The other day, I got this presentation of an argument that Jesus was not born of a virgin from an individual who has remained absolutely unresponsive to my attempts to communicate by e-mail. I thought that, perhaps, it would be of help to someone else if I addressed this issue for those of you who visit the biblical-thinking.org website.
The following is the content of the material that I was sent by my unresponsive sender. I have decided that I would interject my responses in bold text within the text as it was sent to me.
A. THE GENEALOGIES OF JOSEPH
1. Matthew and Luke disagree
Matthew and Luke give two contradictory genealogies for Joseph (Matthew 1:2-17 and Luke 3:23-38). They cannot even agree on who the father of Joseph was. Church apologists try to eliminate this discrepancy by suggesting that the genealogy in Luke is actually Mary's, even though Luke says explicitly that it is Joseph's genealogy (Luke 3:23). Christians have had problems reconciling the two genealogies since at least the early fourth century. It was then that Eusebius, a "Church Father," wrote in his The History of the Church, "each believer has been only too eager to dilate at length on these passages."
Just for the sake of sanity, let's back off of this accusation just briefly to consider just how unlikely it really is. Our anonymous writer claims that Matthew and Luke give contradictory genealogies for Joseph. He goes on to say that they cannot even agree on who the father of Joseph was. Let's ask a couple of related questions. But, before we do, let's just make this observation: it doesn't take a rocket scientist to read Matthew 1:16 to see that Matthew was recording Joseph's genealogy as the husband of the virgin, of whom was born Jesus, the Christ; nor does it take a brain surgeon to read Luke 3:23 to see that Luke was recording the genealogy of Jesus, the virgin-born son of Mary. Both Matthew and Luke clearly distance Jesus from a human father by their records of a virgin birth.
Now on to the questions. First, how much chance was there that Matthew, who wrote with an obvious desire to persuade Jews that Jesus was their Christ, would begin his effort with the rather stupid blunder of beginning his record with a flawed genealogy that would have been rather easily researched by anyone who was not given to just taking a man's word for something? Remember that, for the Jewish nation, everything of any value to them touched upon accurate genealogical records. Their ownership of land depended upon their being able to prove their lineage. Their place in their tribes was dependent upon their genealogies. Even Rome's ability to tax them against their will was tied to the accurate records of their genealogies as we see from the fact that when the decree went forth for Jews to pay their taxes in the cities of their forbearers, Joseph had to take his pregnant wife and travel to Bethlehem. So, the genealogical records were apparently not hard to find and examine. All land ownership, everyone's place in the nation, and all taxes went back to those records. For a former tax collector to deliberately forge a genealogy in order to make a case that he knew was going to come under the most intense scrutiny would have been stupid beyond stupid. Therefore, we can easily say that it is not even slightly likely that Matthew would have begun his genuine effort to make his case by this manner.
And, besides this, Matthew was not ignorant of the fact that his record of descent from Abraham, through David, through Solomon, through Jeconiah was a record of a cursed line. If we look briefly into 1 Chronicles 3:13-17 we see that Jeconiah was the son of Jehoiakim, who was, in turn, the son of Josiah. Then, if we look briefly into Jeremiah 22:24-30, we see that Jeconiah (shortened in Jeremiah to Coniah) was cursed by God so that none of his seed would ever sit upon David's throne. Every good Jew knew these rather obvious facts. So, though there was at least a small liability (seeing that it seemed to disqualify any literal heir through Coniah) in Matthew's record of a genealogy of Jesus through the Solomonic line from David, there was no hedging on Matthew's part to record the genealogy of Joseph. The reason was clear: Matthew pointedly made Jesus the legal son of Joseph, but not the literal son of Joseph, because by his record, Jesus was born of a virgin. If Matthew was attempting to prove that Jesus had a literal son's right to the throne, he destroyed his own record by arguing for a virgin birth; but if he was attempting to show that the legal rights belonged to the legal heir of a literal son of David, his genealogy of Joseph would, necessarily, have to have been accurate. Joseph was in the regnal lineage. The problem was that he was also in the cursed line. If Jesus had been Joseph's literal son, by his seed, Jesus would have been in the cursed line and not able to sit upon David's throne.
