John Beversluis, "The Gospel According to Whom? A Nonbeliever Looks at The New Testament and its Contemporary Defenders" 3

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I'm posthumously posting six chapters from an unfinished book sent to me for comment in 2008 by the late John Beversluis (see Tag below). Here is chapter three on "The Genealogies of Matthew and Luke." Do not skip this chapter! It's the most thorough taken-down of the inconsistent, inaccurate, absurd genealogies you will find. It deserves to be studied! I highlighted a few awesome statements of his.

Chapter 3: The Genealogies of Matthew and Luke.

The first problem one encounters when reading the synoptic Gospels is that Matthew and Luke contain two different genealogies of Jesus. Since the same person cannot have two different genealogies, there are problems here. Before getting into them, I will say a few words about the genealogies themselves.

1. The Genealogies

Matthew starts with Abraham, traces his Davidical lineage forward to Jesus, and lists forty-two generations (Matthew 1:2-17). Luke starts with Jesus, traces his Davidical lineage back to Adam, and lists seventy-five generations (Luke 3:23-38). Here (in parallel columns) are the two genealogies:

             Matthew’s Genealogy                                 Luke’s Genealogy

                              Jesus                                                               Jesus

                              Joseph                                                             Joseph

                              Jacob                                                               Heli

                              Matthan                                                          Matthat

                              Eleazar                                                            Levi

                              Eliud                                                               Melchi

                              Achim                                                             Janna

                              Sadoc                                                              Joseph

                              Azor                                                                 Mattathias

                              Eliakim                                                            Amos

                              Abiud                                                              Naum

                              Zorobabel                                                        Esli

                              Salathiel                                                          Nagge

                              Jehoiakin                                                         Maath

                              Josias                                                               Mattathais

                              Amon                                                               Semei

                              Manassas                                                          Joseph

                              Ezekias                                                             Juda

                              Achaz                                                               Joanna

                              Joatham                                                           Rhes

                              Ozias                                                               Zorobabel

                              Joram                                                              Salathiel

                              Josaphat                                                          Neri  

                              Asa                                                                  Melchi

                              Abia                                                                 Addi

                              Roboam                                                            Cosam

                              Solomon                                                           Elmodam

                              David                                                               Er

                              Jesse                                                               Jose

                              Obed                                                               Eliezer

                              Booz                                                                Jorim

                              Salmon                                                            Matthat

                              Naasson                                                           Levi

                              Aminadab                                                        Simeon

                              Aram                                                               Juda

                              Esrom                                                             Joseph

                              Phares                                                             Jonan           

                              Judas                                                               Eliakim

                              Jacob                                                              Melea

                               Isaac                                                               Menan   

                              Abraham                                                          Mattatha

                                                                                                      Nathan

                                                                                                      David

                                                                                                      Jesse

                                                                                                      Obed

                                                                                                      Booz

                                                                                                      Salmon

                                                                                                      Naasson

                                                                                                      Aminadab

                                                                                                      Aram

                                                                                                      Esrom

                                                                                                      Phares

                                                                                                      Juda

                                                                                                      Jacob

                                                                                                      Isaac

                                                                                                      Abraham

