[Life of Christ] Why Don’t the Genealogies Match Up? (Part One)

Download the Worksheet for this lesson here.

Having examined (at least partially) the heavenly existence of Jesus before He was born to Mary, it now behooves us to look into what God was doing to make sure Jesus had an earthly existence. And not just any earthly existence, but the right one.

Fortunately, Matthew and Luke both give us the answer. Unfortunately, they don’t give the same answer. But both are inspired, so let’s examine them and see what we can learn from the two distinctly different genealogies of Jesus, and whether there is any way of reconciling them with each other.

Matthew’s Introduction (Matthew 1:1)

The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham (Matthew 1:1).

Matthew’s gospel opens with a thesis statement for his readers—Jesus is the long-awaited Messiah, the one who was promised to Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3), and the one who was promised to David (2 Samuel 7:4-17).

Matthew was written to a primarily Jewish audience.[1] If Jesus was the Messiah, the Christ (as Matthew affirms in his first verse by calling Him Jesus Christ), then he was obligated to prove He was of the right pedigree.

Abraham to David (Matthew 1:2-6a)

Abraham fathered Isaac, Isaac fathered Jacob, and Jacob fathered Judah and his brothers. Judah fathered Perez and Zerah by Tamar, Perez fathered Hezron, and Hezron fathered Ram. Ram fathered Amminadab, Amminadab fathered Nahshon, and Nahshon fathered Salmon. Salmon fathered Boaz by Rahab, Boaz fathered Obed by Ruth, and Obed fathered Jesse. Jesse fathered David the king.

Matthew gives his Jewish readers a brief reminder of the ancestry of David, starting with Abraham. Nothing here would have given them much surprise, as it all comes straight from Old Testament Scriptures. But as a reminder, he lays it out for them.


God promised Abraham that through his seed, all nations of the earth would be blessed (Genesis 12:1-3). Paul, when writing to the Galatians, made clear that when God said “seed,” he meant “seed.” Singular. Not seeds, as though this was a reference to the Jewish race, but seed, a single individual (Galatians 3:15-18).


Abraham (then still names Abram) complained to God that he had no child, and that his head servant was his heir. God’s reply was, “this man will not be your heir, but one whom you father will be your heir” (Genesis 15:4-5). After the fiasco leading to Abraham having a child, Ishmael, with Sarah’s servant, God reiterated that His promise was of a legitimate son, born to Sarah. That son was Isaac.

God gave Isaac the same promise he gave Abraham: “…in your seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed” (Genesis 26:4b).


Jacob and Esau were the only two children (and twins at that) born to Isaac. Thus, the promises God made to Abraham and reiterated to Isaac had to go through one of the two. Jacob manipulated his hungry brother out of his birthright (as Esau was the oldest), and then outright stole the blessing from him (Genesis 27). But he could not steal the promise that God had given to Abraham and Isaac. That was something that was given to him knowingly by Isaac and God. Isaac said:

God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful, and multiply you so you may become a multitude of people, and give the blessing of Abraham to you and to your seed with you, that you might inherit the land wherein you are a stranger, which God gave to Abraham (Genesis 28:3-4)

And God reiterated it:

God said to him, “Your name is Jacob. Your name shall not be called Jacob anymore, but Israel shall be your name.” And He called his name Israel. And God said to him, “I am God Almighty. Be fruitful and multiply. A nation and a company of nations shall be from you, kings will come from your loins. And the land which I gave Abraham and Isaac, I will give it to you and to your seed after you” (Genesis 35:11-12).


Jacob (Israel) had twelve sons, the fourth of which was Judah. The first three sons (Reuben, Simeon, and Levi) lost the chance at being the seed by their own actions.[2] Regardless, at the end of Jacob’s life, he gave blessings and predictions about each of his children. Judah (whose name means “praise”) received this specific blessing:

Judah, you whom your brethren shall praise. Your hand will be in the neck of your enemies. Your father’s children will bow down before you. Judah is a lion’s whelp. From the prey, my son, you have gone up. He stopped down, he crouched as a lion, and as an old lion; who shall rouse him up? The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh comes; and to him shall the gathering of the people be. Binding his foal to the vine, and his donkey’s colt to the choice vine; he washed his garments in wine, and his clothes in the blood of grapes. His eyes shall be red with wine; his teeth white with milk.

Remember, as part of the reiteration of God’s promise to Abraham, God told Jacob, “kings will come through your loins.” Jacob now clearly says that promise is going through Judah.


Matthew mentions Judah’s son s Pharez and Zerah (twins), as well as their mother, Tamar. That whole situation is filled with brokenness, as Tamar was Judah’s daughter-in-law who pretended to be a prostitute to get him to impregnate her.[3] We aren’t told specifically which child the promise would go through, but we are definitely given a hint when Pharez’ descendants are named, but Zerah’s are not (Genesis 46:12; Numbers 26:20-21).

Hezron, Ram, and Amminidab

Outside of their names, and that they are the next three generations after Pharez, we know very little about three men. Ram’s name only appears in genealogies—if not for them, we wouldn’t even know he existed!

We know one very interesting fact about Amminidab, however. He was the father-in-law of a very famous Israelite—Aaron, the first high priest of Israel, and also Moses’ brother (Exodus 6:23).

It is pretty safe to assume that Amminidab was considered an important man in the tribe of Judah.


Nahshon was chosen by God to stand with Moses as they began to number the people (Numbers 1:1-4, 7). He was called “captain of the sons of Judah” (Numbers 2:3). He was the official representative of Judah in offering sacrifices to God, called a “prince” by God, and selected to be the first of all Israel to bring the sacrifices and offerings (Numbers 7:10-17).

It is pretty easy to see the promise went through Nahshon.


Given who his father was, it is probable that Salmon was well-respected and a leader in Judah. The only fact we know about Salmon (outside of strict genealogical details) is that he married a Canaanite woman—a (former) prostitute named Rahab. We can presume from this that Salmon was not racist, and that he understood God’s law against intermarriage with Gentiles to be a reference to heathen Gentiles, not to Gentiles who wholeheartedly turned to God.

Here we need to bring up an important fact: the Old Testament doesn’t say Salmon was married to Rahab. Matthew is the only biblical writer to mention this fact. But this had to be something the Jews already knew (via tradition, at the very least), otherwise Matthew damages his own credibility by seeming to make up something, trying to insert a new name into the story that really doesn’t help his cause any.

As Salmon is the only named son of Nahshon, the Jews would (rightly) assume the seed promise goes through him.


Boaz first appears as a wealthy, older man who is very caring. And like his father, he does not view all non-Jews as filthy, unclean enemies. He is not just willing to marry Ruth, a Moabite widow, but announces it publicly before the city leaders, even though he risks another man taking her by doing so.[4]

As Boaz is the only named son of Salmon, the Jews would (rightly) assume the seed promise goes through him.


We know nothing about Obed, except for where he fits in the geological line. But as he is the only named son of Boaz, the Jews would (rightly) assume the seed promise goes through him.


As the only named son of Obed, Matthew’s Jewish readers would (rightly) assume the seed promise went through him. Outside of being a shepherd, and being a father of several sons, nothing else is known about him.


David was the youngest son of Jesse, but the one whom God chose to be king after Saul, because David was a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:13-14; 16:7, 11-13). God promised Jacob kings would come from him. Jacob prophesied “the scepter shall not depart from Judah.” And now we finally have the first king from the line of Judah. Therefore it is abundantly clear that the promise to Abraham goes through David.

God promised David:

“When your days are complete and you are buried with your fathers, I will raise up your seed after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be a father to him and he will be a son to Me; when he commits iniquity, I will correct him with the rod of men and the strokes of the sons of men, but My lovingkindness shall not depart from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. Your house and your kingdom shall endure before Me forever; your throne shall be established forever” (2 Samuel 7:12-16).

Through this promise, God made it clear His promise to Abraham went through David, and through the royal descendants who would rule on the throne.

Solomon through Jechoniah (Matthew 1:6b-11)

Matthew breaks down his genealogy into three sections (Abraham to David; David to the captivity; the captivity to Jesus—see Matthew 1:17). And since we’ve already discussed David, let’s move on to his son.

David fathered Solomon by Bathsheba who had been the wife of Uriah. Solomon fathered Rehoboam, Rehoboam fathered Abijah, and Abijah fathered Asa. Asa fathered Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat fathered Joram, and Joram fathered Uzziah. Uzziah fathered Jotham, Jotham fathered Ahaz, and Ahaz fathered Hezekiah. Hezekiah fathered Manasseh, Manasseh fathered Amon, and Amon fathered Josiah. Josiah fathered Jeconiah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.


