The Anti-Missionary’s Charge:
A common objection voiced by the anti-missionary runs along these lines:
Jesus cannot be the Messiah because his genealogy is stated to be through Matthew. Matthew’s line is cursed by the Jeconiah curse in Matthew 1:11-12.
Yes, many commentators have overlooked the Jeconiah curse. Yeshua cannot be the Messiah/King if he is descended from Jeconiah.
Matthew is actually trying to prove that Yeshua is not, I repeat not, the son of Joseph. He is God’s son, not Joseph’s. No cursed blood of Joseph runs through Yeshua‘s veins. Therefore, if He was a descendent of Joseph He could not be king.
Most commentators state that Matthew was trying to prove Yeshua‘s right to the throne when, I believe, the exact opposite is true. Most commentators who recognize the Jeconiah curse say that Yeshua was Joseph’s adopted son and therefore avoided the Jeconiah curse through adoption. They say Yeshua has a legal right to the throne through adoption. That does not hold water either because legal adoption was not a Jewish practice in the first century.
Encyclopedia Judaica has a revealing article on the concept of adoption in the Jewish community:
- Encyclopaedia Judaica: CD Rom Edition – Adoption
- Later Jewish Law
The evidence for adoption in the Bible is so equivocal (vague) that some have denied it was practiced in the biblical period.
The evidence for adoption in the pre-Exilic period is … meager. The possibility that adoption was practiced in this period cannot be excluded, especially since contemporary legal documents are lacking. Nevertheless, it seems that if adoption played any role at all in Israelite family institutions, it was an insignificant one.
For the post-Exilic period in (Israel) there is no reliable evidence for adoption at all.
Adoption is not known as a legal institution in Jewish law. According to halakhah, the personal status of parent and child is based on the natural family relationship only and there is no recognized way of creating this status artificially by a legal act or fiction. However, Jewish law does provide for consequences essentially similar to those caused by adoption to be created by legal means.
These consequences are the right and obligation of a person to assume responsibility for (a) a child’s physical and mental welfare and (b) his financial position, including matters of inheritance and maintenance.
The impact of this information is the fact that Joseph could have easily assumed responsibility for Yeshua. Joseph was legally able to provide for Yeshua and oversee His physical, mental, and financial welfare. However, that would not have qualified Yeshua for the throne of David through Joseph. Matthew is proving the Yeshua was not Joseph’s son. Adoption should not be used to validate Yeshua‘s kingship. However, Yeshua, like everyone has two genealogies. The fact of two genealogies, one for Mary and one for Joseph, is seen through a number of factors.
- The Source of the Genealogies.
- Compare the Genealogies.
- Joseph’s name is highly qualified in both genealogies.
There are two sources for the genealogies. Luke traces the line through Nathan (Lk. 3:21) and Matthew through Solomon (Matt. 1:6). One source is for Mary and one source is for Joseph.
The lines are very different, listing different names. There are some names that are the same, Shealtiel and Zerubbabel. However, Luke’s Shealtiel and Zerubbabel are different persons from Matthew’s Shealtiel and Zerubbabel. This is evident because the progenitors and descendents of Shealtiel and Zerubbabel are different. The progenitors are Jeconiah in Matthew and Neri in Luke. The descendents are Abihud in Matthew and Rhesa in Luke. Common names in the same sequence, especially if it is the shortest possible sequence (two) does not mean that these are the same people.
Luke 3:23 is correcting a common error. Some people, in error, thought that Yeshua was Joseph’s son. Therefore, Luke corrects the error by carefully stating in the Greek text that Yeshua “as was supposed, the son of Joseph.” Another legitimate rendering would be “as it was being thought, the son of Joseph.” Either rendering into English is grammatically justified. Luke is stating that Yeshua was the son of Eli in Luke 3:23.
Who is Eli? He is Mary’s father. Why does Luke call Mary’s father the progenitor? Because Luke is following strict Jewish tradition not to mention women in a genealogy. Not one woman is mentioned by Luke, in contrast to Matthew.
Here is Luke’s problem. Luke cannot state that Joseph is Yeshua’s father; he has to correct that error (and does). In addition, Luke cannot mention Mary because she is a woman. His solution follows Jewish tradition. He names Mary’s father. We have an example of this in Ezra 2:61 and Nehemiah 7:63. Therefore, Luke qualifies Joseph’s name to make sure the reader of the Greek text understands that Joseph is not Yeshua’s father. Luke is tracing Mary’s lineage, which goes back to David through Nathan.
Let us take on Matthew now. Matthew also qualifies Joseph’s name. Matthew tells us that Joseph was the husband of Mary. He does not say the Joseph was the father of Yeshua. Then he says, “by whom Jesus was born.” The phrase “by whom” is feminine in the Greek and therefore must refer to a woman and not a man. Matthew is referring to Mary. Yeshua was born of Mary not Joseph. “By whom” means Mary, not Joseph.
