The Bible, Jewish people, Jesus and David

I’m reading a book about the Bible. In the book it talks about the different beliefs between Christians and Jews.

From what I get out of this so far is that Christians believe that Jesus was the Messiah mentioned earlier in the Bible, but Jews do not believe that Jesus was the Son of God. I think that’s right.

But in the book it’s mentioned several times that the Messiah is a decendant of David and although Jesus is a decendant of David, he’s not the one, according to Jewish belief.

So, my question is this. Is there someone or a group of people who have been keeping track of all of David’s decentants ? How would the Jewish people know who’s the right guy ?

If I sound ignorant or offensive here, my apologies.

I don’t see how you figure Jesus is a decendant of David. Joseph is, but since he is not the father of Jesus, then Jesus has only one ancestral line, through Mary. Is she related to David also?

Hi Fear Itself.

To be honest, I don’t know a thing about Jesus’, Mary’s or Joseph’s family tree.

I’m only going by what I’m reading in the book and it doesn’t explain this all that well.

According to the book, one of the Gospels Matthew’s, I believe, begins wiht an extensive genealogy that traces Jesus back to David.

I have never really read the Bible.

Both Matthew and Luke provide genealogies that trace Joseph, the husband of Mary, back to David. The two genealogies are contradictory (the infancy narratives of Matthew and Luke contradict each other in many ways). Religious people used to argue that one of these genealogies–I forget which one–was really a genealogy of Mary, but that seems to contradict the plain meaning of the text.

IANA biblical scholar, but IIRC, prophesy indicated that the Messiah would come from the “House of David.” Since Jospeh is shown by the genealogies to have decended from David, his son Jesus can plausibly be said to fit the bill.

The reason Jews do not regard Jesus as the Messiah is because Jesus did not do what the Messiah was supposed to do, i.e., restore the Kingdom of David and rebuild the temple, IIRC.

Just a nitpick, but that is true only from a Christian viewpoint. However, from a Jewish viewpoint (IANAJ), Jesus was not the Messiah, thus not the son of God, and thus he was Joseph’s biological son.

From a Jewish standpoint, the entire New Testament is of questionable veracity, since Jews only consider the Old Testament to be the Word of God. Some Jews may believe that Jesus was the biological son of Joseph; some Jews may believe that the Gospels were entirely made up by an initially-Jewish splinter cult in the 1st Century C.E. as recruitment tools. So it’s really nonsensical to ask whether “Jews” believe that Jesus was a descendant of David or not.

I don’t believe your two thuses follow. The Jews do not expect the messiah to be the son of God, nor do they make any guesses about who was the father of Mary’s son.

It goes a bit deeper than that. Jews don’t hold that the messiah will be the Son of God. Indeed, Jewish tradition teaches that such a thing is not even possible.

Well, if you hold that Jesus is the son of God, then he doesn’t qualify as the messiah since he’s not a Davidic descendant. If you don’t hold he’s the son of God, then most of Christian theology goes out the window.

There is no central organization that tracks people’s geneaologies. As to how we will ascertain that the messiah is of Davidic lineage, there are two possibilities:

(1) There are certain individuals who are known to be descended from David by tradition. If one can prove descent from one of these individuals, then one could be accepted.

(2) Jewish tradition teaches that Elijah will return before the messiah’s arrival (Malachi 3) and will certify the actual claimant.

Not offensive at all. If you have any other questions, please feel free to ask.

Zev Steinhardt

Any such individuals from post-Biblical times?

Look, I’ve heard theories that, what with bloodlines crossing and crisscrossing over the centuries, all Europeans and European-derived persons are statistically likely to be lineal descendants of Charlemagne. And David was the father of Solomon, who had 600 wives and 400 concubines (and by some traditions the horny bastard still had to have a little on the side, i.e. the Queen of Sheba). So isn’t it probable that all modern Jews are descendants of David? And not only Jews, but anybody whose ancestors hail from a part of the world where Jews once lived and came under pressure to convert – i.e., most of Europe. A Davidic-descended Jew in medieval France or Italy or Germany converts to Catholicism, in two generations everybody forgets his family ever was Jewish and they are completely assimilated to the gentile population – hell, any of us could be a descendant of David! So what’s so special about that status?

Yes. One famous example is the biblical commentator Rashi who lived from 1035-1100. Although, descent from Rashi would not actually qualify someone because he himself only had daughters (and it has to be a straight male-line descent).

