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Thursday, 22 June 2006

Dating Zerubbabel

Counter Genealogies in 1 Chronicles 3, Matthew 1, and Luke 3 can be synchronized to show that the three Zerubbabels did not have to be the same person, but they must have been near contemporaries.

Collating the genealogies of the Old and New Testaments is nothing new; The Western European Codex Bezae Cantabrigensis (D 05), dating to around the time the Western Empire disintegrated, exhibits a highly schematized genealogy in Luke 3 that incorporates elements from 1 Chronicles 3 and Matthew 1, and eliminates the seemingly extraneous 'Cainan' from between Sala and Arphaxad.

But something that Bezae fails to take into consideration when it replaces Heli's pedigree of the original Luke 3 with Jacob's of Matthew 1 is that Jacob's is several generations too short. Oh, it's obvious that Matthew failed to list four Kings of Judah--they are included from 1 Chronicles 3--but even with those obvious deficiencies taken care of, several generations still appear to be missing between Zerubbabel and Abiud. First Chronicles lists six generations after Zerubbabel, none of of which contain anybody named Abiud. Thus Abiud could very well be at least seven generations removed from the man that even Codex Bezae lists as his father.

Fitting in an extra six generations between Zerubbabel and Abiud raises several questions, not the least of which is: Are we sure we're talking about the same Zerubbabel? There's the Zerubbabel the Son of Pedaiah in 1 Chronicles, the Zerubbabel the Son of Shealtiel in Ezra, and the Zorobabel the son of Salathiel in Matthew. Let's consider this question on its merits.

Zerubbabel, first of all, is not the sort of name one would expect a typical Jewish mother to give her son. It's Hebrew meaning is something like "Captive of Babylon." Another possible meaning is "Born in Babylon." In either case, it's the sort of name that an exiled mother would giver her son during or shortly following the Babylonian Exile of 587 BCE (+-1 yr). A son born earlier would have already been named; a son born much later would probably be given a more optimistic appellative. Only a son born shortly after the distress of the evacuation of Judea to captivity, would be likely to be given such a depressing name. Certainly the name can be pinned down to a generation or two after this date. Thus regardless of the name of his father, or the name of his son, anyone named Zerubbabel can be pretty precisely dated in any chronology to having been born around the middle of the 6th century BCE. Thus for the purposes of Chronogenealogy, the precise identification of the Zorobabel the son of Salathiel in Matthew 1 and the Zorobabel the son of Salathiel in Luke 3 is unimportant. For dating purposes, we shall consider them to be one and the same person, as did the editor of Codex Bezae.

Having fixed the date for Zerubbabel's birth, we return to our genealogies to see if there are, indeed, several generations still missing between the Zerubbabel of Matthew 1 and his descendant Abiud. Twenty-five years is a reasonable average generation, and squares nicely with the 1025 years between David and Jesus, his descendant of the 41st generation in Luke 3--although the generations from David to Zerubbabel were compressed by primogeniture, leaving the later, post-exilic generations to be longer. But counting backwards in Matthew 1 from Jesus to Abiud, at twenty-five years per generation, we come to only about 310 BCE--wanting a full 277 years to get back to the Zerubbabel of Chronicles. And indeed, this squares with a comparison to Luke's genealogy, which lists 19 generations from Jesus back to Zerubbabel (at least to 475 BCE), versus only 10 in Matthew.

At least six generations are missing.

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