Friday, December 6, 2013

A Basic Bible Study of The Two Genealogies of Jesus

A few people asked me to post my lesson on the two genealogies that are found in the Synoptic Gospels. This lesson is not intended to be exhaustive. I only have twenty minutes to teach. There are books written on this subject. There are three reasons I am teaching this lesson.

  1. I want to give the students a good foundation for the birth narratives.
  2. I want the students to be able to approach the Bible with confidence when they come across different accounts of the same events in the Bible.
  3. I want the challenge of making a text that we normally skip accessible and interesting to teenagers. This reason is secondary to the two above. I mention it for transparency. 
There are two documents from which I am copying and pasting. The first is my teaching outline. I tend to teach in a discussion format. Thus, my outline is primary stories and questions. The second document includes some of the key points that I want to address while facilitating the discussion. I have a final PDF document that I am not attaching. That document is Matthew 1 and Luke 3 set side-by-side with a few discussion questions. 

Lesson Outline

Topic: The Genealogy of Jesus
Passages: Matthew 1, Luke 3
Main Ideas: Help the students understand why Matthew and Luke approach the Jesus story from different camera angles. Help set the stage for a better understanding of the birth narratives.
Bonus: The week before the lesson, email this video to the parents. Watch as a family.
  • Why are genealogies important?
  • Do we do a good job remembering the past in our culture? Why/why not?
  • How can a limited view of the past impact us as individuals and as a society?
  • Why does the author want to make sure the readers know Jesus’ genealogy?
Tell Two Stories:
  • This is a true story. When we first got married, Tammie and I lived in a rough part of town. One day, as Tammie was leaving the apartment, a guy in a minivan swerved towards her while she was sitting at the exit of the complex. He hit her car, knocking off the bumper. The driver of the minivan told her that he didn’t have insurance but still asked to trade numbers so that they could work things out. A few hours later he called and said he had a quote from a local auto body shop for how much it would cost to fix his van.
  • This is also a true story. When we first got married, Tammie and I lived in an apartment that was right in between where I was going to seminary and where I was working. One day, Tammie called me and was very upset. She said, she pulled a little too far into the street and got clipped by a guy who was driving a minivan. Her bumper got knocked off. The guy did not have insurance. She felt bad so she agreed to pay for the minivan to get fixed.

Ask: How are these stories similar? How are they different? Which one is true?

Say: Both stories are true. They simply focus on different aspects of what occurred. One focused on the driver of the minivan having shady intentions. The other focuses on the tenderheartedness of my wife. As we’ve discussed over and over, the authors of the Bible always had a theological motive behind what they wrote. There are a few times when the Bible tells the same story in different ways. Skeptics have risen up to say, “Ah ha! This is proof that the Bible is full of errors.” The reality is, the stories that differently describe the same situations simply have different lessons or theological truths they want to teach. They simply approach the subject from different angles. Today we are going to compare and contrast the genealogies of Jesus.

Ask: Look at the two genealogies on this worksheet.
  • How are they similar? How are they different?
  • Why did the authors approach them the way that they did?
  • Why do you think they included a genealogy in their respective accounts of the life of Jesus?
  • Did you notice any surprising names on the list?

The next two weeks we are going to look at the birth narratives found in Matthew and Luke. Matthew’s is from the perspective of Joseph. Luke’s is of the perspective of Mary. Both stories are true, they are simply shot from different camera angles.

Study Notes

Why Two Genealogies of Jesus?
Here is a simplified version of the three main theories:
  • Matthew gives the genealogy of Joseph. Luke gives the genealogy through Mary. It would be unusual to trace the linage through a woman but then again, Jesus was born of a virgin. There is nothing usual about this story.
  • Some attribute the differences to the "Levirate marriage" tradition. This means that if a man died childless, his widowed wife would marry his brother. The child birthed from the brother  and the wife would be considered “begat” by the man who died. In this theory, Luke is the legal linage of Jesus and Matthew would be the actual/biological blood line.
  • Matthew is the royal line and Luke is the biological line.
Does it matter which is correct? While the authors were meticulous about record keeping, their records were driven by a theological motive. A better question to ask is, “What was the theological motive behind each genealogy?”

What is the theological motive behind the genealogy of Matthew?
  • Matthew was written primarily to a Jews who had come to believe that Jesus was the Messiah.   Indeed, the book uses at least 40 formal quotations from the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament.
  • A key theme to Matthew is proving that Jesus is the prophesied Messiah.  
  • Matthew is sure to include people and events that would resonate with the Jewish audience (Exile, Abraham, Rahab, etc.).
  •  It’s important for Matthew to reinforce the fact that Jesus was in the line of Abraham, the father of the Jewish people.
What is the theological motive behind the genealogy of Luke?
  • The book was written to a diverse population. 
  • A key theme in Luke is one of compassion for the marginalized (Gentiles, Samaritans, women, children, tax collectors, etc.). Another key theme is that Jesus is the savior of all of humanity.
  • Jeconiah was not included in this genealogy. The group who thinks that Luke is the biological line use this as proof to prove their point. They argue that Jeconiah was cursed by God for being evil and could not biologically be connected to Jesus. 
  •  It was important for Luke to reinforce the fact that Jesus was in the line of Adam, the father of all of humanity.
Why does it matter that Jesus was connected to David?
One key reason the authors would want to connect Jesus with David is because of the prophesies that proclaim that the Messiah will come from David’s line (Jer. 23:5-6, 2 Samuel 7:12-13, Isaiah 9:7)