Well, for starters, it has to be a straight male-line descent. So, for example, all the Kohanim and Levites among the Jews are automatically ineligilbe, since David was neither a Kohen nor a Levite (he was from Judah). Additionally, people who descended from converts (on the male side) are also ineligible, for the same reason.

I am descended from Levi (since my maternal grandfather was a Levite). But under Jewish law that does not make me a Levite, since my father was not. The same rules would apply for Davidic lineage.

In any event, even assuming that Solomon had children from all those women (and that’s probably doubtful), that still wouldn’t have made a real significant dent in the Jewish population (or even the population of the tribe of Judah) at the time. Plus don’t forget that with all the events that have intervened between Solomon’s time and ours (the conquest of the Northern Kingdom, the sacking of Jerusalem, the persecutions at the hands of countless nations, the Crusades (where whole Jewish communities were massacred), the Holocaust, etc.), it’s not hard to imagine that whole lines of many families (including some Davidic families) were completely wiped out.

Zev Steinhardt

Assuming 20 year generations, the number of ancestors someone born in 3 BCE would have at 1,000 BCE would be 2 ^50, a very large number - and obviously there are many back then who are ancestors in more than one way. The patrilinear requirement cuts it down by a lot. This is immaterial in the case of Jesus, of course.

OK, but let’s stay on topic- and i think Zev is being pretty helpful here, but still we have not actually answered the question.

Zev- are there known families currently of Davidic descent? Does anyone currently claim such? Or it is a secret? Or perhaps it is simply assumed there must be?

I mean- you give the example of Rashi- but then he no longer has any direct male descendents.

There are certain individuals who are traditionally said to come from David. Rashi was one such example. If one could prove descent from one of those individuals, then one could qualify.

Admittedly Rashi was a bad example, but he’s the only one that I know of off the top of my head. It’s not a secret, but just a lack of knowledge on my part.

BTW, if one could prove descent from Rashi’s father or (any other male-line ancestor of his) that would qualify as well. Rashi’s lineage was pretty well documented for someone who lived 1000 years ago.

Zev Steinhardt

Forgive my gentile ignorance, but I have a question concering lines of decent in Jewish tradition.

It was my understanding that a person can only be considered a Jew if born from a Jewish womb (i.e., maternal Jewish blood). However, if the tribal identity follows the paternal lineage, what does that mean to a young Jew with a Jewish mother and non-Jewish father?

Inasmuch as tribal identity makes no difference in the daily lives of anyone today (other than Kohanim and Levites), there would be no practical difference between such a person and any other Jew today.

Your same question could be asked of a convert. The answer is that he has no tribal affiliation, but is still nonetheless a Jew and entitled to all the rights, privlidges and subject to all the responsibilities that it entails.

Zev Steinhardt

I was taught that most of the records were lost when the Romans destoyed the temple in AD 70. Is this in keeping with what you know?

Not quite.

While I’m sure that there were records that were destroyed when the Temple was destroyed, those records would probably have been those of the kohanic families. A significant portion of the Jewish community at the time didn’t even live in or around Jerusalem at the time but in Babylon. While some people’s geneaologies in Jerusalem might not have survived, other people’s in other locations would have.

Zev Steinhardt

[hijack]zev_steinhardt: I have read and been told that record keeping for levites was notoriously innaccurate, as a lot of people took on levite names after the destruction of the temple. It’s supposedly more reliable for kohanes than for levites as a whole. My question is, how do you know for sure that your maternal grandfather was a levite? Am I misinformed? I’m not challenging, just asking.[/hijack]

No problem with asking.

I can’t address the point that you made. I’m sure that there are some “false positive” kohanim and Levites walking around today.

There is considerable rabbinic discussion as to whether kohanim today are truly kohamin or only possible kohanim. This is simply because there are very few kohanim today who can trace their lineage to someone who served at the Altar in the Temple in Jerusalem. (As a side note: that’s as far as one has to go to definitely prove kohanic lineage. One does not have to prove any further than someone who served at the Altar in the Temple). In short, however, halacha dictates that if someone says today that he is a kohen that we believe him. The reason for this is because today the benefits of being a kohen are outweighed by the drawbacks of that status. As such, since it’s generally only to one’s disadvantage to claim to be a kohen, we believe anyone who claims to be one (absent proof to the contrary, of course).

With regard to Levites, we hold the same. Although Levites don’t face the same halachic restrictions that kohanim face, there is really not much benefit that comes from it that I can’t see why someone would lie to “become” a Levite.

Zev Steinhardt