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Zerubbabel was mentioned in both Matthew and Luke as an ancestor of Jesus. But the texts present two problems for me:

  1. How does Jesus's genealogy diverge at Solomon/Nathan, converge on Shealtiel and Zerubbabel, then diverge again at Abiud/Rhesa? By the time of Shealtiel, the two lineages would have been too far apart for levirate marriage to be valid.

  2. How comes none of Zerubbabel's sons named in the gospels can be found in 1 Chronicles 3:17-24?

Please note that this is a different question from "why does Christ have two different genealogies" like so many people seem to think. I am specifically focusing on Zerubabel, not Jesus. And "levirate marriage" some like to give to solve any and all genealogical difficulties simply does not apply here. (See Deut. 25:5-6. It applies to brothers, not to distant cousins many times removed.)

  • If this is a question about Zerubabbel, then there is no need to reference the New Testament. In fact, doing so is anachronistic to the question in that case. If it is indeed about the New Testament, then the question is indeed a duplicate. – Dan Feb 10 '17 at 17:00
  • Can you please cite the 3 genealogies and highlight (bold) the parts you are concerned about? Thanks. – Ruminator Nov 8 '17 at 21:56
  • It is only appropriate to avoid interpreting the New Testament in the context of the Old or vice versa if one chooses to adhere to hermeneutic principles that demand one do so. If one adheres to hermeneutic principles based on an understanding of the Old and New Testament as a coherent whole, then this question is entirely appropriate. To my knowledge, this site does not specify which particular hermeneutic principles one must adhere to. – user33515 Dec 5 '17 at 2:51
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The New Testament genealogies of Jesus contain many puzzles, of which the family surrounding Salathiel (Shealtiel) is just one:

  • Matthew, in agreement with 1 Chronicles 3:17, says that Salathiel was the son of Jechonias, whereas Luke says that he was the son of Neri. Whereas Jechonias was a king, Neri was a commoner, from a long line of commoners, so there is no question of levirate marriage.
  • Matthew and Luke, in agreement with Haggai 1:12 and Ezra 3:8, says that Zerubbabel was the son of Salathiel, whereas 1 Chronicles 3:19 says he was the son of Pedaiah.
  • As stated in the question, Abiud (Matthew) and Rhesa (Luke) are not mentioned in 1 Chronicles 3:17-24 as sons of Zerubbabel, although the Chronicler usually goes to pains to be inclusive and here even mentions Zerubbabel's daughter Shelomith.
  • Matthew omits the three kings, Joash, Amaziah and Azariah, that we find in the Chronicler's genealogy at 1 Chronicles 3:11-12.
  • Luke includes Kainan, son of Arphaxad, and Admin, son of Aram, in the ancestry of King David, although they can not be found in the Hebrew scriptures.
  • Luke includes Joseph, Judah, Simeon and Levi in immediate succession in the genealogy of Jesus. In Putting Away Childish Things, page 169, Uta Ranke-Heinemann cites Joachim Jeremias (Jerusalem, page 296), "the custom of using the names of the twelve patriarchs as personal names did not arise until after the Exile," saying that "When Luke cites the names of Joseph, Judah, Simeon, and Levi as descendants six through nine...this is an anachronism that proves the pre-exilic portion of Luke's genealogy to be historically worthless.”
  • Matthew 1:16 says that Jacob was the father of Joseph, while Luke 3:23 says that Joseph's father was called Heli.

In response to these and other puzzles in the New Testament genealogies, Raymond E. Brown says, in An Introduction to the New Testament, page "While Luke's list may be less classically monarchical than Matthew's, there is little likelihood that either is strictly historical" (my emphasis).

If, as Brown says, the two New Testament genealogies are not strictly historical, we can expect unexplained differences and apparent errors. The author of Matthew was intent on portraying Jesus as descended from a long line of kings, but Luke's Gospel has a strong focus on the poor, consistent with Jesus being descended from commoners after the obligatory King David. Zerubbabel was so important in Jewish post-Exilic history that both authors felt obliged to include him in their genealogies, although each gave him a different paternal grandfather.

  • Genealogy and cosmology seem to be the Achilles Heels of scriptural inerrancy! Time will tell. – Ruminator Nov 8 '17 at 21:51
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One thing to consider is that the Zerubbabel in Chronicles is not the same as the Zerubbabel in the New Testament. Chronicles lists Zerubbabel as the son of Pedaiah and Nephew of Salathiel, son of Jehoiachin (Jeconiah). Some think this is in error and try to force the NT Zerubbabel in there because of Matthew.

This is clearly a misunderstanding, as God promised that none of the male seed of Jehoichin (JeConiah) would ever be on the throne. He says he is no longer the "Signet of Authority" (Jeremiah 22:24). The Lord then says in Haggai 2:23 that Zerubbabel the son of Salatiel is now His "Signet of Authority". So the inheritance passed, not necessarily by Levirate Marriage, but by the Authority of God.

You do state that the Levirate marriage requires the next brother, although the case of Ruth and Boaz shows that it can be the nearest kin. When the royal family was taken captive into Babylon, many were killed or dispersed. So when she married her "next of kin" (i.e. the closest relative available), it ended up being another line from King David, thus fulfilling all of God's promise.

Matthew traces the "Kingly Line" calling them "sons". Men get so caught up in "this law" or "that law", but God is overall, and He can do what he wants.

  • Interesting. Rather than merely mentioning the various scripture passage would you mind quoting them inline and using the formatting tools? That will make your answer much more useful and get it the attention it deserves. Thanks. – Ruminator Nov 8 '17 at 21:53
  • Do you know of any sources in antiquity that shared your explanation? It seems a good one to me. – user33515 Dec 5 '17 at 3:01

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