Wednesday, December 21, 2016

On the Way



This drear week of the year, a few days before keeping the Χριστός in Xmas, mind turns to the genealogies of Jesus in Matthew 1 and Luke 3, and that they are so different, in content and in agenda (btw, agenda is not a four letter word implying something sinister, devious or manipulative, it simply refers to the writer’s literary purpose). Writing for a Jewish Christian audience, Matthew’s agenda with his genealogy is to show that Jesus is a son of Abraham, a Jew notwithstanding that he is a Galilean; and to show his legitimate claim to messiahship on the throne of David by tracing his ancestry back through kings of Judah, the old Southern kingdom. Matthew, subtly to us, loud and clear to his audience, underscores, emboldens his case by asserting there are 
14 generations from Abraham to David, 
14 generations from David to Jeconiah, and
14 generations from Jeconiah to Jesus. Matthew’s Jewish audience will understand his numerology: 14 in Hebrew is ד ו ד D+V+D (4+6+4=14) Dalet Vav Dalet = DaViD the king. So
from Abraham to David is DaViD, and 
from David to Jeconiah is DaViD, and 
from Jecohiah to Jesus is DaViD. Some 21st century Christians may flounder in the same bafflement that keeps them up nights about Revelation John's 666, but it’s perfectly clear to Matthew's late first and early second century audience of Jewish Christians who know their heritage and don't miss hidden meaning in Hebrew allusion.


It needn’t bother us that the counting is awkward and a bit problematic, or that Matthew leaves out some kings of Judah, because it certainly didn’t bother Matthew, who is proving a point not writing History-101. It needn’t bother us either that Matthew and Luke have different lists, because it obviously didn’t bother either of them if they even knew of each other’s gospels (a different subject in which some scholars do in fact say that there was no Q Gospel but rather that Luke knew and used Matthew and was, as he tells Theoophilus, trying to set the record straight). The two evangelists wrote at slightly different times (Luke a bit later), to different audiences, and had different agenda and points to make about Jesus.

To insist (i) that Matthew and Luke must match, or (ii) that either is trying to assert literal history in 21st century terms, would be idiocy, ridiculous. Forget it.

Except for several names, Luke’s genealogy has different names from Matthew and more names than Matthew. 


Luke seems to be writing to a Gentile, one Theophilus, we don’t know who that may be, a Roman official or sponsor maybe, or an audience of God-lovers, or maybe to the Christian church at large, we just don’t know, and though an interesting discussion, it doesn't really matter. It's to most excellent Theophilus.

And beyond incorporating Jesus’ essential Jewishness, Luke is interested in relating Jesus all the way back to Adam as son of God. He does a pretty good job, actually; I’ve not traced back through the Bible’s begats and have no intention of doing so, but someone has done, and I see Methuselah, Lamech, Noah and Shem in there, so I'm satisfied. Luke is not very interested in the begats of kings of Judah, but he does have to go through David because it’s the throne of David that the messiah is heir to, but Luke ignores Solomon, there’s Nathan, that's not David’s chaplain but an obscure son of David by Bathsheba (1 Chronicles 3:5). Jesus was a Jew so Luke takes Jesus through Abraham and the patriarchs, but he heads on back to Adam to show Jesus was adama, a human being, an earthling, like Adam, son of God. Son of God, like Adam הָֽאָדָ֗ם.

Some innocents like to say that the two genealogies are different because one evangelist traces Jesus’ genealogy through Joseph and one through Mary: all that ignorance shows is that somebody didn’t bother to read the lists. Both trace through Joseph not only for cultural reasons in a patriarchal society but also because they need Joseph in the house and lineage of king David, whereas the Holy Ghost would've had no credible messianic claim to that throne.

So, okay, time for a square of dark, and black with honey for this common cold that seems to be abating somewhat. My blog is never posted as a discussion forum, here personal musings early on a damp, chill Wednesday predawn before Xmas, about the Χριστός and the early Christian writers who made it possible for us to know him. Happy Holidays &c.

My blog: Like it or Lump it.

DThos+ in +Time+ and holding, but
neither clutching nor grasping nor gasping.

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There they go only soon to learn that there is no room in the καταλύματι so they must stay in the stable with the animals, which coincidentally sets the scene for an exemplary life of humility as well as for "Away in a manger" and other songs. Pinched online: "an icon of their trip that's in the Monastery of Chora in Constantinople (Istanbul). In it we see Joseph with a slight stoop and the gate of an elderly man. He was generally thought to be about 80 years of age at this time. His eyes are turned toward Mary who has her head turned towards him.  One of Joseph's sons is leading with his mantle flowing and carrying a bundle of provisions for the trip." (quoted from online source)

TW: The non-scriptural tradition of Joseph as a shriveled, wrinkled up, worn out, impotent old man &c is part of the, to me, absurdist sexual obsession of centuries of church elders for whom Mary's most adorable trait was virginity, blessed ever virgin. Furthermore, to have "one of Joseph's sons" in there is part of the subtle formula for Joseph and to prove back to Mary's chastity even though the Bible says Jesus had brothers and sisters. They were not Mary's children? Come on, folks, get over it!! Unfortunately in my sarcastic skepticism, instead of being assured and reassured about Mary's virginity, I see that unscriptural young man as a threat, possibly even part of the mystery. Of course, a story can be whatever one wants it to be, but, clearly, I don't see synoptical with the iconographer. Actually, I think that's a mosaic.


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