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‘Adam, Son of God’ (Luke 3.38): Another Jesus–Augustus Parallel in Luke's Gospel

  • Michael Kochenash (a1)


Reading Jesus’ conception and genealogy in the context of claims about Augustus brings clarity to the perplexing identification of Adam as God's offspring (Luke 3.38). Jesus was fathered by God's spirit (1.35), as was his ancestor Adam (through Joseph). Likewise, some claimed Augustus was fathered by Apollo and that his ancestor Aeneas (through adoption by Julius Caesar) was the offspring of Aphrodite/Venus. This comparison suggests that Jesus is comparable to Augustus and that Jesus’ kingdom of God is comparable to Augustus’ Golden Age. Moreover, the logical force of these parallels favours the inferring of Joseph's adoption of Jesus in Luke.



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1 Johnson, M. D., The Purpose of the Biblical Genealogies, with Special Reference to the Setting of the Genealogies of Jesus (SNTSMS 8; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1969) 237 (emphasis original).

2 On the inclusion of Adam, Luke Timothy Johnson's evaluation is representative: tracing Jesus’ genealogy back to Adam touches … the note of universality sounded by 3:6’ (The Gospel of Luke (SP 3; Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1991) 72).

3 F. Bovon, Luke (3 vols.; ed. H. Koester; Hermeneia; Minneapolis: Fortress, 2002–13) i.134. He considers the final element of Jesus’ genealogy – τοῦ θεοῦ – ‘most likely a redactional addition’ (i.136).

4 Brown, R. E., The Birth of the Messiah: A Commentary on the Infancy Narratives in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke (ABRL; New Haven: Yale University Press, new updated edn 1993) 90 n. 68.

5 Carroll, J. T., Luke: A Commentary (NTL; Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2012) 97.

6 Kurz, W. S., ‘Luke 3:23–38 and Greco-Roman and Biblical Genealogies’, Luke-Acts: New Perspectives from the SBL Seminar (ed. Talbert, C. H.; New York: Crossroad, 1984) 169–87. Cf. Wolter, M., Das Lukasevangelium (HNT 5; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2008) 176–7.

7 Kurz, ‘Luke 3:23–38’, 179.

8 Kurz, ‘Luke 3:23–38’, 179; see also 171. He does not explain what legal inheritance Adam receives from God.

9 Hood, R. T., ‘The Genealogies of Jesus’, Early Christian Origins: Studies in Honor of Harold R. Willoughby (ed. Wikgren, A.; Chicago: Quadrangle, 1961) 13.

10 Hood, ‘Genealogies of Jesus’, 13.

11 Johnson, Gospel of Luke, 72. See also Johnson, Purpose of the Biblical Genealogies, 239; Fitzmyer, J. A., The Gospel according to Luke: Introduction, Translation, and Notes (2 vols.; AB 28–28A; Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1981–5) i.504; J. Nolland, Luke (3 vols.; WBC 35; Dallas: Word, 1989–93) i.170–4; Brown, Birth of the Messiah, 84 n. 50; Green, J. B., The Gospel of Luke (NICNT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997) 189–90.

12 Plummer, A., A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel according to S. Luke (ICC 28; Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1901 4) 105.

13 Johnson, Purpose of the Biblical Genealogies, 252. See also Abel, E. L.. ‘The Genealogies of Jesus Ο ΧΡΙϹΤΟϹ’, NTS 20 (1974) 203–10.

14 Fitzmyer, Gospel according to Luke, i.491. Cf. Brown, Birth of the Messiah, 90 n. 68.

15 Peppard, M., The Son of God in the Roman World: Divine Sonship in its Social and Political Context (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011).

