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and a disciple of Jesus, it was reasonable to accept this as final. 1 But
for those who take a very different view of the Fourth Gospel it is not
unreasonable to ask why they ought not to share the doubts of Cle-
ment and the Epistola. The answer is that we are influenced, and
probably ought to be influenced, by a combination of the fact that the
Gospel of Mark when it breaks off seems to be leading up to an ap-
pearance of Jesus to Peter, and that Paul says that the first appear-
ance of Jesus was to Cephas; ergo, Peter is Cephas. This is no doubt
a reasonable proposition, but it is just as well to understand that it
does not rest on the strongest possible authority, for Paul nowhere
says that Peter is Cephas, though commentators have the bad habit 2
(to which I plead guilty myself) of constantly talking of Peter when
he says Cephas, and Mark never speaks of Cephas at all.
FOURTEEN GENERATIONS: 490 YEARS
An Explanation of the Genealogy op Jesus
"So the whole number of generations from Abraham to David is
fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon
fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the
Messiah fourteen generations." Matt. 1, 17.
The difficulties presented by the genealogies of Jesus in Matthew
and Luke, whether examined separately or compared with each other,
were early remarked, and the discussion of them is a voluminous
chapter in Christian literature. 3 The question why the generations
are divided into three periods was raised by Chrysostom in a sermon
on Matt. 1, 17 (In Matt. Horn. iv). The Jews, he says, had in these
periods successively three different forms of government, aristocracy,
• It is an interesting speculation to ask why Clement did not hold this view. The
answer is partly that he wished to save Peter's reputation at the expense of Cephas, who
was only one of the Seventy, partly perhaps that he knew Greek a little better than
most men and felt better the implication of Paul's words. But I wish we knew more
about the text of the Fourth Gospel used by Clement.
! A consideration of the textual phenomena in the Epistle to the Galatians shows
that this bad habit is not confined to modern commentators.
* Friederich Spanheim (1600-1649), in his Dubia Evangelica (1639), deals with no
less than twenty-six such problems in Matt. 1, 1-17, at a length of 215 solid and solidly
98 HARVARD THEOLOGICAL REVIEW
monarchy, and oligarchy, and were as bad under the last as under the
first ; the captivity itself had failed to work amendment. It was every -
way necessary that Christ should come. 2 Spanheim ingeniously re-
calls the parable in Luke 20, 9-18: after the failure of three missions,
God at last sent his son.
Much more to the point than this insinuation of the incorrigibility
of the Jews is an explanation which Spanheim adopts from Jansen : 3
It was to indicate that at the time of Jesus' birth, fourteen generations
after the beginning of the exile, a great change, a new order of things,
was imminent, such as had happened at the end of each preceeding
period of fourteen generations — the establishment of the kingdom
fourteen generations after Abraham; its fall fourteen generations
after David. This next great change, according to common Jewish
expectations, was the coming of the Messiah; and precisely at this
critical moment in history was born, as the title of our genealogy em-
phasizes, "Jesus Christ (the Messiah), the son of David, the son of
Abraham" (Matt. 1, l). To this verse 17 returns: "From the de-
portation to Babylon to the Messiah, fourteen generations."
That this was the intention of the author seems clear. But why
each of the three periods should be measured by fourteen generations
is not thus explained. It is true that the fourteen generations from
Abraham to David correspond to the genealogies in the Old Testa-
ment, and are enumerated in precisely the same way in Jewish lists
which count fifteen to Solomon; 4 while for the third period, from
the point where the genealogy of Jesus branches off from the lists in
Chronicles in the third generation after the exile (Abiud the son of
2 Similarly Theophylact in loc., quoted by Spanheim, Dubium xv. (Cur Matthaeus
cap. 1. 17 partiatur Genealogiam Christi in certas tessaradecades, et quidem in tres: et
cur eas per 6iva.Kt<t>dka.ujxru> peculiarem collectas Lectori proponat?)
