An overview of the genealogies of Christ though the eyes of Matthew the entrepreneur and Luke the white collared professional

Have you ever thought about your own family background and where your roots are found?  In today’s world this is big business and with the advent of DNA testing one can find out even more. We all want to know where we are from as it helps us to build a picture of our identity and where we belong.  Sometimes when we read the news either from the papers or online it is sometimes the only good news we can find. However, DNA may also bring one bad news, perhaps one is related to a despot such as Hitler, Mussolini or even Ceausescu and Stalin. Perhaps sometimes it is better to keeps one’s ancestry at a safe distance.  Herod for example was half Edomite and he wanted to hide this from Judaism of the time so he destroyed the archives in which his ancestry could be found.

In Judaism genealogies are very important as they can show in the Old Testament if one is fit to be a priest or not or to be considered Jewish.  So then today we are going to ask the question why two different genealogies about Christ in two Gospels (both legitimate). Before we even consider opening the Gospels we need to be reminded how different Matthew and Luke are.  Matthew was a tax collector for the Romans but had also spent three years with Jesus and Luke was a doctor who could write a profound history. In one children’s encyclopaedia it says about Matthew:

“Saint Matthew is one of the twelve apostles of Jesus. Matthew wrote the Gospel of Matthew in the New Testament of the Christian Bible. Sometimes, he is called Levi. He was a tax collector before his decision to follow Christ.

In the New Testament

Among the early followers and apostles of Jesus, Matthew is mentioned in Matthew 9:9 and Matthew 10:3 as a publican who, while sitting at the “receipt of custom” in Capernaum, was called to follow Jesus. He is also listed among the twelve, but without identification of his background, in Mark 3:18, Luke 6:15 and Acts 1:13. In passages parallel to Matthew 9:9, both Mark 2:14 and Luke 5:27 describe Jesus’ calling of the tax collector Levi, the son of Alphaeus, but Mark and Luke never explicitly equate this Levi with the Matthew named as one of the twelve.

Early life

Levi was a 1st-century Galilean (presumably born in Galilee, which was not part of Judea or the Roman Iudaea province), the son of Alpheus. As a tax collector he would have been literate in Aramaic and Greek. His fellow Jews would have despised him for what was seen as collaborating with the Roman occupation force.

After his call, Matthew invited Jesus to his home for a feast. On seeing this, the Scribes and the Pharisees criticized Jesus for eating with tax collectors and sinners. This prompted Jesus to answer, “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Mark 2:17, Luke 5:32)” (Taken from kids.kiddle.co/Matthew_the_Evangelist)

The same children’s encyclopedia says:

“Luke the Evangelist is said to be the man who wrote the Gospel of Luke and Acts of the Apostles in the New Testament of the Christian Bible. Irenaeus, Eusebius of Caesarea and Jerome say that he was a friend of Saint Paul and a doctor, and that he accompanied Paul on some of his travels. These people also say that he was of Greek origin, from Antioch in Syria.

Modern-day scholars think that the person that wrote the two books was not the same that accompanied Paul. Paul had a theology that was special, and slightly different from that of other writers of the New Testament. The two books written by Luke never refer to this theology. Also, the name of Paul’s companion is never linked to writing the two books. The Acts of the Apostles often tell things about Paul which Paul does not tell himself in his letters.

Luke wrote about the Three Wise Men who visited Jesus in the Bible. Luke never said there were 3 wise men, only wise men from the east.” (Taken from kids.kiddle.co/Luke_the_Evangelist)

To sum up then these two Gospel writers one was a physician who was highly educated and the other was originally a tax collector for the Romans!  He would have been seen by his own people ‘worse than scum’ for collaborating with the Romans.  Having said that Matthew had some special qualities and in the Masters hand he wrote a beauytiful Gospel in which one of the geneologies is found. 

So how intelligent was Matthew to be a tax collector and what were their jobs?

Answer

“Tax farming deals in newly acquired eastern provinces in Asia Minor proved to be a highly lucrative source of income for the companies, which placed publicani in competitive positions with the appointed local governors of the provinces. Also, the exclusion of the publicani from the Senate opened up positions for them in the special courts, allowing them to weigh the limits and practices of government power.[1]

The actions of the publicani were fiercely criticised. They were accused of insurance fraud in delivering goods during the Punic wars, of excessive greed when collecting taxes in the provinces, of exceptionally cruel conduct towards slave labour working in the mines, and of fraudulent practices in trying to get rid of unprofitable public contracts. However, surviving literary sources are mainly based on accounts of senators, who were in a competitive position with the publicani. Still, the overall operation of the private contractors seems to have supplied satisfactory results for the management of the Republic.

