Redaction and editing of the Bible

Notes quoting him? They may have but there weren’t exactly post-it notes in 30AD. The first layer of Q, assuming you subscribe to such a notion, was probably written by original followers of Jesus or someone close enough to represent them.


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Aye. Where did He draw the line between allegory and literal?

I think his teachings are an example that there is no line, or at least the line is irrelevant to the point and the truth of the teaching. Unless of course, the teaching is a history lesson.



You can be a Young Earth Creationist, but I’m not sure you can appropriately justify it with “because Jesus believed it to be true” merely because Jesus mentioned Adam or whatever.


See if this clarifies some of the issues.

One For Israel Ministry


MAY 30, 2016
Refuting rabbinic objections to Christianity and Jesus and Messianic Prophecies

One of the ways that some modern rabbis try to contradict the Messiahship of Jesus is to claim that there are contradictions between the two different genealogies given about his ancestry.
For two thousand years there has been no documentation of the lineages of the house of Israel, which makes it easier for modern Rabbis to attack something that even the Sages didn’t. But let’s look carefully at the accusations made, and if there is any truth to them.
On page 89 of his book, rabbi Daniel Asor claims that he sent a letter to the Vatican, demanding that they solve the contradictions (as he calls them) between the genealogies of Jesus in the gospels of Matthew and Luke in the New Testament. Rabbi Asor continued to claim that Pope Benedict himself, since he was unable to provide an answer, resigned from his position as Pope.
We have no relation to the Pope, and not much sympathy for the Vatican either, or for the persecutions of our people by the Catholic Church, but we have even less patience for insanity.
Let’s begin. On page 15, the rabbi writes about the genealogies:
“The New Testament encourages its believers to avoid studying this subject altogether. In the letter of Paul, which is called ‘1 Timothy’ it says: “Nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith.” Paul encourages his believers to continually strengthen their faith and for it to be as blind as possible.” He also claims: “We find that the genealogy of Jesus, as written in the gospels of the New Testament, is muddled up. Who was the real paternal grandfather of Jesus?… Matthew says that Jesus’ grandfather was Jacob, but in the gospel of Luke it says his name was Eli.”
First of all, not only has Rabbi Asor invented a prohibition here which doesn’t exist by taking a verse out of its context and twisting it, but if anyone will open the New Testament, they will be surprised that already on the very first page the New Testament itself details the genealogy of Jesus for the reader. And what issue was Paul really addressing in 1 Timothy 1? This time, let’s read the entire 4th verse:
“…Nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith.”
Paul is not speaking about the genealogy of Jesus, but about the genealogies of the generations. New Testament scholars interpret Paul’s words as referring to stories and myths that people made up in order to give themselves a family ancestry, as well as arguments between Jewish families about which tribe they belong to. The truth is that in the section of verses 3-11, Paul addresses the believers who lived in Ephesus, and the name of Jesus is not even mentioned.
And now it’s time to prove that the contradictions exist only in the rabbi’s mind.
Rabbi Asor claims that Matthew and Luke both present the genealogy of Jesus in their gospels, but that the genealogies contradict each other, since they list completely different names. He bases this on his understanding that Joseph’s name is mentioned as the father of Jesus in both Matthew and Luke’s gospels, but the rest of the names are very different. It’s true that the genealogies are different from one another, and they do have completely different names, but this is because they are not the same genealogy. Matthew presents Jesus’ paternal genealogy, while Luke presents Jesus’ maternal genealogy. These are two different genealogies, and not the same one.
