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The True Christmas Miracle: The Virgin Birth

December 26, 2008

Intro: We have got to stop Gentilizing the biblical witness and the Christian faith. It is thoroughly Jewish through and through. We lose much of the color and wonder when we don’t see it through Jewish eyes.
2 Samuel 7: 9-17 —-The promise the Messiah would be from line of David is also found elsewhere: Cf Psalms 89:35-36:   “Once have I sworn by my holiness that I will not lie unto David. His seed shall endure for ever, and his throne as the sun before me.”
Psalms 132:11:   “The LORD hath sworn in truth unto David; he will not turn from it; Of the fruit of thy body will I set upon thy throne.”
Point of interest for now: 1 Chronicles 22:9, 10 – affirms without reservation that Messiah had to come through Solomon specifically for legal right to rule. “He is the one who will build a house for my Name. He will be my son, and I will be his father. And I will establish the throne of his kingdom over Israel forever.’
But let’s look at 2 Sam. 7 particulars:
9 – cut off your enemies; make you a great name – Luke 1:31,32, – great name…cf Zechariah’s prophecy in 1:68-72 “cut of our enemies, descendent of David reference.”
10 – ultimate dwelling place and ultimate deliverance “new heavens and new earth wherein dwells righteousness and nothing unclean shall entire into it”
11 – make you a house – Luke 1:33 “reign over the house of Jacob’
12 – God will establish His kingdom with one of David’s offspring – Luke 1:32 “throne of His father David”
13 –He will build a house for my name; God will establish His throne forever –Luke 1:33 – house and kingdom will have no end
14 – I will be His father, and he will be my Son etc. – Luke 1:32, 35  “Son of the Most High/ Son of God”
Fulfilled temporarily in Solomon (cf vs 14 –discipline) but ultimately in Christ.

But there are some concerns skeptics raise: Look at Genealogy in Matthew 1 and Luke 3. See Chart.

1) Why the difference in the number of names? Matthew 42, although David’s name is counted twice for “Davidic” emphasis, and Luke has 77 names total. Easy, Matthew is selective in his gen. Cf. 1 Chronicles 6 and Ezra 7 show skips a genealogy. So now prob here about the differ in number in people listed in Matthew versus Luke.   Matthew has his sectioned in 3 groupings of 14   4+6+4=14  DVD …each number representing a number…like 666 in Revelation represents Nero.  Matthew used was a common mnemonic device…divided into groups of 14 for memory purposes.

2) But wait, what about Sheltiel and Zerubbabel in the same list? Don’t think it’s the same people.   Common name, like Father/Son duo of Paul and Tim. Would it be unlikely to have 2 Father/Son groups in Whitwell named Paul/Tim? I find it HIGHLY unlikely that names are exactly ALIKE before David and TOTALLY DIFFERENT after David to conclude that Matt. and Luke are referring to the same Shealtiel and Zerubbabel.
— This can hardly be a strong argument for their identity:
a) Zerubbabel was a common name from the early Persian period (539-331bc.), As shown by cuneiform inscriptions from Babylon (see ZPEB , V. 1057)
b)The genealogies themselves have numerous names that repeat WITHIN the genealogy (e.g. Joseph, Mattathias, Judah) without being the same individuals; These names could also be common names.
c)The names in the genealogies are standard, common, everyday names. We have NUMEROUS people named Levi, Amos, Nahum, etc. in the OT accounts. There is just NO REASON to associate the S+Z of Luke with the S+Z of Matthew. (And even the pattern of S-followed-by-Z doesn’t carry much weight–families often honored prominent people this way.)
SUMMARY: 1)  They have different parents  2) They have different children. 3) They are descended from different sons of David.  4) Their chronological placements on a time line could differ by as much as a CENTURY! (depending on how the omissions in Matthew are accounted for, AND on what the average age of childbearing was.)
-LET’S FIGURE THE CHILDBEARING AGE AS A  HYPOTHETICAL: David was born about 1034 bc…..divide 1034 by 43 (# of descendents listed after David) for Luke and you get about 24 years old for Luke and divide 1034 by 24 and you get 43 years old to bear children for Matthew’s descendents…what’s hard to believe about that, cf. David himself, he’s the last to be born to Jesse out of 8 kids….cf. Jesse as the father of David  cf  Jesse’s age in 1 Sam 17:12 ‘old and advanced in years”
**even if they are the same there are still ways to reconcile the difference in names after Shealtiel/Jeconiah. Again, the levirate marriage would have been at work.  Too much info. for right now though.   See

3) Who was really Zerubbabel’s father, Shealtiel or Pediah? Physically, it was Pediah. Legally, in line of raising up brother’s descendent, Shealtiel was.  See 1 Chronicles 3:7ff Note: levirate marriage (Deut 25:5–10)

4) Where did Matthew and Luke get some of these names? Why aren’t many of them even found in the genealogies in the Old Testament? Cf. Luke 1:1-4 and had access to, though now destroyed by the 70 AD and other burnings, genealogical records. Kind of like going to the court house for records but now the entire court room has been burned down!

