Saturday, December 28, 2013

Matthew's Infancy Narrative, 02: From Abraham to David

(Part 01 here)
Βίβλος γενέσεως Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ υἱοῦ Δαυὶδ υἱοῦ Ἀβραάμ.

Ἀβραὰμ ἐγέννησεν τὸν Ἰσαάκ,
Ἰσαὰκ δὲ ἐγέννησεν τὸν Ἰακώβ,
Ἰακὼβ δὲ ἐγέννησεν τὸν Ἰούδαν καὶ τοὺς ἀδελφοὺς αὐτοῦ,
Ἰούδας δὲ ἐγέννησεν τὸν Φάρες καὶ τὸν Ζάρα ἐκ τῆς Θαμάρ,
Φάρες δὲ ἐγέννησεν τὸν Ἑσρώμ,
Ἑσρὼμ δὲ ἐγέννησεν τὸν Ἀράμ,
Ἀρὰμ δὲ ἐγέννησεν τὸν Ἀμιναδάβ,
Ἀμιναδὰβ δὲ ἐγέννησεν τὸν Ναασσών,
Ναασσὼν δὲ ἐγέννησεν τὸν Σαλμών,
Σαλμὼν δὲ ἐγέννησεν τὸν Βόες ἐκ τῆς Ῥαχάβ,
Βόες δὲ ἐγέννησεν τὸν Ἰωβὴδ ἐκ τῆς Ῥούθ,
Ἰωβὴδ δὲ ἐγέννησεν τὸν Ἰεσσαί,
Ἰεσσαὶ δὲ ἐγέννησεν τὸν Δαυὶδ τὸν βασιλέα.
Δαυὶδ δὲ ἐγέννησεν τὸν Σολομῶνα ἐκ τῆς τοῦ Οὐρίου,

The scroll of the genesis of Iēsous Anointed son of Dauid son of Abraam.

Abraam fathered Isaak,
and Isaak fathered Iakōb,
and Iakōb fathered Ioudas and his brothers,
and Ioudas fathered Phares and Zara by Thamar,
and Phares fathered Hesrōm,
and Hesrōm fathered Aram,
and Aram fathered Aminadab,
and Aminadab fathered Naasōn,
and Naasōn fathered Salmōn,
and Salmōn fathered Boes by Rachab,
and Boes fathered Iōbēd by Routh,
and Iōbēd fathered Iessai,
and Iessai fathered Dauid the king,
and Dauid the king fathered Solomōn by the wife of Ourias:

Before we go on, there's the matter of how Matthew composed his genealogical list. The (in)famous Fr. Raymond Brown once proposed that Matthew had at his disposal two Jewish genealogies in Greek: one covered the pre-monarchical period and closely resembled the lists in 1 Chronicles 2 and Ruth 4, while the other was a popular genealogy of the royal Davidic line, which contained (with omssions) the names of the Judahite kings and the descendants of Zerubbabel. According to him, Matthew must have noticed that the pre-monarchical list contained fourteen names between Abraham and David, and again that there were fourteen names in the monarchical section. Furthermore, he noticed that if he added Joseph's and Jesus' names in the post-exilic list he would arrive at the same number, so Matthew, with his predilection for numbers, and informed by the numerical value of David's name (d (4) + w (6) + d (4) = 14), adopted the scheme.

W.C. Davies and Dale Allison (in their commentary on Matthew), however, disagree with Brown's scenario. They argue that there's really no need to postulate a pre-monarchical genealogical list and that an editorial use of 1 Chronicles 1-2 suffices to explain Matthew's list. They also argue that the numerical scheme is of Matthew's own devising instead of something that he had merely cribbed from his sources. Their theory was that, in agreement with Brown, Matthew had an originally Jewish list of monarchical and post-monarchical Davidids. Contra Brown, however, they also think that at the same time, Matthew consciously drew upon the genealogies of 1 Chronicles 1-3 and the tradition of counting fourteen generations between Abraham and David. Partly out of a fondness of symmetry and again due to gematria, and in the conviction that salvation history could be neatly divided into epochs of equal account, Matthew imposed the number fourteen upon the list behind 1:6b-16. In doing so, however, Matthew had to excise some names: for instance, at least five people from the 1 Chronicles list were omitted by Matthew (Ahaziah, J(eh)oash, Amaziah, Jehoiakim, Pedaiah) and two seem to have been added to the post-exilic period (Joseph, Jesus).
 Abraham fathered Isaac. The sons of Isaac: Esau and Israel. [...]

