Friday, February 26, 2010

Matthew 1:1-24

Ah, yes, the begats. In the New International version, "Abraham begat Isaac" becomes the prosaic "Abraham was the father of Isaac."

I remember what they taught us in Sunday School about Matthew 1:1-17. It was designed to prove that Jesus was the Messiah because of a prophecy Samuel made about the Messiah being a descendant of David. Nah, I'm not going to look up the passage in Samuel. You can do that if you like. We were taught about the significance of the fourteen generations described in verse 17: "Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile in Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Christ." Since I've been searching for my lost great-grandmother for the last forty-some years, I've found it difficult to believe that they could lay out all those generations without making a mistake. The complete genealogy is not relevant to me. With that many generations, they could have filled in gaps with any names. Who could refute it?

Then the passage loses me completely when they continue with verses 18-24 to explain that Joseph isn't Jesus's biological father. Since Joseph isn't Jesus's father, why should I care about his genealogy? It has nothing to do with Jesus.

An angel shows up in Joseph's dream and explains that Jesus was the product of the Holy Spirit getting it on with Mary. The angel convinces Joseph to marry Mary even though she isn't pregnant with his child. Joseph believes the angel's story that this baby is Immanuel. He sticks by her, and doesn't have sex with her until after Jesus is born. The King James version says "he knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son" and the New International is equally obscure, saying "he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son."

Why bother mentioning her virginity? The birth is a miracle. This isn't an ordinary baby. In Sunday School they probably mentioned another prophecy that the virgin birth fulfills.

Thus, I've only begun to re-read the New Testament, and Matthew 1:1-24 has already left me in the dust. First, they list the complete genealogy of an insignificant guy named Joseph. Yet, somehow someone knows that he is descended from David. Then they negate the important of the genealogy because Jesus isn't Joseph's biological child. To top it off, they add a story of a baby that wasn't conceived via messy insemination, and of an unusual step-dad who sticks by a woman 2010 years ago (roughly) because he's told by an angel in a dream that this baby is Immanuel.

Exactly what portion of Matthew 1:1-24 is believable? None of it. Then why do you expect me to believe?

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