Proposition #53
The genealogies of our Lord form an important link in the comprehension of this Kingdom.


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PROPOSITION 53. The genealogies of our Lord form an important link in the comprehension of this Kingdom.

This is seen already from what preceded. A throne and a kingdom is to be given to a promised son of David, a regular descendant of Abraham’s. It is his by right of inheritance. He is the royal Theocratic heir. Hence without such a genealogy something essential would be lacking in the chain of evidence.

Obs. 1. This link is purposely supplied, and with special reference to these covenants. This is observable in Matthew commencing his table by asserting that Jesus was “the Son of David, the Son of Abraham,” i.e. both covenants, the Abrahamic and Davidic, were thus realized in the person of Jesus Christ. Also in designating “David the King,” and omitting it in the descendants; the same expression is significant only when the royal covenant which made David’s throne and Kingdom sure is taken into consideration (comp. Judge Jones’s “Notes” on Matt., ch. 1, for some excellent suggestions). The Kingdom is covenanted to a legal descendant, and this legal descent is clearly traced, showing the legal, divine right of Jesus to the Theocratic throne and Kingdom.[*]

Note. Ebrard (Gospel His., Div. 2, ch. 1) says of Matthew’s genealogy: “In v. 16 it is described as that of Joseph. From this circumstance, as well as from the fact that it commences with Abraham; from the stress laid upon King David; from the frequent reference made to persons or events of theocratic importance; and lastly, from the division in three periods, the central one being that of the theocratic line of kings—we may clearly discern the intention of the author: not to give the natural pedigree of Jesus, but to prove that He had a right to claim the theocratic crown—an intention in perfect harmony with the general character of the Gospel. We have here also the true key to all the supposed difficulties.” (It will repay the student to see how Ebrard applies this “key” in the solving of difficulties. He makes the genealogy of Luke to be that of Mary, giving the natural progenitors.) Lord Hervey (The Genealogies of our Lord) and Mill (The Mythical Interp. of the Gospels, ch. 2) hold that both genealogies are those of Joseph; the one (Matthew’s) exhibiting the legal descent of the Christ from David; the other (Luke’s), His natural descent through Nathan. Ernest von Bunsen (The Angel Messiah) takes the ground “that Jesus was not really a Jew by extraction. The descent of David from Caleb, the Kenezite, and thus from non-Hebrews, points to a connection with ‘the strangers in Israel,’ and this is confirmed by four female ancestors being non-Hebrews” (so also M. D. Conway in Cin. Commercial, May 31st, 1879). But suppose all this were admitted, it does not effect His descent whatever, provided there is a continuous intermingling of Jewish blood. Besides, these objections overlook the fact that such engrafted ones were by the Hebrew laws fully incorporated, and recognized as legal members of the nation.

Obs. 2. If the Saviour was merely to descend from David, to take human nature in that line for the purpose of redemptive work at the First Advent, and then that was to be the finale of the matter, why lay so much stress on descent from the royal line? Does the mere notion of identification meet the point why one table should be exclusively given to designate His legal right to the throne? This certainly must have some very significant meaning, for God does not put His descent in such a form without some weighty reason underlying it. If we accept of the covenant just as it reads, without alteration or substitution of sense, then a forcible reason appears for being so minute. On the other hand, if David’s throne is God’s throne in heaven, no satisfactory reason can be assigned for so strange a peculiarity. What difference, on the latter supposition, was it then, whether Jesus was, or was not, the legitimate Heir to David’s throne, if He was never to occupy it? Why should special stress be laid on that which, if we are to credit the multitude, God never intended to fulfil? We, therefore, hold that there is a solid, sublime reason why those tables, so uninteresting to many, are given, viz.: not merely to identify Jesus as the Saviour, but to identify Him as the One, the Messiah, who has the lawful right to David’s Theocratic throne. The throne is not typical, not representative, not symbolical, but actually and really covenanted to this Heir, and hence the tables truthfully and actually show how by course of descent He is the rightful Heir (comp. Prop. 122).[*]