16 Peppard, Son of God, 86; for his intentions, see 212 n. 4.

17 According to Peppard, ‘[t]he more sources of legitimacy that Luke could articulate for Jesus, the better’ (Son of God, 135). Luke and Acts contain ‘mixed images of divine sonship’: (1) ‘Adoptive divine sonship’ (Luke 3.22; Acts 13.33); (2) ‘proximate divine begetting’ (Luke 1.35); and (3) ‘distant divine genealogy’ (Luke 3.23–38) (ibid., 135; emphasis original). Peppard incorrectly identifies Acts 13.33 as a reference to Jesus’ resurrection (as do many English-speaking commentators). Cf. Acts 13.34. See Barrett, C. K., A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles (2 vols.; ICC 34; Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1994–8) i.645–6.

18 Peppard, Son of God, 135.

19 Peppard, Son of God, 135.

20 In relation to Peppard's analysis, this article seeks to elaborate on the connection of Luke 1.26–38 to stories of Augustus’ conception and to clarify aspects of Jesus’ ‘distant divine genealogy’: (1) Augustus’ descent from Aeneas is a more credible referent than that from Romulus with respect to Luke 3.38, and (2) Julius Caesar's adoption of Augustus is suggestive regarding Jesus’ relationship to Joseph, a comparison that lends credibility to the interpretation that Luke implies Joseph's adoption of Jesus. This article will also explore further possibilities regarding how to interpret these comparisons.

21 For recent juxtapositions of Jesus with Augustus in Luke 1–2, see Blumenthal, C., ‘Augustus’ Erlass und Gottes Macht: Überlegungen zur Charakterisierung der Augustusfigur und ihrer erzählstrategischen Funktion in der lukanischen Erzählung’, NTS 57 (2011) 130; Schreiber, S., Weihnachtspolitik: Lukas 1–2 und das Goldene Zeitalter (NTOA/SUNT 82; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2009). See also Phillips, T. E., ‘Why Did Mary Wrap the Newborn Jesus in “Swaddling Clothes”? Luke 2.7 and 2.12 in the Context of Luke-Acts and First-century Literature’, Reading Acts Today: Essays in Honour of Loveday C.A. Alexander (ed. Walton, S. et al. ; LNTS 427; London: T&T Clark, 2011) 2942.

22 Translations are my own, unless otherwise noted.

23 See Schreiber, Weihnachtspolitik, 72; Wolter, Lukasevangelium, 91–2; Carroll, Luke, 41; Bovon, Luke, i.51; Brown, Birth of the Messiah, 310–11; Johnson, Gospel of Luke, 37; Tannehill, R. C., The Narrative Unity of Luke-Acts: A Literary Interpretation (2 vols.; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1986–90) i.25; Fitzmyer, Gospel according to Luke, i.348.

24 Similar language also appears in texts from Qumran (4Q174; 4Q246).

25 For the continued influence of h.Hom. 5 into the Roman era, see Faulkner, A., The Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite: Introduction, Text, and Commentary (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008) 50–2; Olson, S. D., The Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite and Related Texts: Text, Translation and Commentary (Texte und Kommentare 39; Berlin: de Gruyter, 2012) 27.

For comparisons of h.Hom. 5 with Luke 1, see MacDonald, D. R., Luke and Vergil: Imitations of Classical Greek Literature (New Testament and Greek Literature 2; Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2015) 132–8; Miller, R. J., Born Divine: The Births of Jesus and Other Sons of God (Santa Rosa, CA: Polebridge, 2003) 317–21.

26 The elements so far identified are, of course, common in ancient stories. For this pattern in the Hebrew Bible, see Iglesias, S. M., ‘El Evangelio de la Infancia en San Lucas y las infancias de los heroes bíblicos’, EstBib 16 (1957) 329–82.

It may be worth noting that although Luke is silent regarding Mary's location, early Christians thought that Gabriel met her outdoors. This inference is apparent in both literary recreations (e.g., Prot. Jas. 11.1) and, possibly, in artistic representations (e.g., Dura-Europos). For an interpretation of the woman at a well in a wall-painting in Dura-Europos as Mary, see Peppard, M., The World's Oldest Church: Bible, Art, and Ritual at Dura-Europos, Syria (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2016) 155201. In h.Hom. 5, Anchises is outdoors when Aphrodite encounters him.

