Richard Dawkins and the Lineage of Jesus
June 11, 2007
Richard Dawkins is the grand old man of atheism. He's been around forever and he's articulate. His book "The God Delusion" sells heartily. Even Sam Harris (I think) emulates Mr. Dawkins and hopes to grow up just like him. But I am not happy with Mr. Dawkins. I almost lost a spiritual brother to him, not for any noble reason, but because he tried to pass off as a chocolate covered caramel what was really a small turd.
The "turd" is his observation that Jesus' lineage is different in Matthew chapter 1 and Luke chapter 3. It's a glaring contradiction! He's amazed everyone doesn't see it and abandon Christianity on that account. Just count the names, for crying out loud, and see that there's 28 in Matthew but 41 in Luke!
Outraged that I'd been lied to for so long by the slippery mind-control Watchtower, I almost fired off my own letter of independence to them, but then I read how the "almost-lost" brother had "hit the books" and what he'd found. Yes, Luke lists 41 names to Matthew's 28. That's because Luke goes back to Adam, the first man, and Matthew only to Abraham! And yes, the two geneologies differ after David (King David). That's because Matthew traces Jesus through his mother's line and Luke through his father's. The Messiah, says prophesy, is supposed to be descended from David. Either way, the two gospels establish, whether through mama or papa, Jesus fills the bill.
C'mon Richard! This is Bible 101. This is straightforward. Sure, it could easily escape the attention of a youngster or someone not specifically looking for it, but how old are you? And this, you claim, is your area of expertise?! Look, I'm sure your book contains some hard-hitting challenges to those in the "God" camp. Such challenges can be made. But this is not one of them. This is schlock, and you ought to be ashamed of yourself for making such strong assertions on something you know so little about!
I learned all this, by the way, through fellow blogger Tom Weedsandwheat. He came across, by sheer accident, some Witness youngster (everyone's a youngster to Weedsandwheat, who's half an ice-age older than even me) who'd decided that the God camp was wrong and the atheists were right. Atheists, for God's sake! (um... for unGod's sake) So he decided he'd better tell the Watchtower off. He had his letter of disassociation posted right there on the internet, building up courage to actually submit it to the brothers. The letter contained six blatant Watchtower "errors." He was worried about the consequences of his letter, but brave enough to face them. Disassociation would mean that few (or no) Witnesses would speak to him afterwards. And he was not sure exactly how matters would unfold.
So Weedsandwheat contacted his blog and told him. And suggested how to better submit the letter. Shorten it. Delete the six points. That way you have the option of discussing them or not at any subsequent meeting with elders. Look, it wasn't a good decision, Weedsandwheat opined, but if you're going to do it, you might as well do it right. Furthermore, Weedsandwheat challenged two of the points. Not vigorously, not snottily (indeed, the specific facts were not wrong, even as the specific facts of Dawkins' geneology rant are not wrong) but just....here's another light in which you might view the facts.
Next thing you know, this youngster has "hit the books," uncovered Dawkins' geneology ruse, (which he emailed to Weedsandwheat) torn up his letter, and deleted his blog! Trust me, Weedsandwheat had no idea such a thing would happen. In fact, he was even a little bummed about it, since he looked forward to posting a few times on this blog. Alas, Weedsandwheat likes to hear himself talk. One of the blog's commenters absolutely nailed it when he observed that Weedsandwheat reminded him of one "of the "too clever" witnesses that were in love with themselves." Right! He is that way. None of us can stand him. And I'm not worried about putting him down publicly this way. He never reads stuff he himself doesn't write.
I like that. I heard a comment recently that someone stated that the Bible condones marital infidelity in the case of a husband not providing any offspring. So the brother-in-law or father-in-law could conscientsly (sorry about my spelling) impregnate the widow.
I didn't bother to consider how the father's wife felt about all this, but I've seen many people take scriptures either out of context or simply ignore them. I've seen others who claimed to be experts simply lie to make a point.
At one point in my life, I was an athiest. I decided to look into both points of view and read (very thoroughly) the book, Life, How Did it Get Here? By Evolution or by Creation? (Published by Watchtower). I looked up many of the references and made my own decision in favor of creation.
I could go on about this, but I won't. I'd rather think for myself and get more mature people's viewpoints before I simply take something serious like that at face value.
Posted by: Screech | June 12, 2007 at 07:14 PM
"I heard a comment recently that someone stated that the Bible condones marital infidelity in the case of a husband not providing any offspring. So the brother-in-law or father-in-law could conscientsly (sorry about my spelling) impregnate the widow."
How could it be infidelity if the woman is a widow?
Posted by: Brian | June 13, 2007 at 03:33 PM
The person that was supposed to impregnate the widow was currently married to the deceased's mom.
Posted by: Screech | June 14, 2007 at 01:25 PM
Yeah, I thought you would straighten that out, Screech. And, knowing Brian, I believe it was just a playful question. He himself knows the answer.
Regarding the Creation book, I googled it several years ago. From non-believers the most serious criticism concerned one of the cited sources, who apparently was more of a pop-science writer than an actual scientist. They took no issue with what he said, only with his credentials. So I said to myself: "that's not too bad."
And the fundamentalists thought it was great, but, loathe to give any credit to the mean Watchtower, they chalked it up to Satan appearing as an angel of light. (2 Cor 11:14)
But when I googled the book years later, both groups had progressed. The non-believers had found lots of things to gripe about, and the fundamentalists had decided there were far better books out there.
Posted by: tom sheepandgoats | June 14, 2007 at 04:32 PM
Atheists baffle me.
Why, if you don't believe something, would you expend so much time and effort in telling everyone it's not true?
