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OPINION

The Women Of Matthew’s Toledot Show Jesus’ Birth Was No Myth

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
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Gregorio Borgia

“For unto us a child is born. Unto us a son is given.” -Isaiah 9:6

During Christmas, we celebrate a phenomenon theologians call the incarnation. In scientific terms, the birth of Jesus Christ was a trans-dimensional dislocation; the Son of God stepped from the heavenly realm into our reality. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit; his mother, a young Jewish virgin named Mary. As if this isn’t strange enough, Dr. Timothy Keller adds to the mystery in a recent Gospel In Life podcast, explaining, “Jesus was the only son given, and the only son born older than his parents.”

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Science doesn’t always have the best answers for extraordinary phenomena. Writing in “Has Science Refuted Miracles and the Supernatural?” one of the essays in the recently published Comprehensive Guide to Science and Faith, Richard G. Howe says, “While it might be understandable that a scientist would balk at the idea that there are aspects of reality that lie beyond the purview of science, I submit that any scientist who denies this is tragically failing to see what is staring him right in the face.”   

So, what do we learn beyond a simple reading of the narrative accounts of Jesus’ birth found in the Gospels that adds evidentiary weight that the birthday we celebrate every year on December 25 was an actual historic event and not some myth or legend conjured up in the minds of the Jewish authors of the Gospels?

Read any of the toledots (Hebrew for genealogy) in the Old Testament and it becomes immediately apparent that only men’s names were recorded: “These are the generations of… Adam, Noah, Shem, Terah, Isaac…” and so on. Patriarchy was the norm of Jewish society. And what was true in the Old Testament was also true in the New—with one exception—the genealogy of Jesus recorded in Matthew’s Gospel.

Matthew included five women in his genealogy; Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba and of course Mary, the mother of Jesus. With the lone exception of Mary, the other four women were either of questionable moral character, not Jewish, or both.

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In Genesis chapter 38, we learn that Tamar masqueraded as a Canaanite prostitute to trick her father-in-law, Judah into impregnating her to further Israel’s Chosen Dynasty. Joshua chapter 2 records the story of Rahab, a Canaanite harlot living in Jericho who was instrumental in hiding Jewish spies. In the Book of Ruth, we learn that Ruth was from Moab—the sworn enemies of Israel. It is believed that her father was King Eglon, assassinated while sitting on the toilet moving his bowels (a story every young boy loves to hear read in Sunday school!) Bathsheba was the wife of Uriah the Hittite. She was raped by King David while her husband was away at war, ultimately fathering a child from the union. 

You can’t make this stuff up. And I mean that seriously. 

No Jewish author, writing during the first century, would have included women in general and especially not these women, known to all first-century Jewish readers, in a genealogy of an important person, no less the Messiah and the rightful heir of Israel’s royal throne, unless it were actually true and the author was recording historical fact. The genre of the fictional narrative was still over a millennium away in the future, not arising until the Middle Ages. 

In the Invention of Fiction, Laura Ashe writes, “Fiction was invented in England in the 12th century; we might pinpoint a few years around the 1150s as the crucial moment. Fiction gives an account of something unverifiable and which does not ask to be believed, only to be thought about; it is a contract between author and reader.”

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The Gospels in contrast give an account of something verifiable. The writers are asking their readers to believe. “For we did not follow cunningly devised fables,” write the Apostle Peter, “but were eye witnesses of his majesty.” 

But there is more going on here than literary analysis. The real gift of Christmas is God declaring that all are welcome at Bethlehem’s stable; not just the rough, Hebrew shepherds who were watching their flocks by night but all men, all women (even prostitutes) and foreigners, too.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Gregory J. Rummo is a Lecturer of Chemistry at Palm Beach Atlantic University in West Palm Beach, Florida.

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