                                                                                                      Thara

                                                                                                      Nachor

                                                                                                      Saruch

                                                                                                      Ragau

                                                                                                      Phalec

                                                                                                      Heber

                                                                                                      Sala

                                                                                                      Cainan

                                                                                                      Arphaxad

                                                                                                      Shem

                                                                                                      Noah

                                                                                                      Lamech

                                                                                                      Methuselah

                                                                                                      Enoch

                                                                                                      Jared

                                                                                                      Mahalaleel

                                                                                                      Cainan

                                                                                                      Enos

                                                                                                      Seth

                                                                                                      Adam

Matthew is not content to construct his genealogy. He divides it into three groups and claims that each contains fourteen generations: from Abraham to David, from David to the Babylonian exile, and from the exile to the birth of Christ (Matthew 1:17). Why he was so impressed by the number fourteen is anybody’s guess. Maybe he thought that dividing history into equal periods, each ushered in by an important historical event, gave credence to divine providence with respect to the birth of Jesus. Maybe fourteen had some mystical numerical significance that we are unaware of. Or maybe its alleged significance consisted in the fact that it is twice seven, which is a favorite number in the Bible: the Sabbath is the seventh day, fields had to lie fallow every seventh year, Laban required Jacob to work seven years before allowing him to marry Leah and seven more before allowing him to marry Rachel, Jesus commanded people to forgive their neighbor seventy times seven, and in the book of Revelation there are seven churches, seven angels, seven candlesticks, seven lamp stands, seven bowls, seven seals, seven trumpets, seven stars, and even a dragon with seven heads and seven crowns!

2. The Major Problem.

Matthew’s fascination with the magic number fourteen is sabotaged by the fact that his third group of generations—from Jechonias to Jesus—contains only thirteen. Some have explained this as an unfortunate omission by a later copyist. But that is highly unlikely. The missing generation was already noticed by Porphyry in the early third century. Nor does the difficulty vanish by pointing out that some manuscripts insert Jehoiakim between Josias and Jechonias. That does not supply the missing fourteenth generation to the third group, it adds a superfluous fifteenth generation to the second. Other commentators have suggested more intricate solutions. The resulting complicated dance step was entertainingly summarized by David Friedrich Strauss as follows:
Truly it is possible to count in various ways, if an arbitrary inclusion and exclusion of the first and last members of the several series be permitted. It might indeed have been presupposed, that a generation already included in one division was necessarily excluded from another: but the complier of the genealogy might have thought otherwise; and since David is twice mentioned in the table, it is possible that the author counted him twice: namely, at the end of the first series, and again at the beginning of the second. This would not indeed, any more than the insertion of Jehoiakim, fill up the deficiency in the third division, but give too many to the second; so that we must . . . conclude that the second series not with Jechonias, as is usually done, but with his predecessor Josias: and now, by means of the double enumeration of David, Jechonias, who was superfluous in the second division, being available for the third, the last series, including Jesus, has its fourteen members complete. But it seems very arbitrary to reckon the concluding member of the first series twice. and not also that of the second: to avoid which inconsistency some interpreters have proposed to count Josias twice, as well as David, and thus complete the fourteen members of the third series without Jesus. But whilst this computation escapes one blunder, it falls into another; namely, that whereas the expression “from Abraham to David, etc.” (v. 17) is supposed to include the latter, in “from David until the carrying away into Babylon unto Christ,” the latter is excluded. This difficulty may be avoided by counting Jechonias twice instead of Josias, which gives us fourteen names for the third division, including Jesus; but then, in order not to have too many in the second, we must drop the double enumeration of David, and thus be liable to the same charge of inconsistency as in the former case, since the double enumeration is made between the second and the third but not between the first and the second. (The Life of Jesus Critically Examined, 109).
Little wonder that Isaac Asimov concluded that “the best that can be done” is to admit that there are only thirteen generations in the third group and that “Matthew’s little game with numbers” is nothing more than “an interesting quirk in [his] system of thought” (Asimov’s Guide to the Bible, p. 116). Luke’s genealogy is equally problematic, but for different reasons. For one thing, it is much longer. That is really not surprising in view of the fact that, unlike Matthew, it does not trace Jesus back to Abraham, the father of the Israelite nation, but to Adam, the father of the human race. However, there are genuine oddities.

1. According to Genesis 11:12, Arphaxad begat Sala; however, according to Luke, Arphaxad begat Cainan who begat Sala. So Luke thinks that Sala was Arphaxad’s grandson, not his son. In adding Cainan, he added a generation between Arphaxad and Sala, thereby listing twenty generations from Adam to Abraham whereas Genesis 5 and 11 list nineteen—an undeniable discrepancy.