The degradation of the role of private contracting coincided with the beginning of the rule of the emperors, during which the oligarchic power of the Senate had to give way for the autocratic rule of the Caesars, and a more centralised public civil service system replaced private contractors in implementing the most important parts of public policy. However, the order of the knights, to which the publicani belonged, formed the backbone of the population from which civil servants were recruited. Throughout history, the publicani, or, more precisely, their local henchmen, were probably best known from their minor local tax collecting duties in Roman provinces during the imperial era [3]

By New Testament times, the provincial people came to see the publicans chiefly as tax collectors. It is in this sense that the term is used in Jesus’ parable of the Pharisee and the Publican. However, their role as public contractors, especially as regards building projects, was still significant.[citation needed] With the rise of a much larger Imperial bureaucracy, this task of the publicans, as well as their overall importance, declined precipitously. Evidence for the existence of publicans extends as far back as the 3rd century BC, although it is generally assumed[by whom?] that they existed at still earlier times in Roman history. Knowledge of a tentative terminus post quem is taken from the histories of the 1st century AD Imperial historian Livy.” (Taken from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Publican)

In that sense Matthew was a businessman who knew the inner workings of the financial systems governed by Rome which included building projects.  From this point of view Matthew was probably one of the most educated disciples.

Luke on the other hand was a doctor and a friend of Paul’s.  When I say a doctor I mean a physician, someone who heals people.  He would have known all of the classics such as Plato and so forth.  Luke Greek is some of the most polished Greek anywhere in the New Testament bar (except) the book of Hebrews.  Matthew and Luke are like chalk and cheese; They were very different people.  Yet, Matthew and Luke had one thing in common Love for the Lord Jesus Christ.  Their personalities and their roots from my point of view are completely different but they created two genealogies of Jesus Christ.  We need to be aware of this when we start to look at these geneologies in closer detail.  We can learn a lot about the Lord Jesus because the genealogies are so different.  In Jewish circles genealogy is important to prove identity.  It is possible for example that Luke wrote to a Sadducee priest named Theophilus (See notes below (Taken from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theophilus_(biblical)#cite_note-9)) Anyhow concerning Jesus identity Mark Matthew Mark Luke and John call Jesus the Son of God.  In Psalm 2 the King ‘The Anointed One’  was the Messiah and the Son of God:

  • The record of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah Matthew 1:1 …And those who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying, “You are certainly God’s Son!” Matthew 14:33
  • The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Mark 1:1
  • the son of God Luke 3:38
  • In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. John 1:1

I find the above partial verses very interesting.  Matthew starts by stating the facts before the genealogy starts calling Jesus the Messiah. Matthew’s genealogy is very Jewish in style and was aimed at a readership of those who were Jews. Sticking the genealogy at the beginning of the Gospel was the appropriate thing to do.

Mark does not bother with genealogies as he was more interested in his Gentile readership, and it was all to do with action with a powerful first verse that the Son of God has broken into our space and time. For example Mark uses a lot of ‘ands’ in his sentences to join sentences which is really bad Greek but it gets the job done.  He also uses ‘immediately’ a lot.  His Gospel is a fast paced Gospel for the ordinary person on the street.

Luke on the other hand starts to build the evidence slowly and the genealogy does not come until chapter 3 which seems rather late but if he was writing to a high priestly Sadducee official this makes perfect sense.

John does not mess around with convention as for his point of view Jesus being fully Divine breaks into our time and history here on earth.

Matthew’s Genealogy

Matthew was only interested in getting the facts out in terms of salvation history for Israel. He breaks the genealogy into three time spans:

  • From Abraham to David
  • From David to the deportation to Babylon
  • From the Babylonian captivity to the advent of Christ

Matthew prefers to use ‘Father of’ instead of ‘son of’.  From my point of view this is one reason for the chronological direction differences in Matthew.  This way of doing the chronology also allows women to be included in his chronology. 

Luke’s genealogy

The time order is in reverse order from that of Matthew and he says, “When He began His ministry, Jesus Himself was about thirty years of age, being, as was supposed, the son of Joseph, the son of Eli, Luke 3:23”

  • He starts from Joseph
  • He ends with before Adam as the Son of God

In Luke’s genealogy it is followed by the ‘son of ’.  It only reflects the male line of descendants

Reflection on the two chronologies.

If Luke was writing to an important priest in the Sadducee party to show the facts about Jesus, then this was a wise move from Luke.  He kept his genealogy within acceptable standards in the Jewish community

Matthew in contrast metaphorically throws an incendiary bomb into his work.  He is not afraid to mention women in his genealogy:

  • Tamar got pregnant outside of wedlock
  • Rahab was a prostitute (a foreigner)
  • Ruth was a Moabitess (a foreigner)
  • Mary was a virgin (Pregnant outside of marriage although she was a virgin)

We have two versions of the genealogy of Jesus, one that is safe for the standards of the day and Matthew’s genealogy which smashed the ‘safe boundaries.’