Rabbi Asor’s mistake is a due to the fact that he doesn’t know ancient Greek, the language of the New Testament, so he’s basing his claims on translations he reads. The fact that the rabbi incorrectly quotes in his book the name “Eli” instead of “Heli”, proves it. And as for the “contradiction”, the answer lies in the grammatical rules of ancient Greek, in which the text was written. In Hebrew (and English) we don’t use “the” in front of a person’s name. We don’t say ‘the’ Moti or ‘the’ Eitan. In ancient Greek the case is different. Every name in the Greek text of the genealogy presented by Luke appears with the prefix ‘the’, except for one name: the name of Joseph. From this, the reader understands that this is not the genealogy of Joseph, but of Mary.
To remind you, Jesus was Jewish, and according to Jewish rules, the name of the husband is mentioned here, after all, in Judaism, only male names are mentioned in genealogies. Do you think we just made this up? Go check and you will find that the same phenomenon existed in Judaism and in the Old Testament. For example, in Ezra 2 and Nehemiah 7. Additional support can be found in Luke’s words, who wrote: “being the son (as was supposed) of Joseph, the son of Heli…” (Luke 3:23)
In other words, we can understand that although Jesus was considered a “descendant” of Joseph, but in reality, he was a descendant of Heli. By the way, it’s interesting that even the Jerusalem Talmud, in Hagiga 2, refers to Heli as being the father of Mary.
To conclude, Heli was Mary’s father, while Jacob was Joseph’s father. Both were Jesus’ grandfathers, one from his mother’s side and the other from his father’s side. Both are descendants of King David.
Here is another contradiction the rabbi thinks he has found: “Matthew declares that Jesus was only 28 generations away from King David, while Luke in his writings shows 43 generations between Jesus to King David. What is the meaning of this contradiction?” Here too, there is no contradiction; Matthew, purposely doesn’t list all the generations, but chose to list only the names which were known. In the Old Testament we can see the same phenomenon in 1 Chronicles 5:29-40 and Ezra 7:1-5, both are genealogies of the priests from Aaron to Seraiah. In Chronicles the writer counts 22 generations as opposed to Ezra who counts only 16! The book of Ezra skips 6 generations, in order to emphasize its point: Ezra is a priest from the descendants of Aaron. Ezra 7:1 also calls Ezra “son of Seraiah” even though Seraiah was executed by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BC, therefore, it’s impossible that Ezra was the direct son of Seraiah.
1 Chronicles determines that Seraiah’s son was Jozadak, who was exiled to Babylon most likely after his father’s execution. Similarly in Judaism, a grandson or any other descendant for that matter, could be called “son”. For example, when the Sages call the Messiah “Messiah son of David”, or, as the People of Israel are called “Sons of Abraham”, this is not direct fatherhood, but a biological reference.
This is also the reason why Matthew skips many generations; He simply wants to establish a biological link between the generations. The purpose of the genealogy was never to scientifically list each and every one of the generations, but to remove any doubt considering the family ancestry.
This brings us to another contradiction by Rabbi Asor, who claims:
“If we count the generations, we will find that Matthew was wrong in his counting! Where? From the Babylonian exile to Jesus, according to Matthew’s description, there are only 13 generations.”
It’s not Matthew that was wrong in his counting, but again, Rabbi Asor is trying to step into the shoes of a New Testament scholar. Matthew, who was Jewish, wrote to the Jews in a Jewish style. The first verse that Matthew writes in his book is: “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham.” Matthew divides the genealogy to three groups of 14 generations each. From Abraham, through David, and all the way to Jesus. This is in order to emphasize that Jesus is the “Son of David”. The name “David” in gematria equals 14. And in the counting of the generations, Matthew purposely counts the name “David” twice: at the end of the first group and the beginning of the second group, all in order to emphasize to the Jewish reader that Jesus is the Son of David; in words and also in numbers.
In conclusion, we could continue and go over more “contradictions” in the genealogies, but you already get the idea. And the truth is, that the Sages never tried to question Jesus’ place in David’s genealogy. This is a modern attempt and a desperate one in order to hide Jesus from you. Well then, at least now the Pope can return to his position.