The man with the most wisdom in the Old Testament almost didn’t become king. In fact, his very existence should not have happened. David basically raped a married woman, got her pregnant, tried to hide what he did by having her husband come back from war (but he refused to go home when his fellow-soldiers were still fighting), then finally ordered her husband’s death, then married her. To say David sinned with Bathsheba seems to cheapen the word “sin.”

It is from this new should-never-have-happened marriage that Solomon was born. Near David’s death, another of his sons tried to take the throne. It took a death-bed pronouncement from David to seat Solomon (then quite young) on the throne.

God appeared to Solomon, asking him to make a request. Solomon didn’t ask for money or fame, but for wisdom and understanding so he could rule well and judge rightly (1 Kings 3:5-9). While Solomon had wisdom and understanding, and could apply it well to the people, he didn’t apply it to himself. Like Salmon and Boaz, Solomon was not racist. Unlike Salmon and Boaz, Solomon didn’t care about the religious convictions of his wife—oops, I mean wives (700 of them, not counting his concubines). He let his wives (Ammonites, Moabites, Edomites, Zidonians, Hittites, and Egyptians) lead him into worship of false gods—and Solomon even built temples to these gods in Jerusalem![5]


Rehoboam was a prideful young man who refused to listen to the counsel of the older, wiser counsellors who said Lower the taxes, and the people will be with you. Instead, he listened to his ignorant friends who told him to Raise the taxes and show them you (as the government) are in charge! Because of this, the kingdom of Israel split, leaving Rehoboam with just two tribes under his authority: Judah and Benjamin.


Abijam’s reign was short (three years), and he was wicked. But, because of God’s promise to David, the line was not cut off—showing the promise was still remembered by God, and was still going through the royal line.[6]


Asa reigned longer than Saul, David, or Solomon. He reigned 41 years, and started out well. He removed the sodomites from the land, destroyed the idols his fathers (which would include Solomon) had made, and even removed his mother from a place of power because she had made an idol. But when the northern kingdom of Israel erected a blockade against him, he took treasures from the temple and sent them to Syria to buy their help—instead of seeking help from the Lord. God sent a prophet to Asa to chastise him for not relying on God—so Asa threw him in prison. Then in his 39th year as king, he got a painful disease in his feet, but refused to ask God for help, replying only on doctors.

But God apparently had mercy on him and gave him grace, for we are told, “Asa’s heart was perfect with the LORD all his days” (1 Kings 15:14) and “[Jehoshaphat] walked in the way of Asa his father, and departed not from it, doing that which was right in the sight of the LORD” (2 Chronicles 20:32).


Surprisingly, there is a lot written about Jehoshaphat in 2 Chronicles, extolling his faithfulness to the LORD. My personal favorite statement is: “his heart was lifted up in the ways of the LORD” (2 Chronicles 17:6). He organized a kingdom-wide Back-to-God movement, sending princes and Levites across the nation of Judah to read and explain the Law of Moses to the people (2 Chronicles 17:7-10). These reforms caused Judah to gain great power and prestige and peace.

It is interesting that we are only told of one thing that displeased the LORD. And it wasn’t that he teamed up with the super-wicked king Ahab to go to battle against Syria. It was that he joined himself with Ahaziah (Ahab’s son) to make ships to go get gold. It was because of Ahaziah’s wickedness, and Jehoshaphat’s willingness to still work with him that the ships were destroyed—neither of them prospered in that venture.[7]


Jehoram was the firstborn son of Jehoshaphat, but he did not follow his father’s example. After taking the throne, he murdered all of his brothers. He then married Ahab’s daughter, built new high places of pagan worship, and “he wrought that which was evil in the sight of the LORD.”[8]

It was so bad that God sent Elijah (who normally just worked in the northern kingdom of Israel) to tell him off and prophecy bad things for him.

Thus says the LORD God of David your father, “Because you have not walked in the ways of Jehoshaphat your father, nor in the ways of Asa, king of Judah, but have walked in the way of the kings of Israel, and have made Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to go a whoring, like the whoredoms of the house of Ahab, and have also murdered your brothers of your father’s house, who were all better than you—Behold, the LORD will smite the people, and your children, and your wives, and all your possessions with a great plague. And you will have great sickness because of a bowel disease, until your bowels fall out because of the sickness, day by day.”

All the enemies Jehoshaphat had put down started to rise up, and God smacked Jehoram with an incurable bowel disease that lasted two years.

But you want to know how awful Jehoram was? Check this out:

So he died of horrible diseases. And his people made no fire for him like they did for his fathers. He was 32 years old when he began to reign, and he reigned in Jerusalem for eight years, and departed with no one’s regret. They buried him in the city of David, but not with the kings (2 Chronicles 21:19-20).

But even with all this, “the LORD would not destroy the house of David, because of the covenant he had made with David, and because He promised to give a light to him and to his sons forever” (2 Chronicles 21:7).

The Missing Kings…

It is guessed that Matthew was trying to make things easy to memorize, by dividing the genealogy from Abraham to Jesus into three groups of 14. But by doing so, he had to skip some of the rulers of Judah. It’s important to note that he isn’t saying these people didn’t exist. But as his readers would have already known their history, he could easily skip some generations and the point would still be made: The promised King came through this line. They knew that Uzziah was the great-great grandson of Jehoram.

In case you’re curious, Matthew skipped Ahaziah (a wicked king who died after a year in power), Athaliah (Ahaziah’s mom, who tried to kill off all the royal seed so she would have no challengers to the throne), Joash (the kid who became king after the priests killed Athaliah—he started off good, but his story is heart-breakingly bad at the end), and Amaziah (who “did what was right in the sight of the LORD, but not with a perfect heart,” 2 Chronicles 25:2).


Uzziah started reigning at 16 years old, and “did that which was right in the sight of the LORD” (2 Chronicles 26:4). Zechariah the prophet was a very positive influence on the young king (who reigned a massive 51 years). His reign was marked by faithfulness to God and victory over Judah’s enemies. Until Uzziah got too big for his britches. He let the victories and the blessings from God go to his head.

I think (note: that means this is my opinion) Uzziah, out of gratitude and a heartfelt desire to show God praise, did what got him in trouble. He went into the temple, because he wanted to personally offer incense to God on the altar of incense—inside the temple. Azariah the priest, along with 80 warrior-priests, went in to stop him. They pointed out to him, You aren’t authorized by God to burn incense to the LORD. Only the consecrated priests are.[9]

As a result of his presumptuous worship (doing what God had not authorized), he was stricken with leprosy all the way to his head, and was “thrust out” by the priests. He died as a leper.


Jotham only reigned 16 years (dying at age 41), but was faithful to God. I love how the writer of 2 Chronicles puts it:

And he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his father Uzziah did, except he didn’t enter into the temple of the LORD… Jotham became mighty because he prepared his ways before the LORD his God (2 Chronicles 27:2, 6).


Ahaz was a wicked king who built new idols, sacrificed to false gods, and even burnt his children alive in pagan sacrifices (2 Chronicles 28:1-4). Under his reign, Judah was subjugated to Israel, got whipped by Edom, invaded by the Philistines, and when he tried to get Assyria to help (with a large cash bribe), they came and distressed Judah instead. (2 Chronicles 28:16-21). Even in the face of all this, he refused to turn to the LORD, instead going after the gods of Syria (2 Chronicle 28:22-23).


Hezekiah made great reforms in Judah, destroying the pagan shrines and altars, and pushed people to worship the one true God. In the midst of an Assyrian invasion, he trusted in God and prayed for deliverance, which God granted. He restored proper worship at the temple, and caused the people to once again celebrate the Passover.

After several years, Hezekiah became sick, and was told by Isaiah that it was terminal. Hezekiah prayed to God, and asked for healing based on his faithfulness to God. His prayer was granted, and Isaiah returned to tell him he had 15 more years of life. During those 15 years, Hezekiah seemed to start taking the LORD for granted. When emissaries from Babylon came to congratulate him on getting well, Hezekiah showed them all the gold and the armory, and took all the credit for the wealth and power of Judah—ignoring God in the process. As a result, God promised (through Isaiah) that Babylon would come wreck Judah and take Hezekiah’s descendants captive.[10]


If you only read the account in 2 Kings, Manasseh is clearly the most wicked king Judah ever had. Starting from when he became king at age 12, he tried to undo every reform his father had enacted.

[He] did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, like the abominations of the heathen, who the LORD had cast out before the children of Israel. For he built the high places again which his father, Hezekiah, had broken down, and he built up idols for Baals, and made Asherim, and worshiped all the hosts of heaven, and served them. Also he built altars in the house of the LORD, of which the LORD had said, “In Jerusalem shall my name be forever.” And he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the LORD. And he caused his children to pass through the fire in the valley of the son of Hinnom. Also, he observed times and used divination, used witchcraft, practiced sorcery, and dealt with mediums and spiritualists. He did much evil in the sight of the LORD to provoke Him to anger” (2 Chronicles 33:2-6).

