Board index Christmas

Discussions and questions pertaining to Christmas: when and where was Jesus born? The Shepherds, the Wise men, the descent into Egypt, the star, the manger, and the Virgin Birth. Let's talk.

Matthew 1: Who was Jesus's true father?

Postby Awesome » Sun Feb 18, 2018 6:10 pm

Christianity: In Matthew 1, is Jesus traced back to King David via his father, Joseph, instead of God? Who, then, is Jesus's true father?

I have a question regarding the genealogy of Jesus as described in Matthew 1.

For context, Matthew 1 attempts to trace Jesus to King David through his patrilineal ancestry, because patrilineal Davidic lineage is a requirement for the Jewish Messiah. However, Matthew 1 (NIV) seems to trace Jesus's Davidic origin via Joseph:

The Genealogy of Jesus the Messiah

1 This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham:

2 Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers,

...

6 and Jesse the father of King David. David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife,

...

11 and Josiah the father of Jeconiah and his brothers at the time of the exile to Babylon.

...

16 and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, and Mary was the mother of Jesus who is called the Messiah.

Why exactly is Jesus' patrilineal ancestry being traced through Joseph despite the Virgin Birth? Since the verse does not directly state that Joseph is his father, does it imply that Joseph became his father by marrying Mary?

The remaining verses attempt to explain Jesus's relation to Joseph:

Joseph Accepts Jesus as His Son

18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit.

...

20 ...[A]n angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.

21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

...

24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.

25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

Does this imply that Joseph, in a way, adopted Jesus? Was this completed by taking Mary as his wife, by naming the baby Jesus, or by consummating his marriage to Mary upon Jesus's birth?

How does Joseph accepting Jesus as his son provide Jesus Davidic patrilineal descent? Does this concept not rely on true paternal relation as do the previously listed generations in verses 2-16?

Furthermore, this appears to create a paradox: Is Jesus Christ both the son of God and Joseph?

Thank you for taking the time to approach this matter, and thank you in advance for your response.
Awesome
 

Re: Matthew 1: Who was Jesus's true father?

Postby jimwalton » Sun Feb 18, 2018 6:17 pm

God is Jesus's true father. But since Joseph was not Jesus's biological father, how could Jesus inherit the Davidic line from him?

In every legal sense of Jewish life, Joseph was Jesus's father. Kiddushin 4.1 (a Mishnaic tractate) states that a man and wife who live together are presumed to produce legitimate children without the necessity of proof of parentage. Since Joseph and Mary were legally married at the time of Jesus's birth, Jesus was considered to be Joseph's legal son and not an adopted one. As Craig Keener writes, "In the rhetoric of honorable descent, Joseph as Mary's husband (rather than as Jesus's biological father) would confer the assigned heritage adequately (1.18-25). Adoption established one in the royal line, and adoptive sons of rulers would be called their sons."
jimwalton
Site Admin
 
Posts: 5964
Joined: Mon Sep 17, 2012 2:28 pm

Re: Matthew 1: Who was Jesus's true father?

Postby Awesome » Mon Feb 19, 2018 2:57 pm

> Kiddushin 4.1 (a Mishnaic tractate) states that a man and wife who live together are presumed to produce legitimate children without the necessity of proof of parentage.

Do you have a direct source of this? According to Mishnah Kiddushin 4:1 as found on Sefaria:

Ten [familial] statuses rose[came up] from Babylonia [to Israel]: Kohanim, Levites, Israelites, chalalim [offspring of a union prohibited to Kohanim, and who is thereby disqualified for the priesthood for marriage and Temple service.], proselytes, freed slaves, mamzerim [the offspring of certain prohibited relationships who may not marry into the general Jewish population], netinim [Gibeonites], shetukim and asufim. Kohanim, Levites and Israelites are permitted to [marry] with one another. Levites, Israelites, chalalim, proselytes, and are permitted to marry one another. Proselytes, freed slaves, mamzerim, netinim, shetukim and asufim are permitted to marry one another.