 These are the sons of Israel: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, Dan, Joseph, Benjamin, Naphtali, Gad, and Asher.
 The sons of Judah: Er, Onan and Shelah; these three Bath-shua the Canaanite bore to him. [...] His daughter-in-law Tamar also bore him Perez and Zerah. Judah had five sons in all.
 The sons of Perez: Hezron and Hamul. [...]
 The sons of Hezron that were born to him: Jerahmeel, Ram, and Chelubai.
 Ram fathered Amminadab, and Amminadab fathered Nahshon, prince of the sons of Judah. Nahshon fathered Salmon, Salmon fathered Boaz, Boaz fathered Obed, Obed fathered Jesse.
 Jesse fathered Eliab his firstborn, Abinadab the second, Shimea the third, Nethanel the fourth, Raddai the fifth, Ozem the sixth, David the seventh. And their sisters were Zeruiah and Abigail. [...]

  These were born to [David] in Jerusalem: Shimea, Shobab, Nathan and Solomon, four by Bath-shua, the daughter of Ammiel; then Ibhar, Elishama, Eliphelet, Nogah, Nepheg, Japhia, Elishama, Eliada, and Eliphelet, nine. All these were David's sons, besides the sons of the concubines, and Tamar was their sister.
 The son of Solomon was Rehoboam, Abijah his son, Asa his son, Jehoshaphat his son, Joram his son, Ahaziah his son, Joash his son, Amaziah his son, Azariah [= Uzziah] his son, Jotham his son, Ahaz his son, Hezekiah his son, Manasseh his son, Amon his son, Josiah his son.

 The sons of Josiah: Johanan the firstborn, the second Jehoiakim, the third Zedekiah, the fourth Shallum.
 The descendants of Jehoiakim: Jeconiah his son, Zedekiah his son;
 and the sons of Jeconiah, the captive: Shealtiel his son, Malchiram, Pedaiah, Shenazzar, Jekamiah, Hoshama and Nedabiah;
 and the sons of Pedaiah: Zerubbabel and Shimei;
 and the sons of Zerubbabel: Meshullam and Hananiah, and Shelomith was their sister; and Hashubah, Ohel, Berechiah, Hasadiah, and Jushab-hesed, five.

(1 Chronicles 1:34; 2:1-5, 9-16a; 3:5-20 ESV)
Now to go to the list proper. Why is Abraham on the head of Matthew's genealogy?

For one, Abraham stands at the beginning of, or at a decisive point in, several schematic accounts of Jewish history. (1 Maccabees 2:51-60; 1 Enoch 89:10; 93:5; 4 Ezra 6:7-8; 2 Baruch 53:5; 57:1-3; Mishnah, Avot 5.2, 3; Exodus Rabbah on 12:2) Starting with Abraham also provides a neat transition from "son of Abraham," and also makes David - significantly enough - the fourteenth name on the list. The fact that Abraham is also regarded in some traditions as a king (b. Sanhedrin 108b; Genesis Rabbah on 22:1; Justin's Epitome 36.2 reports a tradition that Abraham was at one time king of Damascus; cf. Josephus, Antiquities 1.159-160) lends weight to the interpretation that Matthew's genealogy is designed to show Jesus' royal pedigree: if Matthew knew this tradition, it may have partly influenced his decision to begin with Abraham. (Cf. also David's genealogical tree in Numbers Rabbah on 13:14, which has Abraham as its root.) Matthew may have been of the same mind as the author of 2 Baruch (57:1-3), in that Abraham marked a beginning no less than that marked by Adam:
And after these (waters) you did see bright waters: this is the fount of Abraham, also his generations and advent of his son, and of his son's son, and of those like them. Because at that time the unwritten law was named amongst them,