He “shed very much innocent blood, till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to the other” (2 Kings 21:16). Because of this, God said:

Behold, I am bringing such evil upon Jerusalem and Judah that whoever hears of it, both their ears will tingle. And I will… wipe Jerusalem like a man wipes a dish, wiping it and turning it upside-down (2 Kings 21:12-13).

Manasseh was taken captive by Assyrians, who carried him chained to Babylon. But during this time of humiliation and distress, Manasseh finally woke up from his spiritual stupor to see what he had been doing. He prayed in humility to God, and the LORD brought him back to Jerusalem, where Manasseh worked feverishly to undo everything he had done, removing the idols and chucking them out of the city, rebuilding the altar of the LORD, and offering sacrifices and thank offerings to the LORD. The influence of the king was enough to get the people to leave behind idol worship, and to exclusively worship the LORD, but it wasn’t enough to get them to forsake the high places where they used to offer pagan worship.[11]


Amon wasn’t a fan of his dad’s repentance. When Amon took the throne, he reenacted all the pagan worship his father tried to destroy. Thankfully, his reign was short, as the Jews were so disgusted by his actions that they assassinated him after two years.


Josiah may be the best king Judah ever had—including David. He destroyed all the idols and places of pagan worship in Judah—including leveling the high places. He ordered repairs be made to the temple. And when in the process they found the Law of Moses (how do you lose that?!?), they brought it to him, and he immediately called for national repentance and rededication. His leadership, enthusiasm, and instructions had amazing results: “All his days, they [the Israelites] did not depart from following the LORD, the God of their fathers” (2 Chronicles 34:33).

They celebrated the Passover properly, and Josiah provided all of the Passover lambs for each family present.

There was no Passover like it in Israel from the days of Samuel the prophet; nor did any of the kings of Israel keep such a Passover as Josiah did, with the priests, Levites, and all Judah and Israel that were present, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 35:18).

Sadly, Josiah was killed in battle with Pharaoh Necho.

The Other Missing Kings…

Matthew sees no need to include Jehoahaz, son of Josiah, who reigned 3 months before being deposed by Egypt. Eliakim, another son of Josiah, changed his name to Jehoiakim and reigned 11 years before being taken captive to Babylon.


Also known as Jehoiachin and Coniah, Jeconiah reigned three months before Babylon took him captive. When this happened, God declared the end of the Kingdom of Judah—so far as an earthly king goes. God through Jeremiah said:

Is this man Coniah a despised, shattered jar? Or is he an undesirable vessel? Why have he and his descendants been hurled out And cast into a land that they had not known? O land, land, land, Hear the word of the LORD! Thus says the LORD, “Write this man down childless, A man who will not prosper in his days; For no man of his descendants will prosper sitting on the throne of David or ruling again in Judah” (Jeremiah 22:28-30).

Jeconiah died in Babylonian captivity, but was treated well, and ate at the king’s table. Though the throne was no more, the promises to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and David still remained.

From Captivity to Jesus (Matthew 1:12-16)

After the deportation to Babylon: Jeconiah fathered Shealtiel, and Shealtiel fathered Zerubbabel. Zerubbabel fathered Abihud, Abihud fathered Eliakim, and Eliakim fathered Azor. Azor fathered Zadok, Zadok fathered Achim, and Achim fathered Eliud. Eliud fathered Eleazar, Eleazar fathered Matthan, and Matthan fathered Jacob. Jacob fathered Joseph the husband of Mary, by whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah.

The last section of the genealogy would only have a few familiar names to the Jewish readers, but the rest could easily be verified at the temple, where genealogical records were kept. Additionally, it is not outside the realm of probability that people would have known who was a part of the “royal” descendants, as heritage was a huge deal for the Jews.


The only times Shealtiel’s name is mentioned in the Bible is describing his relationship with someone else. He is the son of Jehoiachin (Jechoniah), and father of Zerubbabel.


Zerubbabel, as part of the royal line, was installed as governor of Judah after Cyrus the Great allowed the Jews to return to their land. He worked together with Jeshua the high priest to rebuild the temple (from the foundation to the completion)[12] and encourage the people to worship God (Ezra 2:3, 8; 5:2). He is mentioned by Ezra, Nehemiah, Haggai, and Zechariah—all of whom he worked with.

He served God faithfully, and a prophecy was made by Haggai which shows the promise to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and David went through him.

Speak to Zerubbabel governor of Judah, saying, I am going to shake the heavens and the earth. I will overthrow the thrones of kingdoms and destroy the power of the kingdoms of the nations; and I will overthrow the chariots and their riders, and the horses and their riders will go down, everyone by the sword of another. On that day, declares the LORD of hosts, I will take you, Zerubbabel, son of Shealtiel, My servant,” declares the LORD, “and I will make you like a signet ring, for I have chosen you,” declares the LORD of hosts (Haggai 2:21-23).

For more interesting reading on Zerubbabel, check out Zechariah 4.

The Rest of the Names through Jacob

Outside of the fact that they are the royal line, nothing is known about these men. But that they are the royal line is absolutely important.


Joseph was a righteous man. He had to be to be chosen by God to raise His only begotten Son, Jesus. We will discuss him more in depth in a later lesson. But suffice it to say, he was a kind, thoughtful man who followed God faithfully. Certainly he sinned, but not with rebellion or with knowledgeable intent.

It is important to note that the genealogy says “Jacob fathered Joseph, the husband of Mary…” This is not a genealogy of Mary. This is not a genealogy tracing how Jesus got His physical DNA, his features, etc. This is a genealogy showing the legal claim of Jesus to be the heir of David, the King of the Jews, the Messiah. Jesus was, legally, the son of Joseph, and was regarded as such, even by Mary (Luke 2:48). Thus He had the legal, legitimate right to claim to be King of the Jews, heir to the throne of David.

What does this mean for us today?

Perhaps most strikingly, it shows God can use flawed, broken, and even wicked people to bring about His desired will. That doesn’t mean the wicked people will be honored, but that God can and will keep His promises, even in spite of those wicked people.

It shows God can use you to accomplish His will. If He can use the crazy, broken, sinful folks listed above, he can certainly use you!

It shows God has always been willing to accept those who turn to Him in faithful repentance and obedience–whether Jew (like Manasseh) or Gentile (Rahab, Ruth). That means you can come back to Him.

It shows Jesus has the absolute legal claim to the promise given to David, which was based on the promise given to Jacob, Isaac, and Abraham.

It shows that genealogies can be interesting!

[1] See Lesson One for more information on this.

[2] Reuben had sex with his father’s concubine, Bilhah (Genesis 35:22). Levi and Simeon slaughtered the inhabitants of Shechem after the prince of that city raped their sister (Genesis 34). Jacob’s final words bears this out (Genesis 49: 1-7).

[3] The sad and disconcerting story takes place in Genesis 38.

[4] Read the short book of Ruth for the details.

[5] 1 Kings 11:1-8.

[6] 1 Kings 15:1-5.

[7] 2 Chronicles 20:35-37; 1 Kings 22:48.

[8] 2 Chronicles 21:6

[9] 2 Chronicles 23:17-18.

[10] This is told in Isaiah 38-39.

[11] 2 Chronicles 33.

[12] Zechariah 4:9-10.

Chronological Life of Christ (002a) – Considering Christophanies

Since this study is focused on the Life of Jesus as a human, we won’t be spending much time dealing with the potential Christophanies (appearances of Jesus before His incarnation) in the Old Testament. But here are some places you might look to see what Jesus was doing between Creation and His first Coming.

Fair warning, there are a variety of opinions on which of these (if any) are actual Christophanies. But there is enough evidence to convince a large number of Bible students that these might be pre-incarnate appearances of our Lord.

The Angel of the LORD

It is thought by many that the Angel of the LORD in the Old Testament is a pre-incarnate version of Jesus. One of the main reasons is that the Angel (literally Messenger) of the LORD makes claims to deity and takes credit for doing what is elsewhere ascribed to Jehovah.

It is the Angel of the LORD who appeared to Moses in the burning bush, whose presence caused even the dirt to become holy (Exodus 3:2-5).

It is the Angel of the LORD who spoke to Abraham and said, “now I know you fear God, because you have not withheld your son, your only son from me” (Genesis 22:11-12).

It is the Angel of the LORD who spoke to Hagar and said, “I will multiply your seed” (Genesis 16:9-10).