3 Corn. Jansen, Comm. insuam Concordiam, etc., c. 6 (Louvain 1576, p. 49): "Ideo
autem in tres quaterdenas Christi genealogiam Matthaeus dividit, ut ostendat sicut
ab Abraham usque ad transmigrationem Babylonis bis mutatus est status Judaeorum,
binis quaterdenis completis: ita et tertiam illam mutationem status Judaeorum, quae
ab eis post transmigrationem expectabatur futura per Messiam convenienter factam
post tertiam ab Abraham tesseradecadem, ipsumque Messiam tunc nasci debuisse,
ac sic Jesum Mariae filium, qui finis est tertiae tesseradecadis, esse expectatum Mes-
siam magis credibile faciat. Deinde ut ostenderet, sicut fuerunt quatuordecim gen-
erationes ab Abraham usque ad David, in quo coepit stabile et liberum Judaeorum
regnum, et deinde rursum quatuordecim generationes a Davide usque ad deliquium
regni, hoc est, exilium Babylonicum: ita ab hoc rursum tantae usque ad novam regni
Davidis restaurationem fuisse quatuordecim generationes. Ex quibus constat quare
et Davidem regem vocat, et mentionem faciat transmigrationis Babylonicae."
* Pesikta (ed. Buber) f. 53a.
Zerubbabel), there is nothing to compare it with. But the fourteen
generations of the kingdom are strikingly at variance with the record
of succession in the Book of Kings — " Why did he skip three kings? "
asks Chrysostom, and commentators and apologists have exercised
themselves on the question ever since.
The omission of the three kings is by no means the only discrepancy
between the genealogy in Matthew and its sources; but it has always
been recognized as the gravest, for the kings thus passed over are not
obscure or ephemeral rulers. Joash, Amaziah, and Azariah (Uzziah)
are, on the contrary, very prominent figures in the history of Judah,
the record of whose eventful reigns may be read at large in 2 Kings
11-15, 6 and who, according to the chronology of the book, occupied
the throne for 121 years (40 + 29 + 52). At the end of his list,
again, he makes Jeconiah (Jehoiachin) the son of Josiah instead of
his grandson, omitting Jehoiakim. 6 By itself this might perhaps be
ascribed to a confusion of the two names such as occurs in Greek
manuscripts of the Old Testament and elsewhere; but taken in con-
nection with the previous omission of the three kings, it is more
probably to be attributed to the same intention, namely to make the
period of the monarchy fall within exactly fourteen generations, like
that which preceded it. 6a
Mere love of symmetry can hardly have been the sole motive for
so violent a curtailment of the history; it is more likely that the
number fourteen had an intrinsic significance for the author and a
decisive importance for his purpose in compiling the genealogy. This
purpose was not simply to trace the lineage of Jesus back to David
in the royal line, showing that as a descendant of David he possessed
one of the necessary qualifications of the Messiah according to pro-
phecy and universal expectation — a qualification which he shared
with many others who claimed descent from David. For this pur-
pose it was superfluous to continue the line back to Abraham — that
David was descended from Abraham required no geneaological dem-
onstration — and the symmetrical periodization of the history would
be meaningless. The symmetry of the genealogy was meant to
prove, as Jansen saw, that the time for the advent of the Messiah
6 See also 2 Chron. 22, 10-26, 23.
8 2 Kings 23, 84-24, 6; Jer. 36.
60 A genealogy of the Messiah is given in Tanchuma, Toledoth c. 20, ed. Buber,
f . 70 a-b. The royal line is followed from David through Zerubbabel. From that
point on the genealogy in Chronicles is transcribed, leading to Anani (the cloud
man, 1 Chron. 3, 24), who is the Messiah according to Dan. 7, 13.
100 HARVARD THEOLOGICAL REVIEW
had come, and that Jesus, who was born just at this point, was the
It was the general belief of the Jews that in his plan for the history
of his people and of the world God had determined not only the events
in their succession, but the times at which they should come to pass;
and especially that the great epochs in history, such as the end of
their long subjection to the heathen powers and the coming of the
promised golden age, were unalterably fixed. They believed also that
God had revealed through the prophets certain signs which foreboded
the approaching crisis; they made catalogues, so to speak, of these
signs, and scanned the horizon of the times for their appearance.
From the second century before our era, at least, they combined with
such prognostications an attempt to ascertain the date more exactly
by numerical calculations based on scripture, as in Daniel and Enoch,
and thereafter in apocalypses almost universally.
