I was wondering if you could address and refute these claims made by Jews against Jesus being the Messiah:
"The Messiah must be from the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:10). Under Jewish law, tribal affiliation is conferred through the birth father only (Numbers 1:18-44,34:14,Leviticus 24:10) (Criterion for being the Messiah is not met – in Christianity, Jesus has no human father – therefore he had no tribal affiliation. Jesus not being from the tribe of Judah is eliminated from messianic consideration)."
"The Messiah must be from the House of David (Jeremiah 33:17-20,1 Chronicles 17:11-12). This affiliation is conferred through the father and Matthew 1 and Luke 3 attempt to trace Jesus’ lineage through Joseph back to King David. However, according to the Gospels "the holy spirit" not Joseph was Jesus’ father (Matthew 1:18). Tribal and family affiliations of this type can not be claimed by adoption (Numbers 1:18-44,34:14; Leviticus 24:10) andat any rate there is no indication in the Christian scriptures that Joseph ever adopted Jesus under Jewish law (Criterion not met – Jesus eliminated from messianic consideration)."
"The Messiah must be from the seed of Solomon (2 Samuel 7:12-16,Psalms 89:29-38,1 Chronicles 17:11-14,22:9-10,28:6-7). Matthew indeed claims that Jesus was descended through Solomon. However, Luke claimed that Jesus descended through Nathan, David’s other son (who was not king). This eliminates Jesus’ genealogy through Luke. The problem with the claim that Luke’s genealogy is actually that of Mary is that Mary is not mentioned in Luke’s genealogy. Even if it was the genealogy of Mary this is meaningless as Jewish law only recognizes tribal affiliation through the father (Numbers1:18)."
This is a familiar criticism of the credentials of Jesus to be the Messiah. This comes, of course, despite the fact that Jesus fulfilled the messianic prophecies of being crucified (Psalms 22), being pierced, rejected and silent before accusers (Isaiah 53), being born in Bethlehem (Micah 5), riding into Jeruslaem on a donkey, being betrayed for 30 pieces of silver (Zechariah) and many more. Given that Jesus wonderfully and, indeed, spectacularly fulfilled all the prophecies of the Messiah (Luke 24:44), we should not be at all surprised to learn that Jesus did indeed fulfill the prophecy that he would be of the line of David as well.
Let me get to the question. It is true that Jesus was the son, biologically, only of Mary. That is true. In fact, it was prophecied that the Messiah would be born of a virgin (maiden) in Isaiah 9:14. Now, if this critic of the messianic claims of Jesus is right, then, on the one hand, the Messiah must be born of a virgin, but on the other hand, he must NOT be born of a virgin in order to fulfill the requirement to be the physical seed of the line of David. Clearly, this is not a correct understanding of the text. Here is how I see it. Joseph adopted Jesus as his son, making Jesus, technically, only the adopted son of David. But then, all of us Gentile Christians are exactly the same thing. We, too, are not legitimate heirs of the promise of Abraham, yet, like Jesus, we are adopted into sonship with the Father. Ephesians 2:14-22 talks about us being real children of Abraham through adoption. I see evidence and a prophecy of the grace of God in that we are chosen as adopted sons and Jesus was chosen as well as an adopted son of the line of David. Your critic friend says that the Holy Spirit was Jesus’ father and, in a sense, he was, but will this person deny Joseph the right to adopt the son of Mary and give him a father? This is a weak argument.
By the way, it may well be true that the Jewish people accounted family through the father, but Jewishness was passed on through the mother. Mary was also descended from David, as is shown by the dual genealogies of Matthew and Luke. Scholars believe that most likely the two genealogies are through Mary (Luke) and through Joseph (Matthew). I believe the ones bringing this charge are making their case look stronger than it really is. For example, Leviticus 24:10 does not at all say that tribal affiliation is only conferred through the physical father. In fact, it is not even talking about that. Even Numbers 1:18-44 does not prove that one cannot be considered a member of Judah if only the mother was a Jew. It only demonstates that this was how tribal numbers were accounted. I believe that the argument is based at least as much on Jewish tradition as on any stated law of Moses.
However, in any case, if God chooses to adopt Jesus into the line of Judah as a sign of his grace–if God considers Jesus the legitimate son of Joseph, then who am I to argue with this? God can do whatever he likes, and logical arguments by Jewish critics of Christianity do not change this fact. Like I already said, the Bible contains dual prophecies that the Messiah would be the son of a Virgin and that he would be a direct descendant of David. Jesus fulfilled both prophecies is a way which none of us could have conceived on our own. He is the physical descendent of David through his mother. He is the adopted son of David through his father, by an adoption consistent with the Christian message of our adopted sonship, and he also fufilled the prophecy to be born of a virgin. I believe we should turn this argument on its head and show how wonderfully this all shows the messianic glory of Jesus and the grace of the Father to accept us as his sons.
One more point. Jesus’ descent in Luke is indeed through Mary. Yes, it is true that the genealogy mentions Joseph, not Mary. One more time, this shows the grace of God. Obviously, Luke was well aware of the genealogy in Matthew. This line of descent through Mary was no accident. Nevertheless, the list consists of male descendents. In the last step, Luke chooses to mention Joseph, not Mary because he was indeed the adopted father of Jesus. One more time, what the critics feel is proof that Jesus is not the legitimate Messiah turns out to be further evidence of God’s grace. Certainly Luke saw it that way. The idea that this was some sort of mistake does not work. Obviously, the careful historian Luke was not going to make a mistake about the name of the grandfathers of Jesus!!! Jacob was the father of Joseph (Matthew 1:16) and Heli was the father of Mary (Luke 3:24).
John Oakes, PhD