It’s well known that the Christian Bible states that Jesus had no biological father, that Joseph, a supposed descendant of David, wasn’t his father. It was supposed to be a virgin birth, where the woman had no contact with a man but got pregnant anyhow. And because of the differences between the genealogies of Matthew and Luke, they will claim that one is Joseph’s genealogy and the other is Mary’s. [They will say this despite the fact that both genealogies refer only to Joseph and say nothing about Mary]. When asked, why the need for both genealogies, they will say that both show a genealogy from King David, one showing the biological link from the mother and the other shows the legal rights that come through the father.
Now ignoring the fact that the New Testament itself says absolutely nothing about this “wonderful” biological/legal theory, and ignoring the fact that the words of the New Testament itself says nothing about Mary having a genealogy [which basically means that, already, they don't have a leg to stand on], the normal person would hesitate and be confused. Didn’t the christian just say that Jesus had no biological father? Joseph had no part in his conception. So how would anything pass from Joseph to Jesus?
Then we get one of two claims that christians use as a defense: the claim that Joseph adopted Jesus and thus all of his legal rights were conferred to the son of Mary including the right of kingship.
The right question that should pop into the head of the person hearing this theory is this: does it have any foundation? Is this just a claim drawn from purely christian logic and wishful thinking to ensure that Jesus can fulfil what they want, but has no basis in the Hebrew Bible? Or does this have the backing of the Hebrew Bible? Can a boy whose biological father is not the descendant of David have the rights to kingship promised only to David’s biological descendants?
The clear passages of the Hebrew Bible
If we look at the genealogies of the Hebrew Bible, you’ll see on stark fact! When it comes to genealogy, the most important link is father-to-son, father-to-son. From the early records in Genesis 4-5 and 10, through to Numbers chapters 1 and 2 where people would be counted as part of a tribe based on the father, through to the Levites who could only pass their priestly rights to biological sons (Numbers 18), through to the records in the first chapters of Chronicles, one thing shouts loud and clear: tribal and legal rights were passed from father-to-son.
Some would ask, “what about the mother?” Always remember, the text of the new testament says nothing explicit and clear about the genealogy of Mary! Both Matthew and Luke, despite their conflicting genealogies, end with Joseph as the father of Jesus. But still, what about the mother? Legally speaking, the mother has nothing to do with tribal or legal (priestly or kingly) rights that get conferred upon the child. Take for instance, Solomon was king of Israel. His son, Rehoboam, became king after him. But Rehoboam’s mother was from another country called Ammon (1 Kings 14:21). That didn’t make Rehoboam an Ammonite! His kingship came from his biological father. The same fact that kingship comes from father is true for all his descendants as can been seen in 1 Chronicles 3.
It’s important to say from here that this fact alone severely injures, if not, it totally destroys, christians’ claims to Jesus’ kingship and his own claim of being messiah. For most people, Jesus would be a write-off (meaning, his claims would be invalidated) just by this fact alone since a direct line from him to David has been fundamentally interrupted! It is a fact that if your biological father is a seed (descendant) of David, then you aren’t either. Jesus’ biological father was not a seed of David. It’s a good as his father being some Roman soldier! It matters little that christians claim that God Himself was his father – perish the thought – since God is not a seed of David.
The excuses and the adoption
Some christians knowing this will use their conclusion that Jesus must be the messiah to make up excuses, like Jesus had to be born of a virgin to avoid original sin. But this makes no sense since, in the christian worldview, woman have a sin nature just as well as men, so a virgin birth does nothing, no matter how perfect christians believe Mary was. Some would say that there was no other choice, it had to be Mary as the mother, as if she and Joseph were the only descendants of David in existence at that time with the temple about to be destroyed in a number of decades from her time and the genealogical records being destroyed, there could be no seed of David after. But this is a myth. There is no evidence that all the genealogical records were all stored in the Temple and destroyed. Families maintained their traditions of who they were descended from. Some would say the virgin birth was needed to escape the curse of an ancestor of Joseph who was told that no descendant of his would be king on the throne of Israel. But when you think about it, why would it possible for Joseph’s right of kingship to pass to Jesus and yet the curse would not? That right of kingship comes from the same cursed Jeconiah, so even adoption wouldn’t help here.
