Tuesday, December 23, 2008

"Matthew's Begats" - Andrew Peterson, 2004 (Contemporary)

Abraham had Isaac
Isaac, he had Jacob
Jacob, he had Judah and his kin
Then Perez and Zerah
Came from Judah's woman, Tamar
Perez, he brought Hezron up
And then came

Aram, then Amminadab
Then Nahshon, who was then the dad of Salmon
Who with Rahab fathered Boaz
Ruth, she married Boaz who had Obed
Who had Jesse
Jesse, he had David who we know as king

David, he had Solomon by dead Uriah's wife
Solomon, well you all know him
He had good old Rehoboam
Followed by Abijah who had Asa
Asa had Jehoshaphat had Joram had Uzziah
Who had Jotham then Ahaz then Hezekiah

Followed by Manasseh who had Amon
Who was a man
Who was father of a good boy named Josiah
Who grandfathered Jehoiachin
Who caused the Babylonian captivity
Because he was a liar

Then he had Shealtiel, who begat Zerubbabel
Who had Abiud who had Eliakim
Eliakim had Azor who had Zadok who had Akim
Akim was the father of Eliud then
He had Eleazar who had Matthan who had Jacob
Now, listen very closely
I don't want to sing this twice
Jacob was the father of Joseph
The husband of Mary
The mother of Christ

I hope you paid very close attention to all of that because there will be a pop quiz at the end of this post...just kidding. Ever notice how whenever some people tell a story it seems like they always have to go back to the Garden Of Eden to tell it? Andrew Peterson's "Matthew's Begats" does exactly that, but fortunately for us he doesn't quite go all the way back, and it only takes him 2 minutes and 12 seconds to do it. This little ditty is taken from the Bible from the book of Matthew, chapter 1.

The purpose of Matthew's Begats is to establish the genealogy of Jesus. If you were to flip through the Bible randomly, you would notice that any time a person is introduced as a character in a story, we are told (at least) who his father and grandfather were. Many of these ancestry reports also name the person's mother, and quite often the country from which the character's family came from. While these can sometimes be quite lengthy and boring, they do serve a real, historical purpose.

The Older Testament of the Bible was originally written in Hebrew, which is the language of the Nation of Israel. Historically, nearly all of the people groups of the Middle East were oral cultures, which means that they didn't write things down a lot. They simply passed their people's history from person to person and generation to generation by word of mouth such as telling stories and singing songs. As is true with all oral cultures, because of the nature of informational preservation being "the norm", very little information was lost or altered. While we in the West might find such communication inconsistent and unreliable, for these cultures it was a way of life. So, in the same way that we preserve facts in writing with little alteration is the identical mechanism for which oral cultures preserve facts...the only difference is in the medium.

In the Israelite culture, since there were very few written records (including family trees), the characters in the various stories were given brief genealogical introductions so as to establish credibility. Family lineages were well known among all the people. If the story character was foreign to the nation, then his or her country of origin was given as an identifier. All one would have to do, to establish that character's existence, would be to travel to the named geographical area, speak the character's lineage, and then watch the locals' heads nod up and down. So, every time there is a lineage in the Bible, it is to establish that he or she was not a made up character and that he or she really did exist and do the things that were mentioned in the story.

Matthew's Begats are no different. Historically, they establish the existence of Jesus Christ's presence on this earth as a real, honest-to-goodness, flesh-and-blood person. There are virtually no cultures that deny His existence in this capacity. To do so would be unrealistic and silly; no one, acting in any capacity, could ever be in any position to say for certain that a man named Jesus never existed, for along with the "stories" the things He did during His life, what is undisputed is the existence of His followers, their writings, and the unearthed archaeological artifacts.

A good analogy of historical genealogical evidence can be seen if we look at our own surnames. One's surname is usually the unique familial identifier. More weight of importance is given to one's surname than one's first name. In fact, for example, in China, a person's familial name is given before his birth name. Historically, many surnames grew out of of one's occupation. The name "Smith" historically implies that one's family was involved in some sort of craftsman trades work, suggesting that one's ancestor was perhaps a blackSmith or silver Smith. "Wainwright" and "Wright" are derivatives of the term for a wagon repairman. Three guesses what former occupations were perhaps held by founding members of families named "Carpenter" or "Shepherd". Our own surnames can also designate the name of the family's founder. Consider, for example, "Anderson" (the son of Andrew) or "Johnson" (son of John). Surnames were also given to indicate a particular geographic or topographical region from which one's family hailed, like: "Hill", "Ford", and "Woods". Furthermore, while today the surnames rarely have anything to do with these historical indicators, one can generally determine another's nationality simply by the name's appearance, spelling, and pronunciation. Examples are "Lopez" (of Spanish descent), "Jablonski" (of Polish descent...the "ski" gives it away), "Fong" (of Chinese descent), and the dead giveaway of "McDonalds" or "O'Briens" from Ireland. The Begats, however, do not just establish the mere human person of Jesus in history.

