“ON JESUS’ RIGHTS”
September 26, 1949
Your letter of the 16th instant for attention of Grant Suiter has been referred to us for reply.
We can do no better than refer to some reputed authorities, since you dispute the correctness of what has been published in The Watchtower. The Westminster Dictionary of the Bible (revised edition of 1944), under “Genealogy”, page 198, column 1, says among other things respecting the problems connected with Jesus’ earthly ancestry in the line of David: “A readier solution of the problem on the lines of this theory is that the table in Matthew contains the LEGAL successors to the throne of David, while that in Luke gives the maternal ancestors of Joseph. . . . after Zerubbabel the two lines separated. The family of the elder son, in whom the title to the throne inhered, at length became extinct, and the descendants of the younger son succeeded to the title. . . . the table in Matthew gives the genealogy of Joseph and exhibits him as heir to the throne of David, while the table in Luke gives the genealogy of Mary and shows Jesus to be the ACTUAL son of David. . . . Jesus, according to Luke, is grandson of Heli, Mary’s father, and thus a lineal descendant of David. . . . In the genealogy as given in Matthew, chapter 1, appears the entry, ‘After the carrying away to Babylon, Jechoniah begat Shealtiel.’ The 2 genealogies are intelligible, if this notice in Matthew be understood as a broad declaration in genealogical form denoting LEGAL, succession to the throne. The title passed from Jechoniah on his death to Shealtiel, a lineal descendant of David.” Under “Jesus Christ” the same Dictionary says (p. 303, col. 1): “The Messiah was to be the son of David; and so Joseph, his legal father, and probably mother, his actual mother, were descended from David. . . . [col. 2] The enrollment of the Jews, however, evidently took place after the Jewish method, by which each father of a household was registered, not at his dwelling place, but at the place where his family belonged in view of its ancestry. Hence Joseph had to go to Bethlehem, the original home of David. Mary accompanied him.”
McClintock & Strong’s Cyclopædia (1882) says, under ‘Genealogy” (page 773, col. 2, of Volume III): “Grotius . . . supposes that Luke traces the NATURAL Pedigree of Christ, and Matthew the LEGAL. This he argues on two grounds: . . . Dr. Barrett . . . states his own hypothesis, viz., that Matthew relates the genealogy of Joseph, and Luke that of Mary. He supposes a sufficient reason, that after Matthew had given his genealogical table another should be added by Luke, fully to prove that Christ, according to the flesh, derived his descent from David, not only by his supposed father Joseph, but also by his real mother Mary. . . . In constructing their genealogical tables, it is well known that the Jews reckoned wholly by males, rejecting where the blood of the grandfather passed to the grandson through a daughter, the name of the daughter herself, and counting that daughter’s husband for the son of the maternal grandfather (Numbers 26:33; 27:4-7) . . . The evangelist Luke has critically distinguished the REAL from the LEGAL genealogy by a parenthetical remark: ‘Jesus being (as was reputed) the son of Joseph (but in reality) the son of Heli,’ or his grandson by his mother’s side.”—page 774, col. 1.
If Mary told her husband Joseph that the angel Gabriel had advised her that God would give her son Jesus the throne of his father David (Luke 1:32), then we can be sure that Joseph, who proved himself a godly, obedient man, would readily adopt Jesus as his legal heir as concerns his interests in the title to the throne of David. The Watchtower said Joseph could do this, because the Bible does not directly state or record that he did so, though this is implied. But by natural birth through David’s great-granddaughter Mary Jesus was naturally the “son of David”, and thus naturally Jesus inherited rights to the throne of David; it was in full harmony with Jesus’ NATURAL descent from David that Gabriel could tell Mary that God would give Jesus the throne of his NATURAL father David.
In the Bible genealogies that seem dry to the average reader are very important; God would not have cluttered up his Word with genealogies if they were not important, especially this one on David’s line. Ofttimes a point that seems small and insignificant is very important and vital, but may be entirely overlooked by the superficial, reader. Hence The Watchtower went, as you say, “so far afield in his attempt to prove a point that needs no proof.” God gives attention to and is faithful to fine points, and it magnifies him to bring out these fine points and show how accurate he is. Hence it was a real requirement for Jesus to become the “son of David.” that he be a NATURAL descendant of that ancient king. If Jesus had been of another family than David’s, the mere anointing of Jesus with the holy spirit would not have made him the “son of David”. His consecrated followers are also anointed with holy spirit to reign with him, but these are not spoken of as “sons of David” in Scripture; they have a connection with David only as they become members of Christ’s body. No genealogy is given of King Melchizedek, but Jesus, because he was anointed with holy spirit, is not Scripturally spoken of as the “son of Melchizedek”, but by God’s oath he is made a “priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek”. (Ps. 110:4) Correspondingly Jesus, in being the “seed of Abraham”, was also naturally a descendant of the patriarch. All these things add to the proof of Jesus’ identity.
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