Reading the New Testament and the questions that arise

  • NickoftheNort...

    Posts: 1416

    Sep 16, 2008 9:48 PM GMT
    CRUCIAL ADDENDUM
    When in doubt, check the footnotes.
    The footnotes address that "the natural genealogical line is broken...through Joseph's adoption the child belongs to the family of David."

    Once again I ask a question late at night, only to find the answer right in front of meicon_razz.gif A potential bad habit?

    I'm letting the thread stay because I'm reluctant to delete info posted online, barring any particular necessity.


    *** Original post ***
    So, I've started reading the New Testament in order to have at least read and possibly understood some of the scripture that is supposedly the basis for our world's Christian movements (barring some exceptions, such as the Church of Latter-Day Saints and its Book of Mormon).

    In just starting the Gospel according to Matthew, I've run into a snag (at least a snag in terms of a literal reading of the Bible). In the beginning of the GatM, the author delineates the bloodline from Abraham (through David) to Joseph, "the husband of Mary. Of her was born Jesus who is called the Messiah."

    Considering the doctrine that Mary conceived Jesus while a virgin, why does it matter what bloodline Joseph had? Is Jesus a "son of David" by virtue of adoption, or is this an error that should not compute in a literal reading (thereby suggesting that it should not be read literally)?

    I can't imagine that this has somehow been overlooked in all these years, so I'm curious as to what the established answer is (if there is one). Any clues?
  • Barricade

    Posts: 457

    Sep 16, 2008 11:42 PM GMT

    I found this online, it's a basic answer. Hope if helps. icon_smile.gif
    Seventeen verses in the New Testament describe Jesus as the "son of David." But the question arises, how could Jesus be the son of David if David lived approximately 1000 years before Jesus? The answer is that Christ (the Messiah) was the fulfillment of the prophecy of the seed of David (2 Samuel 7:14-16). Jesus was the promised Messiah, which meant He was of the seed of David. Matthew 1 gives the genealogical proof that Jesus, in His humanity, was a direct descendant of Abraham and David through Joseph, Jesus' legal father. The genealogy in Luke chapter 3 gives Jesus' lineage through His mother, Mary. Jesus is a descendant of David, by adoption through Joseph, and by blood through Mary. Primarily though, when Christ was referred to as the Son of David, it was meant to refer to His Messianic title as the Old Testament prophesied concerning Him.
  • olden

    Posts: 194

    Sep 17, 2008 1:40 AM GMT
    It may well be that GatM was aimed at the Romans or Roman wannabes. The Romans had a very sophisicated system for adoption especially in the Equestrian and Senatorial classes to ensure that family weath, position and history continued even when the head of the family had no direct male heirs. The concept that Jesus became "of the family of David" with his adoption by Joseph was a very clear, understandable and socially acceptable concept to the Romans of that time. Brutus is one of the prime examples of adoption. He was born Marcus Junius Brutus, but was adopted by his uncle and became Caepio Brutus and became heir to a substanially larger fortune.
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    Sep 17, 2008 2:21 AM GMT
    Nick, my advice would be to read the gospels as fiction and I think you'll get a lot more out of it. I'm not saying they are fiction or that they aren't. However, what they certainly aren't is history in any modern sense. Reading these texts with a 21st century mind is very difficult and almost inevitably leads to distortions and conclusions unintended by their original authors.

    Matthew and Luke both have genealogies of Jesus which are incompatable with each other. They were trying to make points which were important to their readers at the time but which are largely meaningless to us. No one could have known the information these geneologies purport to convey. People at the time also knew such lineages could be very "creative" in establishing desired family connections. For both gospels, the genealogies connect Jesus with the larger story of Israel as God's chosen people and their role as the means for God's redemption of the world. The details of the specific people was interesting but not that significant. They told a story.

    The line between fact and fiction is almost impossible to determine in the gospels and most ancient texts. Historical accuracy was simply not a concern in the ancient world. Their stories, tales, sagas, legends, and myths had different agenda than we have today. Their concern was for eternal truths, not for the particulars of names, places, and dates. This is the biggest fallacy and confusion of biblical literalism.