This doesn't appear to have much to do with adoption.

> As Craig Keener writes, "In the rhetoric of honorable descent, Joseph as Mary's husband (rather than as Jesus's biological father) would confer the assigned heritage adequately (1.18-25). Adoption established one in the royal line, and adoptive sons of rulers would be called their sons."

I'm not entirely sure how exactly Keener as come to this specific conclusion.
Awesome
 

Re: Matthew 1: Who was Jesus's true father?

Postby jimwalton » Mon Feb 19, 2018 4:22 pm

> Mishnah Kiddushin 4:1

Sorry for the typo and therefore misinformation. I meant Kiddushin 4.5.

The Kiddushin tractate deals with betrothals. Chapter 4 discusses the question of who may engage in a betrothal with whom.

The Torah forbade the marriage of Jews of legitimate birth with those of illegitimate birth, so Jews tried to be responsible about keeping genealogical records. Anyone who couldn't demonstrate his or her ancestry was legally questionable. And if he or she couldn't demonstrate ancestry, that person couldn't marry a known legitimate Israelite or a known mamzer (one of illegitimate birth). That person could only marry someone else who didn't know their ancestry.

Genealogies were even more important for priests (the kohenim). The Israelites protected the purity of the priesthood. A priest (kohen) who could not conclusively demonstrate a clear line of ancestry would be presumed "polluted," and therefore excluded from all priestly functions.

Luke 1.5 tells us that Elizabeth, Mary's cousin, was married to an officiating priest, Zacharias. This text, Kiddushin 4.1, says that a Jew who is not of known descent can't marry a priest (kohen). So we can assume at this point that Mary's family genealogy, which included Elizabeth's, had been preserved with enough accuracy to satisfy the requirements of the culture.

And since Mary was obviously of known descent through the priestly line, we can also assume the same of Joseph. Otherwise he could not have been betrothed to Mary. Kiddushin 4.3 indicates that a Jew who can't demonstrate his or her genealogy cannot marry a Jew of known priestly descent.

Kiddushin 4.5 states that if there has been legitimate priestly investigation before this time and the person (from their heritage) is shown to belong to the line of priests, no investigation is necessary—no proof of parentage required. They are "grandfathered" in, so to speak, and their children are considered to be legitimate.

So since Joseph and Mary are both shown to be of priestly stock, and they were legally married at the time of Jesus's birth, then Jesus is considered to be Joseph's legal son and not an adopted one.

> I'm not entirely sure how exactly Keener as come to this specific conclusion.

For example, Germanicus calls the emperor Tiberius his "father." Likewise, Nerva is Trajan's "father," though the former adopted the latter at most four months before the former's death (Pliny Ep. 10.1.1; 10.3A; 10.4.2).

Therefore, whether you are looking at the genealogy through Jewish or Roman eyes, Jesus is the legitimate son of Joseph to qualify for being in the Davidic line. But to answer the original question, as I stated before, Jesus's true father is God.
jimwalton
Site Admin
 
Posts: 5964
Joined: Mon Sep 17, 2012 2:28 pm

Re: Matthew 1: Who was Jesus's true father?

Postby Awesome » Tue Feb 20, 2018 4:04 pm

Thank you for clearing that up.

> So since Joseph and Mary are both shown to be of priestly stock, and they were legally married at the time of Jesus's birth, then Jesus is considered to be Joseph's legal son and not an adopted one.

Though the marriage between Joseph and Mary may be legal, Kiddushin 4:5 still does not refer to adoption. The marriage of Joseph to Mary at the time of Jesus's birth does not automatically render him Jesus's legal father, if it that is what you are implying. Joseph's "fatherhood" of Jesus is merely adoptive. The relationship between parent and child, even that which is discussed in Kiddushin 4:5, is strictly biological.

> For example, Germanicus calls the emperor Tiberius his "father." Likewise, Nerva is Trajan's "father," though the former adopted the latter at most four months before the former's death (Pliny Ep. 10.1.1; 10.3A; 10.4.2).

