How do Jesus' two genealogies show He is the Messiah?

By Rabbi Robert

Single Page/Printer Friendly
Continued from Page Two

It is remarkable that the Zohar, out of the ten sons of David, focuses on Nathan, just as the Gospel of Luke does. Chabad.org notes the brilliant commentary of R' Reuven Margolies on this difficult passage in the Zohar:
The famed 20th-century Jewish scholar and kabbalist Rabbi Reuven Margolies explains that the Zohar is careful to describe the Moshiach (Messiah) as being a descendant of Nathan's wife, rather than of Nathan himself. Nathan had passed away childless, and Solomon his brother married his widow, according to the laws of yibum, levirate marriage. In a levirate marriage, the firstborn son of the widow and the brother of the deceased is considered to be a continuation of the dead husband's line. Therefore, Moshiach is referred to here as "offspring" of Nathan, even though he is a descendant of King Solomon.
In Jewish Aggadah (stories of the Jewish sages), the mother of the Messiah is named "Hephzibah" which means, "My Delight is in Her." This is apparently based on the passage applied to Israel, "You shall no more be termed Forsaken; neither shall your land any more be termed Desolate: but you shall be called Hephzibah, and your land Beulah (married); for HaShem (God) delights in you, and your land shall be married" Isaiah 62:4, cf. 2 Kings 2:11.

As interesting as the Zohar and Sefer Zubbabel may be, I can find no corroborating evidence that Solomon fathered Nathan's children. But as we discussed above, the promise was made to David and not to Solomon, so the fact that Mary has Nathan in her lineage is not an issue for the Messiahship of Jesus.

Mary and Elizabeth; Judah and Levi

The other problem that appears if we use Mary's lineage is that people speculate that Mary was from the tribe of Levi and not Judah. This comes from the Scripture that says Mary went to visit her cousin Elizabeth, who we know is the mother of John the Baptist. The Greek word that was translated as "cousin" in Luke 1:36 is syngenis. This word actually does not mean cousin but simply a relative or a kinswoman. Mary and Elizabeth may have been cousins, but all we know for sure is that they were related. But if Mary was related to Elizabeth wouldn't this mean that Mary was of the tribe of Levi? The answer is simply no.

Remember that under Jewish law in order to receive your inheritance, if you are a woman with no brothers, you must marry in your tribe. Mary had no brothers, and therefore by law was required to marry into the tribe of Judah, her tribe, in order to secure her inheritance. So if Mary was from the tribe of Judah and Elizabeth from the tribe of Levi how could they be related? This is all speculation because the Scripture does not clarify. But it could have been that the mother of Mary and the mother of Elizabeth were sisters and Elizabeth mother married outside the tribe of Judah and into the tribe of Levi. Matthew Henry noted "though Elizabeth was on her father's side, of the daughters of Aaron (verse five), yet on the mother's side she might have been of the house of David, for those two families often intermarried, as an earnest of the uniting of the royalty and the priesthood of Messiah." However Mary and Elizabeth were related, they would still be of their father's tribe, the house of David in the house of Aaron respectively, by way of their father's ancestry. This concept is confirmed in Numbers 36:8, which states that when a man had only daughters they were required to marry a member of their own tribe otherwise it would cause problems with the inheritance of the land (see also Numbers 27:1-11; 36:1-13).

Interestingly, if the mother of Mary came from the tribe of Aaron, and Mary's father came from the tribe of Judah, this would give Jesus double standing and authority to be the Messiah as he has a right to be both a priest and a king. We know that Jesus was no ordinary man because he had to be both David's son and David's Lord. Messiah has to be both descended from an earthly king and yet descended from the heavenly throne. Jesus was able to identify with us in our humanity and weakness, yet bearing the divine nature to be able to save us fully from our sins.

Deuteronomy 18 tells us that God will raise up one from the brothers who will be a prophet greater than Moses. In the midrash Yalqut Shim'oni, rabbinic writings, it states that the Messiah will come forth from David and will be higher than Abraham, lifted up above Moses, and loftier than the ministering angels based on Isaiah 52:13. So Jesus fulfills all the requirements from a genealogical and a legal standpoint because he was all three, Prophet, Priest, and King.

Jesus the Messiah

One need not look any further than the baptism of Jesus to see the truth of his being the Messiah. When Jesus came to be baptized by John, the entire Trinity was there providing proof that Jesus is the legal, Royal, and spiritual fulfillment of Messiah. In John 1, John sees Jesus coming and cried out, "Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" And John testifies that he sees the Holy Spirit alighting like a dove and coming to rest on Jesus. And then recorded by John and Matthew the voice from heaven says, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased." The testimony of those who witnessed the baptism of Jesus, who saw the Holy Spirit come upon him and who heard the voice of God cry out from heaven above that Jesus was the beloved Son of God, proves his Messiahship. There are so many more Scriptures and prophecies that Jesus the filled as proof of his legal and lawful claim to be the Messiah.

Even the Jewish rabbis, in the Talmud, tractate Sanhedrin 98a, record this question: Will the Messiah, the Son of David, come with the clouds of heaven, as indicated in Daniel 7:13-14, or will he come riding on a donkey, as it is written in Zechariah 9:9? The Talmud says that if we are worthy, he will come in the clouds, but if we are unworthy he will come riding on a donkey. What the rabbis failed to understand is that it's not an either or situation, both are prophecies that must be fulfilled. Jesus came riding on a donkey in his first coming because we were not worthy. But he will return descending from the clouds to fulfill that prophecy as well; just as he fulfills every prophecy, including his lineage.

I hope this clears up any difficulty in understanding the differences and problems in the genealogies listed in Matthew Chapter 1 and Luke Chapter 3. Because of the inerrancy of Scripture, both genealogies are true and correct. And every prophecy that was required for one to fulfill the office of Messiah was completed through Jesus and his heritage. One must simply understand first century Jewish culture combined with the Scriptures to get a clear picture.

Image Credit: Ian 'Harry' Harris; "Splitter"; Creative Commons

TagsBiblical-Truth  | Controversial-Issues  | History-Apologetics  | Jesus-Christ

comments powered by Disqus
Published 1-6-15