It has been said that all of the Old Testament is an arrow pointing to Christ. It is a grand account, filled with instantly recognizable characters: Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Jonah. It is an account of a chosen people, and the beginning of the unfolding of God's plan of salvation. There are amazing miracles and epic stories of kings and nations. There are amazing displays of God's might and power: the devastation of the plagues, the parting of the Red Sea, water from rocks, a talking donkey. And yet, you can almost feel the excitement as the Old Testament comes to a close, and we find ourselves at the beginning of the New Testament. There is a fresh wind blowing: Messiah is coming! We open to the first page of the New Testament, the Gospel According to Matthew, and we find.....a genealogy?! Bor - ing!! Or is it?
Genealogies are those looong passages interspersed throughout the Bible that trace the bloodline of Jesus. They're also known as the "begats." As in, so-and so-begat so-and-so, and he begat so-and-so, and he begat....... The one at the beginning of Matthew, and running for several paragraphs, covers more than 2,000 years and 40 generations. These are the passages that people joke about as being boring, even painful to read. Can't sleep? goes the old joke, just read through a genealogy, that ought to do the trick. And yet, one of the things that God used to save me was the genealogy lines in the Bible. It's true. Here's how it happened.....
Flash forward 15 years. I have left the church long ago and wound my way circuitously through many different religions, all of which, ultimately, proved futile. I'm an agnostic now, and back in church giving this Christianity thing a second look, though with massive amounts of skepticism. Still, I'm attending faithfully with my husband, taking notes, listening intently. Our pastor stands up one Sunday and says to us, "For those of you who have never read the Bible, I want to invite you to get a reading guide and start reading through it." I mentally have a forehead smack moment. As in, why hadn't I ever read the Bible? After all, I had read the Tao Te Ching, the Sutras and Upanishads, the sayings of
When I got to one of the bloodlines, okay I admit it, my eyes did roll up in my head at the first reading. But then I went down to the study notes, which rather matter-of-factly explained that the "begats" were given so that people would know that (1) the Bible was a real book, of real history and real people fixed in time; and was therefore (2) a bloodline that could be traced from Adam and Eve to Jesus. My brain began to short-circuit. All those years of allegorized, evolutionized "facts" I had been taught were clashing with this book being presented as historical fact. I knew I could not reconcile the story of the Garden of Eden with the science I had grown up with. Where did you squeeze in the millions of years of slow, evolutionary development? Adam and Eve were presented as two real people, the first two people, fully and completely formed. This was a big problem for me, you see, because I was thoroughly postmodern in my thinking. My generation was probably the first full generation to be raised on the tenets of postmodernism. Postmodern thought, in a nutshell, is this: your truth is your truth, and my truth is my truth, and even if they are different truths, they can peacefully co-exist. So that's why my brain was short-circuiting; all my postmodern thinking was being challenged by this presentation of Bible history as fact - fact which could not peacefully co-exist with the "science" of millions of years.
So one of these was true and one was not...but which one? I began to study the bloodline, and realized that it simply wasn't possible to squeeze those millions in. So what was I going to believe? Well, in his providence, God led me to two things:
(1) Answers in Genesis. AIG is an amazing
(2) James Ussher's 'Adams' Chart of History. James Ussher was a 17th century Anglican bishop who painstakingly charted out the bloodline from Adam and Eve to Jesus. His chart features the Biblical timeline going across the top and the corresponding world history underneath it. It's so amazing to look at it, and see God's hand sovereignly guiding all of human history. Below the scarlet thread of Jesus's bloodline, you see nations and kings rise and fall, but above it all, God's bloodline marches steadily onward toward the fulfillment of his purposes (Psalm 90). And what are those purposes? What exactly is the point of the bloodline? Well, the point is where it ends. Like in the Old Testament, remember? All of it an arrow pointing to Christ? This is also what the bloodline does, it puts the spotlight on the one single Person at the end of it: Jesus, the Messiah. Jesus, the
As Americans, we tend to think that we are so mighty, the greatest nation on earth. Well, when you look at Ussher's timeline, you realize that ALL these kingdoms once had their day in the sun, but where are they now? Egypt was once the mightiest nation in the world, known for the architectural magnificence of their awe-inspiring pyramids, and for taming the Nile River. Babylon, known for their acclaimed Hanging Gardens, and brilliant military campaigns led by Nebuchadnezzar. Rome, their amazing Roman roads and contributions to education and government. Where are they now? Some of them are still around, but do they rule the world? Looking at this chart is truly humbling. It brings the deeper realization of that corny old chestnut: "History is really His - Story" All of history is "His" story, and it's all about Christ. All of history is about him. That's why the Bible so carefully and methodically lays out that bloodline time and time again. The begats aren't boring - quite the opposite. They serve the very important purpose of anchoring the Son of God in time and space, a real person, who really lived at a fixed point in history. The begats take the Bible out of the realm of allegory, and make it something that must be contended with on its own terms. There is no "filler" in the Bible; all of God's word is holy, inspired, valuable, important (2 Tim 3:16). Even the begats. And for some of us oddballs, especially the begats.
photo credit: Lawrence OP via photopin cc
Answers in Genesis
Adam's Synchronological Chart of History (compiled by James Ussher)
Scientists Who Have Examined the Data and Conclude that the Evidence Points To Young Earth
The Dark Side of Darwin (interview with Dr. Jerry Bergman)