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Adventures in Maiming the Text

We all make mistakes, but biblical scholarship produces some truly freakish passages. Edwin D. Freed, The Stories of Jesus’ Birth: a Critical Introduction, The Biblical Seminar 72 (Sheffield Academic Press, 2001), 20-21, produced one of the worst paragraphs I can remember reading:

Except for a few passages in the Gospels, Jesus as a descendant of David (as in the genealogies) was never an important belief for New Testament writers.

Unless one counts passages like the inclusion of Jesus’ davidic identity in Paul’s definition of the gospel (Rom 1:1-4). Of course, many evangelicals overlook this definition of the gospel as well. Perhaps we should give Freed a pass?

The author of Hebrews writes that Christ was the Son of God and eternal high priest. He was “without fahter, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God, he remains a priest forever.”

Freed does not notice that the “he” who is the subject of the sentence in question (Heb 7:3) is Melchizedek, not Jesus.

But according to the author of Hebrews, Christ was not descended from the priests: “He does not have their genealogy” (Heb 7:6). The important thing in Hebrews is that, as with Aaron, Christ was called by God.

Hebrews never says anything like, “The really important thing is that Jesus was called by God.”

We might question whether the author of Hebrews was actually trying to negate the tradition about Jesus preserved in the genealogy, if not the stories of Jesus’ birth altogether.

Just eight verses later, Heb 7:14 explicitly notes Jesus’ origin from the royal tribe of Judah and states that it is “it is obvious,” or well-known.

Finally, note that Freed is throwing around “Christ” in the same paragraph in which he downplays Jesus’ davidic identity. What does that word mean? Is it Jesus’ last name? Or the Davidic Messiah, Israel’s King? (Same goes for “God’s Son,” a royal reference if ever there was one; 2 Sam 7:14; Psalm 2; Matt 16:16, etc.)