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The Nativity stories cast doubt on Scripture

Postby Solid State Radio » Sun Dec 10, 2017 4:34 pm

The nativity stories cast doubt on the historicity of the gospels.

If we're trusting accounts of an event, do we not want multiple accounts to match, and the accounters to show honesty and soundness of thought?

Time of birth:

Was Jesus born in before 4 BC (maybe 1 AD) in the reign of Herod, as according to Matthew.
Or was he born in 6 AD for the census of Quirinius as according to Luke?

Where did the family go afterwards?

To Egypt, then to Nazareth? (According to Matthew).
Or to Jerusalem, then to Nazareth? (According to Luke).*

Genealogy

How is Jesus linked to Abraham/Adam. Through Mary to Joseph and via Joseph's father Jacob (Matthew), or through Joseph and Joseph's father Heli (Luke)?

Matthew tells us there are 42 generations between Abraham and Jesus. And Luke gets us all the way back to Adam. Does this not indicate they both held literal interpretations of the creation myth, and that the age of the Earth would be the sum of these generations? Wouldn't Jesus disabuse them of this notion?

Prophecies

Matthew: "And he went and lived in a city called Nazareth, so that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, that he would be called a Nazarene."

This looks completely like post-hoc rationalisation to me. And we all know proper prophecies can't be "fulfilled" like this. Why should we trust Jesus really was born in Bethlehem after this admission?

And presumably Luke's tortured mechanism to get Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem is for the sam purpose.

It seems to me that Matthew and Luke aren't too concerned with recording the things that actually happened. They're not too concerned with altering a narrative to fit a preconceived notion of who Jesus is. And Jesus didn't seem to bother making sure those who recorded his life actually knew about it.

Why should we trust the rest of what the gospels have to say?

* question, Luke says "when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem". What age is this? Perhaps these accounts don't conflict if it's just that Matthew doesn't mention Jerusalem, but it depends on what age this purification is, and when during the reign of Herod Jesus was born, since according to Matthew they stayed in Egypt until Herod died.
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Re: The Nativity stories cast doubt on Scripture

Postby jimwalton » Sun Dec 10, 2017 5:50 pm

Time of birth: The only detail about the timing of Jesus' birth Matthew gives is that it was during the days of Herod the Great (Mt. 2.1). It would seem, based on the information given by Josephus (Antiquities 17.6.4), that his birth would have been some time between 7-5 BC. The reference is questioned because Josephus mentions a lunar eclipse shortly before Herod died. This is traditionally ascribed to the eclipse of March 13, 4 BC. Unfortunately, this eclipse was minor and only partial and in the middle of the night. There were two more in 1 BC. It is widely accepted that the 4 BC date, not the 1 BC one, is the accurate one.

Luke doesn't say Jesus was born in AD 6. Luke mentions a "registration". Such registrations were often associated with taxation, but not always and not necessarily. They were conducted locally and took time, so all local governments in all regions probably didn't simultaneously implement Caesar's decrees. Caesar Augustus himself mentions an empire-wide registration: "While I was administering my thirteenth consulship [2 BC] the senate and the equestrian order and the entire Roman people gave me the title Father of my Country" (Res Gestae 35). This award was given to Augustus on 5 February 2 BC, therefore the registration of citizen approval must have taken place before 3 BC. The Deeds of the Divine Augustus (paragraph 8, lines 2-4) confirms that Augustus himself ordered a census in 8 BC —a census that sounds empire-wide in scope (with 4 million citizens in an empire in which most people were not citizens). In a world without the ability to travel and communicate nearly as speedily as ours today, it would be expected that it might take such an endeavor years to unfold and come to both fruition and completion.

Based on the specific word used in Luke, Caesar Augustus laid down the requirements for an ongoing census, not one massive poll-taking. Evidence from Egypt shows an ongoing census at the time of Christ's birth with 14-year intervals for enrollment.

As far as Quirinius, Craig Blomberg states, "Literal translation: 'This census proete Quirinius [was] ruler of Syria.' The text certainly can mean, 'This census was the first while Quirinius was governing Syria,' but one would normally expect an article before ἀπογραφὴ (census) and again before πρώτη (first; before) if that were Luke's intention. But we could translate 'This census was before [one] when Quirinius was governor.' The census in AD 6 under Quirinius was particularly infamous because it provoked the railed rebellion by Judas the Galilean. So it would be natural for a biography or historian to refer to an earlier census with reference to the later, much better-remembered one." In other words, it's possible that it's our analyses and partial understandings of history that have provoked confusion, not Matthew or Luke.