There are numerous places in the Bible and throughout other historical records in which the preservation of a single name was of great importance. Genealogies do not only tell us occupation, origin, and attribute. Genealogical records were also historically kept to establish and maintain class and influence. A knight during the Middle Ages had to produce his "patience of nobility", was a record of his family tree proving his higher social class. The nobility (kings, lords, counts, etc.) keep long, lengthy records of their heirs and ancestors in order to maintain their family's occupation of their office and act as identification and evidence of their right to bear such noble offices and titles and to act in their respective official capacities. A noble family heritage also entitled him or her to more respect and privilege.

Again, Matthew's Begats keeps right in step with tradition. However before I demonstrate this, I must go forward from His birth and describe a particular scene surrounding His death.

Jesus came that we might have life and have it more abundantly. He is God. As such, He is and has laws (such as lying, stealing, cheating, etc.). Man breaks those laws a lot. Like on earth, judges cannot ethically carry on intimate relationships with criminals. So it is with God. So mankind has to be punished, just like the courtroom criminal. But no matter what Man does, he conviction cannot be undone. Just like our earthly laws, once a felon, always a felon. As with our earthly laws, a penalty must be paid. The Bible teaches us that all of us have sinned and fallen short of the standard of God. So, we will all one day stand before the Great Judge, each one of us (including me) with a mountain of sin penalties from our breaking of God's laws. Just like on earth, "not getting caught" doesn't mean the crime wasn't committed, and the passage of time does not negate this fact, either. So, Since God has no use for our money or our possessions, the penalty for sin is eternal death. The baby Jesus was born in Bethlehem 2000 years ago to live a perfect life and to die an innocent man on a cross...to sacrifice Himself in place of our own selves, so that our sin penalties (now and forever) are paid in full. We can either accept the sacrifice of His body and spirit or we can one day stand before Him and use our own to pay the penalties. It's up to us.

I mentioned that He was innocent when He died. This is true. There were many accusations against Him. None but one of them held merit. That accusation is never forgotten in the description of His crucifixion; however, I find that the gravity of the truth in this accusation is often missed or lost. The lineage of Jesus Christ, given by Matthew 1, traces His parentage all the way back to Abraham, the father of the nation of Israel. However, about half way through Jesus' family tree, there is mention of a king named David. It is this particular ancestor that, had Jesus played up and called more attention to, might have saved His life. But He never did. Only at the beginning of His birth story (found synoptic in Matthew 1 and Luke 3) is this king heritage mentioned.

One thing we can credit to the Jewish oral culture is that there wasn't a single person in the culture who didn't know his history. They even knew the metaphysical details surrounding these events. King David was the best king that Israel ever had. He was such a good king, and God was so pleased with King David that He made an unconditional promise to Him. God told David that he would never cease to have an heir sit on the throne of Israel. This was a straight-up promise that God made with no strings attached, that from that point on, someone from David's children would always be the king of Israel.

A long time had passed since King David. The nation of Israel lost many political battles and was conquered and nearly destroyed by many invaders such as the Babylonians. Ultimately, the Babylonians then gave way to the Roman Empire. However, just because a nation is overcome by another does not mean that the heritage of kingship disappears forever. Israel had been under the control of hostile nations and lived in fear and hatred of them for many hundreds of years, but ever since the Babylonian invasion of Israel around 594 B.C., they were never strong enough to attain their own autonomous monarchy again.

When Jesus was crucified, the only accusation that was substantial enough to get the attention of the then-ruling Roman government and to "stick" was that Jesus had claimed to be King of the Jews. It was customary for the crime of the crucified person to be burned in wood and hung above his head as he hung on his cross. On Jesus' cross, in 3 languages, hung the letters "INRA", which stands for "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews." This was the crime Jesus was ultimately crucified for.

Jesus Christ, born in a manger, was the lost heir to the throne of David. The Roman tetrarch Herod knew it - he ordered all Hebrew boys under the age of 2 to be killed for his power was threatened by another king. Travellers from the Far East knew it - they brought Him gifts fit for a King and bowed down and worshiped Him. Jesus was descended from King David, which would have made all the difference in the world to the situations in which He often found Himself, including His death. But He never even mentioned entitlement to His earthly throne at all. Not one word. His purpose was not to be the king. It was to be the Savior of all mankind so that mankind would no longer be eternally separated from Him. He loved us that much. But the Bible teaches us that He came unto His own people, and His own people rejected Him. As his well-documented family history shows us...He really was the King of the Jews!

Happy Birthday King Jesus!

"Matthew's Begats" - Andrew Peterson, 2004
(bluegrass version)

~information been-getted from lots of different places, but mostly from the Bible from various places from the Newer Testament Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

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