Author Topic: Might Jesus have been a Levite?  (Read 873 times)

Online Daniel

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Might Jesus have been a Levite?
« on: March 02, 2020, 07:20:39 AM »
I've seen people claiming that since Jesus is the son of Mary, and since Mary is the cousin of Elizabeth, and since Elizabeth was married to Zachary, and since Zachary is a Levite, that this somehow shows that Jesus is a Levite. (I suppose the implication would be that Jesus was a priest both of the order of Aaron and the order of Melchisedech.)

Where does this theory come from? Is it Protestant/academic speculation, or is there any traditional basis to it?

And does the argument even make sense? Even if we grant that Mary is part Levite (does this much even follow?), is the Levitical priesthood even the sort of thing that can be passed down by the mother? (More generally speaking, if someone's mother and father were of two different tribes, would that person be a member of both tribes? Or only a member of his father's tribe?)

Also, if Jesus was a Levite / Levitical priest, wouldn't this seem to undermine (or at least diminish) the stuff that St. Paul says in Hebrews 7?
« Last Edit: March 02, 2020, 07:32:33 AM by Daniel »
 

Offline St.Justin

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Re: Might Jesus have been a Levite?
« Reply #1 on: March 02, 2020, 03:20:49 PM »
Jesus came from the tribe of Judah through his earthly lineage on Josephs side.

Tribal affiliation in ancient Israel was through the male line.  Since Mary’s father was of the tribe of Judah, Mary would have been from the tribe of Judah and so also Jesus, fulfilling many prophecies.

What About Jesus Being Both King and Priest

People like to claim the levitical tribal heritage as support that Jesus was (and is) both King and Priest.  However, even if there was a familial connection to the tribe of Levite, it does not fit with Scripture.

1) Jesus could not have been a priest because He is clearly from the Tribe of Judah on both His earthly father’s side and His mother’s side (remember Mary’s father, Heli, was of the Tribe of Judah).

2) In his incarnation, Jesus did not come to be King or Priest. He came in the office of Prophet, as prophecied (Deut 18:15, Acts 3:22).  He came to preach “the acceptable year of the Lord” (Luke 4:18-19) and, as the Lamb of God (John 1:29), to fulfill God’s purpose and plan of redemption that was first prophesied in the Garden (Genesis 3:15).

3) Most significantly, Jesus’ priesthood is not of the Levitical priesthood (of Aaron). It is of the priesthood of Melchizadek (Hebrews 5:8-10).  Jesus fulfills this office now, as our High Priest, at the right hand of the Father in Heaven (Hebrews 1:3, 13, 8:1, 10:12, 12:2), interceding for us (Hebrews 7:25).

In conclusion:  We do not know the relationship that made Elizabeth and Mary cousins.  What we do know is that Jesus was of the Tribe of Judah.  In His humble incarnation, He came to earth and lived and taught as the Prophet of prophets (Deuteronomy 18:15, 18, Matthew 13:57, Luke 24:19). In offering Himself as the perfect Lamb of God for the sins of mankind and now reigning in Heaven and interceding as our High Priest (Hebrews 5:5-10, Hebrews 7), He is the Priest above all priests.  And, one day Jesus will come again in all His glory to live and reign as the King of kings.  He will sit on the throne of David and all the earth will know of His righteousness.
 
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Offline Xavier

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Re: Might Jesus have been a Levite?
« Reply #2 on: March 02, 2020, 03:36:49 PM »
Yes, Jesus Christ is King and Priest in His Divinity. What St. Paul is emphasizing is, as Aaron's sons share the Priesthood of Aaron, so in a much truer way was the divine and eternal Son of God, Our Lord Jesus Christ, made a Priest by God the Father Himself, of the Order of Melchizedek. St. Ambrose says it was likely Our Lord Jesus Himself who offered a Sacrifice under the form of bread and wine and gave it to the Patriarch Abraham. So we see the Melchizedek Priesthood is most ancient and Our Lord is the Great High Priest of the Order of Melchizedek.