2. Although Matthew’s and Luke’s genealogies are identical from Abraham to David, they differ markedly after that. There are several reasons for this. First, Matthew traces Jesus’s Davidical descent through his son Solomon whereas Luke’s traces it through his son Nathan. Second, Matthew lists most of the kings of Israel whereas Luke lists only David and the long list of names that follows are almost completely unknown. In addition to listing different people as ancestors of Jesus, both genealogies contain omissions and gaps and are therefore not only inconsistent but incomplete. Actually, after David, Matthew and Luke agreed about only one thing: that Zorobabel was the son of Salathiel. But this is where their agreement ends. Matthew places Zorobabel sixteen generations after David whereas Luke places him twenty-two; moreover, Matthew says Salatheil’s father was Jehoiakim whereas Luke says it was Neri (a name not found elsewhere in the Bible).

3. They cannot even agree about who Joseph’s father was. Matthew says his name was Jacob. Luke says it was Heli. If two genealogists already disagree about the second generation, who would be foolish enough to believe anything they say about the thirtieth or fortieth?

Not only are the genealogies of Matthew and Luke inconsistent with each other in many places; they are also contradicted by, or are otherwise inconsistent with, numerous passages in the Old Testament that report the doings and the begettings of many of these same people. Some examples follow.

1. According to Matthew (v. 8), Joram begat Ozias (also known as Uzziah). But, according to 1 Chronicles 3:11-12, 2 Chronicles 26:1, and 2 Kings 14:21, three kings reigned between Joram and Ozias—Ahaziah, Joash, and Amaziah—and Ozias did not become king until Amaziah had died. How is the omission of these three intervening kings to be explained? Some have argued that the similarity between Ozias (or Uzziah) and Amaziah caused Matthew inadvertently to confuse one for the other.  That cannot be ruled out a priori. But another much more likely explanation clamors for our attention. Given Matthew’s fascination with the number fourteen, the threefold omission of these kings would have enabled him to maintain fourteen generations between David and the Babylonian exile. That, of course, means that the omission was intentional—a fact which casts some doubt on the integrity of the author of Matthew. But until a better explanation comes along, this seems to be the least problematic interpretation of the texts.

2. According to Matthew 1:11, Josias begat Jechonias and his brethren. However, according to 1 Chronicles 3:16, Josias’s son was Jehoiakim, and his son (and successor) was Jechoniah (or Jehoiachin). Moreover his “brethren” are not mentioned in the Old Testament. However, Jehoiakim did have brothers, so it seems that Matthew confused the two.

3. Yet another discrepancy occurs when Matthew says (v. 12) that Zorobabel was the son of Salathiel, whereas, according to 1 Chronicles 3:19, he is said to have descended not through Salathiel but through his brother Pedaiah.

4. According to Ezra 5:2 and Haggai 1:1, Zorobabel is also said to be the son of Salathiel, together with Abuid, although Abiud is not included among the list of Zorobabel’s children in 1 Chronicles 3:19.

This list of internal and external discrepancies could be extended indefinitely, but I do not want to belabor the problem. The foregoing assortment of errors, discrepancies, additions, omissions, and other blunders is sufficient to prove beyond all reasonable doubt that it is nothing short of ludicrous to regard this genealogical hodgepodge as divinely inspired. As Thomas Paine rightly observed, “If Matthew speaks truth, Luke speaks falsehood, and if Luke speaks truth, Matthew speaks falsehood; and as there is no authority for believing one more than the other, there is no authority for believing either” (The Age of Reason, pp. 157-58). Were such appalling incompetence discovered in any source other than the Bible, it would be dismissed out of hand and even scoffed at. To attribute this comedy of errors to Omniscience is downright insulting. [Emphasis added by Loftus]

There are also more substantive problems. According to 2 Samuel 7:8-16, God promised David a “seed,” i.e., a descendent, which “shall proceed out of [his] bowels and establish his kingdom.” A big source of confusion here is that while both genealogies trace Jesus’s Davidical descent, Luke traces it through David’s son, Nathan, whereas Matthew traces it through his son, Solomon. Since Joseph could not have descended through two different sons of David, it follows that either Matthew or Luke got it wrong.