Dr. Eitan Bar, a native Jewish-Israeli, born and raised in Tel Aviv, Israel. Married to Kate (since 2007), raising their son Asaf in Israel. Eitan holds to a B.A. in Biblical Studies (Israel College of the Bible. Jerusalem, 2009). and an MDiv Equiv. He also holds to an M.A. in Theological Studies (Liberty University. 2013). In 2020 Eitan received his Doctorate (DMin, Middle East Studies) from Dallas Theological Seminary.

Interesting information. Genealogies seem much more important to ancient readers, and no doubt were put there for purposes we may not fully appreciate today.


I know that some hold the view that literacy was for all practical purposes, non-existent during the lifetime of Jesus. I am not convinced. Zechariah goofed and was muted for months while he waited for the birth of his son. As the time approached, “they made signs to his father, to find out what he would like to name the child. He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, “His name is John.” Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue set free, and he began to speak, praising God.”

We discover that writing tablets existed, Zech could write and people could read.

My understanding is that Jewish people by and large kept very accurate records of significant events.
They are the most talented, the most gifted, the most successful, people group throughout recorded history. My sister, a gentile who detests religion, married a terrific and extremely successful Jewish man. He doesn’t have a religious bone in his body. After having been married for several years, observing him, his sister and their father, one day she exclaimed, “I think they are the Chosen People.” I think she’s right.

Of course, he was a priest. I would assume that there was some hierarchy of class and education, and that literacy was nowhere near as general as in western culture in our day. I wouldn’t have thought to call it nonexistent, though.

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Not only could he read and write, something various scholars deny, those who were with him–not priests–could read what he wrote.
Their emphasis is on the unreliability of the N.T. They maintain that the gospels were not written for several decades after his crucifixion because the disciples and almost everyone else in that location and at that time could not write or read and therefore the N.T. has many grave errors in it.
Saul/Paul did not write a gospel, but he wrote a great deal of the N.T. and he began only 15 years after He died.
I think it is important to establish that the N.T. is an accurate presentation of what Christ actually said and did to the extent it is possible.
Some highlight every questionable verse, never incorporating different points of view and other possibilities. That requires a fair handed approach.

Yes His teachings were metaphoric; parable and allegory, rarely if ever literal, I was thinking of His interpretation of the OT (but didn’t say so!).

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By “some” you must be referring to all competent historians and experts in the field. A few points. Zechariah was called a priest by Luke which may indicate education and some literacy. Not to mention John was a common name in antiquity and being illiterate does not mean zero literacy or that kids did not ever learn how to write their own names and even recognize some others. Literacy levels were very low but certainly not non-existent. There are 5 or 6 John’s in the NT alone and isn’t the first part of his name a truncated a form of YHWH? A very common and easy to recognize name I would say. Your evidence is crumbling. But this is all bedsides the point. Using a scene from the Lucan infancy narrative where people recognize a very popular name to determine literacy levels in antiquity makes as much sense as using Genesis scientifically to understand exactly how the world came to. Luke is literate and is giving Jesus a proper divine birth story, of which there many in antiquity. He certainly botches the census and messes up with Mary’s purification rituals, assuring us his version is not from her since we could expect her to know them. Matthew independently comes up with his own divine birth story for Jesus. Entire streams of NT thought show no knowledge of any hints of birth outside Nazareth. Fiction does not serve as historical evidence and literacy of the crowd is hardly Luke’s point or necessary for the story to make sense. What it does is serve as further evidence of which there is plenty for ancient wax on wood writing tablets that were reusable in antiquity. Yes, for the small part of the population who were literate these existed.


You make it seem as if the sole goal of critical scholarship is to undermine the Bible and attack the epistemic source of your faith. For some of us it’s trying to understand our sacred scripture. We don’t all just pick up the Bible and read it like modern Protestant American fundamentalists, assuming g it was written in English in our times, using our background knowledge, our sense of history, our literary conventions and our worldview. We don’t proof-text hunt a single passage then uncritically apply it to everything else as if every syllable of every statement was hand written by God.

