Monday, August 24, 2015

The genealogy of Jesus

I saw this at The Cloisters when I was in New York last week. It's very hard to read1 so I'm not sure if it's accurate.

Here's what the Metropolitan Museum of Art has to say about The Compendium of History through the Genealogy of Christ by Peter of Poitiers.
Admirable for its concision and graphic boldness, this imposing scroll presents a history of the known world from the creation of Adam until the birth of Jesus. It is a teaching tool—a graphic summary of a classroom text. The ancestry of Jesus, traced back to the first man, is shown through a stemma (a system of lines and framed circles that runs down the center of the scroll’s length). Noteworthy ancestors, including King David with his harp, are pictured at regular intervals along the stemma. Successions of biblical rulers, as well as the lineage of ancient rulers of the Near East, Greece, and Rome appear on less elaborate stemmata that diverge from, converge with, and run parallel to that central history.
Sounds authentic to me. I wonder who is listed as the father of Jesus and if the genealogy covers the ancestors of Mary all the way back to Eve?

Peter of Poiters lived in England and the scroll was created in the 1200s. I bet he had lots of fun searching ancestry.com and all the census records from Ur and Egypt.

Here's photo that I took at The Cloisters.


1. It was in a dark corner and my Latin is a bit rusty.

19 comments :

  1. Some time ago I got curious and spent some time reading a bit of serious non-apologetic biblical scholarship (it does exist), and aside from getting a firmer understanding of how much of that text is a forgery, one of the main things I was left with from that exercise was the question of how was it possible for nobody to openly raise some very obvious questions for nearly two millenia. The genealogy is one of the worst cases

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    1. The question has been raised and answered ad nauseum. It's funny that non believers assume these things aren't debated in the ranks of believers. They most certainly are.

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    2. Which question? What I meant is that it makes absolutely no sense to trace the genealogy of Jesus in the way some of the gospels (that it is only two of them, and which ones, that do that is actually critically important) if there was no biological connection between him and Joseph.

      And there are many things of the sort, the other classic in the genre is the demonization of Judas and of Jews, which makes zero sense if Jesus's mission was to die for our sins.

      I know those things were debated -- in early Christianity. Not much after that until modern times. But if you put all the discrepancies together, it should quickly become apparent how the whole thing was put together and how little of it can be relied on as historical information. So why is it that between the fourth and 16th centuries nobody expressed any doubt (you can find discussions of some of the books in the Bible being forgeries in the works of the early church fathers, and then that kind of thinking sort of resumes for a brief period with the Reformation, but not much in between)? Some really great minds spend most of their intellectual energy reading the books of the Bible, and thinking long and hard about every word. I just have very hard time imagining that nobody understood the nature of the text.

      Why large portions of the Bible were only declared to be forgeries in the late 19th and the 20th centuries (and even then, only by a small circle of scholars) is actually a very important question -- we should try to understand how that sort of mass delusion can be maintained for so long. People had the same evidence back then, and they actually probably knew it better than even the scholars today.

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    3. I guess after the fourth century is the time when Christianity controlled government, so it would have been unwise to be too uppity about the whole thing. And before the translation movement starting in the 16th century most people wouldn't have been able to read it anyway.

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    4. Beau wrote:
      "It's funny that non believers assume these things aren't debated in the ranks of believers. They most certainly are. "

      Oh yes, prime examples of debate are to be found in f.e. Northern Ireland, Northern Spain and in the past few years debate has raged on in IS territory.

      Do tell Beau, what is the current consensus on the origins of jezus?

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    5. Before the Protestant Reformation "the text" of the Bible wasn't really the focus of that much interest. After all, throughout most of the medieval period most people (who could read at all) read it in Latin translation (which added a whole other issue of mistranslations in addition to the piecemeal construction of the text -- ironically, it wasn't until the movement to translate it into modern languages that the interest in reading it in the original languages really became a thing. And then a lot of the problems turned out to be in there and not just in bad translations.

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    6. Georgi, these sorts of things that appear to us to be simple contradictions were indeed known to those vitally interested in the Biblical texts from time immemorial. Regarding Jesus' parentage in particular, this, like most of these "contradictions," arose from inconsistent requirements/predictions. On the one hand, Old Testament texts said to predict the coming of the Messiah said he would be from the house of David. On the other hand, due to the Christian doctrine of original sin and the requirement that Jesus serve as not only the Messiah but also God, his origin had to be divine. On yet another front, the Messiah was of course to be Jewish, and in Jewish doctrine religious identity is taken from the maternal line.