This problem is closely connected to another one which, in many ways, is the most puzzling problem of all. Having constructed elaborate genealogies of Joseph that trace Jesus back to David, Matthew and Luke both explicitly assert that he was conceived in the womb of the virgin Mary by the Holy Ghost without the agency of a human father (Matthew 1:18-25, Luke 1:26-35), thereby implicitly denying that Joseph was his father. Their genealogies contain the same implicit denial. Neither says that Joseph was the father of Jesus. Matthew identifies him as the husband of Mary “of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ” (1:16). The English phrase “of whom” is not gender-specific and hence does not preclude both Joseph being the father of Jesus. But the Greek term hes, translated as “of whom,” is feminine singular—a grammatical fact which proves that, according to Matthew, Jesus will have only one human parent—his mother. Luke 3:23 confirms this. According to it, Jesus was the “supposed” (hos enomizeto) son of Joseph. Why, then, do they both (seemingly with no awareness of the blatant inconsistency) present genealogies that trace Joseph back to David? It does not seem to have occurred to either of them that if Joseph was not Jesus’s father, then compiling his genealogy was not worth all the trouble they went to. In fact, it is completely superfluous. Why painstakingly construct a genealogical chain, making sure that each individual link is securely connected to the preceding one and then refuse to connect the final link to the chain? [Emphasis added by Loftus]

3. Some Evangelical Christian Solutions. Evangelical Christians never run out of theories, arguments, and ad hoc distinctions to “harmonize” inconsistencies and discrepancies. Most of them are nothing more than desperate ad hoc remedies, but a few have just enough surface plausibility to convince non-scholarly people dying to be convinced. Here are a few.

(i) The Two Different Genealogies Theory. One very common ploy is to explain the presence of two different genealogies by saying that Matthew and Luke were writing for two different audiences. Matthew was writing for Jews and was trying to trace Jesus back to David (and ultimately to Abraham) through Joseph in order to show that Jesus was the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. Luke, on the other hand, was writing for non-Jews and was trying to trace Jesus back to Adam through Mary in order to show his importance to the entire human race. Although differently motivated, both genealogies try to show that Jesus was the promised Messiah. Once this is seen, the alleged discrepancy disappear.

(ii) The Solution of the Jacob-Heli Mystery. According to St. Augustine and Sextus Julius Africanus (160-240), Joseph was an adopted son. Matthew’s genealogy gives the name of his biological father whereas Luke’s gives the name of his adopted and legal father. Here is the scenario we are asked to believe: Joseph’s mother was originally married to the person Luke identifies as the father of Joseph—namely, Heli, who died without fathering any children. So, according to the mandate of Levirate (i.e., Levitical) law, his brother, the person Matthew identifies as the father of Joseph—namely, Jacob—married her and fostered Joseph. That resolves the discrepancy.

(iii) The Solution of the Solomon-Nathan Mystery. Many of these same authors point out that Joseph was of Davidic descent through David’s son, Solomon, whereas Mary was of Davidic descent through his son, Nathan. This accounts for the great variation in the individuals listed as ancestors. So again there are no discrepancies and hence no basis for idle allegations about a single person having two different genealogies.

(iv) The Incompleteness Theory. Still others candidly concede that there are indeed omissions and gaps in the genealogies, and that they are therefore incomplete. But they hasten to add that incompleteness does not necessarily entail inaccuracy. Here is their argument. Suppose I tell you that my recent business trip took me to New York, Baltimore, Miami, Houston, Denver, and Los Angeles. Suppose further that you happen to know that I also visited Dallas, Salt Lake City, and Phoenix, and accuse me of inaccuracy. Are you right? Not according to these writers. What I said was perfectly accurate. I did visit each of the cities mentioned. The fact that I also visited others is beside the point. In short, a list of cities visited can be accurate even though it is not a complete. The same holds for Matthew’s and Luke’s genealogies.