But whatever the excuse all these excuses sound just like that: excuses made up to cover the back of Jesus that are just plucked from the air and have no real historical value or biblical backing whether you accept the christian canon of the bible or not.
But then we have the belief that somehow Jesus adopted his way into the Davidic line, that because Joseph adopted him, somehow the legal right of kingship rubs off onto Jesus. I’ve shown that based on the plain word of scripture, there is no real [biological] father-to-son link between Jesus and Joseph. It’s also important to note that if right of kingship is a legal right, then there is no overt evidence that anything legal was done to allow such a thing to be passed from Joseph to Jesus. There are no legal papers or mention in the gospels to show that Joseph adopted Jesus. Jesus being called “son of the carpenter” (Joseph was a carpenter apparently) could be just an informal thing as Joseph had to raise the boy as he was sticking with Mary.
In essence, this adoption argument lacks any real substance, being contradicted by scripture itself. This argument needs to be sent to the trash!
Mary the key of Jesus’ kingship
Some christians don’t use the adoption tactic. They try another tact and say that the kingship could have passed through Mary. They would say that even though it is normal for the kingship to pass through the father, this was the one exception where it had to go through the mother, through Mary because Joseph was not the father.
Whatever the reason these christians have chosen to pin their hopes on Mary, it isn’t sufficient to help in this situation. Problems come to mind like, what was the purpose in Joseph’s genealogy in Matthew then? Also we have to think about the consistent father-to-son pattern in the Jewish Bible, and see how suspiciously convenient it is that exactly when the christian wants it to happen, we have an exception in Mary. There are no other exceptions we can point to when it comes to the kingly line. The very simple thing that can be said is that the Bible has a rule – father-to-son links for tribal and legal rights – which the virgin birth contradicts. Therefore this is no justification for the excuse of “this is the exception.”
But some of the more knowledgeable christians may bring up the following argument.
In the biblical book of Numbers, chapters 27 and 36, we see that a man called Zelophehad died in the wilderness during the 40-year trek of Israel before they got to the promised land. He only had daughters and no sons. The Israelites were meant to get a share of land, each family would forever hold a portion of the land, but with the father dead, what would happen to the lot that was meant to go to him. Normally inheritances would go to sons. Zelophehad had no sons! So what was to happen to the inheritance? To cut a long story short, it was decided that the daughters could inherit the land for their father.
But the tribe to whom these daughters belonged, the tribe of Manasseh, was concerned. Each tribe of Israel was meant to keep the portion of the land given to it. Land wasn’t meant to be exchanged between tribes. But if these daughters married men from other tribes, then the tribal affiliation of the children would belong to those men of other tribes. And when it would come time for inheritance, the land the daughters had inherited would go to children who would be no longer of the tribe of Manasseh. Land would be exchange between tribes, which was not meant to happen. Moses went to God and it was decided that the daughters of Zelophehad could only marry men of the tribe of Manasseh. This would be a legal precedent for any man who only had daughters but no sons.
Christians use this historical narrative to point to how the legal right of kingship could have passed from Mary to Jesus. But there are significant problems with using this passage as an exception for Jesus.
One significant problem is that the Zelophehad exception has absolutely nothing to do with royalty and passing down tribal lineage. It has to do with a separate topic of inheritance. In order for it to be a good piece of evidence it has to be relevant, and it isn’t. Understand that for it to work in Zelophehad’s day, Moses had to get the permission of God Himself to get around the law of the day. There was no sign that it related to anything else other than inheritance (and no, royalty isn’t the sort of inheritance that is being spoken of in Numbers 27 and 36).
The main problem with using the Zelophehad exception is that it does nothing to help the children of those involved. What do I mean? Look closely at the passages about the daughters of Zelophehad and ask an important question: if the daughter of Zelophehad had children, whose tribe would they belong to? What does that depend on? If you look at the passages, you will see that the tribe of Manasseh and their leaders were concerned that if the daughters of Zelophehad got married to men of another tribe, then their land inheritance would go that another tribe when they had children! Stop and think! Who still determines the tribal affiliation of the children? The husband! The man! It is for this reason that Moses had to restrict the girls to marrying into their own tribe, to other descendants of Manasseh.