It is the Angel of the LORD who said to the Israelites, “I made you go out of Egypt, and have brought you to the land which I swore to your fathers; and I said, I will never break my covenant with you…. But you have not obeyed my voice. Why have you done this? Therefore I also said, I  will not drive them out from before you…” (Judges 2:1-4).

There are many other passages, but this sampling should suffice to get the point across.

The Captain of the LORD’s army

In Joshua 5, the new leader of Israel saw “a man” confronting him, sword drawn. Joshua asked, “Are you for us or our adversaries?” The reply was, “No, but as Captain of the LORD’s host [army] I have come.”

If it stopped there, one might think this is just a high-ranking angel. But it doesn’t end there.

Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and worshipped, and said to him, “What says my lord to his servant?”

So Joshua appears to worship this person, and calls himself the servant of this man, who he calls “lord” (Hebrew, Adoni). But the response from the Captain of the LORD’s army seals the deal for many:

“Take off your shoe from your foot, because the place on which you stand is holy.”

What being is so amazing that even the dirt becomes holy when He is present?


This interesting biblical character shows up once in Genesis, is mentioned in Psalms, and then some very interesting things are said about him in Hebrews.

  • Melchizedek blesses Abram (better known as Abraham), and the greater always blesses the lesser (Hebrews 7:7)—thus Melchizedek was greater than Abraham (Genesis 14:18-19).
  • Melchizedek is the king of Salem, which, being translated, means “King of peace” (Genesis 14:18; Hebrews 7:2).
  • Melchizedek brought out bread and wine (some believe this prefigures the Lord’s Supper) (Genesis 14:18).
  • Jesus was made a priest after the order of Melchizedek (Hebrews 6:20; Psalm 110:4). Would Jesus’ priesthood be after a human order?
  • Melchizedek was both king and priest (Hebrews 7:1).
  • Melchizedek was “without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days nor end of life; but made like the Son of God; he abides a priest continually” (Hebrews 7:3). Some claim this means he didn’t get his priesthood from his ancestry—and they may be right—but that isn’t what it says.
  • His priesthood was greater than the Levitical priesthood, because through Abraham, Levi paid tithes to Melchizedek (Hebrews 7:9-10).

It must be noted, for the sake of showing both sides, that Hebrews 7:11 and 15 both say Jesus is “another priest” after the order of Melchizedek.

Some concluding thoughts on Christophanies

We know for certain that Jesus (as the Logos) was actively involved in Creation. We know for certain that He was born and lived a life as a human. If the above possibilities are not appearances of Jesus prior to His incarnation, then we really have no idea what He was doing for the thousands of years between Creation and Incarnation. Certainly He wasn’t sitting in heaven, twiddling His thumbs. He had to be doing something. And perhaps some of the above give us part of the answer.

Chronological Life of Christ (002) – The Pre-Incarnate Christ

[Please send any corrections, clarifications, suggestions, or expansions that you think will make this better. When this work is published, I will include your name in the back of the book under “Special Thanks.” I appreciate it!]

Download the accompanying worksheet here.

(John 1:1-3)

It is difficult to find a good way to describe Jesus before He was Jesus. He didn’t have that name given to Him until after He was born (Matthew 1:21, 25). The same thing goes with calling Him the Son, because (regardless of what Catholic theologians claim) He did not take on a role as son until he was born.[1] It seems that John understood the potential conundrum when he began his gospel account.[2]

In the beginning was the Word

John is intentionally echoing Genesis 1:1, which starts, “In the beginning, God…” With that, and what John brings up in verses 2 and 3, it is obvious that the “beginning” under consideration is the beginning of creation. But it is more interesting even than that.

In Greek, often they leave out the definite article (in English, it is the word “the”) when there is only one of something. John actually wrote, “In beginning was the Word,” because there is only one beginning. And it is the same in Genesis 1:1—literally, “In beginning, God…”

So, not only was God [the Father] present at the beginning of creation, but so is the Word. This means the Word pre-dates time. Before anything was created, the Word existed.

Some ancient Greek writers (specifically Heraclitus) popularized the idea that everything in creation came from and was hold together by the Logos, the Greek word John uses for Word. The Stoics grabbed onto this idea, and taught that events were not random, but that they were orchestrated by the Logos. They believed the Logos is what gave someone the concept of right and wrong.

Philo, a Jewish philosopher from Alexandria Egypt, a couple hundred years before Jesus’ birth, posited that the Logos was the Reason of God. William Barclay summarizes Philo’s views this way:

In Alexandria there was a Jew called Philo who had made it the business of his life to study the wisdom of two worlds, the Jewish and the Greek. No man ever knew the Jewish scriptures as he knew them; and no Jew ever knew the greatness of Greek thought as he knew it. He too knew and used and loved this idea of the Logos, the word, the reason of God. He held that the Logos  was the oldest thing in the world and the instrument through which God had made the world. He said that the Logos was the thought of God stamped upon the universe; he talked about the Logos by which God made the world and all things; he said that God, the pilot of the universe, held the Logos as a tiller and with it steered all things. He said that man’s mind was stamped also with the Logos, that the Logos was what gave a man reason, the power to think and the power to know. He said that the Logos was the intermediary between the world and God and that the Logos was the priest who set the soul before God.[3]

So when John wrote, “In the beginning was the Word …” he was using language and ideas which were well-known in both Greek and Jewish worlds. Much like the Apostle Paul used the Athenians’ worship of “the unknown God” to teach the truth about God and Jesus, John uses the pre-existing ideas of “the Logos” as a starting point to teach the same thing.

And the Word was with God

If you just read this part, you might get the impression that there were two separate entities at creation: one of them was God, and the other was not God. But that isn’t what we see (especially as we read the rest of the verse).

The word translated “with” always shows some kind of connection. The same word (pros, in case you’re interested) is elsewhere translated against (…lest you should dash your foot against a stone”) and among (“…they began to enquire among themselves, which of them it was that should do this thing). In each of those instances, it shows a connection or interaction.

We could legitimately translate this section, “the Word was connected to God [the Father],” or “was together with God [the Father].”

But all confusion is cleared up—or ought to be—with the last part of John 1:1.

And God was the Word.

You probably did a double-take when you saw how I worded the last part of verse 1 above. I did it that way because, literally, that is how the Greek reads. Literally, in order, it says God was the Word.

Greek is a funny language. The order of words in a Greek sentence doesn’t matter—unless you want to emphasize a specific word, in which case you put it first (like “Blessed are the pure in heart…”). You could have a 17-word sentence, and the subject might end up being the last word in the whole thing.[4] So why bring this up?

The subject of the last part of John 1:1 is The Word. But the word God is put first in order, meaning the God-ness of the Word (the Logos) is what John is emphasizing.

So, who is this mysterious Logos, the Word? That answer is simple enough, because verse 14 says:

“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”

Who is called “God with us” (Matthew 1:23-25)? Who is called God’s “only begotten Son” (John 3:16)? The Word is how John describes Jesus.

If you’ve ever seen a Jehovah’s Witness Bible (the New World Translation), you may have seen how they mistranslate this verse to say, “And the Word was a god.” Note the lower case g and the insertion of the indefinite article a. They had to do this if they wanted to hold on to their belief that Jesus was not God, but was created by God. But whether or not it should be translated as the God, or a god completely misses the point. John is stressing the nature of Jesus as deity, not trying to identify Him as the Father.

Paul says it this way:

Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God [or “being in very nature God”], did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped [held onto] (Philippians 2:5-6).

All this to say, John 1:1 shows that Jesus (as the Word/Logos) existed before creation, that He was in intimate connection with the Father, and that He was deity.

The same was in the beginning with God.

John repeats the information to make sure we get the point that Jesus didn’t just come into existence when He was born to Mary. Jesus existed before any human beings existed, for He was “in the beginning with God.”

All things were made by Him.

The Greek word translated “all” is quite interesting. It means all. When John says “all things were made by Him,” that means everything. No exceptions. Everything that was created was created by the Word.

The word “made” means “brought into being.” That means it didn’t exist before, but that the Word/Logos brought it into existence.

Jesus, thousands of years before He would wear the name “Jesus,” was creating the planet He would later call home (for 33 years), creating the food He would eat, creating the mountains He would pray on, creating the human beings that would be His ancient ancestors.

And lest we miss the point that Jesus, as the Word, created everything, John says the same thing in a different way:

And without Him, no created thing was created.

The King James Version says it this way:

And without Him was not any thing made that was made.

Of all the created things, there is not one—not a single one—that was created without Jesus creating it.

This creates quite the conundrum for the Jehovah’s Witnesses, for they claim Jesus was created. The only way that could be true, according to John, is if Jesus—before He existed—created Himself. Absurd.

What does this mean for us today?

