St Luke 3:23-38

St Luke provides us with a genealogy for Jesus.  It is worth pondering the significance of this more universalist listing, which takes us back to Adam, compared to St Matthew which only goes to Abraham:

23 Et ipse Jesus erat incipiens quasi annorum triginta, ut putabatur, filius Joseph, qui fuit Heli, qui fuit Mathat, 24 qui fuit Levi, qui fuit Melchi, qui fuit Janne, qui fuit Joseph, 25 qui fuit Mathathiæ, qui fuit Amos, qui fuit Nahum, qui fuit Hesli, qui fuit Nagge, 26 qui fuit Mahath, qui fuit Mathathiæ, qui fuit Semei, qui fuit Joseph, qui fuit Juda, 27 qui fuit Joanna, qui fuit Resa, qui fuit Zorobabel, qui fuit Salatheil, qui fuit Neri, 28 qui fuit Melchi, qui fuit Addi, qui fuit Cosan, qui fuit Elmadan, qui fuit Her, 29 qui fuit Jesu, qui fuit Eliezer, qui fuit Jorim, qui fuit Mathat, qui fuit Levi, 30 qui fuit Simeon, qui fuit Juda, qui fuit Joseph, qui fuit Jona, qui fuit Eliakim, 31 qui fuit Melea, qui fuit Menna, qui fuit Mathatha, qui fuit Natham, qui fuit David, 32 qui fuit Jesse, qui fuit Obed, qui fuit Booz, qui fuit Salmon, qui fuit Naasson, 33 qui fuit Aminadab, qui fuit Aram, qui fuit Esron, qui fuit Phares, qui fuit Judæ, 34 qui fuit Jacob, qui fuit Isaac, qui fuit Abrahæ, qui fuit Thare, qui fuit Nachor, 35 qui fuit Sarug, qui fuit Ragau, qui fuit Phaleg, qui fuit Heber, qui fuit Sale, 36 qui fuit Cainan, qui fuit Arphaxad, qui fuit Sem, qui fuit Noë, qui fuit Lamech, 37 qui fuit Methusale, qui fuit Henoch, qui fuit Jared, qui fuit Malaleel, qui fuit Cainan, 38 qui fuit Henos, qui fuit Seth, qui fuit Adam, qui fuit Dei.

[23] And Jesus himself was beginning about the age of thirty years; being (as it was supposed) the son of Joseph, who was of Heli, who was of Mathat, [24] Who was of Levi, who was of Melchi, who was of Janne, who was of Joseph, [25] Who was of Mathathias, who was of Amos, who was of Nahum, who was of Hesli, who was of Nagge,[26] Who was of Mahath, who was of Mathathias, who was of Semei, who was of Joseph, who was of Juda, [27] Who was of Joanna, who was of Reza, who was of Zorobabel, who was of Salathiel, who was of Neri, [28] Who was of Melchi, who was of Addi, who was of Cosan, who was of Helmadan, who was of Her, [29] Who was of Jesus, who was of Eliezer, who was of Jorim, who was of Mathat, who was of Levi, [30] Who was of Simeon, who was of Judas, who was of Joseph, who was of Jona, who was of Eliakim,[31] Who was of Melea, who was of Menna, who was of Mathatha, who was of Nathan, who was of David, [32] Who was of Jesse, who was of Obed, who was of Booz, who was of Salmon, who was of Naasson, [33] Who was of Aminadab, who was of Aram, who was of Esron, who was of Phares, who was of Judas, [34] Who was of Jacob, who was of Isaac, who was of Abraham, who was of Thare, who was of Nachor, [35] Who was of Sarug, who was of Ragau, who was of Phaleg, who was of Heber, who was of Sale,
[36] Who was of Cainan, who was of Arphaxad, who was of Sem, who was of Noe, who was of Lamech, [37] Who was of Mathusale, who was of Henoch, who was of Jared, who was of Malaleel, who was of Cainan, [38] Who was of Henos, who was of Seth, who was of Adam, who was of God.

Commentary (de Lapide)

Ver. 23.—And Jesus Himself began to be about thirty years old. “Beginning” refers not to “thirty years,” for then “about” would be redundant, but to the public preaching of Jesus, for which He was sent by the Father. Having been declared in His baptism the Messiah, the Teacher, Lawgiver, and Saviour of the world by the Dove and by the voice of the Father, and when He was therefore beginning to exercise this His function, and to teach the Gospel law and preach publicly, Jesus “was about thirty years old.” This is plain from the Greek, which has, “And Jesus was about thirty years beginning,” i.e., when He began to preach. So Jansenius, Baronius, and others.

Observe the “about;” he does not state definitely whether Jesus was exactly thirty. If we suppose Him to have been born in the forty-second year of Augustus, Jesus was, in this year of His baptism—the fifteenth of Tiberius—completing His twenty-ninth year and beginning His thirtieth. But if He were born in the forty-first of Augustus He was now completing His thirtieth year.