Let’s apply this to Mary. Let’s imagine that for some crazy reason, she is the last viable descendant of David, something that is unrealistic as it is much more likely that there were many descendants of David around! The supposed general rule that we can take from the above (although we have to ask, who gave the christians any right to make up new laws for the Jews, since this application of this law is unprecedented) is that although brotherless women can obtain an inheritance/legal right, the main rule is still that such things are passed from father-to-son, so they must marry a suitable husband who can allow that inheritance to continue in the family.
So in this case, Mary somehow take the legal kingly right with her. But then she has a child. Based on the example of the Zelophehad except, who must the biological father of the child be in order for the legal kingly right to pass down to the child? The father must be a biological descendent of David! The husband! And here we are hit with the same problem again. Jesus had no biological father. It is just the same as gentile, some Roman soldier, being Jesus’ father instead. Such a right would then not be available to the child!
Therefore, the Zelophehad exception doesn’t do the Jesus claim any good! Christians do not have the right to create laws for the Jews that never existed or to stretch the application of a law for the Jews. Neither can they claim a law existed in those times without evidence, not simply for the reason that they have to defend Jesus’ claim.
A few more things need to be highlighted about Mary before I end this off.
As I briefly noted above, some christians want Luke’s genealogy to be about Mary in order to avoid a curse put on an ancestor of Joseph called Jechoniah. He was cursed with God saying that none of his descendants (including Joseph) would reign and prosper on the throne of Israel. They hope that the genealogy in Luke would avoid that. Unfortunately it doesn’t. Two descendants of Jechoniah who had that curse were Shealtiel and Zerubbabel. You’ll see those names in Matthew 1. Unfortunately for christians who want Luke’s genealogy to be clean, both names are mentioned there as well. So the curse is still there whether the genealogy belongs to Joseph or Mary.
Also it is important to note that God’s promise to King David – that his seed, his descendants, would always have the right to the throne of Israel – this promise was passed through Solomon, in line with 2 Samuel 7, built God’s house, the temple. This is confirmed in other passages in the Hebrew Bible (1 Chronicles 22:5-10, 1 Kings 8:17-20 and 2 Chronicles 6:7-10). There is no passage in the Hebrew Bible that shows that this promise was transferred to any of David’s other sons. So the kingly right comes from God to David and it must go through Solomon.
Those who know the genealogy in Luke 3 will know the problem immediately. Luke’s genealogy, the one that is claimed to be that of Mary although it doesn’t say this, goes through another son of David called Nathan. So that genealogy has no kingly right because it doesn’t go through Solomon. So no matter if that genealogy was Joseph’s or Mary’s, it would have given Jesus no kingly right. Just being descended from David doesn’t make a person a king, no more than being a child of Abraham ensure you got the covenental promise. In Abraham’s case, the covenant promise only went to and through Isaac and not any of Abraham’s other sons. In this case, the kingly promise had to go from David and through Solomon.
So in the end, the genealogy in Luke, supposedly Mary’s genealogy, does absolutely nothing to resurrect Jesus’ hopes of being the real messiah.
I can understand why christians will do their best to almost re-write history and law to make sure Jesus is their messiah. I was one of them. I’m not saying I know it all, but I can understand. The only problem is the facts!
When the Almighty causes the fulfilment of a prophecy it is clear and unambiguous. For them to go through all of these legal loopholes and arguments to get this weird, unbiblical notion of a virgin birth to seem legitimate just shows how wrong their beliefs are. They cannot stick with the plain word of God because it refutes their attempts. The virgin birth itself destroys Jesus’ claims to being descended from David, it cuts it off at the roots.
The stories of there being a genealogy of Joseph and Mary, the belief in adoption, the attempt to stretch the Zelophehad exception to meet their ends, all of these things are baseless notions, attempts at dressing a pig up as a sheep and claiming it to be a sheep. In a way it’s a shame because it shows desparation. In a way, it is good because such mental gymnastics shows how far christians have gone away from God’s plain words in the Hebrew Bible to cling onto the sinking ship of Jesus’ messiahship.