And the works of the commandments were then fulfilled,
And belief in the coming judgment was then generated,
And hope of the world that was to be renewed was then built up,
And the promise of the life that should come hereafter was implanted.
These are the bright waters, which you have seen.
Now, the very first "begetting" on the list (Abraham of Isaac) is significant in that it was miraculous in nature (Genesis 17:15-21; 18:9-15; 21:1-7); in other words, the first begetting in 1:2 has something in common with the last in 1:16 - it was out of the ordinary.

(Another break!)

(Ready to move on?)

Naming Judah as an ancestor of Jesus (cf. Hebrews 7:14; Luke 3:33) is also significant in a way. The prophecy in Jacob's Blessing (Genesis 49) concerning Judah and his descendants came to be interpreted of the Messiah. (Cf. the targums on Genesis 49:8-12; 4Q252; Revelation 5:5; Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho 52; Irenaeus, Adv. haer. 4.10.2; b. Sanhedrin 98b; Genesis Rabbah on 49.10) Also, the Testament of Judah 1.6 explicitly has Judah prophesied to be a king.
“Judah, your brothers shall praise you;
your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies;
your father's sons shall bow down before you.
Judah is a lion's cub;
from the prey, my son, you have gone up.
He stooped down; he crouched as a lion
and as a lioness; who dares rouse him?
The scepter shall not depart from Judah,
nor the ruler's staff from between his feet,
until tribute comes to him;
and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.
Binding his foal to the vine
and his donkey's colt to the choice vine,
he has washed his garments in wine
and his vesture in the blood of grapes.
His eyes are darker than wine,
and his teeth whiter than milk.”

(Genesis 49:8-12 ESV)

[8. JEHUDA, thee shall all thy brethren praise, and from thy name shall all be called Jehudaee; thy hand shall avenge thee of thy adversaries; all the sons of thy father shall come before thee with salutation. I will liken thee, my son Jehuda, to a whelp the son of a lion: from the slaying of Joseph thou wast free, from the judgment of Tamar thou, my son, wast acquitted. He remaineth tranquil in the midst of war, as the lion and as the lioness; nor is there people or kingdom that can stand against thee. Kings shall not cease from the house of Jehuda, nor sapherim teaching the law from his children's children, until the time that the King Meshiha shall come, whose is the kingdom, and to whom all the kingdoms of the earth shall be obedient. How beauteous is the King Meshiha, who is to arise from the house of Jehuda!

[Binding his loins, and going forth to war against them that hate him, he will slay kings with princes, and make the rivers red with the blood of their slain, and his hills white with the fat of their mighty ones; his garments will be dipped in blood, and he himself be like the juice of the winepress. More beautiful are the eyes of the king Meshiha to behold than pure wine; they will not look upon that which is unclean, or the shedding of the blood of the innocent. His teeth are employed according to the precept rather than in eating the things of violence and rapine; his mountains shall be red with vines, and his presses with his wine, and his hills be white with much corn and with flocks of sheep.]

- Targum Pseudo-Jonathan

Jehuda, thou art praise and not shame; thy brethren shall praise thee; thy hand shall prevail against thine adversaries, thine enemies shall be dispersed; they will be turned backward before thee, and the sons of thy father will come before thee with salutations. The dominion shall be (thine) in the beginning, and in the end the kingdom shall be increased from the house of Jehuda, because from the judgment of death, my son, hast thou withdrawn. He shall repose, and abide in strength as a lion, and as a lioness, there shall be no king that may cut him off. He who exerciseth dominion shall not pass away from the house of Jehuda, nor the saphra from his children's children for ever, until the Meshiha come, whose is the kingdom, and unto whom shall be the obedience of the nations (or, whom the peoples shall obey). Israel shall pass round about in his cities; the people shall build his temple, they will be righteous round about him, and be doers of the law through his doctrine. Of goodly purple will be his raiment, and his vesture of crimson wool with colours. His mountains shall be red with his vineyards, and his hills be dropping with wine; his valleys shall be white with corn, and with flocks of sheep.

