"WHO SHALL DECLARE HIS GENERATION?"
492. We must abandon, then, the views set forth by such writers as Sir Henry Maine, of an older school, who declares: "The elementary group is the family connected by common subjection to the highest male ascendant.” That male ascendancy he calls the patria potestas. Later investigations demonstrate that previously there had been female dignity. We re-state the proposition: "The elementary group is the family, held together by equal parents, with the children in subjection to them.” We have said before that we do not believe that God designed that either adult parent should rule the other; we do not concede that such rule of an adult is necessary; it destroys domestic peace, and the happiness of the subordinated one. McLennan makes this useful remark, to which women should give heed: "The system of kinship through mothers only, operates to throw difficulties in the way of the rise of the patria potestas, and of the system of agnation.” We believe God designed that system of kinship through females only precisely for that purpose; to put a check upon that ambition to which He foreknew Adam would give rein,¾to have power, to be "as God," in the matter of ruling over others.
493. Who shall declare His generation?" asks the far-seeing prophet Isaiah (53:8), in regard to the coming Messiah. Most scholars agree that the sentence should have been translated, "Who considered His generation," and the R.V. so renders it. The precise import of the question is a matter of uncertainty among expositors. Some refer it to the untimely death of Christ, which rendered posterity in His case, impossible. But would He have had human and fleshly posterity had He lived? Unthinkable! This sense seems to be conveyed by the A.V. translators. But this word rendered "generation," singular number, never seems to admit such a sense as "posterity.” It means rather a single generation, or period. Therefore, "Who shall declare His generation, for He was cut off out of the land of the living," can hardly signify, "He could have no posterity because of an untimely death."
494. The R.V. seeks to meet the need of a clear sense by supplying two words to the original text. It reads, "As for His generation (contemporaries), who among them considered that He was cut off out of the land of the living?" Concerning this Dr. Skinner, in the Cambridge Bible says of the original word for "generation" (dor) that "it is never used with any such significance as 'length of life', or 'life-history', or 'posterity'. We may render with the R.V.'and as for His generation who (among them) considered,' etc. Yet the construction as a direct object of the verb is so much the more natural that any suggestion would be acceptable which might enable us to retain it.” We offer such a suggestion, in the light of the recently recognized fact (so long ignored), that God's primal social law provided for female kinship, rather than male kinship, and that God prophesied that the Seed of the woman should bruise the head of the Serpent.
495. The suggestion is this: There being no neuter gender in Hebrew, the word for "generation" is masculine in form; but following English usage we should translate the pronoun "it," not "he.” "Who considered His generation, for it was cut off out of the land of the living.” And so it was; by setting aside female kinship, and reckoning kinship by males only, no place was left to record the unique generation of Christ Jesus, of a woman only. Isaiah, seeing this fact by prophetic vision, marvels that no man "considered" that the cutting off of female kinship from the earth would involve the cutting off of the generation of that One of whom Isaiah himself had previously prophesied (7:14) that He was to be conceived and born of a virgin. (Read the Additional Note at the end of the Lesson).
496. Satan, at any rate, had considered that coming time. He did not forget the prophecy, "I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her Seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise His heel.” He knew that the woman was to bear seed in some special and unusual manner, to which man was not to be so closely related. And this generation would mean the birth of his conquering Enemy into the midst of mankind. What wonder if he determined, far in advance of the event, to plan that when it came to pass it should be scarcely "considered" at all by man? What wonder if he wrought upon the pride and ambition of men to be reckoned as the sole source of the generations of men on the earth, and upon their ambition to perpetuate their own names, instead of that of their mothers, from generation to generation? The deed was accomplished, but female kinship was not displaced by male kinship excepting by most cruel, oppressive and immoral methods.
497. Man did not consider, nor did Satan intend he should, that in cutting off the generations of woman from their genealogical tables of the living, he would leave no room for the record, in unquestionable terms, of the greatest event that could ever transpire in human history. Joseph's name¾the name of one in no way related to Jesus Christ by ties of blood, must do duty as Jesus' sole "parent," in the eyes of the law.
498. Two genealogical tables are given for Jesus Christ,¾one in Matthew, the other in Luke. The first ends in the name "Joseph," and the second begins with "Joseph.” The tables are not alike, at some points, nor are either of them a satisfying demonstration that Jesus Christ was of the House of David, whatever they may prove of Joseph's lineage. That in Matthew, first chapter, is supposed by many to be Joseph's own; that in Luke, third chapter, Mary's own, excepting for the name of Joseph. But this genealogical table ends with "Adam," who was that one member of the human race who, being older than Eve, cannot by any logical possibility be in the line of the descendants of Eve, within which line Christ was promised, and came. If we cannot prove the validity of the evidence, how can that evidence prove the case? If the witness that "this was the Son of God" rested solely upon these attempts to prove it by these tables, we should be badly off. These tables have, viewed in this light, proved to be to this extent, stumbling blocks.
499. But understanding, as we now do, that man "cut off" the generations of woman from "the land of the living" to place his own name in her place, we see, in this confused attempt to establish a "generation" for the man Christ Jesus, Seed of woman alone, a confirmation and fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy, which confirms rather than weakens faith. And women have the consolation of knowing that their Redeemer shares with them the dishonor. Her Savior, and His mother Mary, suffered the greater affront in this wrong to womanhood; and man but struck at the foundations of his own faith in the Redeemer, by providing no proper place in the records of human births for that Name at which eventually every knee shall bow, that Name which, eventually every tongue confess,¾voluntarily in loyal love and reverence, or involuntarily, in fear and dread.
500. Canon Payne-Smith speaks truly of Genesis 3:15 as containing "that promise, of which the whole of the rest of the Scripture is but the record of the gradual stages of its fulfillment.” The grand seal of that promise was the virgin birth of Jesus the Christ; but just as when it came to His birth, no place was found for Him in the habitations of man (only among the lower animals), so was no place left for the record of the birth of the Most Holy among the records of the decent and honorable of earth. Female kinship would have made a place to receive Him among men. Male kinship required the makeshift of a foster "father.”
And there is truth here for us to ponder. Male kinship, as recorded on earth, rests always for proof on hearsay evidence; female kinship, on prima facie evidence. Uncertainty must always haunt the former; and that is the great reason why it should never have been made the basis of human records.
Dr. Mingana makes the following note for me on this interpretation of Isaiah 53:8: "The Hebrew word for ‘generation,’ Dor, is translated in Syriac by Dar, and curiously enough, the Syrian commentators understand this word as meaning ‘birth, genealogy,’ but mostly ‘the miraculous birth of Christ.’ See the still unpublished commentary of the Syrian Church entitled Gannath, p. 122 of MS 41 of the John Rylands Library. This is a distinct point gained for you.”