Second, Luke told the original recipient of his record that what he wrote was the result of careful examination of every detail (Luke 1:1-4) and he said he wrote it so that his reader might know the certainty of the truth about Jesus (Luke 1:4). Clearly, Luke wanted his reader to be persuaded of certainty in Truth. So, let's ask this question: how likely is it that Luke would manufacture a flawed genealogy for his reader when just a little checking would send his effort into file thirteen? What would be accomplished by this? Neither Mark nor John recorded genealogies. That means that Luke didn't have to include a genealogy if there was the slightest doubt about its accuracy. Therefore, we can say that there is no likelihood that Luke would have created a false genealogy just to fill up space on his scroll to Theophilus.
Therefore, we must answer the question as to the true significance of Luke's genealogy. But, before we do that, let's, just for the fun of it, ask one more question: since Matthew and Luke were well known to each other as intimates in the nucleus that was used of God to give birth to Christianity, how much chance was there that they would have deliberately contradicted each other? I cannot think of a better way to torpedo the attempt to establish Jesus as the Christ of God than by deliberately misrepresenting Truth about Him. And, though our anonymous writer can easily sit back and take pot shots at the records because he has nothing to lose (except his soul) for so doing, neither Matthew, nor Luke, were likely to put their necks into the noose, or their backs upon a cross, just for the gamesmanship of promoting a false Messiah.
That brings us to Luke's genealogical record. Why does it differ from Matthew's? It doesn't take a computer technician to see that Luke's genealogy runs through the Nathanic line from David. So, Matthew traces the regnal line through Solomon and Luke traces the non-regnal line through Nathan. Why? Because Luke was more interested in showing the actual physical lineage of Jesus from Adam. For Luke's burden, Jesus was the Son of Man. To show this to be literally true, he traced Jesus' lineage from Adam, through Abraham, through David, through Nathan, through all of the succeeding generations down to Jesus Himself.
Now, our anonymous writer makes the claim that this could not be true because Luke 3:23 "says explicitly that it [Luke's genealogical record] was Joseph's." But hold on a minute. What does Luke 3:23 actually say? A legitimate translation will show. Luke says that Jesus was supposedly "the son of Joseph", who was, in turn, "of Heli". Luke's Greek deliberately leaves out the words "son of". In other words, Luke wrote that Jesus was thought to be the son of Joseph, who was "of Heli". So, the text does NOT explicitly say the the genealogy is of Joseph. Rather, the genealogy is of Jesus who was a descendent of David through the Nathanic line. Joseph was NOT through the Nathanic line as Matthew has shown (Matthew's genealogy is not of Christ, but of Joseph; Luke's genealogy is not of Joseph but of Christ). Therefore, the only way the genealogy has any legitimacy at all is if it is Jesus' literal physical lineage...and the only literal connection He had with humanity was through His mother.
Therefore, our anonymous writer blows off the Christian explanation too quickly in the hopes that we will not investigate his duplicitous claims. Now, if you and I are willing to look into the facts to see if we are being fed a line of bologna, how much more willing do you think they were whose lives were at stake in a generation when professing to believe in the Messianic identity of the virgin's Son could lead to martyrdom?
Thus, our scoffer knows too much to be guiltless, but knows too little to be truthful. He goes on to write...
2. Why genealogies of Joseph?
Both the genealogies of Matthew and Luke show that Joseph was a direct descendant of King David. But if Joseph is not Jesus' father, then Joseph's genealogies are meaningless as far as Jesus is concerned, and one has to wonder why Matthew and Luke included them in their gospels. The answer, of course, is that the genealogies originally said that Jesus was the son of Joseph and thus Jesus fulfilled the messianic requirement of being a direct descendant of King David. Long after Matthew and Luke wrote the genealogies the church invented (or more likely borrowed from the mystery religions) the doctrine of the virgin birth. Although the virgin birth could be accommodated by inserting a few words into the genealogies to break the physical link between Joseph and Jesus, those same insertions also broke the physical link between David and Jesus. The church had now created two major problems: 1) to explain away the existence of two genealogies of Joseph, now rendered meaningless, and 2) to explain how Jesus was a descendant of David. The apostle Paul says that Jesus "was born of the seed of David" (Romans 1:3).