- Targum Onkelos
Matthew names Judah "and his brothers." Why did Matthew bother to note them - even if only briefly? (Also note Perez and Zerah and Jechoniah "and his brothers.") A common idea is that Matthew wishes to highlight divine selectivity: of the several possible candidates, Judah alone - like Perez and Jechoniah - was chosen to propagate the royal line. There's another alternative explanation in light of Matthew's view of God's people as a brotherhood (cf. 23:8 "But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers;" in fact, the word for "brother" occurs 39 times within the gospel - second only to the Acts of the Apostles' 57). In other words, Judah and his brothers are seen as prefiguring the Church. A third possibility is that there is a conscious allusion to the twelve tribes of Israel who will be reunited at the eschatological culmination already inaugurated by Jesus (cf. 19:38).

BTW, here's something that's 'lost in translation.' In Matthew, Esrom is supposed to be the father of an "Aram," who is in turn Amminadab's father. One might be tempted to connect it with the 'Ram' who fits the same description in the Hebrew text of 1 Chronicles and Ruth 4:19 - and there are some translations which 'fix' Aram into Ram. To complicate matters however, the Greek version of 1 Chronicles 2 has four sons of Esrom instead of the Hebrew text's three (Jerahmeel, Ram, Chelubai) - the extra son is named Αραμ "Aram" (as in Matthew's text), who is clearly not the same person as Ram. (For the record, the Greek version of Ruth 4:19 has Αρραν "Arran" instead of Ram.)
Hebrew (ESV): The sons of Hezron that were born to him: Jerahmeel, Ram, and Chelubai. Ram fathered Amminadab, and Amminadab fathered Nahshon, prince of the sons of Judah.

Greek (NETS): And Heseron's sons, who were born to him: Irameel and Ram and Chaleb and Aram. (ὁ Ιραμεηλ καὶ ὁ Ραμ καὶ ὁ Χαλεβ καὶ Αραμ) And Aram became the father of Aminadab, and Aminadab became the father of Naason, ruler of the house of Ioudas.
(Yet another break here.)

(Are we rested?)

You might have noticed that in this section of the genealogy, Matthew names four women: Tamar, Rahab (perhaps the harlot who hid the spies in Joshua 2, 6 is intended here, although there is no source in the OT for the claim that the Rahab of Joshua became Boaz's mother; indeed Rahab and Salmon are separated by almost a century or two - more on this issue later), Ruth and Bathsheba (referred to indirectly as the "wife of Uriah"). The thing is, Jewish genealogies normally did not name women, and although Tamar and Bathsheba (as Bathshua) are referred to in 1 Chronicles, the other two are not. So what was Matthew's purpose for referring to them? Again, there's a number of available possibilities.

The first idea draws attention to the fact that all of the above women were probably in some way 'sinful': Tamar disguised herself as a prostitute and seduced Judah (Genesis 38:12-23). Rahab was a prostitute. Bathsheba committed adultery with David. As for Ruth, perhaps she was also guilty of transgression - Ruth 3:1-18 may imply that she enticed Boaz (Josephus was already concerned with the problem in Antiquities 5.328-331). This explanation proposes that Matthew is trying to highlight God's power: God's purpose for the line of David was achieved despite sin and human failure (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:27-31; Josephus, Antiquities 5.337). This interpretation would certainly tie up with 1:21. The problem with this interpretation however is that it somehow fails to take into account that in both Jewish and Christian tradition, Rahab (despite being a harlot) generally had a positive image, being upheld as a model of faith and good works. Not to mention that Genesis 38:26 itself proclaims the righteousness of Tamar (cf. Philo, On the Unchangeableness of God 136-137; On the Virtues 220-222). One might also cite rabbinic texts which downplay the sin of Bathsheba, and Ruth 4:11 expresses Ruth's renown. Plus, the genealogy itself contains names of males whose sins are well-known like David or Manasseh. So one could argue that the introduction of women would hardly seem to be a fruitful way of expressing that theme.