Thirty years. John, and a little after him, Christ, began to preach not too soon, but at a proper age. The Hebrews have the tradition that no one was allowed to teach publicly before his thirtieth year, for at that age a man is in his full vigour, and his judgment fully matured and perfected. This we also gather from 1 Chron. xxiii. 3.

As was supposed, the son of Joseph, which was (here, and before each of the following names the Arabic puts in “the son”) of Heli, which was of Mathat. From this passage Porphyry and Julian the Apostate accused Luke of being incorrect, because Joseph was not the son of Heli, but of Jacob, as S. Matthew says (ch. i.); and because S. Luke gives the other progenitors of Joseph and Heli names entirely different from those given them by S. Matthew.

Besides, Jesus was not the son of Joseph, but born of the Virgin Mary.

The solution given by some to this difficulty is that Joseph was by nature the son of Jacob, but by law the son of Heli. By the old law (Deut. xxv. 5) a surviving brother had to raise up seed to his dead brother, and the brother who had died childless was held to be the legal father of these sons. Now Jesca, says Euthymius, married Mathat, and by him had Heli, then she married Mathan, and by him had Jacob. Heli died without issue, and his brother Jacob married his wife in accordance with the law, and Joseph was his son by her, being, therefore, naturally the son of Jacob, but legally of Heli. So Justinus, S. Jerome, Eusebius, Nazianzen, and S. Ambrose explain it. But, on the other hand, Heli and Jacob were only uterine brothers, and the law on the subject of raising up seed to a brother only applies to full brothers, sons of the same father; for they alone kept the name and heritage of the father. Besides, the introduction of Jesca is beside the point. For though her sons, Heli and Jacob, be connected through her, yet they would have no connection through Mathat and Mathan and the rest of their ancestors up to David.

This, therefore, has nothing to do with the pedigree of the Blessed Virgin and Christ, in so far as showing Jesus to be of the seed of David according to the flesh is concerned. For if Jesus be descended from Jesca and Mathat, He could not be also descended from Jesca and Mathan; how, then, is He set down as the descendant of both Mathan and Mathat?

My opinion is that in the time of Christ it was very well known that Mathan was the common grandfather of Joseph and the Blessed Virgin; and that Jacob, the father of Joseph, and Heli, or Joachim, the father of the Blessed Virgin, were full brothers - as Francis Lucas holds - or rather, that Jacob was the brother of S. Anne, the wife of Heli, or Joachim, and mother of the Blessed Virgin; hence the genealogy of one is the genealogy of the other. For the Blessed Virgin was descended, through her mother, from Jacob, Mathan, and Solomon, and, through her father, Joachim or Heli, from Mathat and Nathan.

So S. Matthew gives the genealogy of the Blessed Virgin through her mother S. Anne, while S. Luke gives it through her father Heli, or Joachim, so that Christ may be shown to be descended of the seed of David in both ways.

There is no other better way than this of reconciling the genealogies given by SS. Matthew and Luke. Moreover, it is the common opinion of S. Augustine, Denis the Carthusian, Cajetan, Jansenius, and other doctors whom Suarez quotes (pt. iii., quæst. xxvii. a. 1, disp. 3, sect. 2) that S. Luke traces the genealogy of Christ through Heli, or Joachim, the father of the Blessed Virgin. Hence it must follow that S. Matthew’s genealogy is traced through S. Anne, and that she was the daughter of Mathan; for otherwise all her ancestors, whom S. Matthew recounts, belong only to Joseph, and not to the Blessed Virgin and Christ.

S. Matthew then traces Christ’s descent through His father Joseph, S. Luke through His mother, the Blessed Virgin; both lines are united in David, but after him separate through his two sons Solomon and Nathan. And again these two lines of Nathan and of Solomon unite in S. Anne, the daughter of Mathan, and sister of Jacob, Joseph’s father.

Who was of Heli. The “who” may refer to Joseph, thus—Joseph was the son, i.e., son-in-law of Heli (or Joachim), because he married his daughter, the Blessed Virgin, and therefore Luke does not use the verb “begat” as S. Matthew does, but the verb “was” (fuit). And again the pronoun “who” may in the Greek clearly be taken with “Jesus”—Jesus was the son, i.e., the grandson of Heli, or Joachim, because He was his offspring, as from a grandfather, through the Blessed Virgin. For having premised that Joseph was not the real, but only the supposed, father of Christ, there was no reason why S. Luke should immediately subjoin the genealogy of Joseph. But rather S. Luke, as well as S. Matthew, means to describe the descent of the Blessed Virgin and Christ according to the flesh, and this is the end and aim of each genealogy—so says S. Augustine (or whoever is the author of the Quæst. veteris et novi Testament, bk. i. q. lvi., and bk. ii. q. vi).