> Where did the family go afterward?

Matthew says to Egypt, then Nazareth. There's every reason to believe, as Matthew accounts, that Joseph was afraid of Archelaus, who was ethnarch of Judea, Samaria, and Idumaea until AD 6, when he was removed for brutality.

Luke mentions nothing of Egypt, but that's of no consequence. No Gospel writer included everything. The consecration on the 8th day was either before the flight to Egypt or after it. Since Matthew makes it clear that Joseph bypasses Judea on his return from Egypt, it wasn't after. So the possible sequence of events is: Jesus is born in Bethlehem. He is circumcised and presented in the temple in Jerusalem. The family travels to Nazareth (Lk. 2.39), but then return to Bethlehem (possibly undesirable stigma and ostracism are a daily occurrence in Nazareth). The magi visit Jesus in a home in Bethlehem. Joseph is warned in a dream and flees to Egypt. Herod slaughters the children in Bethlehem. After Herod dies Joseph and family return to Nazareth because they fear to live in Bethlehem, so close to Jerusalem and Archelaus.

(Luke is doing a lot of telescoping of events. Luke 2.39-40 summarize 12 years of Jesus's life. Luke 2.52 refers to a period of about 18 years. It was common for ancient biographers to skip over large stretches of their subjects' lives.)

> Genealogy

There are many theories about the genealogies: (1) one traces Joseph's line and one Mary's, (2) one follows Jesus's natural descent and one his legal descent, (3) one follows the royal line and one the "common man's" line; (4) Joseph's father died and his mom remarried his brother. We may never resolve it, but interestingly the ancient writers who were contemporaries of the Gospel authors never questioned them. They must have known something we didn't.

As far as the number of generations, no ancient genealogy included all the generations. Genealogies in the old days were looked at differently than we do. They were telescoped to fit the writer's agenda.

> Does this not indicate they both held literal interpretations of the creation myth, and that the age of the Earth would be the sum of these generations?

No. No ancient writer included all generations. You can't create a sum timeline from any single ancient genealogy.

> Prophecies

It's not post-hoc rationalization, but rabbinic tradition. In rabbinic exegesis we frequently have biblical passages interpreted through slightly different grammatical forms, different from anything found in our known texts. Look at this example: "Read not haruth [engraved] but heruth [freedom]." (Avoth 6.2 ). Translation: Furthermore, it is written, "And the tablets were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, graven upon the tablets (Exodus 32:16). Do not read harut (graven) but rather heirut (freedom), for no person is free except one who engages in the study of Torah." 
[Soncino translation]

Matthew is calling our attention to the role of Jesus and/or his family in the history of the whole people of Israel. According to the Rabbinic rule of interpretation Al-tiqri, which allows a word to be replaced by an equivalent, "Joseph settled in Nazareth in order that there should be fulfilled what was said by the prophets, 'He shall be called a Nazarene.' " There is the wordplay between Nazarene and Nazirite, an allusion Matthew wishes to make. He is seeing something already seen by the prophets and applying it in his own way to Jesus.

> It seems to me that Matthew and Luke aren't too concerned with recording the things that actually happened.

Not so at all. They both care very much and have very possibly given us quite reliable accounts. We, 2000 years later, with a different worldview and academic mindset are confused, but remember that many things have also been lost to time. But both Matthew and Luke care very much to tell us an accurate and reliable account of Jesus' birth and life, and there are plenty of good reasons to trust what they say, and what all the Gospels have to say.

> question, Luke says "when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem". What age is this?

The mother was levitically unclean for 40 days after the birth of a son (Lev. 12.1-8). The implication is that it happened fairly soon after those 40 days, but we can't be sure. For all we know it could have been years later. Hannah presented her son, Samuel, in the temple after he was weaned (1 Sam. 1.23-24), so he was probably 3 or 4.
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Re: The Nativity stories cast doubt on Scripture

Postby Empirical Empire » Mon Dec 11, 2017 3:17 pm

> As far as Quirinius, Craig Blomberg states, "Literal translation: 'This census proete Quirinius [was] ruler of Syria.' The text certainly can mean, 'This census was the first while Quirinius was governing Syria,' but one would normally expect an article before ἀπογραφὴ (census) and again before πρώτη (first; before) if that were Luke's intention. But we could translate 'This census was before [one] when Quirinius was governor.' The census in AD 6 under Quirinius was particularly infamous because it provoked the railed rebellion by Judas the Galilean. So it would be natural for a biography or historian to refer to an earlier census with reference to the later, much better-remembered one." In other words, it's possible that it's our analyses and partial understandings of history that have provoked confusion, not Matthew or Luke.