Reflection

Matthew and Luke were very different people.  Matthew who was a bit of an entrepreneur made deals with the Romans for his living.  A lot of Jews would have hated Matthew’s lifestyle and he would be seen by a lot as a traitor to his country.  As an extra thought Josephus too would have been seen as a traitor as (metaphorically speaking) he caved into the Romans but at the same time today, Jews and Christians will definitely use his sources for information about the destruction of the second temple.  Although Matthew was despised by his fellow Jews Jesus called him and changed him into a true man of God and that is why we have such a beautiful Jewish Gospel.

I think of Luke as ‘steady Luke’.  Luke was highly intelligent, and he was not one of the twelve disciples but a friend of Paul.  I read somewhere that Luke was possibly pleading for Paul when he was in jail in Rome.  Metaphorically speaking he had a safe set of cards and he knew how to communicate in a hostile world. We are privileged to Have Luke and Acts in our Bible written in excellent Greek of the Ancient world.

When I looked at how the two genealogies were formed, I could see two very different people which reflects on how the genealogies were put together:

  • Luke the white collared worker (medical doctor, lawyer and historian)
  • Matthew the entrepreneur. (He was good at making money)

As followers of Christ, we are much richer because of their individual contributions to the Church.

Notes

Jewish priest

Some scholars[9] point to Theophilus ben Ananus, High Priest of the Temple in Jerusalem from 37 to 41. In this tradition Theophilus would have been both a kohen and a Sadducee. That would make him the son of Annas and brother-in-law of Caiaphas, raised in the Jewish Temple. Adherents claim that Luke’s Gospel was targeted at Sadducee readers. This might explain a few features of Luke. He begins the story with an account of Zacharias the righteous priest who had a Temple vision of an angel (1:5–25). Luke quickly moves to account Mary’s purification (niddah), Jesus’ Temple redemption (pidyon ha-ben) rituals (2:21–39), and then to Jesus’ pilgrimage to the Temple when he was twelve (2:46), possibly implying his bar mitzvah. He makes no mention of Caiaphas’ role in Jesus’ crucifixion and emphasizes Jesus’ literal resurrection (24:39), including an ascension into heaven as a realm of spiritual existence (24:52; Acts 1:1). Luke also seems to stress Jesus’ arguments with the Sadducees on points like legal grounds for divorce, the existence of angels, spirits, and an afterlife (Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection of the dead). If this was the case then Luke is trying to use Jesus’ rebuttals and teachings to break down Theophilus’ Sadducean philosophy, maybe with the hope that Theophilus would use his influence to get the Sadducees to cease their persecution of the Christians. One could also look at Luke’s Gospel as an allegorical (רֶמֶז remez) reference to Jesus as “the man called the Branch” prophesied in Zechariah 3:8; 6:12–13, who is the ultimate high priest foreshadowed by the Levitical priesthood.

Most, if not all, of the commentaries on the Gospel of Luke say the “Question about the Resurrection” pericope presented in Lk. 20:27-40 is the only account in Luke of Jesus confronting the Sadducees. It is true that Luke only mentions the Sadducees by name once but it is not true that this pericope is the only one concerning the Sadducees. The Parables about the Good Samaritan, the Unjust Steward, the Rich Man and Lazarus and the Wicked Tenants are directed to the Sadducees who controlled the temple establishment. These parables are about unfaithful priests. They are the wicked sons of Eli.[10][self-published source?]

All of the New Testament passages concerning alms and almsgiving, except one in Matthew, are in Luke-Acts. Therefore, these parables may be about alms, almsgiving and the proper use of the wealth controlled by the temple authorities. Luke’s criticism focuses on the use of these temple resources by the religious aristocracy for their own selfish purposes. This means that the religious authorities controlled tremendous wealth that had been in times past properly distributed to the people as part of the institutional form of almsgiving. The priests in these parables are unfaithful, dishonest and disobedient because, inter alia, they have not invited the poor, the maimed, the lame and the blind to the banquet table. Once the office of the High Priest became non-hereditary, and available to the highest bidder, the institutional role of almsgiving was abandoned or reduced as the purchaser had to recoup his purchase price.[10][self-published source?]

A minority view[who?] identifies Theophilus as a later high priest: Mattathias ben Theophilus who served from 65 to 66. Note that Luke refers to high priest Joseph ben Caiaphas simply as “Caiaphas”.[11] Thus, the reasoning goes, Luke used this pattern when addressing Theophilus.

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