Plenty of competent historians are fully Christian and many of the good critical Catholic scholars I read fully accept the magisterial teachings of the Church and write with stamps of approval on their works (nihil obstat and imprimatur). I can assure you the Church is not out to undermine the Bible. There are plenty of competent scholars who have accepted Jesus who understand what the Gospels actually are on historical grounds.

When I read Matthew I don’t think every word is inerrant or historical. Certainly much of it is historical. Jesus said and did many of the things written there. However, it is important to look at other questions. Treat Matthew from a narrative perspective. What can we learn about his community? What as a whole does this community think about the person of Jesus? What did Jesus mean to them is the most important question we can ask I believe. The forest is more important than individual trees. Clearly He was a new and greater Moses. That has led to certain narrative embellishments and that is okay. Matthew is writing a Gospel, not a historical biography.

I ask myself that question when reading the Gospels? Who was Jesus to Mark? To John? To Luke and so on? In Mark, were his disciples really that stupid and did Jesus really try to hide his identify (GJohn doesn’t seem to think so!) or is this potentially a literary device for failed discipleship in Mark’s own community? A call to repentance and to give strength to those facing doubts?

The most common solution to the synoptic problem is Markan priority. Given that Matthew composed his Gospel with Mark’s sitting in front of him and followed it to a high degree, keeping most of Mark’s material, we can easily see Matthew’s redactional hand. How he changes, adds to and omits stuff found in Mark gives us glimpses into his theology. When I say Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, I am referring to books by name and not by author as I think those names are incorrect.


I think literacy was much different then, No doubt many could write their name, perhaps read a shopping list or bill of sale. Some who were able went to a rabbinical school, most likely where Jesus learned. But no women. I suspect most men could not read or write beyond about a 1st grade level. Of course, there was not a lot to read, just some scrolls in the synagogue and an occasional government edict.

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Both genealogies are of Joseph. It’s very easy to check and confirm.

On the literacy, my impression is that Jews would have had much higher literacy rates than almost any other people group at the time, given the almost unique emphasis on being able to study the scriptures oneself.

No. There aren’t many credible divine birth stories. Besides Christ’s birth can you think of any? I can’t.

I agree that they didn’t have post-it notes. They had writing pads, which is kind of cool.

When a person like Christ passes through a town, I can imagine a flurry of writing activity taking place. A flurry of questions and discussions and telling everyone you can of the miracles He performed night and day.

Luke investigated those things which shook up the world and then wrote about them. He didn’t guess at the events surrounding his birth. Many others embarked on the same mission of writing down what had just taken place.

“Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.” They devoted themselves to prayer and studied and discussed and applied “the word” to minister to others. That’s all they had.

Wow. Wonderful effort to learn about the scriptures! Praiseworthy. I admire the work you have done.

I’m not sure if you think I disagree with everything you offered. I look at things somewhat differently, but you make many great arguments.
I’ll have to study all you presented. I, too, approach the word with a profound sense of wonder and a multitude of questions. I’ll never forget opening the NT and reading the beatitudes for the first time. I didn’t know what “the beatitudes” were, but they leapt off the pages piercing my heart and made me think that everything I had believed about getting ahead and living successfully was screwy. “The poor in spirit, they that mourn, the pure in heart, the meek, those who hunger and thirst to help others and please him without selfish, hidden motives”… Blew me away. It was as if He spoke directly to me, “Be merciful and if you are, you will receive mercy.” I needed all the mercy I could get. “Give, give, give and you will be blessed.” I had started to and it was beyond amazing. He made me less selfish, less materialistic, more aware of and concerned for everyone I encountered. My sister was stunned by how tenderly I cared for her brand new baby. I never cared about babies my whole life.

You stated Christ’s birth narratives are credible. Can you please state your evidence for this claim.


That would depend on the capacity to examine and combine various avenues of information and ability to trust some as legitimate testimony. Legitimate testimony is evidence.

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“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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