Early Christian Origins: Studies in Honor of Harold R. Willoughby

By Allen Wikgren | Go to book overview

I
THE GENEALOGIES OF JESUS

Rodney T. Hood FRANKLIN COLLEGE

Among the many forms found in the Synoptic Gospels, the analysis of which has become a popular field of study, there is one which form criticism has largely ignored. This is the genealogy, represented principally by Matt. 1:1-17 and Luke 3:23-38. The paucity of the material partly accounts for its relative neglect, although one suspects that another reason is the general viewpoint that the records of Jesus' alleged hereditary background are unedifying and unimportant. It is perhaps natural that such study should lack appeal and should be therefore passed over for more promising research into his environment. But genealogy has its environment too. This environment invites exploration, for it provides a context which may illuminate our understanding of early Christian attitudes toward Jesus.

The student who looks for evidences of the use of genealogy in the ancient world finds them everywhere--among Jews and Gentiles, gods and men, kings and priests, nobles and parvenus; within Scripture and without; in both literary and non-literary sources. A selection from this wealth of material will provide examples which will illustrate six basically representative functions of genealogy in antiquity. With such a background we shall then examine the genealogies of Matthew and Luke. These six aspects are not mutually exclusive; indeed, they blend and mingle often in exasperating fashion. Moreover, the terminology is not ancient but modern. Nevertheless, with this caveat, and with the further warning that the examples cited are not to be treated as "parallels" to the gospel pedigrees, we may consider them as categories for organizing the material.

1. IDENTIFICATION.-- The most obvious function of the genealogy

-1-

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