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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. 

K. Lake. 

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 
learned pages. 


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. 


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 

NOTES 101 

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. 


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. 

NOTES 103 

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. 
Cambridge, Mass. 


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 


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.