      So one has all these countervailing requirements that must be reconciled. And when I say "must be reconciled," I mean for the people interpreting the texts they had to be. These were people concerned with how to get into Heaven. I don't think the non-existence of Heaven or God would have presented themselves as tremendously viable alternatives. (Perhaps a loose analogy is the attempt by Bertrand Russell, Hilbert, etc., to prove the foundations of mathematics before Gödel showed it was a futile enterprise.)

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    7. @Beau Stoddard

      The question has been raised and answered ad nauseum.

      So what's the answer?

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    8. It isn't really a contradiction as much as a non-sequitur, the origin of which is very obvious. So when you tally up all such details, it should quickly become apparent how the book was written. In fact it should have been even more apparent to someone in, say, Constantinople in the Middle Ages, when the library probably still had a good number of still-extant non-orthodox texts left from the early centuries of Christianity.

      As I said above, textual criticism isn't really that novel a concept - for example, it looks like even Origen and Eusebius had noted that the epistles of Peter were not written by the same person based on the writing style and that was way back in the 3rd and 4th centuries...

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    9. Certainly people were aware of how the book*s* were written. But again, these were people seriously concerned with getting into Heaven, and so the "right" way to analyze and harmonize these texts so they knew the correct beliefs to hold was fundamentally important. Sometimes this meant tossing out books as not being part of the divinely inspired canon; sometimes it meant, in the words of the White Queen, in effect believing "six impossible things before breakfast" to harmonize the contradictions in just those books that undoubtedly must be in the canon.

      Textual exegesis that didn't harmonize things in just the right way, however compelling on grounds of scholarship, must be dismissed, in fact persecuted, so what was left to believe was the Truth that would get believers into Heaven. Thus Origen's views became heresy.

      Bart Ehrman's "How Jesus Became God" has a lot about these subjects, as do several of his other books.

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    10. Marcion noticed that a number of the writings attributed to Paul were forgeries, and that was in the early second century.

      William Hyde

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  2. Well, there graffiti carved into seats in some medieval churches suggesting that Jesus was a bastard with a fully human father. But you're asking about more serious scholarship, I know.

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    1. Apparently someone name Kilroy participated in every combat, training or occupation operation during WWII and the Korean War. Although he was never actually seen in person he left his ubiquitous calling card everywhere.

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    2. Beau: "It's funny that non believers assume these things aren't debated in the ranks of believers"

      Debate assumes that either side of an argument may be right. Believers do not "debate" this. They "rationalize", "justify" and "equivocate".

      Please provide an example of "believers" questioning the lineage of Jesus.

      Crickets

      Crickets

      Crickets

      Crickets have gone extinct.

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  3. Jesus lineage was a main point for the whole bible. Even the old testament, written long before jesus, lineages from adam only makes sense if the point was to show Jesus birth.
    Thats also why the short human timespan on earth is very apparent and rejects any accommodation with any demoalists about the timeline from adam.

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  4. "Even the old testament, written long before jesus, lineages from adam only makes sense if the point was to show Jesus birth."

    I would actually love to hear the logic behind this. Please proceed.

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    1. "Logic". You're too funny, William Spearshake. Might as well try get milk from an alligator.

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  5. (This is OT for all the discussion of the accuracy of the genealogy).

    Nearly 20 years ago I attended a meeting in Frankfurt, Germany (on the mathematics of the coalescent). On a break day they sponsored an excursion to the great cathedral at Limburg an der Lahn, which is nearby. (It is not the same as the Limburg in The Netherlands, which is the Limburg of stinky cheese fame).

    In the Limburg cathedral I saw a genealogy of Jesus in the form of a painting of a tree, apparently called a Tree of Jesse. They are common in late Medieval times and this one is though to be from the 1500s. You can see the Limburg one here.

    The Tree of Jesse, one of which is the diagram in Larry's post, is thought to be the first use of a tree to represent a genealogy. It does grow in the wrong direction (back in time), and the concept of a Tree of Life is older and more widespread, but one can wonder whether the Tree of Jesse is not one of the origins of the concept of a phylogeny.

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    1. On closer examination of the image, the Tree of Jesse springs from Jesse (father of King David) and grows forward in time, which helps the idea that it influenced the concept of a phylogeny.

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