(v) The Solution of the Human Genealogy-Virgin Birth Mystery. Most authors try to harmonize the discrepancy between the fact that Jesus is said to be both a physical descendent of David and also born of a virgin by availing themselves of a strategy already mentioned, by pointing out that while Joseph was not his biological father, he was his legal father—a distinction which (they think) resolves this apparent discrepancy.

4. Problems with these Solutions. Before discussing these theories individually, it is worth noticing that all of them look suspiciously like theories advanced by somebody on the defensive. These are not the sort of theories one would ever propound unless one felt constrained to reply to a question or an objection somebody had raised to what one had said previously. This is true not only of scholarly discussion, but generally. One would not normally arrive home from work, walk through the door, and say to one’s spouse, “Of course I still love you.” That is not a conversational opener. It is the sort of thing one says when one’s love has been doubted or otherwise questioned (“Sometimes I don’t think you love me any more.”). In the same way, one would not normally launch a discussion of the genealogies of Matthew and Luke (or of anything else for that matter) by saying, “Of course incompleteness does not necessarily entail inaccuracy.” Such statements are not so much assertions as reassurances—replies to objections, worries, suspicions, etc. As such, they are transparently ad hoc. They are not designed to propound a theory, but to defend a theory already propounded but now under scrutiny. With that in mind, let us examine these evangelical Christian replies.

(i) The Two Different Genealogies Theory. This ad hoc maneuver overlooks a host of relevant points. First, a glance at Luke’s list reveals two very awkward facts: Mary’s name does not appear on it and Joseph’s does. In fact, both genealogies are explicitly said to be his and both end up with him. So how could anybody reasonably claim that Luke traces Jesus’s royal lineage through Mary—a person who is not even mentioned? Second, according to Numbers 1:18, Moses and Aaron required “the renowned of the congregation, princes of the tribes of their fathers, heads of thousands in Israel” to assemble together . . . and they declared their pedigrees [i.e., genealogies] after their families by the house of their fathers.” In view of the lowly status of women in Israel, it would have been inconceivable to require them to declare their “pedigrees” by the house of their mothers. Third, according to Luke 1:5, Elizabeth, wife of Zacharias, future mother of John the Baptist, and Mary’s cousin, was a daughter of Aaron who had descended from the house of Levi. So how could Jesus have descended through her from the house of David? Fourth, it is also worth emphasizing that there is not a single genealogy of a woman in the entire Bible. Even if Luke’s were an exception, Mary could still not have given birth to the promised Messiah because two of her ancestors, Shealtiel and Zorobabel, were descendents of Jeconia who, according to Jeremiah 22:28-30, was cursed and could never have a descendent on the throne of David (Encyclopedia of Biblical Errancy, p. 98, 110). Finally, according to 1 Chronicles 22:9-10, the Messiah had to be a descendent of Solomon and Luke’s traces him through Nathan. Fifth, if Luke really does trace Jesus’s Davidical descent through Mary, why do the names Shealtiel and Zorobabel, which appear in his genealogy, also appear in Matthew’s, who allegedly traces Jesus’s Davidical descent through Joseph. Unless, of course, the names “Shealtiel” and “Zorobabel” on each list refer to different people, i.e., there were two of each—an interpretive a strategy reminiscent of the old maritime maxim “Any port in a storm”!

In view of these difficulties, it is clear that the two genealogies cannot be reconciled. Anybody who persists in claiming that they can thereby certifies once again that they are prepared to say anything rather than acknowledge what is there for all to see. [Emphasis added by Loftus] The Two Different Genealogies Theory answers none of these questions and should therefore be abandoned.