27 There are also parallels between h.Hom. 5 and two other Lukan infancy narratives: Luke 1.8–20 and 2.8–14. See MacDonald, Luke and Vergil, 134–41.

28 For an overview of the Roman and Julian connections to Aeneas, see Kochenash, M., ‘You Can't Hear “Aeneas” without Thinking of Rome’, JBL 136 (2017) 667–85. A few pertinent examples are outlined below.

29 See Smith, R. R. R., ‘The Imperial Reliefs from the Sebasteion at Aphrodisias’, JRS 77 (1987) 95; Lopez, D. C., Apostle to the Conquered: Reimagining Paul's Mission (Paul in Critical Contexts; Minneapolis: Fortress, 2008) 42–5. For an image of this relief, see Roueché, C. and Erim, K. T., eds., Aphrodisias Papers (JRA Supplement 1; Ann Arbor: JRA, 1990) 98, Fig. 9. Some interpret the baby as Eros. The Sebasteion also includes a relief featuring Aeneas fleeing Troy.

30 With respect to Virgil's ‘empire without end’ and Luke 1.33, Blumenthal contrasts Jesus’ prophesied reign with that of Augustus: whereas Augustus dies and is followed by a successor (made plain in Luke 3.1 with the mention of Tiberius), Jesus will reign forever, ‘sodass es folglich einen Nachfolger auf dem Davidstron nicht mehr geben wird’ (‘Augustus’ Erlass und Gottes Macht’, 22; see also 21–3).

31 This translation is, of course, a literal rendering of a sexual euphemism. She is protesting that she has not had sexual intercourse with a man.

32 Fitzmyer rightly identifies Gabriel's response as exhibiting parallelismus membrorum; thus it is ‘the spirit of holiness’ – parallel to ‘the power of the Most high’ – not ‘the Holy Spirit’ (Gospel according to Luke, i.350).

Unlike the divine conceptions of most Greek and Roman figures, the conception of Jesus in Luke is non-sexual. M. David Litwa demonstrates that Plutarch exhibits a comparable sensibility regarding divine conceptions and physical sexuality: both Luke and Plutarch prefer πνεῦμα and δύναμις language (Iesus Deus: The Early Christian Depiction of Jesus as a Mediterranean God (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2014) 3767). Cf. Talbert, C. H., ‘Miraculous Conceptions and Births in Mediterranean Antiquity’, The Historical Jesus in Context (ed. Levine, A.-J., Allison, D. C. Jr and Crossan, J. D.; Princeton Readings in Religion; Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2006) 83–4.

33 Although no Septuagintal parallels exist, there are, however, a few parallels in Hellenistic Jewish literature: 2 En. 70.1–2, 30–1 (probably composed much later than Luke's Gospel and possibly dependent on it); Philo, QG 3.18, 56 (discussing Sarah); Cher. 40–52. See Dibelius, M., ‘Jungfrauensohn und Krippenkind: Untersuchungen zur Geburtsgeschichte Jesu im Lukas-Evangelium’, Botschaft und Geschichte, vol. i: Zur Evangelienforschung (Tübingen: Mohr, 1953) 30–5; Zeller, D., ‘Konsolidierung in der 2./3. Generation’, Christentum i: Von den Anfängen bis zur Konstantinischen Wende (ed. Zeller, D.; Die Religionen der Menschheit 28; Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 2002) 132; Räisänen, H., ‘Begotten by the Holy Spirit’, Sacred Marriages: The Divine–Human Sexual Metaphor from Sumer to Early Christianity (ed. Nissinen, M. and Uro, R.; Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2008) 332–5. None of these Jewish parallels appears to have influenced Luke's narrative.

