The Baptism and the Genealogy of Jesus Christ
- Wednesday, May 23, 2007
We know from Matthew's genealogy that some names were left out. In Matthew 1:8 it says Joram was the father of Uzziah; but in 1 Chronicles 3:11 there are three other names listed between these two. One of the reasons for this is so that Matthew could have three equal groups of 14 names each (Matthew 1:17). The same motive might have been at work in Luke's genealogy, because there appear to be 11 groups of 7 names each with all the important figures either at the beginning or end of a group. But Luke doesn't draw attention to this like Matthew does, so we shouldn't press it. So I don't think we are bound to Ussher chronology which makes man about 6,000 years old. Just how old man is, is a problem we'll leave for another time.
Why Are Matthew and Luke so Different?
2) Why, when you compare Matthew's genealogy with Luke's between David and Jesus, are they almost completely different? All the names but two are different. A major commentary published in 1978 by I. H. Marshall says, "It is only right therefore to admit that the problem caused by the existence of the two genealogies is insoluble with the evidence presently at our disposal" (p. 159). What he means is not that the two are in unresolvable conflict. There are suggested solutions, but we just don't know enough to be sure these solutions are the proper ones. I'll just mention two. One suggestion is that, from David to Jesus, Matthew "gives the legal descendants of David—the men who would have been legally the heir to the Davidic throne if that throne had continued—while Luke gives the descendants of David in that particular time to which finally Joseph, the husband of Mary, belonged" (Machen, Virgin Birth, p. 204). So, for example, Luke says in 3:31 that the son of David was Nathan (2 Samuel 5:14), while Matthew in 1:6 says the son of David was Solomon, who was heir to the throne. The two lines could easily merge whenever one of Nathan's descendants became the rightful heir to the throne.
The other suggested solution is that Luke gives Mary's genealogy and Matthew gives Joseph's as Jesus' legal father. The key to this interpretation is extending the parenthesis of verse 23 to include Joseph. So it would read, "Jesus was about 30 years old, being the son (as was supposed of Joseph) of Heli etc." By including "of Joseph" in the parenthesis the point is made that Jesus is really the son of Mary, not Joseph, and Heli is his grandfather (Mary's father). Both of these solutions are possible; the first is more probable; but neither can be proved.
Why Does Luke Go Back to Adam?
3) The last two questions are more important because they help us understand Luke's message. Why does the genealogy go back to Adam while Matthew's stops at Abraham? The reason surely is that Matthew is writing for Jews who are interested in Jesus' connection with father Abraham, but Luke is writing for a Gentile and, therefore, is more interested in Jesus' solidarity with all men through his descent from Adam. This fits beautifully with the emphasis we have seen already on the universality of the gospel—it is open to all men; Jesus is not just a son of Abraham; more importantly he is a son of Adam; he is a man. His humanity, not his ethnicity, is the crucial thing. That seems to be Luke's point in attaching him to Adam. But there may be more as we pose our last question.
Why Does the Genealogy Appear Where It Does?
4) Why did Luke insert the genealogy here between the baptism and temptation of Jesus, which Matthew and Mark put together? I find the key in the surprising ending of the genealogy: Luke doesn't stop with Adam but says Adam was "son of God." I doubt that Luke wants us to think of Jesus as the Son of God in the same sense that Abraham and David and all the other descendants of Adam were. Luke 1:35 shows that his sonship depends on his unique creation in Mary's womb by the Holy Spirit. So it has seemed to many commentators that the reason Adam is called the son of God is to establish a comparison between Adam and Jesus as uniquely and immediately, though not identically, created by God. This then calls to mind Paul's teaching that Christ is a second Adam, the beginner of a new humanity. In 1 Corinthians 15:47–49 Paul says, "The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so are those who are of the dust; and as is the man of heaven, so are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven." There is no reason to think Luke was ignorant of this idea since he was with Paul as much as anyone. If this was before his mind, then one reason he inserted the genealogy here was to stress that like Adam Jesus was man and was uniquely created by God, and that, therefore, he is a new and second Adam whose ministry will be to create and assemble a new race of humans who are not marked by Jewishness or non-Jewishness, but by the dove-like character of the Holy Spirit.
By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: www.desiringGod.org. Email: mail@desiringGod.org. Toll Free: 1.888.346.4700.
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