Ver. 24.—Which was the son of Janna—Janneus, the second Hyrcanus, if we are to believe Annius and Philo, who was the last leader of the Jews of the line of David, and was of the stock of the Asmonæi, or Maccabees; Josephus mentions him in bk. xii. ch. iv. and v., and Eusebius in his Chronicle. For Christ was descended both from high priests, such as Judas, Jonathas, and Simon Maccabæus, and from kings, He being King and High Priest, as S. Thomas, and Bonaventure teach, and among the fathers, Nazianzen and Augustine, whom Suarez (loc. cit.) quotes and follows. The Kings of Judah used to take as their wives the daughters of the high priests.

Ver. 27.—Which was the son of Zorobabel, which was the Son of Salathiel. These two are quite distinct from the Zorobabel and Salathiel mentioned by S. Matthew (ch. i.), and described by him as descended from David through Solomon; for these mentioned by S. Luke descend from David through Nathan. So think Pereira, Toletus, Francis Lucas, and others. Perhaps these two descendants of Nathan, being, raised to the princely dignity, borrowed the names of those of Solomon’s family who were illustrious in that state.

Ver. 31.—Which was the son of Nathan, which was the son of David. Some think that this Nathan was the prophet who reprehended David for his adultery with Bathsheba (2 Kings xii. i.) So think Origen, N. de Lyra, Burgensis, Albertus Magnus, and also S. Augustine (bk. lxxxviii q. lxi). But S. Augustine (Retract. bk. i. ch. xxvi.) rightly withdraws this theory, for this Nathan was born of David and Bathsheba when they were joined in lawful marriage, as appears from 2 Sam. v. 14 and 1 Chron. iii. 5.

Ver. 38.—Which was the son of God—as handiwork, not as son; for God, even as a potter, formed and fashioned Adam the first man out of the earth. And hence the Arabic version renders “who was from God,” whereas, in other cases, it renders, for “who was,” “son.” S. Luke, then, brings the genealogy of Christ up to Adam, but S. Matthew only to Abraham—the father of the faithful, and founder of the Synagogue.

Why does S. Luke make this addition?
1.  S. Athanasius (Discourse on “All things are given unto Me by My Father”) says, “Luke, beginning with the Son of God, went back up to Adam, to show that the body which Jesus assumed had its origin from Adam, who was formed by God.”
2. S. Irenæus (book iii. ch. xxxiii.) says, “So was Christ made the beginning of the living, since Adam was made the beginning of the dead; for this cause also S. Luke, beginning the commencement of the generation with the Lord, brings it back to Adam, signifying that they did not regenerate, Him, but He them, into the Gospel of life.”
3. S. Leo (Serm. x. De Nativitate Domini) says, “The evangelist Luke traced the genealogy of the Lord’s race from His birth, to show that even those ages which came before the deluge were joined to this mystery and that all the steps of the succession tended to Him in whom alone was the salvation of all.”
4. Francis Lucas says that it was in order that S. Luke might signify that through Jesus men are led back to God, having been through Adam led away from God,
Symbolically, Euthymius says, “Luke, beginning from the humanity of Christ, leads back to His Divinity, showing that Christ indeed began as man, but that as God He was without beginning.”
5. S. Ambrose gives another reason, “Now, what could be more fair and fitting with respect to Adam who, according to the Apostle, received the figure of Christ, than that the sacred generation should begin with the Son of God and end with the Son of God; and that he that was created should precede in figure, that He that was born might follow in truth; and that he who was made in the image of God should go before, for whose sake the likeness of God came down.”
6. S. Augustine (de Consens. Evang. book ii. ch. iv.) recounts the seventy-seven generations here given, by which, he says, is signified the remission and abolition of all sins whatever, to be made by the Saviour Jesus, according to the words of Christ, “I say not unto thee unto seven times but unto seventy times seven.”

Lastly, notice here the noble pedigree of Christ which S. Luke and S. Matthew trace from Jesus Himself through so many kings, prophets, and patriarchs to Adam, the first made—nay, to God Himself, through four thousand years, in one unbroken line. For there is no prince or king in all the world who can trace his descent in a straight line for a thousand years. As to why Christ deferred His coming and incarnation for so long, Barradi gives ten moral reasons in vol. i., book v., ch. xxxi.

This generation of Christ was prefigured by Jacob’s ladder. So says Rupertus (on Matt. i.), “This generation is Jacob’s ladder; and the sides of the ladder are the princes and fathers of the generation, Abraham and David, to whom the promise was made. The last step, on which the Lord leaned, is the Blessed Joseph, He leaned on him as a pupil on his master.”

Tropologically, “who was” is significant of the vanity of this world, the life of man passes away, generation by generation, and is straightway turned from the present into the past, from “is” to “as"...

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