Summary: Where you come from is important.
What’s With All Those Begats?
I am sure that some of you are wondering what I am going to do with this text. Those who have studied the Bible know that this is one genealogy of many. It is hard to read names that seem so hard to pronounce. I spared you a little by not reading a much longer list in First Chronicles. I found when I get to that list, I try to plow through it as quickly as possible to get to the “good stuff”. At least this is the genealogy of Jesus, so if any list of names is important in the Scripture is important, it is this one. But as we shall see, the “begats” of the Bible have a vital function and are just as important and inspired as the rest of Scripture. Let’s see why?
First of all, the begats tell us that people like Adam, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, David, and many others were real human beings who lived in time rather than myths used to tell stories. These people lived in history and in a historical context. They lived within the realms of creation, time, and space. These bible characters were real people who lived real lives, just like us.
Some of the people in the Bible play more prominent roles in history than others. The roll call of faith in the 11th chapter of Hebrews brings this out. Some like Abraham and Sarah have comparatively much written about them. Others are simply named. And others are part of a nameless cloud of witnesses. But all of God’s saints, named or unnamed in this life are included in God’s plan and are, therefore, important.
Besides this, when we are dealing with the genealogy of Jesus, we are shown that Jesus became a human being who lived within the very creation which He created, and lived with us in the realms of time and space. Jesus was no myth or phantom. He became just as human as everyone else. And as a human being, he had to have a genealogy.
When we study genealogies, we must understand genealogies as meaning more than biological descent, although they certainly have an important biological element. But if they were strictly biological, we would have a major problem with the genealogy of Jesus in the Gospel of Luke. Matthew traces the genealogy through David’s son, Solomon, and Luke traces it through his son, Nathan. Other than a couple of convergences, they do not come together until we get to Joseph. This has caused a difficulty that have perplexed the greatest minds in Christendom.
The most common resolution to this is to say that Matthew traces Jesus’ descent through Joseph and Luke through Mary. Because Jesus was only apparently the son of Joseph, Luke found it necessary to trace Jesus’ humanity through Mary. Luke does bring out the idea by saying that he was supposed to be thought of as the son of Joseph. But this is far from saying, the “son of Mary” and tracing the genealogy through her. By all appearances, Luke is providing us with Joseph’s genealogy, not Mary’s. A literal reading of Matthew leads us to the same conclusion. This solution seems to be one of desperation rather than a plausible one.