(ii) The Solution of the Jacob-Heli Mystery. This solution collapses the instant one examines it. The simple fact is that if Heli and Jacob had the same father, then the genealogies of Matthew and Luke would have differed only at that single generation and there would have been no need to trace Joseph all the way back to two different sons of David, Nathan and Solomon. Unless of course, as Africanus maintained, the two fathers of Joseph—biological and legal—were only half-brothers who had the same mother but different fathers—a hypothesis which requires that she had also been married twice, first to Matthan who, according to Matthew, descended from David through Solomon, and later to Matthat who, according to Luke, descended from David through Nathan—a further hypothesis that requires us to introduce this same complication through twenty four generations in Matthew’s genealogy and thirty nine in Luke’s. Although such a remarkable state of affairs is not absolutely impossible, it is highly improbable—so improbable, in fact, that only somebody in desperate need of a solution would ever resort to it. It is decidedly odd that would-be harmonizers of the Gospels would accept this tortuous hypothesis from Julius Africanus—a man who impugned the Book of Daniel on several counts and argued that it should not be included in the Old Testament canon. This is yet another example of the selectivity with which alleged authorities are accepted or rejected depending on whether they promote or hinder the cause of harmonization.

(iii) The Solution of the Solomon-Nathan Mystery. As we have just seen, an unanswered question is how Mary could have descended through Nathan, a son of David, if she herself was of the house of Levi? But there are several other problems. If “pedigrees,” i.e., genealogies, were always in the name of the father, what ground is there for thinking that in the case of Jesus it was in the name of the mother? That is just unargued assertion. If somebody replies that in this case the mother was important enough to require it, since she was the mother and the sole human ancestor of Jesus, there is a ready reply. If Mary’s genealogy was important enough to be presented by Luke, why was her name not important enough to be mentioned? It is perverse to argue that although Luke says “Joseph,” he means “Mary.” That is just one more ad hoc diversionary maneuver designed to maintain one’s position, no matter what.

(iv) The Incompleteness Theory. This solution fares no better than the others. It is yet another example of conceptual sleight of hand. Allow me to explain. If I were asked which cities I visited during my last business trip, I would naturally assume that the questioner was asking for a complete list. So if I omit three, as in the foregoing example, and my questioner knows I have omitted them and accuses me of inaccuracy, she is absolutely right. My list is accurate as far as it goes, but I was asked for a complete list. In omitting three cities, I either forgot that I visited them or I was trying to conceal the fact that I did. But whatever the reason for my omission, it is an omission and it makes my list inaccurate if we take into account the intent of the questioner in asking her question—which was to find out the cities I visited—all of them. Were I to reply, “You asked for the names of the cities, not for a list of all the cities,” I would be resorting to the evasive strategy of Geisler’s smart aleck angel.

More fundamentally, to see the root error of this theory, we need to make a distinction. Some kinds of incompleteness are not inaccuracies, but others are. Accuracy and inaccuracy cannot be defined in a vacuum and once-and-for-all. A general rule of thumb would go something like this. The question of whether a statement or a description or a document is accurate depends on the context. Sometimes we demand more completeness than others.

For example, a sportscaster’s coverage of a basketball game over the radio can be perfectly accurate even if he leaves out a lot of what is happening on the court. There are things we want to know and things we do not want to know. We want to know things like who has possession of the ball, who passes to whom, who scores a basket, who blocks a shot, and periodic updates of the score. A sportscaster who provides this information clearly and promptly is said to be accurate in spite of the fact he leaves out a lot of other things that are taking place on the court that we do not want to know, e.g., exactly how many times a player dribbled the ball and exactly how many steps he took as he intercepted a pass and sped down the court, how many times he looked back to see if he was being closely pursued, how the player from whom the ball was stolen reacted to the steal, whether the crowd cheered more loudly as a result of the steal, how the opposing team (and coach) reacted, how the coach’s wife, seated in the bleachers, reacted, etc. A sportscaster who provided these minute and irrelevant details would not be praised for his incredible accuracy but faulted for his incredible tediousness.

