In Matthew 1, the New Testament opens with a genealogy establishing the lineage of Christ. Anyone familiar with the Bible knows it is full of genealogies. The first is in Genesis 4, and we have a tendency to gloss over these records. There is even danger that we may view these passages as mere padding or filler.
Think about the individuals contained within those verses – their families, their cultures, their histories. I Peter 1:19 and II Timothy 3:16 both make it clear that God is intentional with scripture. He inspires the writers to record what they do, so this infers a purpose behind every passage – even genealogies.
Bible stories and instructions usually serve one of two purposes, either reminders of what we already know or as new instructions. While genealogies seem tedious to study, they help preserve the historic integrity of the Bible. By the end of chapter 5, we have a family record of lives between Adam and Noah. Are these mythical figures, or did Methuselah and Enoch truly exist. I’m inclined to believe these were real people. Genealogy is an ancient art form, and the scholars of ancient Israel were masters. These records reflect care and concern in preserving a national history. In this vein, genealogies can help provide a historical context to events.
Luke 3 contains yet another genealogy. It is a history that starts with Joseph and covers over fifty generations of Jesus’ ancestry. It is a record of roughly 2000 years worth of individuals preserved for our knowledge. Painstaking math results in an ability to date events around these lives with some degree of accuracy. The Archbishop Usher and Dr. William Hales are best known for using this methodology, and later archaeological findings would confirm many of their suppositions.
A final aspect of genealogies pertains to keeping the old law as God intended. Numbers 3:9-10 establishes a lineage of priests that would start with Aaron and carry on through his bloodline. Being a Levitical priest required that one be a direct descendant of Aaron. Records had to be preserved to ensure the priests were acceptable before God. Thus genealogies were recorded and preserved as necessary components to the ancient Jewish faith.
Genealogies and Us
Genealogies are not a point of concern in the New Testament, and those two lists that record Jesus’ lineage are the limit of New Testament genealogies. These serve to confirm prophetic fulfillment in the ancestry of Christ. Hebrews 7:11-12 speaks of a change to the nature of our priesthood and law. Christ ends the need for maintaining genealogies, for He assumes the mantles of priest and king, offices for which records of lineage were once required.
Titus 3:9 warns Christians from obsessing and arguing over genealogies, and I Timothy 1:4 reads very similarly. These lists once fulfilled a need. Today, they serve as a record of the individuals who experienced Bible events. They validate those events. They illustrate the prophecies leading up to Jesus, and they give us a window through which we can see the multitude to whom we are connected in God.
lesson by Alan Miller