A minority view (expressed by M.D. Johnson, The Purpose of the Biblical Genealogies) suggests that at the time of Jesus, there was a debate of sorts over the ancestry of the messiah. In Johnson's view, those who argued for a priestly, Levitical messiah pointed out all the nasty stuff in David's family tree (foreign blood, illicit liaisons, sinful women) which in their view tainted the ancient kingly line, thus making it unfit, but those who favored a royal, Davidic messiah over and against (or in conjunction with) a priestly messiah such as the Pharisees defended and elevated these irregularities. Johnson proposed that Matthew favored the latter view and used the genealogy as an opportunity to sell Jesus as a 'Pharisaic', Davidic messiah, especially considering the rise of the Pharisees post-AD 70. The women were included by Matthew, Johnson says, because of disputes among Hasmonaeans and opponents, perhaps spilling over into Matthew's day via Sadducees or purists among the Pharisees, over the legitimacy of the David line due to the presence of figures like Ruth (a Moabitess, and therefore a gentile). In other words, Matthew is trying to convince his readers that the Pharisaic - now the dominant expression of Judaism - expectation had been fulfilled in Jesus, the "son of David." The problem with Johnson's reading, however, is that it seems to be based on late sources (Ruth Rabbah 8.1 is often cited as evidence for this supposed dispute, but that's the problem - it's quite late). In addition, the association of Rahab with the line of Judah does not explain her presence in the genealogy. Another argument against the theory is that: would not a genealogy without the women adequately illustrate the Davidic descent of Jesus?

The third possibility - which has more stronger weight - emphasizes the non-Jewish nature of these four women and thus proposes that the women in 1:2-16 reflect an interest in the salvation of gentiles. Tamar, whether Canaanite or an Aramaean (as Jubilees 41.1-2 and Testament of Judah 10.1-2 make her out to be; both texts deny that she was a Canaanite), was certainly not an Israelite (cf. Philo, On the Virtues 220-222), Rahab was a Canaanite from Jericho, Ruth a Moabite, and Bathsheba the wife of a Hittite. We might add Matthew's note of Jesus being the "son of Abraham" (also a gentile by birth) and the story of the magi - a recurring theme which would reach a climax in 28:19's "Go and make disciples of all nations" - as lending credence to this idea. This thesis' weakness lies mainly in the fact that only three out of the four women were gentile (Bathsheba was an Israelite by birth - it has been argued that her marriage to Uriah does not cancel her ethnicity), and these three women were in some sources regarded as proselytes. One might add that this interpretation does not seem to take Mary into account, and can also be considered quite androcentric, almost disdainful (summarily labelling the women as 'foreigners' and 'outsiders').

The fourth idea on the fact that all four women had 'irregular' marital unions: the union of Judah and Tamar was an "abomination in Israel" (Testament of Judah 12.8). Bathsheba committed adultery with David. Ruth was a foreigner (and if you believe the threshing floor incident in Ruth 3-4 is euphemistically describing something more risque, there's also that). And Rahab, even though the Bible says nothing about her marriage to Salmon, is both a prostitute and a Canaanite. All these 'irregularities' and 'embarrassments', so goes the idea, are open to slander and calumny by outsiders, but the point is that any slanderer would have been attacking what God had chosen to bless. What this idea proposes is, that Matthew is trying to prefigure the irregular circumstances surrounding Mary's pregnancy, something which was also ridiculed by those outside the Church, and perhaps even by some inside it. (Remember the ancient claim - since Porphyry in the 2nd century - about Jesus being the illegitimate son of a Roman soldier?) There's a weak spot in this argument as well though: the embarassment over the four women's sexual activities is a modern phenomenon. As noted earlier, Rahab, Ruth and Tamar were traditionally unanimously regarded as heroines in Judaism, and in the case of Bathsheba, it is usually David who is held responsible for the sin, not her.