Quoting Richard Carrier: "Some have tried to argue that the Greek of Luke actually might mean a census "before" the reign of Quirinius rather than the "first" census in his reign. As to this, even Sherwin-White remarks that he has "no space to bother with the more fantastic theories...such as that of W. Heichelheim's (and others') suggestion (Roman Syria, 161) that prôtê in Luke iii.2 means proteron, [which] could only be accepted if supported by a parallel in Luke himself."[10.1] He would no doubt have elaborated if he thought it worthwhile to refute such a "fantastic" conjecture. For in fact this argument is completely disallowed by the rules of Greek grammar. First of all, the basic meaning is clear and unambiguous, so there is no reason even to look for another meaning. The passage says hautê apographê prôtê egeneto hêgemoneuontos tês Syrias Kyrêniou, or with interlinear translation, hautê(this) apographê(census) prôtê[the] (first) egeneto(happened to be) hêgemoneuontos[while] (governing) tês Syrias(Syria) Kyrêniou[was] (Quirinius). The correct word order, in English, is "this happened to be the first census while Quirinius was governing Syria." This is very straightforward, and all translations render it in such a manner.
...
the basic rules of Greek ensure that there is simply no way this can mean "before" Quirinius in this construction. What is usually argued is that prôtê can sometimes mean "before," even though it is actually the superlative of "before" (proteros), just as "most" is the superlative of "more." Of course, if "before" were really meant, Luke would have used the correct adjective (such as proterê or prin), as Sherwin-White implies, since we have no precedent in Luke for such a use. Instead, Luke uses prin (Luke 2:26, 22:61; Acts 2:20, 7:2, 25:16), so he would surely have used the same idiom here, had that been his intended meaning. But there is a deeper issue involved. The word prôtê can only be rendered as "before" in English when "first" would have the same meaning--in other words, the context must require such a meaning. For in reality the word never really means "before" in Greek. It always means "first," but sometimes in English (just as in Greek) the words "first" and "before" are interchangeable, when "before" means the same thing as "first." For example, "in the first books" can mean the same thing as "in the previous books" (Aristotle, Physics 263.a.11; so also Acts 1:1). Likewise, "the earth came first in relation to the sea" can mean the same thing as "the earth came before the sea" (Heraclitus 31).[10.3]"
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Re: The Nativity stories cast doubt on Scripture

Postby jimwalton » Mon Dec 11, 2017 4:36 pm

Thanks for the contribution, but my problem with Carrier in this case is that he is not a Greek scholar. He is a historian.

First of all, I notice that Blomberg is honest enough to admit there are several possibilities here, so we are not necessarily able to take a firm stance on the interpretation. Carrier, quoting someone else, just resorts to [any other interpretation is] "fantastic conjecture." It's not so. Carrier is off. πρώτη can mean "first; chief; former; prior; before." It's not responsible scholarship just to call your opponents wackos. Apparently there are a number of scholars (Heichelheim, Blomberg, and Gaebelein, to name a few) admitting that a possible translation is "before". Even A.T. Robertson (3 doctoral degrees), arguably the finest Greek scholar of the modern era, says, "The exact idea of πρώτη in Luke 2:2 is not certain."

And as Blomberg says, there is no article before ἀπογραφὴ ("registration"). It's anarthrous. So we are remiss to translate it, "This census was THE first..." There is no "the."

Carrier, via Sherwin-White, claims, "First of all, the basic meaning is clear and unambiguous, so there is no reason even to look for another meaning." We can readily see that the basic meaning is NOT clear and unambiguous, so I call into question Sherwin-White's, and therefore Carrier's, simple conclusion. You'll even notice in Sherwin-White's direct translation that he/she has to insert the definite article "the" to make his/her point. Thus is it is NOT straightforward. It could mean "the census," but it doesn't necessarily mean that.