Daniel, taking the seventy years of Jeremiah (25, 12 ff. ; 29, 10 ff .)
as seventy weeks of years (70 X 7), operates with a cycle of four
hundred and ninety years, dividing the history into three unequal
periods (7 + 62 + 1)» 7 upon the last of which the golden age was to
follow. Enoch has the same cycle in the vision of the seventy
shepherds (89,50-90,25), symmetrically divided (12 + 23, 23 + 12);
here also the golden age, with the Messiah, immediately follows (90,
28 — 38). 8 Both Daniel and Enoch take the beginning of the exile
as the terminus a quo for their reckoning, and count from that point
four hundred and ninety years to the end of the period in which they
were living, an end which they believed to be imminent.
The motive of these calculations in the first instance was to prove
that the end of the evil time in which the apocalypses were written
was close at hand — the widespread apostasy, the cessation of
sacrifice and desecration of the temple, the persecution for religion's
sake. In less troubled days men turned to them for an answer to the
question when the golden age — however they imagined it — was to
begin. Christians had another interest in them; namely to prove
that their Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth, came precisely at the time
fixed in prophecy for the beginning of a new era. The attempt to
~ Dan. 9, n ff.
8 In the so-called apocalypse of the ten weeks (Enoch 93; 91, 12-17), which divides
the history of the world, past and future, from the creation to the last Judgment, into
ten "weeks," the weeks are probably periods of 490 years. A golden age (the eighth
week) follows the apostasy of the seventh (coming down to the Hellenistic age). The
close of the tenth brings the great judgment. The three last (8-10) lie in the author's
demonstrate this from the seventy weeks of Daniel occupies a large
space in the history of Christian apologetic. 9
In the light of what has been observed above and of this apologetic
motive, it is probable that the "fourteen generations " from the depor-
tation to the birth of Christ are meant to cover exactly the four
hundred and ninety years which according to Daniel and Enoch were
to elapse between the beginning of the exile and the inauguration of
the new era; and, assuming that the author took the length of a
generation at thirty-five years, his fourteen generations give exactly
the necessary number (35 X 14 = 490).
The use of generations as the basis of a schematized chronology is
common. Hecataeus of Miletus and other Greek logographers de-
rived their chronology in this way from genealogies, reckoning forty
years to a generation. Herodotus calculates how long it was from
the first king of Egypt to Sethos (ca. 700 B.C.) from the state-
ment of the priests that between the two there were three hundred
and forty-one generations of high priests, and exactly as many of
kings. He counts three generations to a century, and thus obtains
11,340 years for the duration of the period. The systematic chrono-
logy of the Old Testament historical books employs periods of four
hundred and eighty years, or twelve generations of forty years each.
Apart from this chronological scheme, which appears to have been
imposed on the history in the sixth century, there is no evidence in
the Old Testament that a generation was reckoned at forty years;
and to infer from it that the Jews at the beginning of the Christian
era counted thus is as unwarranted as it would be to make a similar
generalization for the Greeks from the chronology of Hecataeus.
Herodotus counts, as we do, three generations to the century; 10
but the century had no such significance for the Jews at any time as
it had for the Greeks and their successors, and it is for this reason
unlikely that the Jews fixed the length of a generation at a third of
a century. It would be much more natural for them to divide the
* The older interpretations in this sense — Hippolytjus, Julius Africanus, Clement,
Origen, Tertullian, Eusebius — are quoted at length by Jerome in his commentary
on Dan. 9. To these may be added Jerome himself, Chrysostom (Adv. Judaeos ii),
and Aphraates (Demonstratio 23). A "futurist" interpretation seems to have been
first proposed by Apollinarius of Laodicea (quoted by Jerome, u. ».).
10 Another estimate, thirty years, based on physiological considerations is ascribed
by Plutarch to Heraclitus, and later became common. The same reasons for it are
set forth by Porphyry, Quaest. Homer. 14 (on Iliad i, 250), quoted by Wettstein on
Matt. 1, 17.
102 HARVARD THEOLOGICAL REVIEW
seventy years of normal human life by two, giving a generation of
thirty-five years, which is close enough to the average as far as com-
mon observation goes, and keeps the generation in its proper genealo-
gical relation. An example in which a generation is reckoned at
thirty-five years is Job 42, 16, where it is said that after his rehabili-
tation " Job lived a hundred and forty years, and saw his sons and
his son's sons, four generations." n If Matthew meant his fourteen
generations to fill four hundred and ninety years, he was reckoning
in the same way. It is, therefore, not an objection to our hypothesis
that it requires us to assume a generation of thirty -five years.