In His Humanity or His Incarnation, He was born of the House of David and the Tribe of Judah. His Father's Father and His Mother's Father were both of this House. His Mother's Mother was of the House of Aaron. St. Elizabeth, Her cousin, was also of this line. John the Baptist, the Savior's cousin, was thus also of the Priestly Family in Old Israel. It is fitting that as Our Lord was both King and Priest, He should have both Davidic Kingship and Aaronic Priesthood in His Most Precious Blood, even though it is primarily and principally by Divine Filiation that He is a Priest forever, and this of the Order of Melchizedek, as St. Paul the Apostle teaches in the Book of Hebrews.
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Offline Padraig

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Re: Might Jesus have been a Levite?
« Reply #3 on: March 02, 2020, 07:31:08 PM »
Quote
(remember Mary’s father, Heli, was of the Tribe of Judah).
Is Heli a variant of Joachim?
 

Offline moneil

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Re: Might Jesus have been a Levite?
« Reply #4 on: March 02, 2020, 09:44:09 PM »
Quote
(remember Mary’s father, Heli, was of the Tribe of Judah).
Is Heli a variant of Joachim?

I was confused also but my Verbum digital library came through verbum.com.

The Blessed Mother's father was St. Joachim:

Quote
Nothing of Mary’s early life is recorded in Scripture. Details about her family background and upbringing are filled in by later traditions and legends. One tradition, which dates back to the second century A.D., identifies Mary as the daughter of a devout Jewish couple named Joachim and Anna. The story has it that Joachim and Anna had long been childless, but after fervent prayer and a promise to devote any future child to the Temple, they were blessed by God with an infant girl whom they named Mary. Mary stayed with her parents until she was three, at which time she was taken to Jerusalem to live with a sorority of Temple virgins until she was twelve. She was then given to the care of Joseph, a building contractor and widower who had fathered several children by a previous marriage (Protoevangelium of James 1–9).

Hahn, S. (Ed.). (2009). In Catholic Bible Dictionary (p. 584). New York; London; Toronto; Sydney; Auckland: Doubleday.

Heli was the father of St. Joseph, as recorded in St. Luke 3:23:


Quote
23 And Jesus himself was beginning about the age of thirty years: being (as it was supposed) the son of Joseph, who was of Heli, who was of Mathat,
24 Who was of Levi, who was of Melchi. who was of Janne, who was of Joseph,
25 Who was of Mathathias, who was of Amos, who was of Nahum, who was of Hesli, who was of Nagge,
26 Who was of Mahath, who was of Mathathias, who was of Semei, who was of Joseph, who was of Juda,
27 Who was of Joanna, who was of Reza, who was of Zorobabel, who was of Salathiel, who was of Neri,
28 Who was of Melchi, who was of Addi, who was of Cosan, who was of Helmadan, who was of Her,
29 Who was of Jesus, who was of Eliezer, who was of Jorim, who was of Mathat, who was of Levi,
30 Who was of Simeon, who was of Judas, who was of Joseph, who was of Jona, who was of Eliakim,
31 Who was of Melea, who was of Menna, who was of Mathatha, who was of Nathan, who was of David,
32 Who was of Jesse, who was of Obed, who was of Booz, who was of Salmon, who was of Naasson,
33 Who was of Aminadab, who was of Aram, who was of Esron, who was of Phares, who was of Judas,
34 Who was of Jacob, who was of Isaac, who was of Abraham, who was of Thare, who was of Nachor,
35 Who was of Sarug, who was of Ragau, who was of Phaleg, who was of Heber, who was of Sale,
36 Who was of Cainan, who was of Arphaxad, who was of Sem, who was Of Noe, who was of Lamech,
37 Who was of Mathusale, who was of Henoch, who was of Jared, who was of Malaleel, who was of Cainan,
38 Who was of Henos, who was of Seth, who was of Adam, who was of God.


The Holy Bible, Translated from the Latin Vulgate. (2009). (Lk 3:23–38). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
« Last Edit: March 02, 2020, 11:38:53 PM by moneil »
 

Offline St.Justin

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Re: Might Jesus have been a Levite?
« Reply #5 on: March 02, 2020, 11:47:54 PM »
Thanks, I should know better than to copy and paste.
 

Offline St.Justin

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Re: Might Jesus have been a Levite?
« Reply #6 on: March 02, 2020, 11:58:48 PM »
This might clear it up: from Haydoc:


Remarks on the two Genealogies of Jesus Christ.

