Write this man childless
Continued from The Gospel of Matthew : Part I
So what was Matthew’s compelling reason for denying Joseph’s biological connection to Jesus? The answer is provided in verse 11:
And Josias begat Jechonias and his brethren, about the time they were carried away to Babylon (Matthew 1:11 KJV).
The following passages from the Book of Jeremiah reveal to us why Matthew went to such pains to stress that Jesus was not the son of Joseph:
As I live, saith the LORD, though Coniah the son of Jehoiakim king of Judah were the signet upon my right hand, yet would I pluck thee thence… (Jeremiah 22:24 KJV).
O earth, earth, earth, hear the word of the LORD. Thus saith the LORD, Write ye this man childless, a man that shall not prosper in his days: for no man of his seed shall prosper, sitting upon the throne of David, and ruling any more in Judah (Jeremiah 22:29-30 KJV).
Matthew’s Gospel was written for the purpose of convincing Israelites that their expected Messiah had come. However, before presenting his credentials, the author had to demonstrate the prerequisite that Jesus was not descended from David through this disinherited Jeconias, as was Joseph. (Some scholars have asserted that by Joseph exercising a father’s right to name the child, he took legal responsibility for Jesus, but Matthew cannot be arguing for legal rather than biological paternity because Joseph’s own disinherited status would apply also to Jesus.)
Matthew knows that Jesus is not the son of Joseph when he begins to construct his genealogy, yet he still prefaces his account by calling Jesus the “son of David”. How is he able to have the Magi ask the question “where is he who was born King of the Jews…” with such superb assurance? Only a patrilineal descendant of King David would qualify to be called the “King of the Jews”.
Matthew is certainly sure of the Davidic ancestry of Jesus, but how detailed was his information? As we will discover when we come to examine Luke’s infancy narrative, more comprehensive information about the biological ancestry of Jesus was available to an earnest seeker like Luke, but the question of whether or not Matthew had access to this information remains an open question. It is obvious that Matthew’s infancy account is told from Joseph’s point of view so Matthew’s source originated, in whatever chain of transmission, from someone close to Joseph. Therefore, we would not expect Matthew’s source to have access to the type of intimate information that could have originated only with Mary herself.