The authenticity of Jesus being who the bible claims him to be hinges on two ideas. The first is his lineage and the second is his supposed fulfillment of prophecy. In this blog I will address the fundamental flaw in the assumption of Jesus' lineage.
Maury Povich in Ancient Mesopotamia
I'm sure most of you know who Maury Povich is, even if you have never seen his television show. For those who don't know him, he is a talk show host who basically makes a living by reading the results of paternity tests on national television. The most commonly heard phrase on his show is, "You are not the father". Millions of viewers tune in daily to watch the drama of someone's infidelity play out in front of them.
They had a version of this show back in the ancient era as well, only without the benefit of DNA testing. Furthermore, the consequences of infidelity back then were a bit more steep. In those days the word of a man that his spouse or intended bride had been unfaithful often got her stoned to death. The man in these cases was often simply taken at his word without a shred of evidence to support his claim.
So what does this have to do with Jesus' lineage? Sure, there is the obvious implication that Mary had been unfaithful to Joseph. But it goes deeper than that. The flaw in the lineage comes from the fact that the provided lineage given in the bible is a patriarchal lineage. Because we can not possibly establish the validity of who fathered a child, we must simply accept that the mother was being honest. Now I'm not saying all of those women were liars or that they were all promiscuous, but I am saying that we can't simply take them at their word.
From the Line of David
This issue doesn't just begin with Jesus, but in fact stretches back to even the earliest accounts of lineage given by Judaism in the Pentateuch. These given lineages are established through assumed patriarchal bloodlines. It is assumed that Abraham begat Isaac and so on, but all we actually know for sure is who Isaac's mother was. His father could have very well been someone other than Abraham. Given the potential punishment for adultery, it is unlikely anyone would freely admit to the act.
The reason the establishment of Jesus' bloodline is so important is that prophecy dictates that he must be of the line of David and therefore the rightful heir to the seat of king of the Jews. But as I've shown we can't possibly establish this using the genealogy given by the bible. Without DNA, a patriarchal lineage is merely an assumed contrivance. We will never have the DNA of both David and Jesus and so we can never conclusively establish a paternal lineage. Worse still, we cannot even definitively prove king David was even a Jew! It is simply assumed because we assume we know who his father was. In reality, this assumption has no more substance than a fart in the breeze.
There is yet another problem to deal with here. Even if we accept a patriarchal lineage we must address the issue that the lineage we're given here is built on well over a thousand years of oral tradition before written history. What this means is that for well over a thousand years this genealogy was handed down by word of mouth from one generation to the next.
Anyone who's ever played the game Chinese Whispers can tell you that the reliability of strictly oral transmission of information is close to zero. That information passed along from one mouth to an ear and continued along is plagued by human error. We have a propensity for embellishment and because of this an ordinary man can become a legendary figure almost overnight.
So again we are asked to simply take someone else's word for it. We are asked to assume that these people never lied or embellished the truth. We are asked to accept hearsay as genuine and valid evidence. I for one am not satisfied with that standard of evidence. I am not one to simply take a man at his word, especially a man who is long since dead and cannot vouch for his own honesty. If I cannot weigh a man's integrity by evidence of his deeds, then I am not bound to simply accept his testimony.
The Truth isn't Always Kind... But it's Always the Truth
This isn't a problem that can be addressed with apologetics. It isn't something that can just be waved away and dismissed. There is an inherent flaw in patriarchal lineage on every level and there is no way to definitively establish a patriarchal bloodline without DNA testing. Because of this, the genealogy given by the bible can in no way establish that Jesus is in fact the rightful heir to the Jewish kingship. The entire genealogy is a contrivance built on pure speculation and assumption.
This issue is a hard one for many to deal with because it not only calls Jesus' lineage into question, but all of our lineages into question. The very idea of our mother being defamed for adultery just doesn't sit well with most of us. But the truth isn't always kind and the truth in this case is that the only person who is certain of your mother's fidelity is your mother herself. The only absolutely certain establishment of your genealogy that can be made without DNA testing is that you are your mother's child.
The bottom line is that we're all humans. We all make mistakes. We all fail at times to live up to our agreements. The people spoken of in the bible and your parents alike are all merely humans. We have no reason to put them on a pedestal and assume that they embody a greater portion of integrity and honesty than we ourselves do. And there is no reason to merely take them at their word. When we are presented with the idea that Jesus is the son of god we are being presented with a supposed absolute truth. We must realize that absolute truths require absolute proofs.