bible christianity theology

homecoming for bad girls & outsiders

The genealogy of Matthew 1:1-17 is about far more than biological decent.

It is well known that the extra detail given for Judah, Salmon, Boaz and David is deliberate.  Jesus’ family history has some real gems in it: prostitutes, adulterers and gentiles.

The only other extra in the genealogy is the bit about “Jeconiah and his brothers at the time of the exile to Babylon”.  This detail about the exile is reinforced by the summary of the genealogy in 1:17.  Three sets of 14 generations divide the four key events our attention is being drawn to: birth of nation (Abraham), peak of national life (David), valley of national life (exile), and what it all led up to (the Christ).

  • Abraham >> (14 generations) >> David…
  • David >> (14 generations) >> Exile…
  • Exile >> (14 generations) >> ‘the Christ’.

The author wants us to understand not only that Jesus is the ‘son of David’ and the true ‘son of Abraham’ (as set out in the first verse), but also that the exile in some sense has continued until the coming of the Christ.  The Jewish people had, of course, been back home from exile for quite some time… but we are being told there is another homecoming from another exile, and people like prostitutes, adulterers and gentiles are part of the King’s family coming home.

6 replies on “homecoming for bad girls & outsiders”

For one thing, the genealogies of the patriarchs are certainly not literal, so whatever the author of Matthew is trying to prove, if he’s taking Genesis literally, he’s doing something wrong.
Second thing, what about the genealogy in Luke? The number of generation is completely different, and yes I know that the common Christian excuse is that Luke is giving the genealogy of Mary, but I don’t buy it for a second for two reasons.
1) There is absolutely no textual support for the Mary hypothesis, it was only suggested hundreds of years later when the Church Father’s realised they had a glaring contradiction on their hands.
2) Luke wasn’t written (neither was Matthew) for 60+ years after the alleged death of Jesus, why on earth should I believe that both authors managed to collect up an accurate genealogy on both sides of his family? It’s not like Jesus was a king or anything, no one would have cared about his genealogy except his own family, and they didn’t write anything down so….

they are ‘literal’ in the proper literary sense – they mean what the authors intended them to mean. Luke has his theological angle he wants to get across too. Read a commentary or two.

“Jesus’ family history has some real gems in it: prostitutes, adulterers and gentiles.”

From what I understand, the official line when presented with conflicting or confusing biblical genealogies is that “they were writing for different purposes”, and that the authors weren’t really interested in accuracy when reporting a bloodline. It then doesn’t seem like much of a leap from there to suggest that the genealogies (of Jesus and of the old testament) were constructed to get across the “theological angle” that the author wanted, or to score some authority points by claiming a link to the Davidic dynasty, and perhaps to allude to an Old Testament prophecy too?

Yes. Though we need not throw the historical baby out with the theological bathwater. N.T. Wright (i.e. his tome ‘Jesus and the Victory of God’) is very helpful on all of this if you’re interested.

Comments are closed.