattathias
3.26c-28 = all unkown names/individuals, save Zerubbabel and Shealtiel
3.29-31c = Joshua to Mattathias, parallel to 3.23-26b
3.31d = Nathan
3.31e-38 = David to Adam to God, following OT parallels.

So, it appears that Nathan is the single name to separate the “knowns” of 3.31e-38 from the “arranged” of 3.23-31c. And equally intriguing is Luke’s inclusion of Er. If Rhesa is a name, and not an Aramaism of “prince”, then the Er is the sixth name following Zerubbabel and Shealtiel, whereas only five precede them. So, Er might operate as a separator just as Nathan – and this so especially in light of Er’s family line, corresponding with some of 3.31e-38.

If Er is another separator, then the names Zerubbabel and Shealtiel comprise the midpoint of “the unknowns” of 3.26c-28. What is so significant about Zerubbabel and Shealtiel for Luke to have isolated them and given them attention in this way?

I am certain that Shealtiel is present simply to identify Zerubbabel. Zerubbabel is an important character in Israel’s history. Ezra tells of his fame:

“Now these were the people of the province who came up out of captivity of those exiles whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried captive to Babylonia: they returned to Jerusalem and Judah, each to his own town. They came with Zerubbabel, Jeshua,…. The people gathered as one man to Jerusalem. Then arose Jeshua the son of Jozadak, with his fellow priests, and Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel with his kinsmen, and they built an altar of the God of Israel, to offer burnt offerings upon it, as it is written in the law of Moses the man of God…. Zerubbabel…and Jeshua…made a beginning, together with the…priests and the Levites and all who had come to Jerusalem from the captivity. They appointed the Levites…to have oversight of the work of the house of the Lord…. And when the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the LORD, the priests in their vestments came forward with trumpets…and they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the LORD…. Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the returned exiles were building a temple to the LORD,…they approached Zerubbabel…and said, ‘Let us build with you...’. But Zerubbabel, Jeshua…said to them, ‘You have nothing to do with us in building a house to our God; but we alone will build to the LORD…’. Now the prophets Haggai and Zechariah…prophesied to the Jews who were in Judah and Jerusalem…. Then Zerubbabel…and Jeshua…arose and began to rebuild the house of God which is in Jerusalem; and with them were the prophets of God helping them.” (Ez2.1-2; 3.1-2, 8-11; 4.1-3; 5.1-2)

And Zechariah says of Zerubbabel:

“Then he said to me, ‘This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD of hosts. What are you, O mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain; and he shall bring forward the top stone amid shouts of “Grace, grace to it!”’ Moreover the word of the LORD came to me, saying, ‘The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also complete it. Then you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent me to you. For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice, and shall see the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel.” (Zech4.6-10)

Zerubbabel accompanied Jeshua and his priests in building the house of God. Considering Luke’s name game in his genealogy, does Jeshua = Jesus? By singling out Zerubbabel, is Luke saying that Zerubbabel is accompanying Jesus (and his priests?) in establishing God’s kingdom amid pagan societies? And who are the “unknowns”, as I have termed them? Can they be identified at all, via other sources? Lastly, is there a chance that Melchi is shorthand for Melchizedek?


I’m not sure that this is significant, but isn’t Joanan (Lk3.27) the male form of Johanna, the name of Theophilus’ granddaughter, who witnessed the resurrection (Luke 24.8-11)? I ask this because, in the entire genealogy, Luke has employed only one huios (“son”, 3.23), and before every name employed the genitive article tou to link them together, creatively creating the phrase “son of”. Therefore, he could not have included any female names without breaking his rhythmic pattern. If the inclusion and singling-out of Zerubbabel is meant to suggest that Jesus and his prophets are breaking in (Ez5.2), and that Zerubbabel must accompany those who “complete” the “house of God” (Zech4.9), might these names refer to those actively involved? If so, Johanna, an eyewitness to Jesus' resurrection (Lk24.8-11), would surely be named in a list of witnesses and “prophets” given to her grandfather, Theophilus.

copyrighted 2005

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