For a review of Greco-Roman parallels, see Talbert, ‘Miraculous Conceptions’, 79–86.

34 E.g. Theseus, reportedly fathered by Poseidon (Plutarch, Thes. 2.3.36); Romulus, reportedly fathered by Mars (Plutrach, Rom. 2–4); Alexander, reportedly fathered by Zeus (Plutarch, Alex. 2–3; Lucian, Dial. mort. 13; Alex. 7; Pausanias 4.14.4–7; Justin 11.11.3–6); Scipio Africanus, reportedly fathered by Apollo (Livy 26.19.6; Silius Italicus, Punica 13.634–44; Valerius Maximus 49.1–4; Quintilian, Inst. 2.4.19; Aulus Gellius, Noct. Att. 6.1–5); Plato, reportedly fathered by Apollo (Diogenes Laertius 3; Olympiodorus, Vit. Phil. 1); Apollonius of Tyana, reportedly fathered by Zeus (Philostratus, Vit. Apoll. 1.6).

35 See Norden, E., Die Geburt des Kindes: Geschichte einer religiösen Idee (Leipzig: Teubner, 1924); Braun, E., ‘Eine Alexanderlegende’, Jahreshefte des Österreichischen Archäologischen Institutes in Wien 39 (1952) 139–45; Treves, P., Il mito di Alessandro e la Roma d'Augusto (Milan/Naples: Riccardo Ricciardi, 1953) 154–63; Heuss, A., ‘Alexander der Große und die politische Ideologie des Altertums’, Antike und Abendland 4 (1954) 65–len ; Bellinger, A. R., ‘The Immortality of Alexander and Augustus’, YCS 15 (1957) 91100; Kienast, D., ‘Augustus und Alexander’, Gymnasium 76 (1969) 430–56; O. Weippert, ‘Alexander-Imitatio und römische Politik in republikanischer Zeit’ (diss. Augsburg, 1972) 214–59; Becher, I., ‘Atia, die Mutter des Augustus – Legende und Politik’, Griechenland und Rom: Vergleichende Untersuchungen zu Entwicklungstendenzen und -höhepunkten der antiken Geschichte, Kunst und Literatur (ed. Schmidt, E. G.; Tbilisi: Universitätsverlag, 1996) 95–len ; Lorsch, R. S., ‘Augustus’ Conception and the Heroic Tradition’, Latomus 56 (1997) 790–9; Weber, G., Kaiser, Träume und Visionen in Prinzipat und Spätantike (Historia, Einzelschriften 143; Stuttgart: Steiner, 2000) 149; Engels, D., ‘Prodigies and Religious Propaganda: Seleucus and Augustus’, Studies in Latin Literature and Roman History 15 (ed. Deroux, C.; Collection Latomus 323; Brussels: Éditions Latomus, 2010) 153–77.

36 See Bellinger, ‘Immortality of Alexander and Augustus’, 95–7. The situations of these two are analogous, Bellinger suggests, to those of Dionysus and Heracles.

37 See Gagé, J., Apollon romain. Essai sur le culte d'Apollon et le développement du ‘ritus Graecus’ à Rome des origines à Auguste (Paris: de Boccard, 1955) 571; Grandet, P., ‘Les songes d'Atia et d'Octavius. Note sur les rapports d'Auguste et de l’Égypte’, Revue de l'histoire des religions 203 (1986) 375–6.

38 Lorsch, ‘Augustus’ Conception’, 797–9 (especially n. 20). The comparison with Scipio Africanus suggests that Augustus ‘was the divinely chosen successor to the Republican hero's position as savior of Rome’ (ibid., 799). Lorsch concludes that the story of Atia and Augustus’ conception ‘could not have been more inspired’, connecting Augustus to ‘the great Republican general who was credited with permanently rescuing Rome from the danger posed by its greatest enemy, Carthage’, and to Alexander, ‘a great hero, one who had increased Greek dominance and established a wide empire’ (799).