Then either Carrier or Sherwin-White (I can't tell from your edited quote) claims that πρώτη is the superlative of proteros. Robertson, again, says "πρώτη in Luke 2:2 is not in the sense of proteros." (Although to be honest and not manipulative with my quotes, Robertson admits that it's possible that it means the first of a series, but we can't know for sure.)

> For in reality the word (prote) never really means "before" in Greek

Not so. Luke 11.38, for one in Luke. There's also John 1.15.

So I obviously disagree with Carrier and Sherwin-White. I'll put my cards with Robertson's scholarship, a Greek specialist, over Carrier, a historian. The possibilities of legitimate translation are several.
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Re: The Nativity stories cast doubt on Scripture

Postby New Guy » Tue Dec 12, 2017 3:45 pm

> We may never resolve it, but interestingly the ancient writers who were contemporaries of the Gospel authors never questioned them. They must have known something we didn't.

How do you know the ancient writers never questioned the Gospels? Maybe they were too busy reading and following the Gospel of Thomas?

Or, maybe they did question it, as "Paul" hints in

1 Tim. 1:4 nor to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which give rise to mere speculation rather than furthering the administration of God which is by faith.

Titus 3:9 But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and strife and disputes about the Law, for they are unprofitable and worthless.
It sure helped that majority of Christians were likely illiterate and likely not Hebrews themselves (all of NT was written in Greek, so if you knew what's up you would probably ignore the Greek texts anyways)

> Matthew says to Egypt, then Nazareth. There's every reason to believe, as Matthew accounts, that Joseph was afraid of Archelaus, who was ethnarch of Judea, Samaria, and Idumaea until AD 6, when he was removed for brutality.

> Luke mentions nothing of Egypt, but that's of no consequence. No Gospel writer included everything.

According to the historical sources, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quirinius, Quirinius became the governor of Judea after Herod Archelaus was banished from it. There was no reason for Jesus to flee to Egypt (in Luke's gospel) because Archelaus was no longer ruling Judea.

Also, if you think about it, Luke's account is very strange. Joseph and Mary go to Judea/Bethlehem for a census (presumably Roman), even though they don't live there! That is insane. Why would Rome require or allow someone 80 +miles away to come to Judea, register there, and then go back to live in Nazareth?!? The purpose of the census is to collect taxes from the local population.
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Re: The Nativity stories cast doubt on Scripture

Postby jimwalton » Tue Dec 12, 2017 4:26 pm

> How do you know the ancient writers never questioned the Gospels?

There is no record of any ancient writer questioning the Gospels. If you wish to speculate that, you have to admit that it's pure conjecture with no evidence.

> 1 Tim. 1.4

There is no hint that any ancient source questioning the Gospels. There is no record of it. The myths of 1 Tim. 1.4 are not described, but Paul treats them (in the several verses that he uses the term) as a heretical alternative to the truth of the gospel. They are written in the context of a teaching opposed to the sound doctrine. It could include all religious aberrations. But Paul endorsed the same Gospel preached by the apostles (Gal. 2.7-9).

> Titus 3.9

Similar to 1 Tim. 1.4, Titus 1.14 alerts us to what Paul is talking about in Titus 3.9—heretical Jewish teaching on Crete that was promoting false teaching. It has nothing to do with the apostles and the Gospels.

> It sure helped that majority of Christians were likely illiterate

Actually, you have no basis to say this. Many Jews of the 1st century were literate. There is much archaeological and cultural evidence to show this to be the case. As far as Gentile Christians, it's difficult to say how many were literate, how many non-literate, and how many illiterate. You have no basis on which to make this assertion.

> Quirinius

There is every reason to believe, from the evidence of the Gospels, that Jesus was born somewhere between 7-5 BC. Herod the Great was still in power when the family fled to Egypt, and they would have returned during the reign of Archelaus (4 BC - AD 6).

The evidence we have points to Quirinius as governor of Syria from AD 6-9. The Greek of Luke 2.2 could possibly be translated as "before Quirinius was a ruler of Syria." Also, Luke doesn't use the word for governor, but instead he uses hegemon. It possibly refers to Quirinius in a different role. At the time of King Herod's death in 4 BC, Quirinius was doing military expeditions in the eastern provinces of Rome, with with some evidence indicating that he either was a co-ruler with the governor of Syria (the somewhat inept Quintilius Varus) or at least placed in charge of the 14-year census in Palestine. There is much that is unknown, still. Varus was famous for the later fiasco at the Teutoburger forest in Germany (AD 9) and at his appointment as Governor of Syria in 7 BC was largely ‘untested’. The census was due in 8-7 BC, and Augustus could easily have ordered his trusted Quirinius (fresh from subduing the Pisidian highlanders) to assist in this volatile project. Herod I had recently lost favor of the emperor and was probably dragging his feet on taking the census—a process with always enraged the difficult Jews! This would have pushed the timeframe into the 5 BC mark, which fits the general data of Luke.