John opens his gospel account with a clear declaration and defense of Jesus’ pre-existence and deity. He later quotes Jesus as saying, “Verily, verily I say to you, ‘Before Abraham was, I, I AM’” (John 8:58)[5]—Jesus Himself claiming to pre-exist Abraham, and also using the name Jehovah gave back in Exodus 3 at the burning bush: “Thus shall you say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me’” (Exodus 3:14).

John also shows Jesus saying, “Unless you believe that I, I AM, you shall die in your sins” (John 8:24).[6]

All this together means that if we want to be saved, an absolute requirement is believing in the pre-existence of Jesus and the deity of Jesus. Jesus made that a prerequisite for salvation.


[1] There are some theologians in the past who claimed Jesus didn’t become God’s Son until His baptism, after which God declared, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased” (Matthew 3:17). This is most frequently found among Unitarian groups, but it is by no means a universal belief among them.

[2] There is nothing wrong with referring to Jesus before He became Jesus as “Jesus” or “Christ,” because Paul did that very thing in Philippians 2:4-5.

[3] Barclay, William, Daily Study Bible: John (e-Sword edition), notes on John 1:1.

[4] If you want to learn more about how the Greek language works, check out The Original Essentials of New Testament Greek by Ray Summers (coming soon from Cobb Publishing).

[5] The Greek here is ego eimi. Literally, it is I (ego) I AM (eimi).

[6] Most translations say, “unless you believe that I am He, you shall die in your sins.” But there is no word in the Greek of this verse for “he.” Jesus literally says, “Unless you believe that I (ego), I AM (eimi), you shall die in your sins.”

The Greatest Dream Interpreter?

Read through the Old Testament, and you will find people sometimes receiving messages from God via dreams. And more often than not, they had no idea what the dream (or dreams) meant. To understand it, they needed someone to do dream interpretation.

Pharaoh had two crazy dreams, and was very disturbed by them—one of them involved seven anemic cows eating seven fat cows, but still looking skinny and malnourished—and it took Joseph to come along and interpret them, telling him what they meant (seven years of plenty followed by seven years of massive famine). Nebuchadnezzar had a dream that troubled him so much he was going to kill all the wise men in Babylon if he didn’t get an answer about what the dream meant—and it took Daniel to come along and interpret it for him (see Daniel 2 for all the details).

There are other instances of this throughout the Old Testament, and when you read the dream, followed by the interpretation, it usually makes sense. You can see why the seven fat cows, eaten by the seven skinny cows, could represent seven years of plenty wiped out by seven years of massive famine. Same thing with Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. So, once you get the interpretation, you can see how it fits with the dream.

But I would like to offer to you the person who just might have had the most insanely crazy-good skills of dream interpretation in the whole Bible. But first, two facts about him: (1) he wasn’t an Israelite, and (2) we don’t know his name.

In Judges7, the Midianites conquered Israel, and God tells Gideon to take them down. Gideon, however, very unsure of himself, requests multiple signs. The evening before the battle, God gives him an extra one, just to finally get him ready to go. God told Gideon to go sneak into the Midianite camp, and listen. So he does. And here’s what he hears:

…a [Midianite] man told a dream to his fellow[soldier], and said, “Look, I dreamed a dream. A loaf of barley bread rolled into the host of Midian, and hit a tent, turning it upside down, and it fell flat.”

His fellow[soldier] answered, “This is nothing else except the sword of Gideon, the son of Joash, a man of Israel: for God has delivered Midian and all its army into his hand” (Judges 7:13-14).

So… One guy says, I saw a loaf of barley bread roll down a hill, and the other guy says, That’s absolutely Gideon, who is going to kill us all. I really have no idea how you get that interpretation from the dream which was provided. Even knowing the interpretation, I can’t see how rolling bread gives you the name, the father’s name, and the ethnicity of a skittish guy with no military background, and declare he is going to defeat you.

So to you, anonymous Midianite guy, I say, “Well done!” on that interpretation job. Of course, all the Midianite army was killed, so it didn’t really end happily for that guy. Oh well.

Bradley S. Cobb

Chronological Life of Christ (001) – Why Four Gospels?

[Note: Please comment with any corrections, clarifications, questions, or additional points you think should be added. Lord willing, this series will eventually become a book–and if you help me out by commenting on it, I will make sure to include your name in the “Special Thanks” section of the book when it is finished!]

[Second Note: There is a handout that goes with this study, the pdf of which can be downloaded here: Life of Christ (Worksheet 001).]

Beginning the Study:
Why Four Gospels?

Before we can do a study of the chronological life of Christ, we have to answer the question, Why are there four different gospel accounts? That question includes other questions, like, Why didn’t God just use one? Why is some information included in one and left out in another? Why don’t some of the accounts of (supposedly) the same event agree with each other?

In order to answer these questions (and they need to be answered before we do a serious study of the life of Christ), we will take a brief look at each gospel and find out what makes it different from the others, and most importantly why.

Some people make accusations against the Bible, accusing it of contradictions because quotes are given differently by different gospel writers, because different people are identified in certain scenes, or even because sometimes the same (so they claim) incident seems to take place in different places in the various accounts. On the other hand, when the accounts agree almost verbatim, the same critics accuse the writers of colluding and copying, and therefore say they aren’t trustworthy. Tell you what, that’s a great job if you can get it—if they agree, you can’t trust them; if they disagree, you can’t trust them… I win!

Let’s say you see a car crash, and the police request you to write down what happened. Are you going to remember every single detail? Of course not. Now imagine they found another witness, and asked them to do the same thing. Are they going to write the same thing you did, word for word? Do you think there might be some details they include that you didn’t? Now let’s assume there is a third witness, who is close friends with one of the drivers—do you think their account will vary slightly in some details from yours? And lastly, let’s assume the police officer takes interviews with the witnesses and writes down an account of what happened—will his account be identical to any of the others? Each witness (and the police officer) write what happened, but it is from a slightly different perspective, bringing their own background in, causing them to notice things that the others might not have noticed—and yet each can still be called reliable witnesses.

Each of the gospels has a different starting point, a different audience, and a different vantage point. But they each tell the same story of our glorious Savior!


Even just a surface reading at the first gospel account lets you know, This guy like the Old Testament. Matthew constantly references the Law of Moses, the Psalms, and the Prophets, usually by saying something akin to, “this happened so that it might be fulfilled what was written by the prophet…” The constant references to the Old Testament as proof for Jesus as the promised King, the Messiah, would have only been important to one group of people—the Jews.

It is commonly accepted by almost every Bible student and scholar that Matthew wrote his gospel account to a Jewish audience. He wanted his fellow countrymen to believe in Jesus as the promised King, and so wrote with that thought in mind. In fact, some of the earliest surviving Christian writings after the time of the apostles make this same point.

The earliest evidence says Matthew wrote this gospel account within a decade of Jesus’ death. Why does this matter? For one, it is quite possible that it was written and circulating amongst Jewish Christians even before Gentiles (starting with Cornelius) were welcomed into the church. Unlike Luke, Matthew doesn’t go out of his way to show Jesus’ compassion and interaction with Gentiles—don’t get me wrong, Matthew does include some interactions, but it isn’t as obvious as it is in Luke, who wrote after Gentiles were welcomed into the church.

Matthew also wrote as an eyewitness. Certainly, some of the things he recorded were things relayed to him by other apostles (or by direct revelation from God), but remember that he saw most of these things, heard Jesus talking, and his gospel account was a testimony to the Jews of the truthfulness of Jesus as the Messiah.

Matthew begins his account with a genealogy—and modern readers scream No!!!!!!!!!!!!! But he starts here because it traces the lineage of Abraham—God promised Abraham that his seed (descendant) would bless the whole world. It goes to Isaac and Jacob—God reiterated this promise to each of them. It goes through Judah—prophecy was made that “the scepter [kingship] will not depart from Judah.” It then traces to David—God promised a descendant of David would rule forever. And it includes Zerubbabel—God promised this man he was the one through whom the promised King would come.

This genealogy shows Jesus was (1) an Israelite, and more specifically (2) a Jew [of the tribe of Judah], (3) a direct royal descendant of David, and (4) a legal heir to the throne. Each one of these items was essential to establish to gain credibility with Jewish readers interested in hearing about Jesus.

Matthew also spends an inordinate amount of space dealing with the corruption of the Jewish religious leaders—specifically the scribes and Pharisees (see chapter 23)—and the impending destruction of Jerusalem (see chapters 23-24). The other writers address these things, but not to the extent that Matthew does, because of his audience.


My oldest daughter read the first three chapters of Mark one day, and said it was very fast-paced. You’ll notice that the word “immediately” (or if you use the KJV, straightway) shows up a lot. Mark didn’t spend an awful lot of time dealing with details and discussions, but showed Jesus as a man of action. This is because his audience expected it.