39 Lorsch, ‘Augustus’ Conception’, 798.

40 See Wardle, D., Suetonius: Life of Augustus (Clarendon Ancient History Series; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014) 512.

41 For a detailed discussion on artistic representations of serpents in the Roman world, see Haynes, D. E. L., ‘The Portland Vase: A Reply’, JHS 115 (1995) 146–52, especially 146–9. Haynes concludes that the creature in the Portland Vase is a cetus (sea monster).

42 See Simon, E., Die Portlandvase (Mainz: Römisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum zu Mainz, 1957) 829; Painter, K. and Whitehouse, D., ‘The Interpretation of the Scenes’, Journal of Glass Studies 32 (1990) 130–6.

43 Zanker, P., The Power of Images in the Age of Augustus (Jerome Lectures, 16th series; Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1988) 253–4. Cf. Becher, ‘Atia, die Mutter des Augustus’, 101–2.

44 Haynes, D. E. L., ‘The Portland Vase Again’, JHS 88 (1968) 5872; Hind, J., ‘The Portland Vase: New Clues towards Old Solutions’, JHS 115 (1995) 153–5. Cf. Painter, K. and Whitehouse, D., ‘Earlier Interpretations of the Scenes’, Journal of Glass Studies 32 (1990) 172–6.

45 Tuck, S. L. recently counted fifty-five (A History of Roman Art (Malden, MA: Wiley Blackwell, 2015) 139–40).

46 Zanker, Power of Images, 50 (see 51 Fig. 39). See also Becher, ‘Atia, die Mutter des Augustus’.

47 Discussing νομίζω in Luke 3.23, Andrew T. Lincoln concludes that it is a Lukan redaction to bring the genealogy into line with the virginal conception of Luke 1–2 and that the ‘supposition’ is a necessarily correct one – that Joseph is Jesus’ biological father – because otherwise the genealogy loses its force (Luke and Jesus’ Conception: A Case of Double Paternity?’, JBL 132 (2013) 646–7). He says it reflects two traditions concerning Jesus’ parentage that Luke was not concerned to harmonise. It is not clear how the insertion of νομίζω both aligns the genealogy with Luke 1–2 while also asserting something contrary to Luke 1–2. Bovon, conversely, interprets νομίζω as an affirmation of Joseph's adoption of Jesus: ‘“He was rightfully declared to be Joseph's son” (and I, Luke, agree with this)’ (Bovon, Luke, i.136). Lincoln balks at this interpretation (‘Luke and Jesus’ Conception’, 646 n. 15).

48 Commentators observe that Jesus’ genealogy does not go through David's royal line, through Solomon, but through Nathan (e.g. Fitzmyer, Gospel according to Luke, i.501). It may be worth noting that Aeneas – whose connection to Augustus is the subject of this section – was not, according to the Iliad, ‘from the reigning branch of the royal family’ (i.e. Ilus’ branch, including Priam and Hector) but rather the branch descending from Assaracus (Olson, Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite, 3; cf. Homer, Il. 20.180–1).

49 The closest parallel, as some commentators note, comes from Philo's treatise On the Virtues: the father of the first man ‘was no mortal but the eternal God, whose image he was in a sense in virtue of the ruling mind within the soul’ (204–5; trans. Colson, LCL). See Nolland, Luke, i.173; Wolter, Lukasevangelium, 177. Philo appears to be speaking metaphorically, however; he earlier explains that Adam had been ‘moulded with consummate skill into the figure of the human body by the hand of God’ and that he received his soul ‘through the breath of God imparting his own power’ (203; trans. Colson, LCL). While it may be interesting to read Luke 3.23–4.13 as evoking a comparison of Jesus and Adam as sons of God, there are reasons to doubt the credibility of such a reading; namely, Luke-Acts lacks the Pauline ‘Jesus as a second Adam’ theme. For an argument in favour of such a reading, see J. Jeremias, ‘Ἀδάμ’, TDNT i.141–3. For arguments against such a reading, see Johnson, Purpose of the Biblical Genealogies, 234–5; Fitzmyer, Gospel according to Luke, i.498.