    FWIW, I am a Lutheran minister, seminary grad, by no means an expert on these things but pretty well read, and I have thought about this stuff A LOT. The Bible is probably the most misused and misunderstood book around. This is sad because it actually does have great value. But it isn't what many people want it to be: an answer book for modern day concerns. It is an ancient book dealing with questions and problems of the ancient world. To the extent that our worlds overlap we can listen to what it has to say and perhaps be guided by its wisdom. Otherwise, it gives us insight into another world and another time which is of historical interest but not much else. In enjoy it, and love it, but also am very aware of its limits.
  • B71115

    Posts: 482

    Sep 17, 2008 6:10 AM GMT
    dkings56 saidNick, my advice would be to read the gospels as fiction and I think you'll get a lot more out of it. I'm not saying they are fiction or that they aren't. ....
    The Bible is probably the most misused and misunderstood book around. This is sad because it actually does have great value. .


    So, dkings56, what is the value?
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    Sep 18, 2008 2:27 AM GMT
    Well, I guess "great" is in the eye of the beholder. I would argue that the Bible is great literature, and great religious literature in particular. The irony of its "deification" by fundamentalism is that it is actually one of the most profound criticisms of religion (e.g. "I hate, I despise your festivals...but let justice roll down like waters..."). It is very aware of the temptations and dangers of religious extremism and hypocrisy and repeatedly exposes and condemns them.

    One thing most readers miss is that the Bible does not have one voice (God's or anyone else's) but rather is a conversation. When people say you can make the Bible say anything this is what they are encountering but without understanding it. The Bible is only really valuable when it draws us into its conversation and we start to wrestle with its questions. Instead, we want to be able to flip it open and find the answers to our social and personal problems, thus avoiding having to think for ourselves--and denying the very humanity the Bible says is our greatest gift.

    How much value the Bible has today is, I think, a real question. It is an ancient book, written in languages no one speaks, coming to us from a world dramatically different than our own. Perhaps the biggest problem, however, is the preconceptions most people bring to it. It's nearly impossible for people to read it with fresh eyes since they've "heard so much about it".

    That said, I still believe it is one the earliest and most profound examples of honest wrestling with the conundrums of human existance. Further, it is one of the earliest and most profound testimonies to the conviction that in some fundamental way the entire human family is in reality equal and to act otherwise undermines our collective existance and is the very meaning of injustice.
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    Sep 18, 2008 8:57 PM GMT
    It's nearly impossible for people to read it with fresh eyes since they've "heard so much about it".

    Just finished reading "The Third Jesus - the Christ we cannot ignore" by Deepak Chopra a little while ago. I think he definitely looks at Jesus with new eyes. He explains the "mystical" Jesus, as opposed to the historical or institutional Jesus, and believes that we have to refocus on Christianity being a religion of personal insight and spiritual growth instead of being exclusionary. I found the book incredibly insightful, although I have to admit that I will have to read it again as there is too much to absorb in one reading.
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    Oct 01, 2008 12:07 PM GMT
    dkings56 saidWell, I guess "great" is in the eye of the beholder. I would argue that the Bible is great literature, and great religious literature in particular. The irony of its "deification" by fundamentalism is that it is actually one of the most profound criticisms of religion (e.g. "I hate, I despise your festivals...but let justice roll down like waters..."). It is very aware of the temptations and dangers of religious extremism and hypocrisy and repeatedly exposes and condemns them.

    One thing most readers miss is that the Bible does not have one voice (God's or anyone else's) but rather is a conversation. When people say you can make the Bible say anything this is what they are encountering but without understanding it. The Bible is only really valuable when it draws us into its conversation and we start to wrestle with its questions. Instead, we want to be able to flip it open and find the answers to our social and personal problems, thus avoiding having to think for ourselves--and denying the very humanity the Bible says is our greatest gift.

    How much value the Bible has today is, I think, a real question. It is an ancient book, written in languages no one speaks, coming to us from a world dramatically different than our own. Perhaps the biggest problem, however, is the preconceptions most people bring to it. It's nearly impossible for people to read it with fresh eyes since they've "heard so much about it".

    That said, I still believe it is one the earliest and most profound examples of honest wrestling with the conundrums of human existance. Further, it is one of the earliest and most profound testimonies to the conviction that in some fundamental way the entire human family is in reality equal and to act otherwise undermines our collective existance and is the very meaning of injustice.


