Because creation lasted six days and god rested on the seventh,
the number seven is perhaps the most sacred in the Old Testament.
Likewise, multiples of seven are part of what Old Testament writers may
have regarded as a divine arithmetic. Thus, one speaks of a week of
days, or a week of years (seven years). The prophet Daniel,
for example, predicted that there would be a period of seventy weeks
(490 years) from the end of the Babylonian exile until the coming of the
9:24-27). As we shall see below, Matthew, apparently in a
misguided belief that Jesus' genealoogy should contain a prophetic
numerical pattern based on divine "weeks", forced Jesus'
genealogy into a grouping of two "weeks" of ancestors, and in
so doing, had to omit four names, and count one twice.
Matthew's Prophetic Pattern
At the end of his genealogy Matthew
presents a summary of the generations he listed. Matthew says, "So
all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen
generations; and from David until the carrying away into Babylon are fourteen
generations; and from the carrying away into Babylon unto Christ are fourteen
1:17 ) Matthew, evidently, was impressed with
the apparent existence of such a perfect prophetic pattern of three
consecutive two-week groupings. As Randel Helms  points out,
Fourteen equals two "weeks" of
generations, and three two week periods (14 +14+14) equal six 'weeks'
of pre-Christian generations in the royal line of Israel; thus, with
Jesus begins the seventh, the 'sabbath' week of Jewish monarchical
history--the kingdom, restored under Christ. Matthew included a
genealogy not because he was really interested in the ancestry of
Jesus--presumably he had the wits to grasp the pointlessness of
tracing the genealogy of Joseph, who his own narrative denies is
Jesus' father--but because he was interested in the pattern,
the prophetic fulfillment.
Note above that even though Matthew includes a tale of virgin
birth elsewhere (see Virgin
Birth), he seems bent on
convincing the reader that Jesus descended from King David. There were
thus at least two reasons for including the genealogy: (1) to prove that
Jesus was a blood descendant of King David, as prophesied in the Old
Testament, and (2) to emphasize the existence of a divine pattern of
generations leading down to Jesus. Let us now take a close look at
Matthew's genealogy of Jesus to see how his verses have been deceiving
readers for almost two thousand years.
Matthew's Genealogy of
Joseph and Jesus
We have taken the genealogy listed in Matthew
1:1-16 and compared it to the genealogy in 1
Chronicles 1:34 - 3:17. Readers who check Chronicles will note that
Jacob's old name, Israel, was used. The names shown in the brackets--Ajaziah, Joash, Amaziah,
and Jeohoiakim--appear in Chronicles but not in Matthew.
|1 Abraham 2 Isaac 3
Jacob 4 Juda 5 Phares 6 Esrom 7 Aram
9 Naasson 10 Salmon 11 Booz 12 Obed 13
Jesse 14 David
|1 David 2 Solomon 3
Roboam 4 Abia 5 Asa 6 Josaphat 7 Joram
9 [Joash] 10 [Amaziah] 11 Ozias 12
Joatham 13 Achaz 14 Ezekias 15 Manasses
16 Amon 17 Josias 18
omitted names in brackets.)
|1 Jeconias 2 Salathiel 3
Zorobabel 4 Abiud 5 Eliakim 6 Azor 7
Sadoc 8 Achim
9 Eliud 10 Eleazar 11 Matthan 12 Jacob 13
Joseph 14 Jesus
The generations from Abraham to David are, indeed, fourteen, just
as Matthew said. But, the second group of names poses a problem for
Matthew. The Old Testament shows that from David until the carrying away
into Babylon are eighteen generations, not fourteen. The four
names in the brackets seem to have been deliberately snipped out of the
list by someone, perhaps Matthew, perhaps to fit the imagined or
hoped-for prophecy pattern. It is not as if these men were
insignificant; two of them--Ahaziah and Jehoiakim--were kings.
We will perhaps never know whether Matthew
deliberately omitted the four names from his genealogy, or whether the
sources upon which he based his writings were incomplete or faked.
Either way, it is evident that there were not, as Matthew
asserts, fourteen generations from David to the time of the exile into
Babylon; there were eighteen.
An Attempted Harmonization
An inerrantist from Bristow, Virginia, attempts to harmonize the
author's allegation of error as follows:
The 'fourteens' of Matthew represent a
Hebraic practice of grouping to create symmetry, or facilitate
recollection. Such literary devices are common and perfectly
acceptable. One need not assume that Matthew claimed only fourteen
generations existed between David and the exile; all that must be
assumed is that all the generations can be encompassed in a
fourteen generation summary.
Thus, according to this fundamentalist's logic, it would have
been legitimate for Matthew, for example, to have made a list of
fourteen names beginning with Adam and ending with Jesus and claimed
that "there are fourteen generations between Adam and Jesus"
(there are actually dozens). This is an obvious contrivance, invented to
hide evidence which clearly shows that the Bible is in error.
A second inerrantist, Horace A. ("Buster") Dobbs, a Church
of Christ minister, offered these words to the author in lieu of a
That there should be difficulty in these
genealogies is not surprising, considering, first, the want of
sufficient materials of comparison; second, the double or triple names
given to the same persons; third, the intermediate names omitted;
fourth, the name of sons given to those who were only in the direct
line of descent, and of brothers to those who were only collaterally
related; and, finally, the Levirate law, by which one is called the
son, not of his actual, but of his Levirate father. From these causes
great perplexity and much discussion have arisen, nor is it possible
to solve every difficulty.
The Dobbs explanation fails: there is no evidence that any of the
names listed in Chronicles are repeats, and if intermediate names were
omitted in Chronicles that would have only worsened the discrepancy. The
same remarks apply to naming of sons: if some sons were left out of the
Chronicles genealogy, then there were actually more than eighteen
generations, and Matthew's error becomes even greater.
It may not have escaped the attention of the reader that I've included
David's name twice: once at the end of the first group, and again
at the beginning of the second group. I do--even though it makes
Matthew's precious groupings seem even more contrived than it already
is--to give Matthew the benefit of the doubt. If I did not include David
in the second group as well as the first, then Matthew's second group
would have to include Jeconias at its end. However, if we place Jeconias
at the end of the second group, I would have to remove his name from the
top of the third group, which would leave the third group with only
Matthew's genealogy not only has the big
problem with the discarded four names from the Old Testament, but it
also is guilty of double-counting David's generation. One may thus
conclude that Matthew's description of the genealogy as being in the
form of three paired weeks of generations is not only seriously flawed
but seemingly contrived. This is not necessarily a deliberate
deception; it is more likely a reflection of the sincere belief by the
author of Matthew that the genealogy of Jesus must somehow be related to
the sacred number seven.
 Gospel Fictions, Randel Helms, Prometheus Books, page