5) Mary was related to Elizabeth but Elizabeth was from the tribe of Levi. How can Mary be of the tribe of Judah? Does that mean the accounts are wrong? No. it is significant that Elizabeth was a relative, a cousin of Mary (Luke 1:36), but this does not mean that Mary also belonged to the tribe of Levi, for “Male descent alone determined the tribe, and Mary may have been related to Elizabeth on her mother’s side.”
Note: these are the gnats critics strain out, and then swallow the camel of unbelief.

6) Why, although different, do both genealogies end with Joseph being named? It seems to imply Jesus has 2 different dads?!
Luke is NOT recording Joseph’s ancestry. But wait it mentions his name at 3:24!
Reason it’s not Joseph’s genealogy in Luke:
1) Unlike Matthew, Luke follows strict Jewish procedure and custom in that he mentions no women. However, if by Jewish custom one could not mention the name of a woman, but wished to trace her line, how would one do so? He would use the name of her husband. (Possible Old Testament precedents for this practice are Ezra 2:61 and Nehemiah 7:63.) That would raise a second question: If someone studied a genealogy, how would he know whether the genealogy were that of the husband or that of the wife, since in either case the husband’s name would be used? The answer is not difficult; the problem lies with the English language.
–In English it is not good grammar to use a definite article (“the”) before a proper name (“the” Matthew, “the” Luke, “the” Miriam): however, it is quite permissible in Greek grammar. In the Greek text of Luke’s genealogy, every single name mentioned has the Greek definite article “the” with one exception: the name of Joseph (Luke 3:23). Someone reading the original would understand by the missing definite article from Joseph’s name that this was not really Joseph’s genealogy, but his wife Miriam’s.  Jesus was “supposed” or assumed to be the descendant of Joseph, he was really the descendant of Heli. Heli was the father of Miriam. The absence of Miriam’s name is quite in keeping with the Jewish practices on genealogies. Heli had no male heirs and Joseph, by biblical law, would have been Heli’s legal son by virtue of his marriage to Mary. The OT has several laws about adoption, inheritance rights, even if there are no physical descendents. Cf. Ruth – the baby legally, even though not biologically, is Naomi’s, not Ruth’s and Boaz’s!
—Some critics may not accept this explanation no matter what reasoning is produced.  Nevertheless, they should first realize that the Bible should be interpreted in the context of its literary style, culture, and history.
1) Breaking up genealogies into male and female representations (as per the 2 accounts of Matthew and Luke) was acceptable in the ancient Near East culture since it was often impolite to speak of women without proper conditions being met: male presence, etc.  Therefore, one genealogy is of Mary and the other of Joseph, even though both mention Joseph.  In other words, the Mary was counted “in” Joseph and under his headship.
2) Second, do any critics actually think that those who collected the books of the New Testament, and who believed it was inerrant, were unaware of this blatant differentiation in genealogies?  Does anyone actually think that the Christians were so dense that they were unaware of the differences in the genealogy lists, closed their eyes and accepted the gospels into the canon anyway hoping no one would notice?  Not at all.  They knew the cultural context and had no problem with it knowing that one was of Joseph and the other of Mary
3) His enemies NEVER raised the objection/question about His Davidic heritage, which would have been huge and a quick and easy way to dismiss the Jewish carpenter. All they raised was that He was ‘illegitimate’. Why not stop the apostolic preaching about Jesus and His Davidic kingship claims in Acts 2/13/15 and Romans 1 if there was a problem w/ the genealogies??!!
-We must be careful about reading our western mindset and assumptions to how things should be back into the biblical data.

7) THE MAIN PROBLEM: MATTHEW 1:11, 12 – NOTE THE NAME JECONIAH: SEE JEREMIAH 22: 24-30 – Jeconiah, Jehoiachin, also ‘calls him Coniah, the EL is dropped which was the shortened Heb. form of Elohim, God’s name.’ God didn’t want to be ID w/ him.  Why was God angry at Jeconiah? 2 Chronicles 36:9 ‘Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem three months and ten days. He did evil in the eyes of the Lord.’  Same statement in 2 Sam 24:8,9    Why is Jeconiah a problem? Curse of his bloodline.