> Why would Joseph and Mary go to Judea/Bethlehem for a census, even though they didn't live there?

Egyptian census records from the days of the Roman Empire show that people were often obligated to return to places where they owned property, for taxation purposes. It's possible, if this was the same kind of census, that Joseph still owned property in Bethlehem, since he was of the lineage of David.

Luke doesn't actually say, however, that they had to go to the place of their lineage, or where they owned land, but only to "one's own town." The phrase "one's own town" is used elsewhere in the OT for the city of one's birth or of a present or previous residence. Only a small minority of Jews in the 1st century lived somewhere other than the city in which they were born, so relatively few would need to travel for such a registration. Most Jews tried to return for the 3 annual festivals anyway, so they could take care of their registration while they were in town. It's possible Joseph was born in Bethlehem, and if he still had relatives in town, he perhaps still owned land there.

There is also some speculation by Messianic Jews, by reading the text of the Gospels carefully, that Jesus was born during Sukkot, during which Joseph may have travelled to the regions of Jerusalem anyway.

In other words, it's not "insane" at all.
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Re: The Nativity stories cast doubt on Scripture

Postby New Guy » Wed Dec 13, 2017 5:24 pm

> There is no record of any ancient writer questioning the Gospels. If you wish to speculate that, you have to admit that it's pure conjecture with no evidence.

I've provided Pauline epistles as evidence for Christians to not get involved in Genealogy debates. This is a stong evidence such debates were common, and Paul had nothing else to say other than to tell his sheep to stop talking Genealogies. Nice try though.

> Actually, you have no basis to say this. Many Jews of the 1st century were literate.

Where do you get your information from?
http://historical-jesus.info/30.html

A fair number of scholars (even non-Christian ones) now accept Jesus was uneducated but still have him as a teacher. It is rather ironic they think that, in view of their low opinion of amateurs (even well educated ones) and of their works on early Christianity.

"...Since between 95 and 97 percent of the Jewish state was illiterate at the time of Jesus, it must be presumed that Jesus also was illiterate, that he knew, like the vast majority of his contemporaries in an oral culture, the foundational narratives, basic stories, and general expectations of his tradition but not the exact texts, precise citations, or intricate arguments of its scribal elites." John Dominic Crossan, Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography (1994)

Bart Ehrman in his book "Did Jesus Exist?" (DJE?) (2012) thinks Jesus was, at most, "semiliterate" (p. 37), unable to write, with some possibility he could read (p. 43) (the later rather denied on p. 48) but was nevertheless "a religious genius" (p. 37).

That does not prevent either Crossan or Ehrman to consider Jesus as a great teacher.

"Mark" wrote, that after Jesus starts teaching in his hometown, the locals wondered "where did this man get these things?" (Mk 6:2) "John" considered Jesus "without having studied" (Jn 7:15) And later, Justin Martyr wrote about Jesus' associates: "... men, twelve in number, and these illiterate, of no ability in speaking ..." (1Apology XXXIX)

Regarding census, ask yourself this question. To how many ancestors can you trace YOUR lineage? Do you know the name of your great-great-great grandpa? And you are much more educated and have access to lots more resources than a 1st century Palestinian Jew. You are grasping at the straws.
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Re: The Nativity stories cast doubt on Scripture

Postby jimwalton » Sun Feb 04, 2018 6:28 am

> I've provided Pauline epistles as evidence for Christians to not get involved in Genealogy debates.

Yes, you did, but it wasn't evidence but only speculation. When Paul speaks of genealogy debates he is referring to Gnostic theology, not to the Gospels. The clue to that understanding is Paul's use of the adjective "endless" with genealogies, and his mention that they promote controversies rather than God's work (1 Ti. 1.4). Jewish schools fabricated wild and improbable legends, and Gnostic teachers devised fictional genealogies. What your burden of proof is lies beyond your "Nice try though." To make your case you must give actual evidence that Paul is referring to the genealogies in Matthew and Luke. Since his negative reference point in Timothy and Titus is not the Gospel writings, I'll stand with my conclusion until you can sway me otherwise with evidence.