On the other hand, when we ask an attorney to draw up a last will and testament, we are not content with main points and general ideas. We require precision right down to the last detail and every conceivable eventuality. If even the most seemingly trivial matter is misstated or overlooked, we reject the will as not only incomplete but as inaccurate in the sense that it is not faithful to all of the expressed intentions of the person whose will it is.

To return to the matter under discussion, it is important to recognize that genealogies are much more like wills than sports coverage. A genealogy is a family tree or a record of a family history or lineage. Everybody knows who some of their descendents were, but genealogy compilers are a case unto themselves. People who get involved in such projects are seldom half-hearted and slipshod; on the contrary, they are sticklers for details, very methodical, and sometimes even fanatical—the kind of people who will “never rest” until their task is complete. Constantly flipping through old documents and breathlessly waiting for breaks in the conversation so they can interject questions about the year Uncle Horace or Fourth Cousin Mildred died, they are paradigms of a degree of dedication and obsession with detail that would put many archive curators to shame.

Like a list of cities visited, a genealogy can be in accurate in two ways: first, it can contain misinformation in the form of errors; second, it can contain omissions and gaps. Insofar as a genealogy contains no errors, it is accurate as far as it goes. But insofar as it is incomplete, it is inaccurate as a full account or record of the family tree. That this is so may be seen by noticing that anybody who submitted such a document as incomplete but accurate would be making a false statement. The whole point of constructing a family tree is to be accurate in both senses: it must contain no errors and it must be complete.

(v) The Solution to the Virgin Birth –Genealogy Discrepancy. As we have seen, Matthew makes two incompatible claims about Jesus: that he was a descendent of David and that he had no human father but was born of a virgin. That creates an insoluble difficulty. If Joseph was not the biological father of Jesus, then Jesus was not a gene-carrying descendent of Joseph; which means that he could not have been a gene-carrying descendent of David either. So the “seed” that God promised would “proceed from David’s bowels” in fact never did. There is no way out of this dilemma. Either Joseph was the biological father of Jesus or he was not. If he was, then Jesus was a gene-carrying descendent of David, and God’s promise to David was fulfilled. If he was not, then Jesus was not a gene-carrying descendent of David, and God’s promise to David was not fulfilled. It is more than odd that the authors of these two Gospels went to such extraordinary lengths to prove that Jesus descended from David and simultaneously assert that he did not. [Emphasis added by Loftus]

This dilemma cannot be avoided by saying, with A. E. Harvey (The New English Bible: Companion to the New Testament, p. 18), that Jewish law and custom offered a “solution to this difficulty,” namely, that Jesus was the adopted and legal son of Joseph. Even if that is true, it is completely irrelevant. God did not promise David that some future descendent would adopt a son who would be his legal descendent; he promised that this descendent would proceed from David’s “bowels,” i.e., from his loins. And that requires the very sexual intercourse between Joseph and Mary that the virgin birth preludes. This is really the fundamental difficulty with both genealogies. And, as I said at the outset, it is insoluble. In short, since the problem posed by the promise of David’s “seed” cannot be solved, every other difficulty becomes academic and every other solution pales into insignificance.

5. The Only Reasonable Conclusion. The foregoing analysis reveals that the only reasonable solution is that the genealogies of Matthew and Luke are incomplete, inconsistent, and inaccurate. It also reveals that Maurice Bucaille was right in concluding that these genealogies “may perhaps be the subject that has led Christian commentators to perform their most characteristic feats of dialectic acrobatics” (The Bible, the Quran and Science, p. 93). After all this, it comes as a breath of fresh air to read Peter De Vries’s comic novel, The Mackeral Plaza, in which the Reverend Mr. Peter Mackerel (pastor of People’s Liberal Church) proudly describes his new “free-form pulpit designed by Noguchi . . . [and consisting of] a slab of marble set on four legs of four delicately differing fruitwoods, to symbolize the four Gospels, and their failure to harmonize” (p. 7).

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