2 possible solutions to Jeconiah curse

1) The curse was temporary. This is where I am now. See  Jer. 22:30b “a man shall not succeed in his days.” and one didn’t! Jeconiah died in exile; sent there in 597 BC. Zerubabbel, his next descendent who ruled/really governed for only 3 months, ruled around 537 BC, several years after Jeconiah died in exile.    Cf. also w/ Jer. 23:5,6 – right after God’s judgment on Jeconiah, God still promises to raise up a Righteous Davidic Branch to rule.  Cf Also Haggai 2: 23 “God says that Zerubbabel, a descendent of Jeconiah and forefather of Jesus, is God’s signet ring. Same language as in Jeremiah 22. Seems to imply that curse was not permanent.

2) The curse was permanent. So how can Jesus be rightful Davidic heir? How can God promise that through David/Solomon (see Matt. 1:6) He would bring Messiah and yet now there is a biological curse on this bloodline?
a) Note of interest right quick: See Chart. Look at Matt. 1:16 ‘of whom’ – is feminine in the Greek showing that Joseph is NOT the biological father of Jesus. Matthew is recording Joseph’s physical bloodline. So Jesus is not the physical descendent of Jeconiah. But wait, there’s still a problem. Messiah was to be born thru Solomon (See 1 Chrn. 22:10 – He is the one who will build a house for my Name. He will be my son, and I will be his father. And I will establish the throne of his kingdom over Israel forever.’), look at Luke 3:32 on chart. It has “Nathan”. So what’s the deal?
Answer: Again, assumption is that only gene carrying descendents could have LEGAL right to throne. But this is not true. Recall OT laws of inheritance, preceding Joseph argument. Here is the wonder of God’s wisdom, if, and there’s a good case that the Jeconiah curse was permanent. God promised right to rule from David thru Solomon, but yet now a blood curse on that very line. How is it solved? The Virgin birth! Biologically, Jesus has Davidic bloodline that’s not cursed so Jesus is still from Davidic line, but now how LEGAL rights of sonship through Joseph who’s bloodline has been cursed. Jesus, through the virgin birth, avoids the biological curse and yet has the full rights to rule as the Promised Davidic king. Tell me now, I pray thee, who else can fulfill these requirements other than the Jewish carpenter from Galilee?

Back to option 1: curse was only temporary
But why the need for the virgin birth if Joseph was not biologically disqualified from the Jeconiah curse, that is if the curse was only temporary? Why couldn’t Joseph also have been the biological father of Jesus? Why did God bring His Son, mankind’s only Redeemer, into the world thru the virgin birth? God’s promise thru the drama of Scripture – Note 1st how God starts narrowing more and more over time specifically who Messiah was to come thru…Gen 15 descendent of Abraham; Gen 49:10 descendent from tribe of Judah; descendent of David – Ruth 4:22 and our passage 2 Samuel 7:11-16/1 Chronicles 17,
— the Messiah was supposed to be different. As early as Genesis 3:15, it was proposed that the Messiah would be reckoned after the “seed of the woman,” although this went contrary to the biblical norm. The necessity for this exception to the rule became apparent when Isaiah 7:14 prophesied that the Messiah would be born of a virgin: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call his name Immanuel, which means “God with us.” Whereas all others receive their humanity from both father and mother, the Messiah would receive his humanity entirely from his mother. Whereas Jewish nationality and tribal identity were normally determined by the father, with the Messiah it would be different. Since he was to have no human father, (God would be His father as per Davidic covenant) his nationality and his tribal identity would come entirely from his mother. True, this is contrary to the norm, but so is a virgin birth. With the Messiah, things would be different just as the prophets foretold hundreds and hundreds of years before.

If Jeconiah’s curse was lifted, thru exile and his subsequent repentance there (be/c some of God’s judgments were conditional w/out being articulated at first…cf. Jonah), Joseph doesn’t carry a physical curse from Jeconiah and Jesus is still legally the Jewish king even though Mary is His physical descendent.
If Jeconiah’s curse was NOT lifted, then most likely have Mary’s genealogy refers to Joseph be/c Heli had no male heirs. Joseph would then become legal son of Heli so that’s why his name is included and not Mary’s. Jesus then would be legal heir of Joseph and biological descendent of Mary (The Davidic bloodline) without biological curse from Jeconiah. Jesus is legal heir to Davidic throne thru Solomon and still biological descendent of David. Who else can lay claim to messianic claim to today? How can they avoid the curse? Where are they going to get any genealogical records? They were all burnt either by Herod to protect his rulership or burnt in 70 AD by Titus when Rome burned Jerusalem to the ground.



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