Should We Do Away With The Genealogies?

Does Paul tell us to do away with the genealogies in Matthew, Luke, and elsewhere?

Each time I look through the Skeptic’s Annotated Bible I leave wondering what all the hoopla is about. It really isn’t all that useful, it’s largely outdated, and at times it even blatantly lies to its readers. Case in point, it raises an objection to the authorship of 1 Timothy by stating that, “Although First Timothy claims to have been written by Paul, many scholars believe that it was written after his death.” And who are these “many scholars” that argue this? We only find a single footnote referring to Bart Ehrman.

If not the annotated Bible, then what sources could skeptics use for their research? Let’s compare commentary notes on 1 Timothy 1:4 where Paul warns Timothy not to heed fables and genealogies. We’ll quote the SAB and a popular New Testament scholar.

Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do.” (underline added by the Skeptics Annotated Bible.)

The SAB has this to say about the verse,

“If we follow this advice we would ignore most of the Bible — especially the genealogies found in Gen.10, 1 Chr.1-9, Mt.1, and Lk.3.”

Craig Keener is one of the more well-known or, should we say, mainstream, professors of the New Testament. He has this to say on the verse in question,

“Philo, Josephus and other Jews argued that their Scriptures contained no myths; but extrabiblical elaborations of biblical accounts were common, and Paul probably has them in view here (cf. Titus 1:14). “Genealogies” might refer to the expansions of biblical genealogies as in some Jewish works from this period, or perhaps false post-biblical attributions of ancestry.”

Keener’s argument also makes the most sense in the context of the passage itself since Paul was warning against “fables and genealogies” and not genealogies themselves which were widely used in most Jewish writings. We can even argue this by noting Paul’s use of the word “endless,” something the Gospels certainly weren’t or were ever seen as.

Intriguingly, the SAB places their “good stuff” icon by their argument, a rather unfortunate oversight for it may tell us more about the integrity of the authors than was probably intended.

References: Keener, C. 2014. The IVP Bible Background Commentary, p. 603.