I read about the belief of some that the Rahab of Joshua 2 is not the same Rahab listed in the lineage of Jesus. I also read that according to Jewish tradition she was married to Joshua and that the spelling of her name in Matthew is different from that mentioned in Joshua, Hebrews and James, therefore supporting the argument that she is not the same person. What should I make of this theory? Is there any information you are aware of that dispels or perhaps even supports this argument? — Karina
Joseph Harris replies:
Please see http://reactor-core.org/ruth-rahab.html for an example of such an argument. There are Jewish traditions/legends that have Joshua marrying Rahab. According to the Jewish Encyclopedia, Rahab is said to have become Joshua’s wife. They had daughters but no son. From this union many prophets descended, and Hannah was Rahab’s reincarnation. Rahab was ten years old when Israel left Egypt, and during the forty years intervening she was a great sinner; but when the spies visited her she became a proselyte. There is some doubt as to her having had only daughters by Joshua (see Zeb. 116b; Mek., Yitro [beginning]; Rashi to Josh. ii.; Yalḳ., Josh. 9; Meg. 14a; Gedaliah ibn Yaḥya, "Shalshelet ha-Ḳabbalah," p. 14a). However, Jewish traditions of this sort should be merely illustrative, interesting, or supportive, but not used to definitively establish someone’s identity.
There are literary reasons for assuming that the Rehab mentioned in Matthew’s account of Jesus’ lineage is the same Rahab as in Joshua; however, I am not convinced that it is necessary that we be dogmatic that this must be so. It is interesting, though, that Matthew’s mention does not explicitly identify Rahab as the one in Joshua (although I would argue that it does do so implicitly through literary devices) and that the other two references to Rahab in Hebrews and James do not identify her as being related to Jesus.