Here the word "seed" is literally in the Greek "sperma." This same Greek word is translated in other verses as "descendant(s)" or "offspring." The point is that the Messiah had to be a physical descendant of King David through the male line. That Jesus had to be a physical descendant of David means that even if Joseph had legally adopted Jesus (as some apologists have suggested), Jesus would still not qualify as Messiah if he had been born of a virgin - seed from the line of David was required. Women did not count in reckoning descent for the simple reason that it was then believed that the complete human was present in the man's sperm (the woman's egg being discovered in 1827). The woman's womb was just the soil in which the seed was planted. Just as there was barren soil that could not produce crops, so also the Bible speaks of barren wombs that could not produce children. This is the reason that although there are many male genealogies in the Bible, there are no female genealogies. This also eliminates the possibility put forward by some apologists that Jesus could be of the "seed of David" through Mary.The misunderstanding continues. Having already cast aspersions on both Matthew's and Luke's records, our anonymous writer now raises the question as to why they recorded their genealogies at all. He then says "the answer, of course, is that the genealogies originally said that Jesus was the son of Joseph...". Of course! This claim is put forward as an "of course" truth. But, of course, it is false as any reader can tell that one of the genealogies is through Solomon and one is through Nathan and Joseph couldn't possibly be a literal descendent of both. Reader, be aware that anyone can put forward any claim as an "of course" claim. The interesting fact, however, is that there is absolutely no evidence of any kind anywhere that the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke were tampered with by later emendations on the texts that declare the virgin birth of Jesus. It is easy enough to put forward an "of course" truth-claim that is snatched out of thin air, but to give even one scintilla of evidence to back it up in this case is impossible. The evidence, of course, is rather that our scoffer has an axe to grind and doesn't appear to care if he has any facts at all to support him. Having approached the text from a scoffer's arrogance (try this on for size: the arrogance of a man writing 2000 years after the historically demonstrated facts about how things must, of course, have been -- so that they fit his anti-Christ theories) there is no way he could see the truth if it slapped him in the face because it can't, of course, be true. One can scoff if he wants, but it doesn't take a linguistic genius to see scoffing that is founded upon thin air.
Our scoffer continues..."Long after Matthew and Luke wrote the genealogies the church invented (or more likely borrowed from the mystery religions) the doctrine of the virgin birth."How long after? This is another one of those "snatch that thought out of thin air" notions. No evidence whatsoever is offered as historical validation for the claim. The reason? There is none. There is no evidence that the manuscripts of Matthew or Luke were tampered with at the points of the virgin-birth narratives. None. Not one bit.
Then our informer writes "Although the virgin birth could be accommodated by inserting a few words into the genealogies to break the physical link between Joseph and Jesus, those same insertions also broke the physical link between David and Jesus." The thing he doesn't want to admit is that Matthew wanted to break the physical link between Jesus and David through Joseph because of the curse on the line of Coniah through Solomon, and Luke never intended to make a link between Jesus and Joseph but he did intend to maintain the physical link between Jesus and David -- which he does by linking Jesus to David through Heli by way of the uncursed Nathanic line.
The tortured logic continues with his appeal to Paul's claim that Jesus was of the seed, or sperm, of David. This means, he claims, that Jesus had to have been the offspring of a male sperm. His proof? "Women did not count in reckoning descent for the simple reason that it was then believed that the complete human was present in the man's sperm (the woman's egg being discovered in 1827). The woman's womb was just the soil in which the seed was planted. Just as there was barren soil that could not produce crops, so also the Bible speaks of barren wombs that could not produce children." But, by this our informer reveals two of his wilful misconceptions: 1) that the Bible can never contradict what "it was then believed", and 2) that Jesus could not be from the sperm of David just because He was born of a virgin. The Bible is notorious for its statements that anticipate later human discoveries (for instance, the Bible speaks of the circle of the earth long before the flat-earthers were willing to admit that their limited science had deceived them). Thus, it is immaterial what "was then believed". Then, the genealogy of Luke shows that Mary came from the sperm of David. Thus, anyone born of Mary would, ipso-facto, be of the seed of David. The Bible teaches this as early as Genesis Two. When God made woman, He did so "out of man". She was named woman because she came out of man (Genesis 2:23). Therefore, any and every woman is "out of man" and anyone born of woman is also "out of man" because woman cannot produce except in kind -- i.e. "out of man". The reason that Jesus was not conceived out of a male sperm is that God cursed Adam so that his sperm communicated the sin nature possessed by every one of his offspring. Mary had this sin nature, but since she did not possess sperm, she could not pass it on. Thus, she could bear a human being, but she could not communicate to Him the sin nature that gets its communicability from the sperm, not from the female egg.
The conclusion: pontification does not create Truth. Snatching illogic out of thin air does not validate pontifications. The facts of the texts of Matthew and Luke stand without contradiction and their reasons for their inclusions of the genealogies are the foundations of three major Christian doctrines: 1) the virgin-born (sinless) Son of Man; 2) the legal claim of Jesus to the throne of His mother's husband; and 3) the humanity of Jesus through David, through Mary. Thus, the God-Man Jesus has legal and genetic rights to the throne of His father David.