It is generally agreed that Mark wrote to a Roman audience. They liked action, action, action. If you counted up the words of Jesus in Matthew, and divided that in half, it’d still be more than Mark records. But Mark shows Jesus as a man on the move, someone who is always doing something.

The Romans were used to extremely biased biographies. Once, when a new Caesar ascended the throne, a biography was produced that said “The gospel [good news] of “ that Caesar, “son of ____” [one of the Roman gods]. Of course, this was a lie to build up the mythos around the Caesar. But notice how Mark begins: “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, Son of the God.” (though most translations don’t include it, the Greek says “the God.”)

We know Mark isn’t writing to Jews, even though he himself was one, because he actually translates Hebrew/Aramaic phrases for his readers. Additionally, there are a couple places where Mark actually uses Latin words—and doesn’t translate or explain them, which implies his original audience was at least familiar with Latin.

While Matthew begins with a genealogy, then the miraculous birth of Jesus, Mark starts with the ministry of John the Baptizer, leading very quickly to the baptism of Jesus at 30 years old. No extensive background or backstory here.

Mark spends more time, as a percentage of the whole book, dealing with the last week of Jesus’ life than any of the other authors. And all of this is because he knew his audience.


Luke wrote 25% of the New Testament, which is quite impressive, especially since he was (1) not an eyewitness, and (2) a Gentile. Luke’s audience seemed to be more Greek-influenced. Luke focuses more on Jesus’ interaction with the poor, with women, and with Gentiles. Being a physician, Luke also had an eye for detail, giving more specific words for certain medical ailments than other writers, describing more of Jesus’ agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, etc.

Luke has also been called a “first rate historian” by a one-time atheist who fully intended to disprove the Bible. Luke shows Jesus as a real person, in a real place, and at a specific time (just read the beginning of Luke 3 to see the amount of historical detail Luke gives).

Luke interviewed several eyewitnesses to the events he records (almost certainly including Mary, the mother of Jesus), as well as checking some of the already-in-circulation gospel accounts, which would certainly include Matthew, and perhaps Mark. And with divine guidance from the Holy Spirit, he organized the information in a predominantly chronological order (with one flashback explaining why John the Baptizer was in prison).

Luke begins with the miraculous conception of John the Baptizer, followed quickly by the miraculous conception of Jesus. Luke is the only author who describes Jesus being taken to the Temple as an infant, and the only one who gives us any words and actions of Jesus between His birth and His arrival to be baptized by John (see chapter 2).

Luke also gives a genealogy of Jesus, but if you compare it with Matthew’s, you’ll notice some differences: (1) Matthew’s goes forward to Jesus, Luke’s goes backwards from Jesus, (2) Matthew skips some generations, Luke doesn’t. But most startlingly, (3) Matthew gives a different genealogy from David to Zerubbabel, and from Zerubbabel to Joseph than Luke does. We will deal with those differences when we get there. Suffice it to say, Luke chose to give a (still-accurate) genealogy that would hit home for his readers—which was different from the one Matthew chose.


As far as the life of Jesus goes, Matthew starts with the birth of Christ, Mark starts with the baptism of Christ, Luke starts with the announcement of the conception of Christ. But John outdoes any of them—he starts with the life of Jesus before creation!

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Hearkening back to Genesis 1:1, John shows Jesus as more than just a man, but as the loving God who became flesh (John 1:14).

John’s audience appears to be more general than the others. His whole purpose in writing was not to give all the places Jesus went, the people He met, or the miracles He performed. John wrote to help people believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God (John 20:30-31). So he wrote to support this aim.

After showing the pre-existence of Jesus, he moves to just after Jesus was baptized, with John the Baptizer pointing out, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.”

John’s account contains a lot of information not found in the other three accounts, including Jesus’ first miracle (water into wine), the first time He cleared out the Temple, His own baptizing of others (through His disciples, He didn’t do it personally), the raising of Lazarus, and several others. John seems to focus more on things Jesus did in Judea, while the other writers spend more time on His ministry in Galilee.


  • Matthew wrote to show the Jews that Jesus was their long-awaited King.
  • Mark wrote to show the Romans that Jesus was the true Son of God (unlike the Caesars).
  • Luke wrote to show the Greeks the humanity and compassion of Jesus the man.
  • John wrote to show the world that Jesus is the loving God in the Flesh who died to take away sin.

Each of the four purposes show up in all four gospel accounts to a lesser degree, but these are (generalized) the main thrusts of each of the four gospel accounts.

What does this mean for us today?

God thought it was important—perhaps even necessary—to give us four different gospel accounts, each with a different focus, a different audience, and a different writer’s viewpoint. This fact alone shows us different people will respond to different approaches. To reach the Jews, Matthew showed Jesus as the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy—but that would have meant next to nothing to Mark’s Roman readers (Mark as narrator only refers to the Old Testament twice).

The Chronological Life of Christ

By request, we have just begun studying the chronological life of Christ on Wednesday evenings here in Charleston, AR.

This is a challenging study, because you have to combine all four gospel accounts into a single narrative, which can be fraught with difficulties. Each of the biographers of Jesus were writing from a different point of view, with a different audience in mind, and with different purposes and focuses as a result.

But there is always merit to studying the life of our Savior, whether it be studying a single gospel account, or combining all four into a Gospel Omnibus, so to speak.

Lord willing, I will be posting the lesson notes each Wednesday, starting on the 8th of this month.

The first lesson is Why Four Gospels?

I hope you enjoy!

-Bradley S. Cobb

Secret Things

[Note: As I am reading through the Bible this year (NASB-95 this  time), I am making notes on passages about things I don’t recall noticing before. I will be sharing these probably once a week for the forseeable future.]

Deuteronomy 29:29 is a great verse. It says, “the secret things belong to the LORD.” I mean, that’s not all it says, but that’s the part we remember and hear about the most. When we hear that, it reminds us God didn’t give us every bit of information we might want to know. After all, it isn’t faith if there isn’t some things we just have to trust God about.

But unfortunately, I think we have grabbed on to this part of the verse and missed the whole point of what God was saying here because we take it out of context.

This verse comes at the end of an 82-verse-long warning (yes, you read that right, 82 verses of warning) of what will happen to the Israelites if they don’t keep God’s commands. Punishments, destruction, forsakenness, and much more are detailed by Moses to the people as incentives to stay faithful to God, to learn and meditate on His commandments. If you were to read through those 82 verses, you would get a definite sense of “we’d better be faithful and keep God’s commandments, because the punishment for not doing so is bad—very bad.”

Then, at the end of this message that God through Moses is hammering home, we get the words, “The secret things belong to the LORD our God; but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, so we might do all the words of this law.”

If you want to know what this verse is really saying, according to the context, let me tell you. Moses is standing there, warning the people, and when he gets to this verse, the message is, Sure, there are some things God hasn’t chosen to reveal to us, but this isn’t one of them—you’ve been given sufficient warning.

The purpose isn’t to say God is keeping secrets, but to get them to obey because of what has already been revealed.

There are things that even today God has chosen not to reveal (such as when Jesus will return). But He has revealed enough for us to know His will, the blessings and rewards that come with obeying Him, but also the punishments that come with ignoring His will. In other words, we are without excuse.

So, are you following what has been revealed?

-Bradley S. Cobb

Want to save money on great brand-new books?

I haven’t died. I am still around, trying to juggle family, work, life, a business, etc. But I will be posting here regularly soon. That is one of the things on my 2023 to-do/goal/resolution list. So keep an eye out for new material!

In the meantime, I have scoured Amazon and discovered that they have heavily discounted (and I mean HEAVILY) some of the books we’ve published, because they have too many on-hand. So, I share these links with you.

Fair warning, once they sell their on-hand copies, the price will go back up to regular.


