December 14, 2018
The Incarnate Word of God has Siblings
Matthew begins his story of Jesus: "The Book of the Genealogy of Jesus Christ, son of David, son of Abraham." Compare Genesis 2:4: "This is the Book of the Genealogy of the heavens and the earth." In Matthew and the OT Septuagint we find the same two words: biblos geneseos, the bible of the birth, or book of lineage, offspring, or family—the genealogy.
The Father's act of creating is, if you will, generational, so that by purpose, will, and cooperation things come together to continuously generate newly created objects—plants, animals, and man. Man's "generational" powers are part of God's generative activity. We step into the stream of creation as male and female from whose union utterly unique individuals arise.
Not one of these individuals is autonomous, but is a sprout on the greater tree of life. Each speaks not his own personal private language but must speak his mother tongue. Thus, Genesis records the fertility of the divine Word in creating Man and then through Man's procreative powers given to him as pure gift and sacred task. "Be fruitful and multiply" is not only a command but an endowment, a empowering blessing.
Genesis of the Septuagint's Genesis 2:4 is also the word used in Matthew 1:18: ...the birth (genesis) of Jesus Christ took place in this way. In both Genesis and Matthew, the appearance of the subject it presents is inextricably tied to and arises from prior causes.
In the case of the heavens and the earth, a full chapter (Gen. 1) of divine utterances and volition, followed by the creation's response as each new creature appears-all this precedes Gen. 2:4, "this is the book of the generations of the heavens and the earth."
Just as the heavens and the earth do not of their own just "happen" but rather are the offspring of the divine intention and Word, Jesus Christ does not simply happen as a singularity dropped down into the human race. He, like all men, is not just a clump of cells that happen to reside in a woman. No, he has a racial, tribal, and familial identity and destiny prepared ahead of time along with that of his mother. Salvation is "of the Jews," and the Jews are, first, the seed of Abraham, and all mankind the seed of the Woman, Eve.
Christ is the seed of Eve designated to crush the head of the serpent, the seed of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to whom the scepter would come, of the house and lineage of David. He is also the subject of the Law and the Prophets, and meets Moses and Elijah on the mount of Transfiguration. Salvation is of the Jews.
The second Sunday before Nativity for Orthodox Christians is the Sunday of the Ancestors of the Lord. In Matins of Sunday, we read:
On this day we celebrate the Sunday of the Holy Forefathers of our Lord Jesus.
Receive joy, O Forefathers which lived aforetime,
As now ye behold at hand Christ the Messiah.
Be glad, O Abraham, for thou art shown to be the forefather of Christ.
We remember all the holy Patriarchs of the Old Testament who prefigured or foretold Christ: Adam the first Father, Enoch, Melchizedek, Abraham, the friend of God, Isaac, the fruit of the Promise, Jacob and the twelve patriarchs. We then commemorate those who lived under the Law: Moses, Aaron, Joshua, Samuel, David, and the Prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel; the twelve minor prophets; Elijah, Elisha, Zachariah, and John the Baptist; and finally the Virgin Mary...
Jesus, Emmanuel, God in the Flesh, is a member of a family: "Is not this the carpenter's son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And are not all his sisters with us?" (Matthew 13:55-56)
James, the writer of the Epistle bearing his name, is referred to in the iconography of the East as ho adelphos-theou—the brother of God. This familial relationship suggested to some of the early Jewish Christians that descendants of the Lord's family—of the house and lineage of David—should rightfully sit on the episcopal throne of the Judaeo-Christian church.
Over time, however, the Lord's words to James prevailed—"For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother." (Matthew 12:50). For in doing God's will, we do the work of the Father of Genesis, who generated the heavens and the earth for the sake of the growing family of God, Jews, Greeks, and the rest of the gentiles. He created with all this in mind, including Christmas.
Yours for Christ, Creed & Culture,
James M. Kushiner
Executive Director, The Fellowship of St. James
James M. Kushiner is Executive Editor of Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity, and Executive Director of The Fellowship of St. James.