Monday, December 17, 2012

Jeconiah One and Two

Recently I made a vid on TektonTV about the so-called "curse of Jeconiah" (see below). Someone with the apparent mind of a fundamentalist left a comment with a rather ridiculous alternate solution -- that there were two Jeconiahs, and the one in Jesus' genealogy wasn't cursed.

This type of solution comes close to madness. Why not expand it?

Did Judas hang himself, or explode in a field? 

Oh, no problem. Jesus had two disciples named Judas who each betrayed him for 30 pieces of silver; one hung himself, the other exploded, and in two different fields that both ended up called "Field of Blood". Yep. And the cock crowed nine times, too.

How did this guy find a second Jeconiah, though? It's pretty lame, and as you might expect, shows a remarkable lack of grasp of how ancient genealogies worked. 

He first makes much of the fact that Matthew 1:11 says, "Josiah begot Jeconiah and his brothers about the time they were carried a way to Babylon." Then he points out that in Jeremiah 22, Jeconiah is the son of Jehoiakim. Conclusion: Two different Jeconiahs. Add derps, stir, and half-bake at 350 degrees for an hour to make a delicious fruitcake.

As we've noted in several articles, ancient genealogies were normally "fixed" at specific numbers of generations. That meant that every time a new generation was added, another was dropped, which inevitably leaves gaps. The commentator is therefore left without the ability to argue, based on Matthew, that there was a Jeconiah One (son of Josiah) and a Jeconiah Two (grandson of Josiah). It's just a contrivance of the nine-crowings order.

There's only one Jeconiah -- a grandson of Josiah, as affirmed as well by 1 Chron. 3:15. Matthew has dropped out one generation, which is simply normal practice for recording genealogies. This answer is simple and in accord with known practices of the ancient world, and does not require inventing Jeconiah Two out of thin air to resolve the question.

The commentator is in even more of a bind with 1 Chronicles 3, since it makes it clear that there was just one Jeconiah -- a grandson of Josiah. So how does he deal with this? With yet another contrivance.

Four people are listed in 1 Chr. 3:15: Johanan, Jehiakim, Zedekiah, and Shallum. He notes that Jehoiakim's name was changed, and was originally Eliakim. (2 Kings 23:34) He also notes a name change to Zedekiah, who used to be Mattaniah (2 Kings 24:17). Finally, he argues for a name change to Shallum; I am not as certain of this one, since it is only inferred, but it would not need to have happened for the argument to be pursued.

So what of this? He rambles in non sequitur fashion, the one son of Josiah left for him to cover -- Johanan -- must have had his name changed to Jeconiah. Though he admits that unlike the other three names, there's no evidence for this, except maybe...uh, Matthew 1:11. Nothing like circular reasoning for good exercise.

However, that lack of mention is really quite significant. The renamings were made by conquering kings, and were a device indicating their dominance over the royal family. The renaming of Johanan, had it actually happened, would not simply be completely left out, as it is part and parcel of the theme of how the Jews were paying for their disobedience by becoming subject to foreign powers. 

At the same time, it grossly begs the question of the theory to suppose that of the name change did happen, it must have been a change to the name "Jeconiah". Moreover, the two names changes we are assured happened, both happened because the two renamed men were made kings by the conquerors. When did Johanan become king?

So what happened to Johanan? As the firstborn, and prince of the king, he'd be out on the front lines fighting Egypt, Babylon, and whoever else came running with spears -- where he'd get killed rather easily. Or, as firstborn, he may have been considered a choice morsel to bring back as a prisoner. Or really, in this age when the average lifespan was 35, and high infant and child mortality rates were the rule, odds are that with 4 kids, Josiah would have at least one that simply never saw too many birthdays. Given Johanan's notable lack of ascension to the throne -- his inalienable right as firstborn -- any of these three explanations are highly likely contextual solutions that dispense with the need for Jeconiah Two, and are also in accord with the comparative silence on the subject of a name change for Johanan. They are also representative of explanations offered by scholars for why no more is said of Johanan. The idea that he was given Jeconiah as a nome de plume does not appear on any scholarly radar that I can find.

In light of all this, it is rather laughable and arrogant for this commentator to state that "for whatever reason, most people, and even many Bible scholars, have completely overlooked this most obvious conclusion. " He supposes they have not "fully researched" the issue. That the scholars might be a little brighter than this is not even considered.
He ofers one final attempt to justify his absurd conclusion, pointing out that Matthew refers to "brothers" in the plural, even though 1 Chronicles 3 says there was just one brother. Ergo, Jeconiah Two again.
Well, it's rather amazing that this person who merely invents Jeconiah Two doesn't have the temerity to just invent some more brothers for Jeconiah. This isn't wholly impossible, actually; if Jeconiah had some "bad" brothers, they'd get knocked out of official genealogies as readily as people today get knocked out of final wills for being bad. But it's also not necessary. As is usual for this age, familial language had a wider semantic range than we would assign, and "brethren" here is able to cover a lot of ground. In this case, as Robert Gundry (a highly reputable and erudite scholar who, despite a magisterial commentary on Matthew, has evidently not "fully researched" the issue) offers the point that "brothers" in 1:11 would most naturally carry the national sense of "fellow Jews" -- which makes rather a lot of sense given that the small circle of relatives of Jeconiah were far from the only ones carried into captivity.

Frankly, I wish such people as this commentator would stop inventing "just me and my Bible" explanations like this one, and start applying contextual solutions. Otherwise they're just giving us all extra work defending their incompetencies from atheists.

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