Old Apologetics for a New Age (Mark Tabata) – $10.32 (36% off the cover price)

Autobiographies of Gospel Preachers

A Rambling Remembrance: A Record of My Life (Earl Kimbrough) – $6.22 (56% off the cover price)

Memories and Musings Along the Way – Extra Anecdotes (Earl Kimbrough) – $4.66 (67% off the cover price)

My Way of Thinking: Wit and Wisdom of F.D. Srygley (Compiled by Earl Kimbrough) – $8.20 (45% off the cover price)

Bible Study

Evenings with the Bible, Vol. 2 (Isaac Errett) – $9.44 (21% off the cover price)

The Christian Expositor (Barton W. Stone) – $9.87 (29% off the cover price)

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The Turner Boys in the Mystery of Jesse James’ Gold (Craig Waddel) – $6.64 (45% off the cover price)

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Getting the Most Out Of Your Bible Class (Dorothy Pensoneau) – $4.37 (37% off the cover price)

The One True Church (Dorothy Pensoneau) – $6.39 (38% off the cover price)

The Model Church (G.C. Brewer) – $4.46 (50% off the cover price)

The Current Issues – on the non-institutional movement (Foy E. Wallace, with a rebuttal by his son) – $7.55 (16% off the cover price)


Justified by Works: A Commentary on James (Bradley S. Cobb) – $9.50 (32% off the cover price)

Exposition on the Epistle to the Hebrews (James Haldane) – $6.54 (50% off the cover price)

Wait, Not THEM! A Commentary on Habakkuk (Bradley S. Cobb) – $4.85 (19% off the cover price)


The Wallace-Stauffer Debate on Infant Baptism and the Lord’s Supper – $5.31 (24% off the cover price)

The Oliphant-Smith Debate on Atheism and the Existence of God – $7.47 (17% off the cover price)

Carpenter-Hughes Debate on Universalism$13.11 (18% off the cover price)

Denominational Doctrines

A Handbook of Historical Briefs – What Baptist Scholars Say About Baptist Doctrine (forward by Thomas B. Warren) – $4.77 (52% off the cover price)

History of the Baptists in the Southern States – A Baptist Scholar admits they were wrong to oppose the Restoration efforts of Alexander Campbell, among other interesting things – $7.14 (35% off the cover price)

Devotional Books

There is a River (Vol. 2) – A Collection of articles to encourage the growing Christian (Roy Knight) – $8.96 (10% off the cover price)


Three-Square Evangelism (John Krivak) $6.26 (30% off the cover price)

No Coincidence – the autobiographical true story of the conversion of a stubborn woman (Tammy Dean) $5.68 (37% off the cover price)

Quickening Ceres – Apologetics and the true plan of salvation laid out in a futuristic sci-fi novel (Kevin Micuch) – $5.37 (64% off the cover price)

Growing as a Christian

True Worship: Knowing God by Developing a Closer Relationship with Him (Danny E. Davis) – $7.68 (15% off the cover price)

Restoration Movement Books

Deep in the Heart of Texas: The Life of J.D. Tant – $8.76 (41% off the cover price)

Early Relation and Separation of Baptists and Disciples – $4.42 (56% off the cover price)

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Shall We Do Away with the Church? (by Theodore Roosevelt)

In the latest issue of the Quarterly, we discuss some things that were taken from an article by Theodore Roosevelt, published in the Ladies Home Journal of October 1917. Because some will undoubtedly want to see the article itself, we are including it here for reference. We do not agree with everything he wrote here, but nevertheless we believe there are important and noteworthy things stated in this article (which some have said was his most important writing ever).

So, enjoy!

Shall We Do Away with the Church?

Theodore Roosevelt

RELIGIOUS formalism has been the enemy of religion from the days of the Pharisees to the days of those ultra-sabbatarian formalists who would turn the Christian Sunday into what they imagine the day was when the formalist priests of the Temple at Jerusalem revised the Mosaic law, in sharp antagonism to the prophets. Nevertheless, in this actual world a churchless community, a community where men have abandoned and scoffed at or ignored their religious needs, is a community on the rapid down grade.

It is perfectly true that occasionally individuals or families may have nothing to do with church or with religious practices and observances and yet maintain the highest standard of spirituality and of ethical obligation.

But this does not affect the case in the world as it now is, any more than that exceptional men and women under exceptional conditions have disregarded the marriage tie without moral harm to themselves interferes with the larger fact that such disregard if at all common means the complete moral disintegration of the body politic.

In the pioneer days of the West we found it an unfailing rule that after a community had existed for a certain length of time either a church was built or else the community began to go downhill. In these old communities in the Eastern States which have gone backward, it is noticeable that the retrogression has been marked and accentuated by a rapid decline in church membership and work: the two facts being so interrelated that each stands to the other partly as a cause and partly as an effect.

This has occurred not only in the “poor white” sections of the South, but in the small hamlets of the “abandoned farm” regions of New England and New York. As the people grow slack and dispirited they slip from all effective interest in church activities; and the building up of a strong country church or Young Men’s Christian Association in such a community often has an astonishing effect in putting such virile life into them that their moral betterment stimulates a marked physical betterment in their homes and farms.

FOR all those whose lives are led on a plane above the grimmest and barest struggle for existence church attendance and church work of some kind mean both the cultivation of the habit of feeling some responsibility for others and the sense of braced moral strength which prevents a relaxation of one’s own fiber.

The household in which Sunday is treated merely as a day for easy self-indulgence does not on that day offer an attractive spectacle. Nor in such a household is what occurs on that day a healthy stimulus toward right living for the children. In such a household the master of the house generally rises late. That is all right if his staying in bed means rest for him without meaning added work for somebody else. But, having risen, he merely dawdles half-dressed, smokes and reads the Sunday papers, lounges around the place if nothing more attractive offers itself, and finally goes off to the club or other lounging place.

The mistress of the household meanwhile, if like her spouse, stays in bed, too, with the Sunday paper, or with a cheap magazine or a cheap novel; then also lounges around the house before fully dressing, and finally visits or receives visits from some other women who also regard slipshod absence of effort as the proper characteristic of the day.

The case is not bettered if the heads of the family possess more energy but use it merely for their own selfish enjoyment, as, for instance, if they habitually spend the entire day in the motor, or take part in some form of dress parade, or visit brightly lighted restaurants.

I SERIOUSLY doubt whether people such as these even achieve their purpose. I doubt whether the frank pursuit of nothing but amusement has really brought as much happiness as if it had been alloyed with and supplemented by some minimum meeting of obligation toward others. There are enough holidays for most of us which can quite properly be devoted to pure holiday making, and there are plenty of men and women whose week-day work is, on occasion, so exhausting that Sunday should then only be a day of rest and recreation for them; and we need have scant sympathy with the sour-hearted people who deny the former truth or do not understand the latter. But, as with all general laws of conduct, we are not primarily concerned with the exceptions: we are concerned with the ordinary cases.

In ordinary cases, as regards most men and women, the performance of their duties to the church, to themselves and to others, on Sunday, represents merely such “toning up” of their systems as will enable them to profit more by rest and amusement during the remainder of the day. Sundays differ from other holidays—among other ways—in the fact that there are fifty-two of them every year! The proper conduct for other holidays may be treated in itself as an exception. For Sunday it must be treated as a rule—a rule properly subject to exceptions, and perhaps to numerous exceptions— but a rule, nevertheless.

THEREFORE, on Sunday go to church. Yes—I know all the excuses. I know that one can worship the Creator and dedicate oneself to good living in a grove of trees, or by a running brook, or in one’s own house, just as well as in church. But I also know that as a matter of cold fact the average man does not thus worship or thus dedicate himself. If he stays away from church he does not spend his time in good works or in lofty meditation. He looks over the colored supplement of the newspaper; he yawns; and he finally seeks relief from the mental vacuity of isolation by going where the combined mental vacuity of many partially relieves the mental vacuity of each particular individual.

If toil is not exceptionally but habitually exhausting, so that the man when released from it at nightfall of each day or at the end of the week can do nothing but sink exhausted into a kind of lethargy from which he rouses himself only to meet the task of the new day or the new week, then there is something wrong in the social system so far as he is concerned; and the churches should take the lead in the effort to diagnose and remedy the wrong.

But if he has merely worked healthily hard, and is healthily tired, it will be from every standpoint an excellent thing for him to begin his Sunday by going to church. This means that he and all his family will have been up for breakfast—later than usual, very possibly, and quite properly, but in time to avoid that feeling of slackness and of being at loose ends which will demoralize anyone who habitually begins the day by spending a couple of hours more than he needs in bed, and then by lounging around the house half-dressed and doing nothing.

HE MAY not hear a good sermon at church. But unless he is very unfortunate he will hear a sermon by a good man who, with his good wife, is engaged all the week long in a series of wearing and humdrum and important tasks for making hard lives a little easier; and both this man and this wife are in the vast majority of cases showing much self-denial and doing much for humble folks of whom few others think, and keeping up a brave show on narrow means. Surely the average man ought to sympathize with the work done by such a couple, and ought to help them; and he can’t help them unless he is a reasonably regular church attendant. Otherwise he is an outsider, and is felt to be such, and the part he plays in useful church activities, in service by the church to its members and to the community at large, is only the part which an outsider can play.

BESIDES, even if he doesn’t hear a good sermon, the probabilities are that he will listen to and take part in reading some beautiful passages from the Bible. And if he is not familiar with the Bible he has suffered a loss which he had better make all possible haste to correct. Moreover, he will probably take part in singing some good hymns. He will meet and nod to, or speak to, good, quiet neighbors.

