Authorities – religious or scientific – are not reknown for their humility. On the contrary, they are often arrogant and find it difficult to admit that they don’t understand certain ideas. Hans Christian Anderson’s story of the Emperor’s Suit explains very well how intellectuals can fool themselves. When the emperor’s tailor says that he has made a suit for the emperor from a special material that only intelligent people can see, all praise its beauty although the tailor hadn’t used any fabric at all. It is therefore a child that points out that the emperor walks around naked.
Wisdom requires humility. To be able to discover the answer to certain mysteries, we first have to recognize that there are mysteries; that there are things that we do not yet understand. Ignorance and arrogance often together. People who can’t accept there are ideas that they do not immediately understand either ignore them, consider that they make no sense, or give them an unsatisfactory explanation (by creating a dogma or an axioma).
The fact that Saint Matthew and Saint Luke offer different genealogies for Jesus baffles Bible scholars. Sceptics and cynics claim it proves the New Testament makes no sense. Theologians try to give these genealogies sense by claiming that one traces Jesus’ ancestors through his mother’s side and the other through his father’s side, but that is not what they say. Furthermore, how do they explain that both genealogies offer different names for the father of Joseph, Mary’s husband?
A lot of people immediately assume that one or even both genealogies are false. Only the careful reader who is aware that because of extramarital relations some lineages are real and others are supposed (the husband of our mother is not necessarily our father) realizes that the Bible recognizes this fact. Saint Matthew offers Jesus’ real lineage, because he bases it on the ‘father begot son’ principle (but he ends with, “Jacob begot Joseph, the husband of Mary who gave birth to Jesus”), Saint Luke offers Jesus’ supposed lineage, because he starts it with, “Jesus was believed to be the son of Joseph, the son of Heli, the son of…” Saint Luke not only points out that people believed Joseph was Jesus’ father, but also that they believed Heli was Joseph’s father and that explains why both genealogies offer a different father for Joseph.