50 Homer, Il. 2.820–1; 5.247–8, 312–13; 20.208–9; Hesiod, Th. 1008–12.

51 Virgil, Aen. 3.435; 8.59; cf. 6.125. See also Ovid, Metam. 14.586–90.

52 See e.g. Tacitus, Ann. 4.2.9. For a discussion of Julius’ and Augustus’ advertisements of their connection to Aeneas, see Evans, J. D., The Art of Persuasion: Political Propaganda from Aeneas to Brutus (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1992) 3942 (Julius) and 42–52 (Augustus).

In the Roman Republic, elites regularly claimed that they descended from a god. As Olivier Hekster observes, however, ‘After Augustus came to power … the trend is much less well attested’ (Descendants of Gods: Legendary Genealogies in the Roman Empire’, The Impact of Imperial Rome on Religions, Ritual, and Religious Life in the Roman Empire: Proceedings of the Fifth International Network, Münster, June 30–July 4, 2004 (ed. de Blois, L., Funke, P., and Hahn, J. (Leiden: Brill, 2006) 24). In particular, the Flavian emperors eschewed claims to divine ancestors. They preferred to enhance their status by comparison with Augustus or, in the case of Domitian, by reference to succession from apotheosized Flavians (‘Descendants of Gods’, 31–2).

On the adoption of Augustus, see Nicolaus of Damascus, Vit. Caes. 8, 11, 13, 17–18, 29–30; Livy, Per. 116.5; Appian, Bell. civ. 3.11–14; Suetonius, Jul. 83.2; Aug. 7.2, 94.11.

53 Similarly, according to Cassius Dio, Julius claimed to be ‘sprung from Aeneas and Iulus’ (Roman History, 41.34.1; trans. Cary and Foster, LCL); and according to Velleius Paterculus, Julius claimed for the Julii family ‘descent from Venus and Anchises, a claim conceded by all investigators of antiquity’ (2.41.1; trans. Shipley, LCL).

54 Of course, one can find more connections to the divine in Augustus’ advertised descent – for instance, Zeus fathering Aeneas’ ancestor Dardanus (Homer, Il. 20.203–41, 303–5) and Mars fathering Romulus, Aeneas’ descendant and Augustus’ ancestor – but the connections with Aeneas and Apollo were particularly prominent in the art and literature disseminated by Rome. For this reason, I am foregrounding only these two connections in my interpretation of Luke's presentation of Jesus.

55 C. H. Talbert understands these circumstances as genre conventions within the pre-public life portion of ancient biographies (Reading Luke-Acts in its Mediterranean Milieu (NovTSup 107; Leiden: Brill, 2003) 76, 81). I suggest, however, that the novelty of the claim about Adam combined with the prominence of Augustus’ proximate and distant divine parentages allows for a more specific reading than Talbert's. Moreover, the identification of a text's genre does not preclude its use of specific models – Virgil's Aeneid, for instance, both (1) is an epic poem and (2) imitates the works of Homer, Euripides, Apollonius of Rhodes and others.

56 See Zanker, Power of Images.

57 Luke 1.27, 32; 2.27, 33, 41–51; 3.23–31; 4.22 (cf. Mark 6.3); Acts 2.30 (David's loins (ὀσφῦς)); 13.23 (David's seed (σπέρματος)).

