New Essay on Codex Bezae’s Lukan Genealogy

I have recently published an essay on Codex Bezae’s remarkable and singular Lukan genealogy in the Papers from the Tenth Birmingham Colloquium on the Textual Criticism of the New Testament, edited by H. A. G. Houghton and published by Gorgias Press.1 The essay is a development and expansion of a paper I presented at the Tenth Birmingham Colloquium on the Textual Criticism of the New Testament in March 2017.

Since one of the themes of the colloquium was to reflect on David Parker’s The Living Text of the Gospels, I examine Bezae’s Lukan genealogy through the method Parker outlines in his book, namely, collecting and describing the textual evidence, reconstructing the path of change, and attempting to contextualize these changes in the history of the users of the text.2

As far as external evidence, one startling fact about Bezae’s genealogy, as mentioned in this earlier post, is that its otherwise highly-original list of names, while singular in the manuscript tradition, corresponds to a nearly-identical list in Aphrahat’s Demonstrations. I say “nearly identical” because Bezae’s only divergence from Aphrahat is its puzzling duplication of Jehoiakim’s name, first (according to the reverse order of the Lukan genealogy) under his regnal name, Jehoiakim (ιωακειμ), and then under his birth name, Eliakim (ελιακειμ).

A second surprising observation is that the structure of the genealogy in Bezae the manuscript appears to mirror the structure of the names in Aphrahat’s list. The structure of Aphrahat’s list seems to divide the names into six groups of ten names around a central group of three names, culminating with the name of David. It turns out that Bezae’s page divisions fall precisely at these theorized divisions in the genealogy. Since Bezae has 33 lines per page, three groups of ten and the group of three occupy a single page on Folio 196.

The greater part of the essay is devoted to an effort to contextualize Bezae’s peculiar Lukan genealogy in the early church. Beginning with Justin’s two allusions to Jesus’s genealogy, I consider remarks on the genealogies by sixteen writers, including Aphrahat himself, down to the time of Jerome and Augustine, who were contemporaries of Bezae’s producers.

It is clear that anxiety about discrepancies between the Matthean and Lukan genealogies becomes more pronounced the later we go, reaching a peak in the Latin church in the second half of the fourth century. Earlier writers, such as Justin, Irenaeus, and even Celsus appear to have seen no conflict between the two genealogies, apparently understanding them as belonging respectively to each of Jesus’s human parents, Mary and Joseph. But starting with Julius Africanus, it is generally assumed that both genealogies belong to Joseph, whom they are purported to represent in the two gospel texts.

So later writers, when they mention the genealogy of Jesus, sense a need to explain that any appearance of conflict between the genealogies given by Matthew and Luke is merely an appearance. By the end of the fourth century, the preferred explanation is some form of the interpretation based on Levirate marriage, though this is not the only explanation given, as discussed in the essay.

The Lukan genealogy supplies a fascinating background to examine the development of Bezae’s tradition, given that its secondary character is so obvious and yet it is one of the longest variations in any of the gospels, consisting of eighty words.


  1. Peter E. Lorenz, “The Lukan Genealogy (Luke 3:23-38) as a Living Text: The Genealogy of Jesus in the Traditions of Codex Bezae and Aphrahat” in Liturgy and the Living Text of the New Testament: Papers from the Tenth Birmingham Colloquium on the Textual Criticism of the New Testament (ed. H. A. G. Houghton. Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias, 2018) 71-120.
  2. D. C. Parker, The Living Text of the Gospels (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997).

6 thoughts on “New Essay on Codex Bezae’s Lukan Genealogy

  1. Hi Alex,

    Yes, I agree an ebook would be more accessible to many folks. Unfortunately, I don’t get to make that decision. I am only allowed to post a copy of my own essay.

    Thanks for commenting!


    • Hi Pete,
      Do you plan to post it on your blog? The Lukan genealogy is one of my personal study projects and I plan to blog on it further. I am just starting a fuller study of its contents.


      • Hi Alex,

        Yes, the link to the essay is in the words “an essay” in first sentence. Perhaps I should make it more clear. Looking at it again, it’s easy for the eye to skip over. Sorry about that!


  2. Pete,
    Congratulations on another well written and researched paper. I always appreciate the thoroughness of your citing original sources. I have read your current essay a couple of times. While I appreciate your restraint, it is becoming clearer in my mind that Bezae was in fact a late, relatively speaking, manuscript and not a 2nd century text. The implications of this for establishing the ausgangstext could be far-reaching. I need to reread some of your earlier essays and posts to firm up this contention.


    • Hi Tim,

      Thanks as always for your thoughtful and perceptive comments!

      Of course, I appreciate your kind, though certainly well-thought-out, take on my research conclusions. I am myself becoming more convinced of the place of Bezae’s text form in the latter fourth century. This is also the direction of my dissertation on Bezae’s Markan text, which I am now working around the clock to finish up. Currently, I have six chapters written and hope to have the seventh by the end of August. The eighth chapter is the conclusion. We’ll see how it goes!

      Thanks for your encouragement, which is always gratefully appreciated.


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