As for supporting Keener's argument with Roman adoption customs, the culture of the Romans in various aspects, possibly including matters of adoption, was very different from that of the Jews.
Awesome
 

Re: Matthew 1: Who was Jesus's true father?

Postby jimwalton » Tue Feb 20, 2018 4:12 pm

> Though the marriage between Joseph and Mary may be legal, Kiddushin 4:5 still does not refer to adoption, etc.

You're right. What Kiddushin 4.5 implies (and how it is interpreted by the rabbis) is that if there is no question about the lineage of the parents, there was no investigation of the lineage of the child, i.e., he was considered to be a legitimate heir (implied: and therefore not adopted). In any case, the practice of adoption was unknown to the Jews. Adoption was a Roman practice (the quote from Keener). Paul is the only NT writer who speaks of adoption. It was not in their cultural or religious practice for Joseph to be the adoptive father of Jesus.
jimwalton
Site Admin
 
Posts: 5964
Joined: Mon Sep 17, 2012 2:28 pm

Re: Matthew 1: Who was Jesus's true father?

Postby Awesome » Wed Feb 21, 2018 2:57 pm

> What Kiddushin 4.5 implies (and how it is interpreted by the rabbis) is that if there is no question about the lineage of the parents, there was no investigation of the lineage of the child, i.e., he was considered to be a legitimate heir (implied: and therefore not adopted).

Do you have any specific source(s) regarding how this interpretation has come about? From my understanding, and from the interpretations that I have read, Kiddushin 4:5 does not involve the legitimacy of offspring but rather the legitimacy of a marriage between Kohenim.

> Adoption was a Roman practice (the quote from Keener).

Does Keener then imply that Joseph, a Jew, was following Roman practice when accepting Jesus as his son? If so, why?

> Paul is the only NT writer who speaks of adoption.

It was my understanding that Matthew had referred to Joseph as Jesus’s adoptive father (please see my original post for this).
Awesome
 

Re: Matthew 1: Who was Jesus's true father?

Postby jimwalton » Wed Feb 21, 2018 3:07 pm

I believe that came from https://www.rabbinicalassembly.org/site ... 6.2011.pdf

The bottom of pg. 5 - all of p. 6. "if it was found that in the family ancestry of the woman being investigated there was a priest who had served in the Temple, or a Levite who sang in the Temple,or a member of the Sanhedrin, there was no need to investigate further through the entire number of genrations specified above. ... In other words, the examination is not required when it is assumed that if any problem existed it would already have been known. ... Thus despite the words of the Mishnah, in the Talmud there is agreement that according to the Sages one need not investigate every woman before marriage. Only in special cases where there is reason to suspect a problem, and even then not through all the degrees mentioned if other factors show her fitness. ... All of this applies only in the case of a family whose status has been questioned in that two people have said that this family is unfit, but in the case of a family that is not suspect, there is no need to examine them since we accept the general rule that all families stand in the presumption of fitness."

So the point I was making was that if there were no question about the lineage of the parents, there would also be no investigation of the lineage of the child, i.e., he was considered to be a legitimate heir.

> Does Keener then imply that Joseph, a Jew, was following Roman practice when accepting Jesus as his son? If so, why?

No. Joseph accepts Jesus as his son because of the angel's instruction in his dream (Mt. 1.20-21, 24).

> It was my understanding that Matthew had referred to Joseph as Jesus’s adoptive father (please see my original post for this).

You asked...

> Does this imply that Joseph, in a way, adopted Jesus? Was this completed by taking Mary as his wife, by naming the baby Jesus, or by consummating his marriage to Mary upon Jesus's birth?

Adoption may be our cultural way of understanding it, but that was probably not Joseph's cultural way of understanding it. It's really difficult for us to fully get into the mindset and worldview of another culture. In 1st-c. Palestinian Jewish culture there were various categories of offspring, according to Kiddushin 4.1: kohanim, chalalim, mamzerim, netinim, shetukim, and asufim. Joseph would most likely think in categories like this rather than using a word like adoption, though it is common for us to think in such ways.