To make some attempt at an elucidation of the present very difficult subject of inquiry, we must carry in our minds, 1. That in the Scripture language the word begat, applies to the remote, as well as the immediate, descendant of the ancestor; so that if Marcus were the son, Titus the grandson, and Caius the great-grandson of Sempronius, it might, in the language of Scripture, be said, that Sempronius begat Caius. This accounts for the omission of several descents in St. Matthew. 2. The word begat, applies not only to the natural offspring, but to the offspring assigned to the ancestor by law. 3. If a man married the daughter and only child of another, he became in the view of the Hebrew law the son of that person, and thus was a son assigned to him by law. The two last positions shew in what sense Zorobabel was the son both of Neri and Salathiel, and Joseph the son both of Jacob and of Heli, or Joachim. --- "St. Matthew, in descending from Abraham to Joseph, the spouse of the blessed Virgin, speaks of a son properly so called, and by way of generation, Abraham begot Isaac, &c. But St. Luke in ascending from Jesus to God himself, speaks of a son properly or improperly so called. On this account he make use of an indeterminate expression, in saying, the son of Joseph, who was of Heli. That St. Luke does not always speak of a son properly called, and by way of generation, appears from the first and last he names; for Jesus was only the putative son of Joseph, because Joseph was the spouse of Mary, the mother of Christ; and Adam was only the son of God by creation. This being observed, we must acknowledge in the genealogy in St. Luke, two sons improperly so called, that is, two sons-in-law, instead of sons. As among the Hebrews, the women entered not into the genealogy, when a house finished by a daughter, instead of naming the daughter in the genealogy, they named the son-in-law, who had for father-in-law the father of his wife. The two sons-in-law mentioned in St. Luke are Joseph, the son-in-law of Heli, and Salathiel, the son-in-law of Neri. This remarks clears up the difficulty. Joseph, the son of Jacob, in St. Matthew, was the son-in-law of Heli, in St. Luke; and Salathiel, the son of Jechonias, in St. Matthew, was the son-in-law of Neri, in St. Luke. Mary was the daughter of Heli, Eliacim, or Joacim, or Joachim. Joseph, the son of Jacob, and Mary, the daughter of Heli, had a common origin; both descending from Zorobabel, Joseph by Abiud the eldest, and Mary by Resa, the younger brother. Joseph descended from the royal branch of David, of which Solomon was the chief; and Mary from the other branch, of which Nathan was the chief. by Salathiel, the father of Zorobabel, and son of Jechonias, Joseph and Mary descended from Solomon, the son and heir of David. And by the wife of Salathiel, the mother of Zorobabel, and daughter of Neri, of which Neri Salathiel was the son-in-law, Joseph and Mary descended from Nathan, the other son of David, so that Joseph and Mary re-united in themselves all the blood of David. St. Matthew carries up the genealogy of Jesus to Abraham; this was the promise of the Messias, made to the Jews; St. Luke carries it up to Adam, the promise of the Messias, made to all men."

Whatever the difficulties attending the genealogies may be, it is evident that they arise from our imperfect knowledge of the laws, usages, and idiom of the Jews, from our ignorance of the true method of reconciling the seeming inconsistencies, or from some corruptions that in process of time may possibly have crept into the text. The silence of the enemies of the gospel, both heathen and Jewish, during even the first century, is itself a sufficient proof, that neither inconsistency nor corruption could be then alleged against this part of the evangelical history. If the lineal descent of Jesus from David were not indisputable, he could not possess the character essential to the Messias, nor any right to the Jewish throne. We may confidently then assert, that his regular lineal descent from David could not be disproved, since it was not even disputed at a time when alone it could have been done so successfully; and by those persons who were so deeply interested in falsifying the first Christian authorities.
 
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Offline St.Justin

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Re: Might Jesus have been a Levite?
« Reply #7 on: March 03, 2020, 12:06:43 AM »
Saint) (March 20) (1st century) Other forms of the name Joachim appear to be Eliacim, and perhaps the Heli of Saint Luke’s Gospel (3:23). But Joachim is traditional, and is used by early writers like Saint Epithanius. The cultus of Saint Joachim is immemorial in the East. In the West it seems to have been introduced in the sixteenth century, since which time popular devotion to the Saint has become universal. Liturgically, the Feast of Saint Joachim was long celebrated on the Sunday within the Octave of the Assumption. It is now assigned to August 16. Of the holy man’s life, nothing whatever has been revealed to us; and the legends recorded in the various Apocryphal Gospels are so distorted as to be quite unreliable. That he was the husband of Saint Anne and father of Our Blessed Lady are reasons amply sufficient for the prominence he has obtained in the worship of the Catholic Church.
 

