Solid piece. I was honestly reminded of much in Brown’s Birth of the Messiah when reading this. His treatment of the Matthew genealogy is quite good and much of this work is very similar to his.
it is certainly true that matthew’s genealogy, along with Luke’s, are theological, not biological. Brown writes, “What I mean by “artificial” is that even God did not arrange things so nicely that exactly fourteen biological generations separated such crucial moments in salvation history as the call of Abraham, the accession of David, the Babylonian Exile, and the coming of the Messiah. The spans of time covered by the three sections of the genealogy are too great to have contained only fourteen generations each, since some 750 years separated Abraham from David, some 400 years separated David from the Babylonian Exile, and some 600 years separated the Babylonian Exile from Jesus’ birth.” pg 74-75
In discussing why Matthew changes the spellings of some names, Middleton writes:
For a long time scholars have puzzled over this, wondering what his motivation was. The answer to Matthew’s changes (you may have guessed it) is gematria.24 When the numerical values of the Hebrew consonants behind Matthew’s Greek spelling of the fourteen names from Abraham to David (Matthew 1:2-6) are added up, their sum is 574. That turns out to be exactly the numerical value of Abraham (41), the first name in the list, multiplied by the numerical value of David (14), the last in the list. The numbers would have been different (and would not have matched) if Matthew had kept the original spelling. Matthew clearly wanted to emphasize the names Abraham and David for his readers at this point in the genealogy.
I don’t recall seeing this in Brown and he tried to explain some things at length that might otherwise be accounted for more easily by gematria. It is interesting and I am wondering if it resolves a different problem. I am wondering if part four will essentially use gematria to answer a question proposed by Brown: Could Matthew Count? (Birth pg 81)
The first fourteen generations has only 13 generations per Brown (with 14 names). The same occurs in the third list of 3x14. There are only 13 generations there as well. Brown spells this out:
Could Matthew Count?
Although Matthew (1: 17) insists on the presence of a 3 X 14 pattern of generations in the genealogy of Jesus, when one actually counts the generations in the three sections of the list, it seems as if Matthew’s arithmetic leaves something to be desired. In the first section, from Abraham to David, there are fourteen names but only thirteen generations or begettings (see Table II). Of course, Abraham., whose name is listed first, had to be begotten; and so Matthew may intend the unmentioned generation of Abraham to be counted as the fourteenth generation. Only in the second section, from David to the Babylonian Exile, are there fourteen genertions explicitly listed (but at the price of omitting four historical generations and six kings who actually ruled-see Table III). In the third section, from the Babylonian Exile to Jesus, there are again only thirteen generations; and this time apparently one cannot solve it by appealing to the unmentioned generation of the first person named (Jechoniah) because his generation was the last of the second section!" pg81-82
I do think the article hits the nail on the head for the genealogy in Matthew. Brown concluded his discussion on the issue: “This means that, while the two NT genealogies tell us how to evaluate Jesus, they tell us nothing certain about his grandparents or his great- grandparents. The message about Jesus, son of Joseph, is not that factually he is also (grand) son of either Jacob (Matthew) or of Eli (Luke) but that theologically he is “son of David, son of Abraham” (Matthew), and “Son of God” (Luke).”
The interesting thing is theology doesn’t end with the genealogy. Matthew moves on quickly presenting Jesus as a new Moses in the rest of his infancy narrative. Most of the details of it are clearly just as much a theological creation as the artificial structure of the genealogy.
I am interested to read part four and see if gematria solves Matthew’s counting issues for section 3 of his list as well.