Note. Clelland (Bib. Sacra, Ap. 1861) denies that the promise to David concerning his seed (2 Sam. 7:12; Acts 2:30 and 13:23; Rom. 1:3) demands for our Lord a natural descent from David through His mother Mary. His reasoning, highly speculative, is satisfied with a simple humanity, supernaturally attained, and the relationship to David established through Joseph as a legal son. Thus, being the seed of David according to the flesh, means only, according to this writer and others, to be legally regarded as David’s Son, but not virtually or naturally. This is an error specifically contradicted by the Scriptures, which expressly declare that this seed shall spring out of his loins, etc. Our position is sustained by the Word, which requires a natural and legal descendant according to the covenant and promises. Men may think, honestly, to exalt Jesus by such theories, but they virtually degrade Him as the covenanted, predicted Christ. We turn from such writers to others, who refresh us by maintaining a Scriptural attitude. Thus Kurtz (Sac. His., p. 279) remarks: “The difference between the two genealogies is most easily explained by referring to the particular object which each evangelist had in view in commencing to write. It was the main object of Matthew, when he composed his Gospel, to demonstrate that Jesus was the Messiah promised in the Old Test.; it was, accordingly, incumbent on him to furnish the evidence that Jesus was the lawful heir and successor to whom the royalty of David belonged, and that the fundamental prophecy in 2 Sam. 7 was thus fulfilled. In accordance with his leading design, he necessarily showed the legal connection (derived from the laws of inheritance) of Christ with the house of David in the line of Solomon. If this descent, although fixed by the laws, did not coincide with Christ’s descent after the flesh, the latter was passed over, and the former was set forth as entitled to recognition. As Luke wrote for Christians who proceeded from the Gentile world, no necessity existed for giving prominence to that line of succession which was valid in law in a theocratical point of view; it was, on the contrary, far more important, in accordance with his main object, to set forth Christ’s true descent according to the flesh.” We affirm, in the light of covenant and prophecy, that both tables are a necessity—hence given—in order that both the natural and the legal descent be presented, for both are claimed as pertaining to the Messiah. We reproduce another: “Greybeard” (Graff), in his “Lay Sermons,” No. 94, says: “Matthew, writing of Christ as the rightful heir to Abraham’s land and David’s throne, very properly reproduced the lineage of Joseph, the lawful husband of Mary, while Luke, in portraying His history as the seed of the woman, traces the genealogy of His mother not merely to Abraham, but to the first human pair. Lest the captious take exception to this construction as involving a fraud on the part of Matthew in order to establish His Lord’s rightful heirship as a descendant of David, it must be observed that the genealogies of both Joseph and Mary unite in David.” In a footnote he adds, respecting Luke’s: “In reading this passage it will be observed that the words ‘the Son’ (being in italics) are merely supplied, and do not appear in the original text. Joseph was the son-in-law of Heli, not ‘the son.’ In that sense he was of Heli. So (in the 38th verse) Adam was of God, but not ‘the son’ of God. No human being ever was the the son of God until after Christ’s resurrection, Luke 3:23–28.” So Van Oosterzee (Lange’s Com. Luke, p. 63) says: “The often-contested descent of Mary from David is raised above all possibility of refutation by the genealogy of Luke. The Lord Jesus was therefore naturally, as well as legally, descended from David; and this descent is with perfect justice made prominent by both Peter and Paul (Acts 2:30; 12:23; Rom, 1:3; 2 Tim. 2:8); while Jesus designates Himself the Son of David, Mark 12:35–37.”

Obs. 3. Without entering into a discussion of the genealogies, which is ably performed by others,* it is sufficient to confine ourselves to the fact, fully admitted, that Jesus, according to Matthew, is a legal successor to the throne of David. Lord Hervey and others show this; for His descent is traced through a line of kings or their legal descendants, whilst Luke’s table proceeds more on the principle of tracing His descent through progenitors who were the paternal stem of Him who was the heir. By this, and other considerations, the anomalies of the two pedigrees are fully explained. Now, seeing that the promise has been so literally fulfilled in Christ’s descent, in His being the legal Heir to the throne and Kingdom, we hold that such a fulfilment gives us the strongest assurance that the remainder of the promise will likewise, in God’s ordering and time, be realized.[*]

Note. This descent from David was not called into question during the life of Christ, and for some time after His death it passed unchallenged, although most conspicuously affirmed. It was long after that it was questioned by unbelievers; it has been attacked by the English, French, and German infidels; and more recently it has been repeated by Renan and others, that Jesus is not descended from David, but that He endeavored, in order to carry out His purposes, to make the impression that such was His descent. Renan (Life of Jesus, p. 217), as usual, sets himself up as infallible judge, and elevates mere conjectures into facts. To make out that the family of David was extinct because Asmonean princes ruled; to attempt to prove the same because Herod and the Romans did not dream of such a representative of the ancient dynasty living; to speak of “innocent frauds,” of his birth at Nazareth, etc., is simply indicative of a preconceived prejudice and a desire to prejudge the case. But when he tells us that Jesus “never designated Himself with His own lips as the Son of David” (over against His quotations and accepting of the name, as e.g. Matt. 9:27; 12:23; 15:22; 20:30–31; Mark 10:47, 52, and 12:35–37; Luke 18:38), we instinctively feel a spirit of dislike and hatred to the truth underlying such statements. To all those objections it will suffice to say: (1) That a pedigree regularly presented at a time when genealogical tables were carefully kept, and passing by unchallenged and unprotested even by the bitter enemies of Jesus, must be taken as better evidence of truthfulness than the mere conjectures of later ages; (2) That if there was a discrepancy or untruth, as alleged, the Jews would only have been too glad to avail themselves of the same; (3) that the apparent disagreement between the two pedigrees has been reasonably and satisfactorily explained by those (note 1) who have given the subject special attention; (4) the claim set up by Jesus is confirmed by His words, life, works, death, resurrection and exaltation; (5) if the first link in the chain were missing, the rest could n t be attached to it, but seeing a necessary connection, promise and prediction verified, the matter of descent assumes its due importance in a completed chain of evidence to the Messiahship. It may be well to observe here that Reuss (His. Ch. Theol., p. 392), correctly noticing that the genealogy of Jesus was given “to prove the right of Christ to the title of Messiah” as the promised Son of David, and that great stress was laid upon His humanity, then adds, that it must have had little value in the estimation of those who made Him divine. This is not correct so far as the Primitive Church is concerned, for they clearly and distinctly announced their faith and hope in the promises made to the Son of Man, and hence in David’s Son as the promised Theocratic King. (Comp. Props. 81–83, and 74–78). It was later, under Alexandrian and Popish influence, that the Humanity was ignored in a great measure for the Divine.