    OMG. A Christian who isn't an apologist! I like you! LOL. And I usually get rabid when it comes to religion. icon_razz.gif
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    Oct 01, 2008 12:20 PM GMT
    Sedative saidOMG. A Christian who isn't an apologist! I like you! LOL. And I usually get rabid when it comes to religion. icon_razz.gif


    I just finished reading Who Killed Jesus?. It is written by a priest who argues that four gospels were chosen at the council of Nicea specifically because they were anti-Semitic, reflecting the political needs of the time. He draws a line from the gospels to the holocaust and it is compelling to say the least.

    It is a quick, well written history.
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    Oct 03, 2008 5:51 PM GMT
    muchmorethanmuscle saidPeople put so much faith in the validity of the bible. I'm a man of science and need more proof.


    One of my private "hobbies" is First Century Middle Eastern history. Unfortunately, my early education only included classical Latin & Greek, so that original source material in contemporaneous local languages like Aramaic are outside my realm.

    That the local story of a "Jeshua" was elevated to a major world religion is one of those quirks of history that can never be predicted or explained. That it is irrational is merely proof that it arose at a time when scientific proofs and examinations were not yet enforced.

    It's persistence into modern times reflects the limitations of human intellectual evolution, that we do not completely erase primitive thought processes with advanced ones, but rather build upon them. The structure of our brains is multi-layered, at the center residing the most primitive, at the outside the most advanced.

    But all interact with each other, so that our thought processes are never all advanced, never all primitive. We are neither Mr. Spock nor a reptile, but both those brains compete within us.

    Our more primitive side continues to allow for superstitious and irrational beliefs, while our advanced side sends scientific probes into deep space and lets us chat on computers. More primitive thought can be comforting & reassuring, while advanced thought exploratory and daring. I tend to view religious & political thought in those terms, as well.
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    Oct 04, 2008 10:43 PM GMT
    I have spent a total of 23 weeks in Israel, and I can testify that being there has really brought the Bible to life. For example, I have stayed in Tiberias which is on the west coast of the Sea of Galilee. Jesus spent a large proportion of His ministerial years at the vicinity, and all four Gospels describes the fishing industry there. Today the lake is exactly the same with fishing boats - the only difference is that each boat is now fitted with outboard motors.
    The wild Judaean desert certainly brings to life the route from Jericho to Jerusalem where Jesus set His parable of the Good Samaritan. Of course, driving a motor vehicle or sitting in the bus robbs the element of the real experience.
    And so is the case of Jerusalem. Here this wonderful city is highly commercialised, and a church is built over every spiritual site where an event of some sort took place. But the Old City still has the authenticity of Biblical times, with excavations confirming the narative of Biblical truthfulness. The Five Arches of John's Gospel is one example, but the biggest witness of the whole truthfulness of the Bible is the Temple Mount area, situated east of the Old City. It is now the site of the Dome of the Rock mosque, but if you know where to look, you can still see huge stones thrown from the West wall and resting as they were when thrown by the Romans under General Titus in AD 70. This fulfilled the prophecy made by Jesus Christ Himself, when he said that "No stone shall be left one upon the other..." as documented in Matthew's Gospel.
    Therefore I see nothing fictional about the Nativity. Joseph was a direct descendant of David via Solomon, while Mary was also a descendant of David via Natham. And both Matthew and Luke has access to Jewish records, which concerning David's line, were very strict in keeping.
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    Oct 07, 2008 3:03 PM GMT
    bravo muchmore! icon_biggrin.gif

    In addition. Time has a curious way of bending facts and distorting and exaggerating what really happened.

    A simple helping hand Jesus gave to the sick and the poor (as in social welfare work icon_razz.gif ) may become Jesus making the blind see two thousand years into the future. A simple mad dash across marshy lowlands called the Reed Sea may become the parting of the waves of the Red Sea in the future. A few hundred men waging a small tribal skirmish will become the epic battles of tens of thousands in later retellings. A rise of the sea level that swallows lowlying areas becomes a global flood that covers all the land masses. An eclipse becomes God's punishment. A tall man becomes a giant. And so on and so forth...

    In the beginning was the word... and the word is oh so fickle. Caveat lector.