On Family Worship and Genealogies

I’ve been rethinking some of our family worship habits lately. Currently, we are working through the book of Ephesians in the evenings (because I’m out a couple of nights each week, we average about 3-4 times per week, not that great). We sing, read a small section from Ephesians, and pray. But I’ve been lacking in teaching my kids the catechism on a regular basis, and in reading larger chunks of the Bible to them (though Elizabeth does read from the Bible to them during school.)

So I’m going to try a couple new things, and you can pray that they will work. First, I’m going to start doing the catechism during family worship. We’ll start with the children’s catechism, because all three of our older children can participate in that. Second, I’m going to start reading through the New Testament during breakfast, one chapter at a time. We are blessed to be able to sit down together as a family for breakfast on most mornings, so hopefully this will be a somewhat consistent practice. I’ll probably skip back and forth between gospels and epistles, just to vary the content. But I hope that the more in-depth reading of the evening time, coupled with the more surface reading of the morning time, will give our children a more solid foundation in the Word – and us more fodder to speak about God’s Word as we rise up, as we sit down, as we walk on the way, etc. (Deut. 6).

This morning we read Matthew chapter one, the bane of my “through the Bible” reading as a young adult (I could never get past the genealogy!). Now an adult, I can see so much more meat in those genealogies (e.g., Matthew’s intention to show that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham – huge biblical theological themes here; the inclusion of women, and sinful women at that). But I also see more of the questions that arise as one studies this genealogy, particularly in relation to Luke’s genealogy.

As my seminary professor Dennis Ireland reminded us, precisely because we believe in the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture, we have to work harder at our exegesis. We can’t be content with a flippant, “Well of course they’re contradictory – it’s a human document, filled with errors, what do you expect?” So why are the two genealogies so different from David onward? Why does Matthew follow Solomon’s line, and Luke follows Nathan’s line? Let me say up front, we are not completely sure. The best way to understand the differences in the two genealogies, however, is to see that both are tracing Joseph’s line, but Matthew is tracing the legal, kingly line – the throne succession – in order to make the point that Jesus is the king in the line of David, while Luke is tracing the natural, biological line (in large part to show that Jesus is a Savior for all types of people, NB how he takes Jesus’ line all the way back to Adam). The problem of Joseph having two fathers (Jacob in Matthew and Heli in Luke) is likely overcome by the practice of levirate marriage (see Deuteronomy 25:5-10; a man was required to marry his brother’s widow and raise up offspring for his deceased brother).

Passages like this give theological liberals opportunity to throw stones at the Bible’s veracity. But for those of us who believe that the Scriptures cannot be broken, that all Scripture is God breathed, that God’s word is truth, then we are content to say, “The Bible’s veracity is not contingent upon my ability to understand every statement perfectly.” In the case of these genealogies, as Walter Liefeld states in his commentary on Luke’s gospel, “We possess not a poverty but a plethora of possibilities. Therefore, the lack of certainty due to incomplete information need not imply error in either genealogy.” See the commentaries, and Machen’s The Virgin Birth of Christ, for more on these passages.

SDG,
Ezra

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