Online Daniel

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Re: Might Jesus have been a Levite?
« Reply #8 on: March 03, 2020, 07:55:28 AM »
I've heard the argument before, that St. Luke derives Jesus's geneaology through Mary. And while I suppose this theory is plausible, it's not really certain.

First off, there are alternative theories out there that don't try and identify Luke's "Heli" with St. Joachim. e.g. The Douay Rheims Challoner says this:
Quote
[23] "Who was of Heli": St. Joseph, who by nature was the son of Jacob, (St. Matt. 1. 16,) in the account of the law, was son of Heli. For Heli and Jacob were brothers, by the same mother; and Heli, who was the elder, dying without issue, Jacob, as the law directed, married his widow: in consequence of such marriage, his son Joseph was reputed in the law the son of Heli.
(I believe that this was the view of St. Augustine, though I might be mixed up.)
But in either case, there's no definitive or even unanimous teaching, so it's not really a matter of tradition so much as it is a popular opinion held by some (not all) of the Church fathers.

Second, the name that St. Luke gives is Heli, not Eliachim. And while "Heli" in this passage might be short for "Eliachim", it's also quite possible that it's not. (Any name which begins with "Eli-" can be shortened to "Heli". It's also worth pointing out that there is a separate Hebrew name "Heli", not etymologically related or even spelled the same way in Hebrew as the "Eli-" names.)

Third, even if we grant that "Heli" is short for "Eliachim", it doesn't follow that this Eliachim is the same person as St. Joachim. "Eliachim" and "Joachim" do mean the same thing (etymologically) but are nevertheless two distinct names. (See 2 Paralipomenon 36:4... if these were merely two forms of the same name then there'd have been no reason to change Eliachim's name to "Joachim", since all Eliachims would already be Joachims and vice versa.) So the names are not interchangeable; the only way that I could imagine St. Joachim being rightly referred to as "Heli" would be 1.) if St. Joachim was known by two separate names in his lifetime, or 2.) if he was known only by the name "Eliachim", and we're in error by calling him "St. Joachim".

But I don't deny that maybe Luke's genealogy is through Mary. It's just that it seems so uncertain.
« Last Edit: March 03, 2020, 07:58:29 AM by Daniel »
 

Offline St.Justin

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Re: Might Jesus have been a Levite?
« Reply #9 on: March 03, 2020, 10:10:25 AM »
I'll stick with what the Haydock foot notes say.
 

Online Daniel

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Re: Might Jesus have been a Levite?
« Reply #10 on: March 10, 2020, 10:32:14 AM »
Looking further into it, the Catholic Encyclopedia ( http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/06410a.htm ) is of the opinion "that patristic tradition does not regard St. Luke's list as representing the genealogy of the Blessed Virgin". Seems to be an old tradition though, at least as far back as St. Hilary's time (fourth century).

But in either case, I think this point is relevant:
Quote
(b) Tradition tells us that Mary too was a descendant of David. According to Numbers 36:6-12, an only daughter had to marry within her own family so as to secure the right of inheritance. After St. Justin (Adv. Tryph. 100) and St. Ignatius (Letter to the Ephesians 18), the Fathers generally agree in maintaining Mary's Davidic descent, whether they knew this from an oral tradition or inferred it from Scripture, e.g. Romans 1:3; 2 Timothy 2:8. [. . .] At any rate, tradition presents the Blessed Virgin as descending from David through Nathan.
 

Offline clau clau

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Re: Might Jesus have been a Levite?
« Reply #11 on: April 28, 2020, 11:50:17 AM »
This is no time for Levite (sic)

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Offline aquinas138

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Re: Might Jesus have been a Levite?
« Reply #12 on: June 10, 2020, 09:02:18 PM »
I'd have to really dig, but I remember coming across a Syriac document that took pains to prove Jesus' levitical bona fides; I think it was East Syriac, but I'm not 100% sure. I didn't read it in detail, I just remember thinking that was odd!
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