That is very clear in Greek, but not in English. So Joseph’s name is highly qualified as well. Matthew is tracing Joseph’s genealogy. He is doing this to show that Joseph was not Yeshua’s father.
This is exactly the opposite that most Gentile Christian commentators teach. Unfortunately, most Gentile Christian commentators are not able to view Matthew’s genealogy through Jewish eyes.
Okay, what about tracing the lineage back to Solomon rather than Nathan?
- Same problem for Jewish and Christian communities.
- The Davidic Covenant is unconditional for David, but conditional for Solomon.
If the Messiah’s genealogy has to go back through Solomon then both the Jewish and Christian communities have to deal with a cursed line. The anti-missionary too has to solve the problem of the Jeconiah curse when he insists that Jewish tradition states the Messiah must be a descendent of David through Solomon. However, a turn-about does not solve the problem for us. Reflecting the problem back to the source does not answer the question. So how does the line that seems to be promised through Solomon go through Nathan instead?
I believe the solution to the problem is really quite simple. To find it you need to look at all the statements that are related to the Davidic Covenant. Key statements that are usually not mentioned are 1 Chronicles 22:6-13 and 1 Chronicles 28:7.
1 Chronicles 22:6-13 gives us David’s understanding of the Davidic Covenant. David is reviewing the promise God made to him and charging Solomon to build the temple in verses 6-12.
In verse 13 David says this to Solomon:
Then you will prosper, if you are careful to observe the statutes and the ordinances which the LORD commanded Moses concerning Israel. Be strong and courageous, do not fear nor be dismayed.
His statement to Solomon is conditional, “Then you will prosper, if …” We need to ask ourselves, “Did Solomon obey the Mosaic Law carefully?” The answer comes in 1 Kings 11:9:
Now the LORD was angry with Solomon because his heart was turned away from the LORD, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice.
Solomon failed to diligently follow the Lord and was disciplined. In 1 Chronicles 28 David is again explaining his understanding of the Davidic Covenant. His crucial statement is found in verse 7. David is quoting God.
I will establish his kingdom forever if he resolutely performs My commandments and My ordinances, as is done now.
Note, again the conditional element concerning Solomon, “I will establish … if …” It appears to me that David understands the David Covenant to be conditional in regard to Solomon. Did Solomon resolutely perform the Mosaic Law?
No. – 1 Kings 11:9.
Finally, in 1 Kings 9:3 we have God’s promise and warning to Solomon. Here are verses 4-7 with my emphases added.
God is talking to Solomon:
As for you, if you will walk before Me as your father David walked, in integrity of heart and uprightness, doing according to all that I have commanded you and will keep My statutes and My ordinances, then I will establish the throne of your kingdom over Israel forever, just as I promised to your father David, saying, “You shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.” But if you or your sons indeed turn away from following Me, and do not keep My commandments and My statutes which I have set before you, and go and serve other gods and worship them, then I will cut off Israel from the land which I have given them, and the house which I have consecrated for My name, I will cast out of My sight. So Israel will become a proverb and a byword among all peoples.
Notice God’s assessment of the Davidic Covenant. Please allow me to paraphrase:
Solomon if you walk before me properly, then I will establish YOUR kingdom forever as I promised David, but if you or your sons don’t, then I will pour out judgment.
Let me put it another way,
Solomon, if you walk before me properly, then the Davidic promise, the Davidic Covenant, will be fulfilled through your line, if not then the Davidic Covenant will not be fulfilled through you.
We already know that Solomon failed to follow the Mosaic Covenant properly (1 Kings 11:9), but did any other son fail as well? A number of them failed to follow the Mosaic Covenant. Following Solomon there were 20 kings of Judah. 13 of them were bad kings, and only seven were godly. Jeconiah, the 19th king, was one of the worst. He was so bad that God pronounced the Jeconiah curse on him.
From 1 Kings 9, I would say, once again, that the Davidic Covenant is unconditional in regard to David. However, it is conditional concerning Solomon and his descendents. God will fulfill His promise to David of an eternal house, throne, and kingdom but it will only come through Solomon’s line if Solomon’s line is worthy. Solomon’s line was not worthy and was cut off conclusively with the Jeconiah curse.
If I am correct in this assessment, to which descendent was the line transferred? Nothing is stated in Tanakh. The solution comes in the Brit Chadashah. We see in Luke’s genealogy that the line was transferred to Nathan (Lk. 3:21). No conditional element rests on Nathan and his descendents. The result is that God fulfills His unconditional, eternal promise to David, through Nathan and eventually to Yeshua. Yeshua is not adopted by Joseph. There is no need to postulate that possibility. Yeshua has the legal right to the Davidic throne through Mary’s genealogy. No cursed descendent stands as an obstacle to His Kingship through Nathan.