The Double Paternity of Jesus
To the Editor:
Permit me to call attention to a small but important error in your June issue. Professor Cyrus Gordon there begins his article, “The Double Paternity of Jesus,” BAR 04:02, with the statement: “The two variant genealogies of Jesus in Matthew 1:1–16 and Luke 3:23–38 agree on the essential point that he was descended from King David through Joseph, the husband of Mary.”
This is false. Matthew 1:16 says only that Joseph was “the husband of Mary from whom (feminine) Jesus was born,” and Matthew 1:18ff. make it quite clear that Joseph was not the child’s father.
Luke 3:23 speaks of Jesus as “the son, as was supposed, of Joseph.” “As was supposed” is ambiguous: It might mean that the supposition was correct, or it might imply that the supposition was false. That Luke intended the latter implication is proved by his story of the annunciation (Luke 1:30ff.): he makes the angel tell Mary she has found favor with God and will (therefore) bear a son. Mary replies, “How shall this be, since I do not know (have had no sexual relationship with) a man?” The angel answers, “The holy spirit will come upon you and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore the (child) born will be called holy, son of God.”