CHURCH OF ENGLAND CHOOSES FIRST WOMAN BISHOP
Matthew 1:1-17 ©
A genealogy of Jesus Christ, son of David, son of Abraham:
Abraham was the father of Isaac,
Isaac the father of Jacob,
Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers,
Judah was the father of Perez and Zerah, Tamar being their mother,
Perez was the father of Hezron,
Hezron the father of Ram,
Ram was the father of Amminadab,
Amminadab the father of Nahshon,
Nahshon the father of Salmon,
Salmon was the father of Boaz, Rahab being his mother,
Boaz was the father of Obed, Ruth being his mother,
Obed was the father of Jesse;
and Jesse was the father of King David.
David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife,
Solomon was the father of Rehoboam,
Rehoboam the father of Abijah, Abijah the father of Asa,
Asa was the father of Jehoshaphat,
Jehoshaphat the father of Joram,
Joram the father of Azariah,
Azariah was the father of Jotham,
Jotham the father of Ahaz,
Ahaz the father of Hezekiah,
Hezekiah was the father of Manasseh,
Manasseh the father of Amon,
Amon the father of Josiah;
and Josiah was the father of Jechoniah and his brothers.
Then the deportation to Babylon took place.
After the deportation to Babylon:
Jechoniah was the father of Shealtiel,
Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel,
Zerubbabel was the father of Abiud,
Abiud the father of Eliakim,
Eliakim the father of Azor,
Azor was the father of Zadok,
Zadok the father of Achim,
Achim the father of Eliud,
Eliud was the father of Eleazar,
Eleazar the father of Matthan,
Matthan the father of Jacob;
and Jacob was the father of Joseph the husband of Mary;
of her was born Jesus who is called Christ.
The sum of generations is therefore: fourteen from Abraham to David; fourteen from David to the Babylonian deportation; and fourteen from the Babylonian deportation to Christ.
The last item about Joseph, Mary and Jesus protects the teaching that Joseph was not the biological father of Jesus, but nevertheless a whole genealogy has been contructed with Joseph as the end point. Of course we can say that Joseph was the legal father of David and that this woud be enough to justify the genealogy. I doubt it, and think that the genealogy itself comes from a source who didn’t know about Jesus’ virginal conception.
There is of course a problem for the storyteller who wants to illustrate the conviction the Jesus is the “word made flesh”- his birth must be special. Biblical storytellers have a number of ways of indicating special births- often they happen to women who have been childless, like Sarah or Hannah. But in the case of Jesus, the storytellers have resorted to a folk element absent from the Bible but known in surrounding cultures: the virgin birth. The modern reader, for whom this diminishes the humanity of Jesus without adding to his divinity, finds it hard to see the need for this.
The genealogy names only 5 women: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba and Mary, all of whom became part of the line of descent in exceptional ways. The 3 times 14 generations is a scheme probably based on the numeric value of the name David- Hebrew letters double as numerals.So what we have is a bold assertion that in each period of Jewish history, God has through human descent prepared the birth of Messiah Jesus the Son of David and Abraham – except that of course He hasn’t, according to the story Matthew tells, in which Jesus’ human nature comes from Mary, whose genealogy is not given.
Indeed all the New Testament writers want to assert a new begining for humanity in Jesus, while to a greater or lesser degree they also assert that he is part of the long story of Israel, the people of God. Matthew is telling his readers that to understand the story of Jesus Messiah, they must read the Jewish bible. The Christian church however has also insisted that to understand the Jewish bible you have to read the story of Jesus. The whole bible is the story of how the Creator God lets the world get out of hand and puts it right by working through human beings. Yes, this story is invented and told by human beings but that in turn is said to be part of God’s plan. That’s why we end up with something as unique and crazy as a genealogy of God’s son which is filled with human names; and why the story of the virgin birth may be a mistake, unless it’s seen as a symbol of God’s involvement in every birth in the story………
…….and maybe in every birth without exception.