3. Why do only Matthew and Luke know of the virgin birth?
Of all the writers of the New Testament, only Matthew and Luke mention the virgin birth. Had something as miraculous as the virgin birth actually occurred, one would expect that Mark and John would have at least mentioned it in their efforts to convince the world that Jesus was who they were claiming him to be. The apostle Paul never mentions the virgin birth, even though it would have strengthened his arguments in several places. Instead, where Paul does refer to Jesus' birth, he says that Jesus "was born of the seed of David" (Romans 1:3) and was "born of a woman," not a virgin (Galatians 4:4).
Of all the writers of the New Testament, only Matthew and Luke had any need to mention the virgin birth. Mark didn't intend to present Jesus as having a genetic link to humanity. His argument, from the very beginning, was that Jesus was the Elohim of Genesis One, and that He was the Ultimate Representative of the Kingdom of Servants. To include a genealogy would have diminished the force of his argument. John, similarly, began his Gospel with the frontal declaration that Jesus was the preexistent God Who had entered history to provide salvation for fallen humanity. There is no need to produce a genealogy for Deity. By this argument, our teacher reveals his total ignorance of the true purposes of God in giving four complementary pictures of His Son through four authors. Two of these authors emphasize His humanity and two of them emphasize His deity. Anyone who approaches the study of the four Gospels without a scoffer's mentality of aggression against the Truth can see that the four are not contradictory, but complementary.
Paul, on the other hand, did not need to plow over well-plowed ground. By the time he was writing the majority of the New Testament, the understanding of the church that they worshiped a virgin-born Son of God/Son of Man was firmly established.
4. Why did Matthew include four women in Joseph's genealogy?
Matthew mentions four women in the Joseph's genealogy.
To have women mentioned in a genealogy is very unusual. That all four of the women mentioned are guilty of some sort of sexual impropriety cannot be a coincidence. Why would Matthew mention these, and only these, women? The only reason that makes any sense is that Joseph, rather than the Holy Spirit, impregnated Mary prior to their getting married, and that this was known by others who argued that because of this Jesus could not be the Messiah. By mentioning these women in the genealogy Matthew is in effect saying, "The Messiah, who must be a descendant of King David, will have at least four "loose women" in his genealogy, so what difference does one more make?"
"Why would Matthew mention these, and only these, women? The only reason that makes any sense is that Joseph...impregnated Mary prior to their getting married..." Here, again, our polished polemist reveals his scoffer's arrogance. Any time one writes, "the only reason that makes any sense...", he is officially declaring his omniscience...that he has sifted through all of the possibilities and come up with the one and only valid one. A little humility would have said, "A possible reason is...", but when a person is committed to scoffing without rationality, it is a kind of joke to claim any "reason" whatsoever. Reason, by definition, is interactive argument whereby one sets forth evidence to claim a given conclusion and then sits back to see if someone else can set forth as good, or better, an argument. Whenever anyone claims to have come up with the one and only reason that makes sense, he is telling you that he is closed minded and doesn't care what the truth may be.
Why would Matthew mention these four women [by the way, only a morally perverse person would read the story of Ruth and conclude that she engaged in sex with Boaz as there is no evidence in the text whatsoever that that was part of the game plan]? That it is an oddity is obvious. That it was designed to show that Jesus was the offspring of a sexually active couple before they were married is preposterous on the face of it. Matthew would rise up out of his grave (if he were still in it) if he were to hear that that was what he wanted to tell us about the One Who died in his place for his sins! So, why would he include them? Well, if we can get our minds out of the gutter of sexual fixations, we might see that Tamar was a Canaanite who was called "more righteous than I" by her Jewish father-in-law, that Rahab was a Canaanite prostitute who exercised more faith than an entire generation of Jews, that Ruth was a Moabitess who fervently adopted the God of the Jews before she ever set foot in the land, and that Bathsheba was a Jewess who was willing to play religious games in order to be the lover of the King of Israel (one reason she may have been willing to indulge David was that she just possibly had just finished the purification from her period and thought that she was several days away from her fertile time).
Why would Matthew tell us these things? Probably because he was arguing that Jesus was willing to be the Savior he was named Jesus to be...even if you happened to be from the wrong crowd, live on the wrong side of the tracks, or even if you were an fallen Jew(ess) who really wished for a way to be right with God. See, there is another possible reason other than "the only one that makes sense" to a scoffer.