Does the difference in the genealogies of Jesus Christ in the gospels of Matthew and Luke present a problem for Christian faith by challenging historicity of Christ? Perhaps you have heard this difference explained by claiming that Matthew is tracing the ancestry of Christ’s father and Luke the ancestry of his mother. But that’s not the full story. In reality, both evangelists are tracing genealogy of Christ through his father, but Matthew follows the biological ancestry while Luke follows legal ancestry. This divergency exists because of a common ancient near eastern custom of levirate marriage. Since women in the ancient world did not have the right to own land, they risked losing all their property if their husbands died before they had a mature son. A mature male relative closest to her husband, however, could rescue the widow and her children from the doom of poverty by marrying her. This way he would preserve her estate, becoming her legal guardian and redeemer, but by doing so he would legally assume the identity of her deceased husband and would have to give up the rights to inheritance he could receive from his father. Such an act was often seen as heroic charity, especially if the redeemer came from a wealthier family, as it can be seen in the book of Ruth. Continue to read…
Originally published at: https://truthonly.com/en/publications/18-fatherhood.html
Last year, I published an article on the uniqueness of Christianity to show that Christianity is fundamentally unlike any other world religion or philosophy. This new essay is bringing our discussion forward to a new unique and seldom explored area of Christian faith: the fatherhood of God. Human civilization, both in the East and the West, has been so profoundly moved and changed by Christianity that this idea hardly seems novel or radical today.
Of course, the idea that deity is like a father is not a Christian invention. The Old Testament has clear references to God as the Father (Jer 31:9 and Isa 63:16). And, almost every pagan religion designates a certain deity as the father or ascribes fatherly characteristics to it. The unique contibution of Christian faith is the new revlotuionary definition of divine Fatherhood.
Divine Fatherhood Is Not By Biological Descent
(1) First, Christianity (with Judaism) uniquely claims that divine Fatherhood is spiritual and not biological (John 1:12-13, cf. John 3). The pagans often described the creation of the world as a cosmic sexual or violent encounter between deities that somehow birthed them. This provided their nation with racist caste ideology, in which the people on top were considered demigods. Pharaoh claimed that he was the “son of Ra,” Greek and Roman warlords that they were “sons of Zeus” or Saturn or Mars, and the viking pillagers that they were “sons of Odin.” The claim to divine descent was their theological justification for abuse of power and mistreatment of others due to their obvious victories granted by the favoritism of gods. To pagans, the divine fatherhood was sexual, sensual, and literal. Their gods came to earth to have sex with women and procreate.
This is where, by the way, Mohammad completely misses the boat on understanding Jesus (Surah 4:171 and 5:116, cf. Surah 72:3), thinking that Christians claimed that Mary was God’s literal wife like pagans would teach. Contrast these verses from Quran with the words of apostle John: “But to all who have received him – those who believe in his name – he has given the right to become God’s children – children not born by human parents or by human desire or a husband’s decision, but by God.” We see clearly from this verse that divine Fatherhood is spiritual and not biological and that it is a result of new birth by faith (John 3). This idea is original, Christian and only Christian.
Divine Fatherhood Is Available To All Believers
(2) Second, Christianity uniquely claims that divine Fatherhood is universally available through Christ (Mat 6:9 and Luke 11:2). Joachim Jeremias contributed the most to the study of divine Fatherhood by devoting his best effort to uncover the significance of Christ’s calling God “Abba.” In his monstrous and detailed research, Jeremias uncovers that, despite numerous descriptions of deities as fathers, there are no extant records of believing communities addressing their deity as their “father” in worship. When Christ taught his disciples to pray “Our Father who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name,” he was turning the world upside down. Every Christian can address God as their Father!
The skeptics, of course, will claim that those words were later inventions inserted into the Bible. The burden of proof, however, still rests on them to explain how and why the early Church, being a jewish sect worshipping at the temple in Jerusalem, would so quickly and radically depart from traditional Judaism in this regard. There is no pagan syncretism in the Lord’s Prayer, which is associated with Christ before the writing of any of the books of the New Testament (Titus 3:4-7 is an early hymn) and present in the earliest liturgical texts before Constantine.
Divine Fatherhood Is The Cause Of Salvation
(3) Third, Christianity uniquely claims that divine Fatherhood is the direct cause of human salvation (Rom 8:15-17, cf. Titus 3:4-7, Gal 4:6-7). Jesus came to proclaim the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven to Earth. Jeremias argues that Christ’s addressing God as the Father is primarily connected with eschatological salvation in the context of the coming Kingdom. In plain English: Christian understanding of salvation, as it was preached by Christ, is based on the idea of inheritance. Christ preached that God the Father will establish his Kingdom on Earth, and His children will inherit it.
One of the earliest Christian writings is the book of Galatians, dating to about 45-60 A.D., reads: “But when the appropriate time had come, God sent out his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we may be adopted as sons with full rights. And because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, who calls “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave but a son, and if you are a son, then you are also an heir through God” (Gal 4:4-7). All those who believe in Christ will inherit the Kingdom of Heaven (cf. Rom 8:15-17). Inheritance is salvation attainable by faith and is universally available to everyone who believes in Christ. This idea is original, Christian and only Christian.
Those unique contributions to understanding of God are the result of Christ’s preaching. Before Jesus, no one knew God intimately as their Father. After Jesus, no one can claim that God is their Father unless they accept Jesus as the Son. True are the words of apostle John who said: “No one has ever seen God. The only one [Jesus], himself God, who is in closest fellowship with the Father, has made God [the Father] known [to us]” (John 1:18).