However, there are some complications with this passage. There are only 41 names listed, one would expect 14 x 3 or 42. This leaves one of the divisions a member short.
A number of explanations have been advanced to explain this. The most straightforward is that the author of Matthew simply miscounted. Other such seeming errors in mathematics are found in the Old Testament, and also in other works of this period. Another view, which would preserve the inerrency of the Bible, is that David's name should appear twice just as it is mentioned twice in the verse. By this count he is both one of the fourteen from "Abraham to David" and also one of the fourteen from "David to the exile to Babylon." The main problem with this is that it would also suggest that since the exile to Babylon is mentioned twice the man at this time, Jeconiah, should also appear twice. Other theories that have been advanced include that Mary counts as one of the 14 or that Jeconiah legally counts as two separate people, one as king the other as dethroned civilian.
An explanation that scholars today find more probable is that the problem lies in Matthew 1:11. Almost all other sources report that a king named Jehoiakim was between Josiah and Jeconiah. Many scholars feel it is likely that Jeconiah, whose name can be spelt Jehoiachin, was confused with his father and they were merged into one person. Thus the error was one by a later transcriber.
However there are several other people who were left out of the genealogy. Matthew 1:8 skips over Ahaziah, Athaliah, Jehoash, and Amaziah, two of whom were kings of Israel and all are well documented by other sources. Begat can also mean grandfather of and skipping unimportant generations is not uncommon in ancient genealogies. See Matthew 1:8 for a full discussion on why these four may have been left out. It is, however, somewhat duplicitous to claim that there were fourteen generations when in fact there were eighteen. Fowler argues that this verse is not in error, as it is not a description of the actual genealogy, but simply of the list that was presented in the Gospel. Fowler believes that the author of Matthew had good reason to drop the names he did and to skip unnecessary ancestors. Fowler sees instructions in this verse are to aid in the memorization of Matthew's version of the genealogy, not the historical list of decedents. By tradition the first period from Abraham to David always had fourteen names, so the author of Matthew simply cut unneeded names from the other two sections to create an easily memorized triple structure.
A transcriber skipping similar names in a list is a common error known as homoioteleuton. Some scholars feel that the original author of Matthew probably had the list correct, and that a later scribe erased the four. This theory implies that this verse must be a later addition to text, as the 14/14/14 structure only came into being after that error was made.
An added problem is that even with several extra names added there are far too few names for the many centuries this genealogy is meant to cover. The much longer genealogy in Luke 3 is more realistic in this regard.
Read more about this topic: Matthew 1:17
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