So, Matthew doesn't refer to Joseph as Jesus's adoptive father. Those are terms our minds go to, but probably not their worldview.
jimwalton
Site Admin
 
Posts: 5964
Joined: Mon Sep 17, 2012 2:28 pm

Re: Matthew 1: Who was Jesus's true father?

Postby Awesome » Wed Feb 21, 2018 5:11 pm

> So the point I was making was that if there were no question about the lineage of the parents, there would also be no investigation of the lineage of the child, i.e., he was considered to be a legitimate heir.

I understand your point that Kiddushin 4:5 would render the marriage of Joseph and Mary legal as two Kohanim. What I do not understand is how the lack of necessary investigation of the child, which you seem to conclude from the tractate, applies to Jesus if he is not even Joseph’s biological son.

That is assuming that your argument is this: Since the marriage between Joseph and Mary is legal according to Kiddushin 4:5, being that the two Kohanim need not have their lineages investigated, Joseph can take Jesus as his own son since the child need not be investigated.
No. Joseph accepts Jesus as his son because of the angel's instruction in his dream (Mt. 1.20-21, 24).

This is, in a way, an adoption, as this was not his biological son. No matter how Jesus would be categorized, the angel, in this case, is telling Matthew to adopt Jesus.
Awesome
 

Re: Matthew 1: Who was Jesus's true father?

Postby jimwalton » Wed Feb 21, 2018 5:14 pm

> What I do not understand is how the lack of necessary investigation of the child, which you seem to conclude from the tractate, applies to Jesus if he is not even Joseph’s biological son.

I think the problem of understanding lies in the contrast between our modern worldview and the ancient worldview—one which we have an extremely difficult, if not impossible, time understanding. In their way of thinking, Jesus could inherit the Davidic line from Joseph because in every legal sense of 1st-c. Palestinian Jewish life, Joseph was Jesus's father. Jesus would have been considered by them not to be an adopted son but a legal one.

> This is, in a way, an adoption, as this was not his biological son. No matter how Jesus would be categorized, the angel, in this case, is telling Matthew to adopt Jesus.

Adoption is our word, not theirs, and I am reticent to put our language and understanding into their writings. Such a strategy can often be anachronistic and lead to misunderstandings, which we want to avoid at all costs. Joseph would not have considered Jesus his adopted son because the Jews had no such concept. He wouldn't think in that term or that concept.

Interestingly, the text doesn't tell us how Joseph regarded his relationship with Jesus (what term he used), and so we should be reluctant to put one of our terms with our understanding into it. Notice that Matthew 1.18-25 is obviously non-committal. The angel says he should take Mary to be his wife, but it doesn't say he should consider Jesus as his son (Mt. 1.20). Joseph was to give Jesus his name, and it was culturally regarded as the father's right and duty to name the son (though legally either parent could name the child). So this tells us that Joseph was exercising a fatherly role, but no term is attached to it (so we have to be careful not to read into the text our terms and understandings).

Verse 24 still doesn't commit a position. Joseph told Mary home as his wife. Ha. No mention of what he considered his relationship with Jesus to be. Some scholars claim that Joseph naming Jesus is a clear demonstration of Joseph recognizing Jesus's legal status as his son (and thus in the Davidic line), but that's obviously an interpretation that has to be weighed.

Then Joseph basically disappears from the story—a non-entity from here on out. The only time he reappears is in Luke 2. Luke 2.41 refers to Joseph as one of Jesus's "parents." But even in that story Joseph doesn't call Jesus his son. Mary does (Lk. 2.48), but not a word from Joe.

We have to be very careful about anachronistically transplanting our words and cultural concepts into biblical stories where they may or may not change the intent of the author.
jimwalton
Site Admin
 
Posts: 5964
Joined: Mon Sep 17, 2012 2:28 pm

Next

Return to Christmas

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest


cron