I don't want to get into a protracted debate with you on this. I fear it will give a skewed impression of my position on the issue. I call the type of argument I am using for Jesus' genealogy the "common practice" argument. Or sometimes I call it the "common man" argument. You will actually find me criticizing people who use "common practice" arguments because I think they are sometimes abused, so I need to explain myself.
IMO, "common practice" is justified when it supports the claim of a text. For example, suppose only one document claims that a certain victorious Roman general was given a garland of laurel to wear. I don't think any historian would dispute the claim, even though it is not corroborated. Why? Because the claim fits with "common practice". If, instead, the document claimed the general had worn a pink bow in his hair, the historian would ask for corroboration. But he would not say: it didn't happen. Nor would he say: there is no evidence. He would simply say: the evidence is not corroborated. The historian's skepticism is obvious by the choice of statements he uses, but he is also careful not to make too strong a denial (more on that later).
It is invalid
to use "common practice" to deny
that something happened. The historian should not say: the general didn't wear a pink ribbon because it wasn't common practice. Why? Well. Someone has to be first. Someone had to be the first to wear a garland, and it wasn't common practice when he did that. If that logic is acceptable, one could say: it is not common practice for poor, self-educated men from Illinois to become President, therefore Lincoln was not President.
And yet, what did we find the "Jesus Seminar" doing? One example I recall is a denial of a scriptural passage attributed to Jesus. Why? Because the passage indicated a highly educated man, and it was not "common practice" for tradesman from backwater Nazareth to be educated in that manner.
Second, I don't think "common practice" can support aggressive claims (and here we finally come to my first point). I openly acknowledge that my claim about Jesus' genealogy rests on a fragile argument. I don't want to give the impression that (in historical terms) it is more than it is. I can't give a good definition of what "agressive" is, but it would be agressive to claim the "common practice" argument historically proves Jesus' genealogy. In addition, I openly admit that my faith makes me optimistic in matters like this - optimistic beyond what the evidence supports. I only wish others would acknowledge that their beliefs make them skeptical beyond what the evidence (or lack thereof) is really saying. But, I do have good reason to be optimistic. I can cite examples from the record. The most famous example is that of the Hittites. Biblical criticism in the nineteenth century reached a frenzied height where people were making all kinds of claims about what didn't exist and where the Bible was false. The first egg-on-the-critic's-face incident was corroborating archaeological evidence that the Hittites did indeed exist as a people. After that, one item after another was discovered, and people's claims about what didn't exist became more and more muted. The list of items where once the Bible was the only source, but which have now been corroborated include: David, Belshazzar, Pilate, Caiphas (and this one is very
recent). There are probably others, but those are the ones that came quickly to mind. There is also evidence that something happened in Egypt that fits nicely with Genesis/Exodus. Whether it is an inkling of Joseph's or Moses' encounter with Pharoh, the evidence is not strong enough to make claims ... but then I'm an opitmist in these matters. Even if that isn't the one that comes to light next, I fully expect that we will continue to find supporting evidence for the Bible.
So, even though I won't say I've proven anything, I will say the evidence is enticing enough to go looking for corroboration rather than to dismiss it as myth, inaccuracy, or whatever.
Given that, here is why I think you are too skeptical.
Didymos Thomas wrote:
Take, for example, the supposed lineage of European nobility - I have been to the castles where statues were erected of supposed ancestors, these would include Roman Emperors and so forth, people who were most certainly not ancestors of the nobles.
You are right. It is likely many of these claims are false. But to assume that because most
of them are false that it follows all
of them are false would be a mistake. If we have the capacity and the desire, we should search for more evidence. In the meantime, we don't say: there is no evidence. All we can say is: the claim is not corroborated. But you did
say there is no evidence:
Didymos Thomas wrote:
Believe what ever suits you, but without evidence ...
As a further example, while rejecting Jesus' genealogy as not historical, at the same time you are making claims about the Jews rejecting Jesus' kingship. From what sources do you draw to make that claim? The same source you are rejecting with regard to his genealogy. I find that contradiction revealing about your attitude toward the whole matter.
And I still say you are stretching your conclusions too far. Those same texts make it clear that the Jews were confused on this issue. Jesus was not claiming an earthly kingdom, but a heavenly kingdom. That was the point being made by the gospel writers. From there you might claim it was an attempt to cover up what was really happening, but again you would be undermining the very document you're trying to use to build your argument. Could it not be that it was the Jews who were lying? I still say they weren't denying his genealogy. But suppose they were. Why is their claim any more truthful than that of Jesus? Especially when, earlier, they were grumbling about Jesus, saying he wasn't a prophet, saying: isn't this the son of Joseph (the same Joseph who traveled to Bethlehem for the census because he was from David's lineage).
Didymos Thomas wrote:
It's easy to find information on this. Check up on the Synoptic Problem. Theories differ, but the most prominent theories have something to do with Gospel writers using earlier Gospels as base texts for writing new Gospels.
So, finally, we come to this. I assume you made such a brief statement because you know I've already studied this issue. I expect neither of us will convince the other to change their opinion. But even then I find this a weak statement. I asked for evidence, and you replied by noting theories - and theories that don't even agree with each other. I think the claim that one gospel is derived from another is born from overwrought skepticism.
But, I know this reply has become overlong, and I started off by saying I didn't want this to be a protracted debate. Even if you don't agree, I hope my point has come through. From there I hope we can start to wind this down.