The fourteen generations in each of the two preceding periods, from
Abraham to David and from David to the deportation, must be
meant to give the same measure of time, four hundred and ninety
years. The duration of the latter period agrees tolerably well with
the chronology of the historical books, which gives four hundred and
eighty years from the building of Solomon's temple to the return from
the exile; from the accession of David to the beginning of the exile
would be about the same.
To express this in terms of generations, however, the author is
compelled to do such violence to the history as has been noted above.
From Abraham to David he had the fourteen generations given
him; but here he was compelled to ignore the biblical chronology,
which allows four hundred and eighty years from the exodus to the
building of Solomon's temple alone (1 Kings 6, l), to say nothing of
the time between Abraham and the exodus. 12
The really important thing for the author are the four hundred and
ninety years that end with the birth of Christ. By our chronology,
based on the canon of Ptolemy, there is a discrepancy here of a whole
century, for Jehoiachin was deported to Babylon in 597 B.C. Such a
comparison is unreasonable; the Jews, who, until the Seleucid era
came into use, had no fixed era, and no canon of Ptolemy, were
widely at sea in the chronology of these centuries. There was no
native succession of rulers before the Asmonaeans; the records of
the priests were doubtless destroyed when Antiochus Epiphanes
sacked the temple and converted it into a temple of Zeus. Their own
historical books, with the exception of the brief episode of Ezra and
11 A mediaeval Jewish interpreter, Isaac ibn Jasos, inferred that wherever a genera-
tion is spoken of in the Bible, it is to be taken as thirty-five years, for which hasty
generalization he is castigated by Ibn Ezra.
18 Exod. 12, 10 gives (in the present Hebrew text) 430 years to the sojourn in Egypt;
Gen. 15, ss a round 400. Cf. Gal. 3, 17; Acts 7, 6.
Nehemiah, were a blank from the restoration of the temple I3 to the
time of Alexander, and there end. The "seventy weeks" of Daniel,
to the predicted fall of Antiochus Epiphanes, whatever terminus a quo
be taken for Dan. 9, 25, are from fifty to seventy years too long; for
the Christian interpretation, which finds its ad quern at the birth or
at the death of Christ, 14 they are not long enough by a hundred years
or more. The Talmudic chronology in Seder Olam Rabbah 28,
which makes the seventy weeks stretch from the first destruction of
the temple to the second 15 (seventy years the temple lay in ruins, it
stood after it was rebuilt four hundred and twenty years), is in the
same case: its four hundred and ninety years are by our chronology
a hundred and sixty -six years too short. 16 Even if the Jews had had
more accurate knowledge of dates in the Persian and Greek periods
than they possessed, chronology could never be allowed to contradict
the sure word of prophecy.
The fact that four hundred and ninety years bring us, according
to our reckoning, only to 96 B.C. does not therefore militate against
the intention of the genealogy to bring them down to the birth of
Christ; and it can at least be said that in measuring them as a whole
by fourteen generations the author did not involve himself in a
whole series of intermediate conflicts with ascertained dates such as
appear in the more detailed chronology of the Seder Olam.
George F. Moore.
THE MEANING OF JOHN XVI, 8-11
Kal (Kdcov iiceivos «Xe7£« rbv Koanov Trtpi apaprias Kal irepi ducaiocrvvris Kal
irepi Kplatws- irepi ap.aprias pkv, oti oi) irierevovaiv els 'epJe- irepl Si/catocruvijs
St, on irpds t6v irarepa inra/yu Kal omen Oeoipeiri pe- irepi St Kpiaews, on 6
&PXWV TOV KOCfWV TOVTOV K€KpiTCU.
In all the English versions except the Rheims New Testament of
1582 SiKaioavvrj in this passage is translated ' righteousness.' The
13 In our chronology 516 B.C.
14 Or the destruction of Jerusalem, or even the war under Hadrian.
15 In our dates, 586 b.c. to 70 a.d.
16 In a later chapter (30) the Seder Olam specifies: for the duration of Persian rule
after the restoration of the temple 34 years; for the dominion of the Greeks, 180;
Asmonaeans 108; Herod and his successors 108, or 420 years in all; which with the 70
of the exile make 490.