If he does not think about himself too much he will benefit himself very much, especially as he begins to think chiefly of others. And he will come away feeling a little more charitably toward all the world—even toward those excessively foolish young men who regard churchgoing as rather a soft performance, and feel superior and cynical when they utter, at the expense of some among the churchgoers, jeers and gibes which may be true, but which with even more truth can be applied to at least as large a percentage of any other groups of poor, erring human beings.

I ADVOCATE a man’s joining in church work for the sake of showing his faith by his works: I leave to professed theologians the settlement of the question whether he is to achieve his salvation by his works or by a faith which is only genuine if it expresses itself in works. Micah’s insistence upon loving mercy and doing justice and walking humbly with the Lord will suffice if lived up to; and Amos and Isaiah and the Psalms, and the Gospels and Paul and James will furnish sufficient instruction for both the men who are simple enough and the men who are wise enough. Let the man not think overmuch of saving his own soul; that will come of itself, if he tries in good earnest to look after his neighbor, both in soul and in body —remembering always that he had better leave his neighbor alone rather than show arrogance or tactlessness in the effort to help him.

The church, on the other hand, must fit itself for the practical betterment of mankind if it is to attract and retain the fealty of the men best worth holding and using. The betterment may come in many ways. The great exhorter or preacher, the Billy Sunday or Phillips Brooks, the priest or clergyman or rabbi, the cardinal or bishop or revivalist or Salvation Army commander, may, by sheer fervor and intensity, and by kindling some flame of the spirit which mystics have long known to be real and which scientists now admit to be real, rouse numbed consciences to life and free seared souls from sin; and then the roused conscience and the freed soul will teach the bodies in which they dwell how to practice the great law of service.

Such stormy awakening of the spirit, though often of high usefulness, loses all savor unless, in the times of calm which follow, the workaday body makes good in its round of life and labor the promise given by the spirit in its hour of stress.

FAR more often the betterment must come through work which does not depend on the gift of tongues, but on persistent labor conducted with wary wisdom no less than with broad humanity. This may take the old form of individual service to the individual; of visiting and comforting the widow and the fatherless and the sore-stricken. It may take the form of organized charity—a form not merely beneficial but absolutely essential where a dense population increases the mass of suffering and also the mass of imposture and of that weakness of will which, if permitted, becomes parasitic helplessness; but a form which needs incessant supervision lest it lose all vitality and become empty and stereotyped so as finally to amount to little except a method of giving salaries to those administering the charity.

Under the tense activity of modern social and industrial conditions the church, if it is to give real leadership, must grapple zealously, fearlessly and cool-headedly with these problems. Unless it is the poor man’s church it is not a Christian church at all in any real sense. The rich man needs it, heaven knows, and is needed by it. But unless in the church he can work with all his toiling brothers for a common end, for their mutual benefit and for the benefit of those without its walls, the church has come short of its mission and its possibilities. Unless the church in a mining town or factory town or railway center is a leading force in the effort to secure cleaner and more wholesome surroundings, moral and physical, for the people, unless it concerns itself with the people’s living and working conditions, with their workshops and houses and playgrounds, it has forfeited its right to the foremost place in the regard of men

By their fruits shall ye know them! We judge a man nowadays by his conduct rather than by his dogma. And, to keep its hold on mankind, the church must, as in its early flays, obey the great law of service; for the church shall not live by ceremonial and by dogmatic theology alone.

There are plenty of clergymen of all denominations who do obey this law; they rentier inestimable service. Yet these men can do but little unless keen, able, zealous laymen give them aid; anti this aid is beyond comparison most effective when rendered by men who are themselves active participants in the work of the church. Therefore every man who is a Christian at all should join some church organization—whether his orthodoxy is of the old-fashioned kind or whether his intellectual needs can best be met by Bade’s “Old Testament in the Light of To-day,” or his desire to work met by connection with such a body as Charles Stelzle’s Labor Temple.

INSISTENCE upon the new work imposed by the new conditions does not in the least mean abandonment of the old work —any more than in a public school the creation of a Boy Scout company means the abandonment of baseball. The Sunday-school class, the Men’s Bible Class and the like should be as prominent as ever.

Only, they must not represent the only activities, and membership in them should be accepter) not as excusing the participants from square treatment of others, but as grounds for believing that they will take the lead in and set the standard for disinterested, upright and earnest labor for their fellows. They create a fine feeling of fellowship.

Surely if our churches are not democratic the root of the matter is not in us; and therefore the church is beyond all other places that in which men of every social grade and degree of wealth should come together on a footing of brotherhood and of equality of rights and obligations.

In that place arrogance and envy are equally out of place; in that place every sincere man should feel stirred to exceptional effort to see questions at issue as his brother sees them, and to act toward that brother as he would wish, under reversed conditions, the brother to act toward him.

Surely half of our labor troubles would disappear if a sufficient number of the leaders on both sides had worked for common ends in the same churches, Young Men’s Christian Associations or other like organizations, and approached one another s positions with an earnest desire to understand them and, understanding, respect them.

One important thing for the layman interested in church work to do is to make the church an instrument for securing the healthy happiness of young people. The influence of the Puritan has been most potent for strength and for virtue in our national life. But its somber austerity left one evil: the tendency to confuse pleasure and vice, a tendency which, in the end, is much more certain to encourage vice than to discourage pleasure.

Let every layman interested in church work battle against this tendency. Let him proceed on the assumption that innocent pleasure which does not interfere with things even more desirable is in itself a good; that this is as true of one day of the week as of another; and that one function of the church should be the encouragement of happiness in small things as well as in large.

NO GENERAL rules can be laid down in such a matter; the customs and feelings and peculiar conditions of each community must be taken into account and so far as possible respected. I have known a village baseball nine which, after church on Sunday afternoons, held games in a field a mile away and was a potent help in keeping young men out of the “blind pig” saloons; and, on the other hand, I have seen Sunday professional baseball in a big city become a source of demoralization. Personally I believe that dancing, like all other healthy and proper pastimes, should be encouraged in the parish house; and this because 1 dread the professional dance hall, where liquor can be obtained and where foolish young girls go with foolish or vicious young men, while there are no older men and women to look after them.

If the natural desire of young people for pleasure is not given a healthy outlet it is only too apt to find an unhealthy outlet.

The man who does not in some way, active or not, connect himself with some active, working church misses many opportunities for helping his neighbors, and therefore, incidentally, for helping himself.

Notes on 2 John 12-13 (Comments and Critiques Welcome)

Conclusion (12-13)

(12) Having many things to write unto you, I would not write with paper and ink: but I trust to come unto you, and speak face to face, that our joy may be full.

Having many things to write to you…

This letter is extremely short. Here, at the end of the letter, John is saying there are several things he could have added to the letter.

I’m not willing to write them with paper and ink

Another way of saying this is that there were many things he could have added, but he didn’t want to write them. The reason for this is made quite clear when he says he wants to come speak to them face-to-face. There are some things much better said face-to-face instead of in a letter.

But I trust that I will come to you and speak face to face

When you speak face-to-face with someone, as opposed to through a letter (or text message, or email, or some other written form of communication), it shows you care. Also, in person your tone, body language, and emphasis comes through. John may have had something very unpleasant things to say to them (see 3 John 9-10). John may have needed to talk to them about some things difficult to understand (see 2 Peter 3:15-16). He may have needed to have a discussion with them, to ask them questions and understand some things going on there. All of these things are much easier to do in person than by letter.

John had confidence, trust, he would be able to come see them. It is certain John prayed about it (James 4:15). We should follow the same example.

So that our joy may be full

The purpose of John’s planned face-to-face visit was to bring joy to them and to himself. We are given a clue in verse 4 about this. John rejoiced that the Christians were walking in truth. However, he didn’t say “all” of the Christians were walking in truth. Some of them were, but others were not. His plan was to go visit them, and possibly bring the wayward back to Christ. This would cause him great joy, but also bring great joy to the congregation as well. John’s joy always seems to center on the truth being followed (see also 1 John 1:1-4, especially verse 4).

(13) The children of thy elect sister greet thee. Amen.

The children of your elect sister greet you.

Since the “elect lady” of verse 1 is the church (perhaps specifically the congregation in Jerusalem), the “elect sister” would be the congregation where John was. Her children would be the members of that congregation.

They all send their greetings. This is the same word translated “salute” in Romans 16:16 (the churches of Christ salute you). It is more than just saying “hi.” It’s a greeting of friendship and fellowship.


This means “so be it,” or “I agree.” However, it is also used at the end of some of the Biblical letters to bring the letter to a close. It is a final re-emphasis of what’s been said, and showing John meant all of it.