58 See Fitzmyer, Gospel according to Luke, i.499; Nolland, Luke, i.174; Meier, J. P., A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus (5 vols. (to date); AYBRL; New Haven: Yale University Press, 1991–) i.217; Brown, Birth of the Messiah, passim; Strauss, M. L., The Davidic Messiah in Luke-Acts: The Promise and its Fulfillment in Lukan Christology (JSNTSup 10; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1995) 126–9; Bovon, Luke, I.136–7; Levin, Y., ‘Jesus, “Son of God” and “Son of David”: The “Adoption” of Jesus into the Davidic Line’, JSNT 28 (2006) 415–42; Carroll, Luke, 99. Some scholars have resolved this tension in the opposite direction, arguing that Luke only affirms Joseph as Jesus’ father. See e.g. Parrinder, G., Son of Joseph: The Parentage of Jesus (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1992).

59 Lincoln, A. T., Born of a Virgin? Reconceiving Jesus in the Bible, Tradition, and Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2013) 99124; idem, ‘Luke and Jesus’ Conception’, 639–58. See also Räisänen, ‘Begotten by the Holy Spirit’, 326–9; Gordon, C., ‘Paternity at Two Levels’, JBL 96 (1977) 101.

60 Lincoln, ‘Luke and Jesus’ Conception’, 641.

61 Lincoln, Born of a Virgin, 33; Räisänen, ‘Begotten by the Holy Spirit’, 329. Moreover, as Lincoln observes, ‘a number of second-century writers’ felt it necessary to assert ‘that Jesus’ Davidic descent had to be seen as coming from Mary’ (Born of a Virgin, 33); he cites Ignatius of Antioch (Eph. 18; Trall. 9), Justin (Dial. 100), Irenaeus (Haer. 3.9.2; 3.21.5), Protevangelium of James (10.1) and Tertullian (Carn. Chr. 20, 22) (Born of a Virgin, 33 n. 24).

62 Additionally, one manuscript omits ‘parents’ in Luke 2.27.

63 Lincoln, Born of a Virgin, 118–24; idem, ‘Luke and Jesus’ Conception’, 653–6.

64 Plutarch, to this point, has been explicit about reporting information from various sources: ‘some say’ (1.1), ‘others say’ (1.2), ‘they say’ (1.4), ‘others again say’ and ‘some tell us’ (2.1).

65 Comparing Romulus and Theseus, Plutarch writes: ‘For both were of uncertain and obscure parentage, and got the reputation of descent from gods’ (Thes. 2.1; trans. Perrin, LCL). For Theseus, see Plutarch, Thes. 3–6.

66 Lincoln, ‘Luke and Jesus’ Conception’, 655.

67 For the ‘novelistic-historiographical’ distinction, see e.g. Konstan, D. and Walsh, R., ‘Civic and Subversive Biography in Antiquity’, Writing Biography in Greece and Rome: Narrative Technique and Fictionalization (ed. De Temmerman, K. and Demoen, K.; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016) 2643. Konstan and Walsh distinguish civic biographies that emphasise character and achievements (e.g. those written by Suetonius or Plutarch) from subversive biographies that emphasise wit and resourcefulness (e.g. the Gospels, the Alexander Romance or the Life of Aesop).

68 Such a reading coheres with the work of Yigal Levin (‘Jesus, “Son of God” and “Son of David”’), who reads Luke's infancy narratives through a Roman framework. Levin observes, on the one hand, that there are no parallels in the Hebrew Bible or rabbinic literature, and the writings from the Jewish Diaspora are silent on the issue (ibid., 421–5 and 428–31). On the other hand, adoption was prominent in Roman law, and Roman adoption was practised ‘most famously by the Julio-Claudian family’ (ibid., 427 (425–8)).

69 See Blumenthal, ‘Augustus’ Erlass und Gottes Macht’, 16.

70 See Talbert, ‘Miraculous Conceptions’, 84–5.

71 See Blumenthal, ‘Augustus’ Erlass und Gottes Macht’, 21–3.

… [T]he fact that the Lukan genealogy runs backwards from Jesus to God is significant since there is no known parallel in the OT or in Rabbinic texts for a genealogy to begin with or culminate with the naming of God.1

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