Monday 17 December 2012

Bible Book:

"An account of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham." (v. 1)

Matthew 1:1-17 Monday 17 December 2012


English translations rarely capture the ambiguity of some Greekphrases. The first two words of Matthew's Gospel which areliterally "the book of the genesis". Most translators understandthem to refer to the table of Jesus' ancestors that follows but itis also possible to see the first verse as the title of the wholeGospel (cf Mark 1:1) as 'genesis' can carry the sense ofthe history or the story of Jesus.

The table of ancestors seems designed to support the claim ofthe first verse, that Jesus is the son of David and son of Abraham.Both phrases are echoes of the covenants of the Old Testament (Genesis 17 and 2Samuel 7). The claim that Jesus is the Messiah (or Christ) isto be understood as the fulfilment of God's promises, so it is notsurprising that the Gospel is redolent with 'fulfilment' quotationsfrom the Hebrew Scriptures.

The table itself is designed to emphasise this theological pointand to support it with another - that there is a pattern in thehistory of the people of Abraham which leads to this moment. Thedivision of 42 generations (actually only 41) into three groups of14 is achieved by omitting some figures included in the biblicalrecord.

One noticeable feature is that whilst, as we might expect, theancestry is traced through the male line, there are (apart fromMary) four women included. Remarkably, all four might be seen asGentiles (non Jews) - Tamar and Rahab (Canaanites), Ruth (aMoabite), and Bathsheba (married to an Hittite). None of the fouris free from some taint of sexual scandal. Matthew is subtlyintroducing a tension that is going to re-appear in the Gospel -the fulfilment of God's promises to Israel in the story of Jesus isabout more than Israel.

To Ponder

  • Is it troubling that only four women are mentioned in anarrative that implies forty-one mothers? Why?
  • Who do you think you are? has proved to be apopular TV programme. Give thanks for those who provide you with ahistory or at least a beginning to your story.
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