I don't believe the earth is flat, nor that the moon is made of green cheese, but I have never felt the need to write a book about either, nor to explain and prove this point to anyone at all.
Science cannot, ever, produce any kind of test to prove that there is no God. It can't be done.
Science can prove the existence of something. It's impossible to absolutely prove the non-existence of anything. I might say there's a teacup orbiting Betelgeuse. It's ridiculous, but nobody can prove it's not there.
Even evolution, that bane of religion, cannot prove that there was no creator making adjustments to the original blueprint (incidentally, there's still no sign of evolution in humans except they're getting dumber. But that's because of contraception, and a separate issue).
The Big Bang is a nice theory, not the only one but a good one. It doesn't prove that the bang didn't happen just after someone said 'Let there be light'. There is no way to know what happened before the universe appeared. No way to know how it appeared. No way to know why it went bang, or where the bangy thing came from. It can't be done.
Maybe that's what drives these guys. These are questions science can never answer. Questions for which there is no scientific test. That must sting a bit.
I am still open on the question of whether God exists. All scientists should be.
That's the trouble with science these days. Nobody will ever give the answer 'we just don't know'.
Posted by: Romulus Crowe | June 16, 2007 at 09:00 PM
Hey, Tom, sorry it has taken me this long to come read this post. Most droll. I like your style of humor, finally (it has taken me a while to cotton to its tone, but I think I've finally "broken the code").
People read the Bible (and other scriptures, and other things as well) for their own purposes. Dawkins has his, Witnesses have theirs, I have mine, etc., etc.
I am currently musing about interpretation in this context, having been nudged to it, perhaps surprisingly, by reading some novels by English author David Lodge (born 1935).
We rag-bag philosophers take our inspiration where we find it.
Thanks for alerting me to this, Tom. I appreciate it. Good on you to overrunning cup.
Posted by: Moristotle | June 17, 2007 at 08:23 AM
I’ve been following the recent renaissance of the media dubbed ‘new atheists’ with some interest. I wonder if they are a harbinger of greater social change in this country along the lines of belief /non-belief. Europe of course has already lost most of its fire of faith, and to a large extent (save for the Muslim population, and a minority of conservative Christians) is an atheistic continent. Is America headed in that direction? To me a reveling statistic on this phenomena has to do with well known atheist talk show host Bill Maher. When his now defunct program ‘Politically Incorrect’ first came on television in (I believe it was) in the early 90’s, only about 5%-7% of his audience said they agreed with the bulk his world view. When the show went off the air in 2002, that number had jumped to around 14%. Now some of this is probably a result of people watching him for years and being won over. However, it corresponds with the rise of an increasingly vocal atheist minority, and I think is indicative of a cultural shift which is both feed by and feeds, the current climent of ‘culture war’. I foresee this general trend continuing, but doubt we ever get to be quite like Europe, baring some massive paradigm changing event.
Posted by: NateDredge | June 20, 2007 at 06:30 PM
Actually, upon second visit, it's not exactly as I said. Both geneologies end with Joseph. However, after David, one takes a path through David's son Solomon and another through his son Nathan. After a couple dozen generations, the two lines merge again, just in time for Jesus' foster father.
Posted by: tom sheepandgoats | December 28, 2007 at 06:19 PM
Actually, the genealogies merge at Shealtiel and Zerubabel, and then diverge again before merging yet again at Joseph. Shealtiel's father in Matthew is different from Shealtiel's father in Luke.
I think it's an overstatement to say that this is bible 101 and straightforward.
Speculation is not evidence.
Why claim the genealogies are true if not to stay in line with the position of the Kingdom Hall?
Posted by: Geoff | May 06, 2011 at 12:08 PM
The explanation JWs offer of the genealogies is neither provable nor disprovable. It's possible, that's all. Whether one accepts it or not is largely influenced by how one feels about its overall context. As a subject viewed in isolation, perhaps the explanation does seem fanciful. But if viewed as one detail of a puzzle that otherwise holds together quite well, it does nicely. Speculation or educated guess? Depends upon where you're coming from.
I will agree, it's not provable. But a great many things are not provable, both with historical documents (already mentioned) and with scientific progress. They're not generally dismissed as nonsense on that account. In science, hypotheses are formed. They are always tentative, pending further evidence. Nonetheless, though tentative, they tend to be accepted or rejected by individuals based on their respect for the overall discipline. Evolution, to take an example, has been rife with speculation merely hinted at by available evidence. With progressive discovery and research, some of these notions have solidified, some have been dismissed, and some remain speculative. But evolutionists put much more stock in such speculations than the layman, because they have more respect for the discipline.
It's not so different here. Some have overall respect for the Bible. Some don't. That's what determines their view of the genealogy quirks. Richard Dawkins loathes the scriptures and all that they represent. Accordingly, he views the two genealogies in the worst possible light. If, on the other hand, you hold the Bible's message and overall integrity of those who wrote it in high regard, you will not be thrown off track by oddities in the comparitive genealogies.
As to Luke's account going through Mary (Heli evidently being Mary's father, not Joseph) yet not mentioning her, this might be so as to accomodate ancient sentiment, which "did not comport with the mention of the mother as the genealogical link. Among the Greeks a man was the son of his father, not of his mother; and among the Jews the adage was: ‘Genus matris non vocatur genus [“The descendant of the mother is not called (her) descendant”]’ " (Insight on the Scriptures, page 917, Watchtower)
Similar reasoning may apply to Shealtiel and Zerrubabel. (that thought is developed in the above work) The important thing is that Jesus lineage traces back to David regardless of which parent is used.Through Joseph, he is seen to be the legal heir. Through Mary, he is seen to be the natural heir.
Posted by: tom sheepandgoats | May 07, 2011 at 06:35 AM