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An Ecclesiastical History To The 20th Year Of The Reign Of Constantine by Eusebius

AS the genealogy of Christ is differently given to us by Matthew and Luke, and they are supposed by the generality to disagree in their statements; and as every believer, for want of knowing the truth, has been led to apply some investigation to explain the passages, we may also subjoin the account which has come down to us. We refer to the history which has been handed down on these passages by Africanus, in an epistle to Aristides, respecting the harmony of the genealogy of the gospels. After having refuted the opinions of others as forced and fictitious, he sets forth the account that he had ascertained himself, in the following words. “It was customary in Israel to calculate the names of the generations, either according to nature, or according to the law; according to nature, by the succession of legitimate offspring; according to the law, when another raised children to the name of a brother who had died childless. For as the hope of a resurrection was not yet clearly given, they imitated the promise which was to take place by a kind of mortal resurrection, with a, view to perpetuate the name of the person who had died. Since, then, there are some of those who are inserted in this genealogical table, that succeed each other in the natural order of father and son, some again being born of certain persons, and ascribed to others by name, both the real and reputed fathers have been recorded. Thus, neither of the gospels has made a false statement, whether calculating in the order of nature, or according to law. For the families descended from Solomon, and those from Nathan, were so intermingled, by substitutions in the place of those who had died childless by second marriages and the raising up of seed, that the same persons are justly considered, as in one respect belonging to the one of these, and in another respect belonging to others. Hence it is that, both of these accounts being true, viz. of those who were reputed fathers, and those who really were fathers, they come down to Joseph, with considerable intricacy, it is true, but with great accuracy. That this, however, may be made evident, I will state the series of generations. If (in the genealogy of Matthew) you reckon the generations from David through Solomon, Matthan, who begat Jacob the father of Joseph, is found to be the third from the end. But if, with Luke, you reckon from Nathan the son of David, in like manner, Melchi, whose son was Eli, the father of Joseph, will be found to be the third. As Joseph, then, is our proposed object, we are to show how it happened that each is recorded as his father, both Jacob, as deduced from Solomon, and Eli, from Nathan; also how it happened that these two, Jacob and Eli, were brothers; and moreover, how the fathers of these, Matthan and Melchi, being of different families, are proved to be the grandfathers of Joseph.

“Matthan and Melchi, having married in succession the same woman, had children, who were brothers by the same mother, as the law did not prohibit a widow, whether she became such by divorce, or by the death of her husband, to marry again. Matthan, therefore, who traces his lineage from Solomon, first had Jacob, by Estha, for this is her name as handed down by tradition. Matthan dying, and Melchi, who traces descent from Nathan, though he was of the same tribe, but of another family, having, as before said, married her, had a son, Eli. Thus, then, we shall find the two of different families, Jacob and Eli, brothers by the same mother. Of these, the one Jacob, on the death of the brother, marrying his widow, became the father of a third, viz. Joseph; his son both by nature and calculation. Wherefore it is written, ‘Jacob begat Joseph.’ But according to the law, lie was the son of Eli, for Jacob, being his brother, raised up seed to him. Wherefore, the genealogy traced also through him, will not be rendered void, which, according to Matthew, is given thus—‘but Jacob begat Joseph.’ But Luke, on the other hand, says, ‘who was the son, as was supposed, (for this he also adds,) the son of Joseph, the son of Eli, the son of Melchi.’ For it was not possible to express the legal genealogy more distinctly, so that he entirely omits the expression, ‘he begat,’ in a generation like this, until the end; having traced it back as far as Adam, ‘who was the son of God,’ he resolves the whole series by referring back to God. Neither is this incapable of proof, nor is it an idle conjecture. For the relatives of our Lord, according to the flesh, whether to display their own illustrious origin, or simply to show the fact, but at any rate adhering strictly to the truth, have also handed down the following accounts: That robbers of Idumea, attacking Ascalon, a city of Palestine, led Antipater away captive, together with other booty, from the temple of Apollo, which was built close to the walls. He was the son of one Herod, a minister of the temple. The priest, however, not being able to pay the ransom for his son, Antipater was trained up in the practices of the Idumeans, and afterwards in great favour with Hyrcanus the high priest of Judea. He was subsequently sent by Hyrcanus on an embassy to Pompey, and having restored the kingdom to him, which had been invaded by Aristobulus, the brother of the latter, Antipater himself had the good fortune to be nominated the procurator of Palestine. Antipater, however, having been treacherously slain by those who envied his good fortune, was succeeded by his son Herod. He was afterwards, by a decree of the senate, appointed king of the Jews, under Antony and Augustus. His sons were Herod and the other tetrarchs. These accounts of the Jews also coincide with those of the Greeks. But, as the genealogies of the Hebrews had been regularly kept in the archives until then, and also of those who referred back as far as the ancient proselytes; as for instance, to Achior the Ammonite, and Ruth the Moabitess, and to those that were intermixed with the Israelites at their departure from Egypt; and as the lineage of the Israelites contributed nothing to Herod’s advantage, he was goaded by the consciousness of his ignoble extraction, and committed all these records of their families to the flames: thinking that himself might appear of noble origin, by the fact that no one else would be able to trace his pedigree by the public records, back to patriarchs or proselytes, and to those strangers that were called georœ. A few however of the careful, either remembering the names, or having it in their power in some other way, by means of copies, to have private records of their own, gloried in the idea of preserving the memory of their noble extraction. Of these were the above-mentioned persons, called desposyni, on account of their affinity to the family of our Saviour. These coming from Nazara and Cochaba, villages of Judea, to the other parts of the world, explained the aforesaid genealogy from the book of daily records, as faithfully as possible. Whether, then, the matter be thus or otherwise, as far as I and every impartial judge would say, no one certainly could discover a more obvious interpretation. And this, then, may suffice on the subject; for, although it be not supported by testimony, we have nothing to advance, either better or more consistent with truth. The gospel, altogether, states the truth.” At the close of the same epistle, this writer (Africanus) adds the following: “Matthan, whose descent is traced to Solomon, begat Jacob; Matthan dying, Melchi, whose lineage is from Nathan, by marrying the widow of the former, had Eli. Hence, Eli and Jacob were brothers by the same mother. Eli dying childless, Jacob raised up seed to him, having Joseph, according to nature belonging to himself, but by the law to Eli. Thus, Joseph was the son of both.” So far Africanus; and the lineage of Joseph thus being traced, Mary, also, at the same time, as far as can be, is evinced to be of the same tribe, since, by the Mosaic law, intermarriages among different tribes were not permitted. For the injunction is, to marry one of the same kindred and the same family, so that the inheritance may not be transferred from tribe to tribe. And this may suffice, also, on the present point.

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