> Where do you get your information that "many Jews of the 1st century were literate"?

Reading and writing were widely practiced in Palestine in Jesus' era, and ordinary people knew to how read and write, including Jesus (Lk. 4.16-17).

- Archaeologists have found a letter from a woman named Babatha, and many common documents of normal business in the era. It indicates that many Jewish people were able to read and write, at least on some level.
- Minted coins had messages on them, which is a silly thing to do if people couldn't read them.
- Archaeologists have found many personal inscriptions on various articles.
- Ossuaries have inscriptions on them
- Potsherds have been found with school exercises on them. Boys went to school and were taught to read and write.
- Luke sought out reliable sources for his Gospel. People were writing down events and teachings from the life of Jesus.
- The letters of Paul were circulated among the churches, indicating that in each of these locations people could read them.
- Zechariah wrote on a wax tablet (Lk. 1.63), and the people read it.
- The Pharisees, chief priests and scribes were literate (Mt. 12.3, 5).

In rebuttal to your points:

- There is no reason to think of Jesus as uneducated. He could probably speak four languages: Aramaic, Hebrew, Latin, and Greek. The scroll of Isaiah he read in the synagogue was most likely in Hebrew. He conversed with Gentiles (centurions, the Syrophoenician woman, Pilate, and others). We also know that Jesus could read, because he read the Isaiah scroll in the synagogue.
- While it's possible that only 10% of the population of Palestine was highly literate, it's also reasonable that all young Jewish boys in Palestine were taught by their fathers to read the Torah, in preparation for their presentation in Jerusalem (Lk. 2.41-47). We have records of written school exercises by schoolboys.
- We have one indication that Jesus could write (John 8.1-11), though we can't say what he wrote (and we also know that the episode was added later to John and is probably not written by John himself. It still may have been legitimate story, but there's no way to know.).
- Mark 6.2. Rabbis were trained by other rabbis. The people of Nazareth knew Jesus had not been trained by a rabbi. They acknowledge that he speaks with education and wisdom as if he had been so taught, and yet they knew he had not studied under a rabbi. That's no reason to think he was illiterate.

> Regarding census...

Regarding the census, the Jews were fastidious about genealogical records because of the priesthood and the tribe of Levi. The purity of the priesthood was crucial. A priest who couldn't conclusively demonstrate a clear line of ancestry would be presumed "polluted stock" and be excluded from all priestly functions.

Luke 1.5 tells us that Mary's cousin, Elizabeth, was married to an officiating priest. Kiddushin 4.1 indicates that a Jew who was not of known descent cannot marry a priest. Therefore we can presume that Mary's family genealogy, which included Elizabeth's, had been preserved.

They also cared passionately about Davidic descent. The importance of the Davidic line was to know who was in the royal family, to eliminate pretenders to the throne, and to enable the fulfillment of the messianic promises (2 Sam. 7.12-16; Ps. 89.3ff.).

Records were meticulously kept, even through the exile. Genealogies were used to re-establish family lines and also to allow people to resettle the land of their ancestors.

Genealogies had other practical significances. The Talmud bears this out in the Mishnaic tractate Kiddushin, which deals with betrothals. Chapter 4 of Kiddushin discusses the question of who may contract a betrothal with whom.

The Law of Moses forbade the marriage of Jews of legitimate birth with those of illegitimate birth. Therefore every Jew would have a desire to keep as accurate a genealogical record as possible. Anyone who couldn't demonstrate his or her ancestry was legally questionable.

Since Mary's genealogy had been preserved, and she was of obvious known and pure Israelite descent, we can also assume Joseph was the same. Otherwise he could not have been betrothed to Mary. Kiddushin 4.3 indicates that a Jew who cannot demonstrate his or her genealogy cannot marry a Jew of known and pure descent.

So, as you see, I'm not grasping at straws at all.

> To how many ancestors can you trace YOUR lineage?

We know our ancestry back into the 1700s, and even in some cases back to the 1400s. I know the names of all my great-great-great-grandpas.

Am I grasping at straws to indicate similar records for the 1st century Jewish people? Not at all. Jewish society was formed around kinship patterns. Land was according to clan and family. Every family needed to keep lists describing their ancestry. Such family trees in Israel determined a person's social relationships.


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