Jason B. Hood goes into more comprehensive detail about the respective ideas (and arguments to the contrary) much more than I could in The Messiah, His Brothers, and the Nations: (Matthew 1.1-17).

(Break time. Feel free to take a breather.)


About Rahab: I mentioned earlier that there is no source in the OT for the claim that the Rahab of Joshua became Salmon/Salma's wife and Boaz's mother. (In the Talmud, Rahab is said to have become the wife of Joshua; b. Megillot 14b-15a.) That, and the fact that there seems to be a gap of a century or two between Rahab and Salmon have led some to suggest that perhaps Matthew's Rahab is a different figure. Some might even point out that in Greek the names are slightly different: Joshua's Rahab is Ῥαάβ (Raab; cf. LXX Joshua, Hebrews 11:31; James 2:25; 1 Clement 12:1-3), but the form found in Matthew's text is Ῥαχάβ (Rachab, the ch (chi) accurately representing the (ḥeth) of Hebrew Rāḥāḇ). One might argue, however, that this interpretation is quite contrived. Regarding the names, the argument based on differences in transliteration is rather arbitrary: some versions of Josephus' Antiquities (5.8-15) for instance refer to the Rahab of Joshua as Ῥαχάβη Rachabē (although Ῥαάβη Raabē is also noted). In addition, one might note the fact that Matthew introduces his Ra(c)hab without any further identification, suggesting that he expected her to be already familiar to his readers; it is argued that Matthew would not have included a biblically-unknown person. So despite the chronological difficulty, it is still assumed by many commentators that Joshua's Rahab is what Matthew had in mind here.

It had also been suggested by Richard Bauckham (cf. Gospel Women: Studies of the Named Women in the Gospels, pp. 34-41) that the inclusion of Rahab was based (using Jewish-style exegesis or midrash) on 1 Chronicles 2:5-51, 54-55, which mentions a "Salma" (Hebrew: שַׂלְמָ֗א Śalmā’, the same spelling used for Salmon's name in v. 11; Greek: Σαλωμων Salōmōn, with an extra omega distinguishing it from Σαλμων Salmōn of v. 11) - who is the father of a "Bethlehem"! - and a "house of Rechab" (Hebrew: רֵכָֽב Rēḵāḇ; Greek: Ρηχαβ Rēchab - just one letter away from Rachab). It helps that immediately after the mention of Rechab the book immediately lists David's offspring (3:1-9). In other words, Matthew 'discovered' Rahab and her putative connection to Salmon/Salma and David in 1 Chronicles 2-3 via midrash.
The sons of Hur the firstborn of Ephrathah: Shobal the father of Kiriath-jearim, Salma, the father of Bethlehem, and Hareph the father of Beth-gader. [...] The sons of Salma: Bethlehem, the Netophathites, Atroth-beth-joab and half of the Manahathites, the Zorites. The clans also of the scribes who lived at Jabez: the Tirathites, the Shimeathites and the Sucathites. These are the Kenites who came from Hammath, the father of the house of Rechab. (3:1) These are the sons of David who were born to him in Hebron...
Some late sources associate both Rahab and Tamar with God's Spirit (Ruth Rabbah on 1.1; b. Makkot 23b; Genesis Rabbah on 38.15), hence one might be tempted to associate that with Mary's conception "of the Holy Ghost." But the sources are that, late. Moreover, other women like Sarah and Rebekah are also associated with the Holy Spirit (Jubilees 25.14; b. Megillot 14a; Genesis Rabbah on 16.2) - why were they not named in the genealogy as well?

After going through Boaz and Jesse, we finally arrive at "David the king" - the fourteenth name on the genealogical list composed of three sets of fourteens, with the name David itself comprised (in Hebrew) of three letters, the numerical value of which adds up to fourteen. Very symbolic, huh? David's name is the turning point between the first and second sections of the genealogical list. And that's where we'll drop off for today.

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