4 December 2023 |
Dear Aunt Sevvy,
The prophets said that the Messiah would be the son of David, from the tribe of Judah. The book of Matthew traces the genealogy from Abraham, and in Luke from Adam. But all of them lead to Joseph—and Joseph was not Jesus‘ father, he was Jesus‘ adoptive father!
Yet Mary was the important figure in this event, wasn‘t she? The only information about Mary is that her cousin Elisabeth was a descendant of Aaron, which is the tribe of Levi.
As a woman, I wonder why there is so little about Mary’s family?
Signed, Daughter of God
A great many lines have been penned, from the first century onward, trying to resolve Jesus’ ancestry—which is why Aunty cannot, she regrets, give you a definitive answer. Some reflections, for what they’re worth:
- Even conservative scholars admit that the genealogies weren’t meant to be precise. They were composed to demonstrate that Jesus was the fulfillment of prophecy. That doesn’t necessarily mean that great Bible figures weren’t in Jesus’ genealogical line, but it’s pretty easy to see that even Matthew’s and Luke’s genealogies don’t match, and neither aligns perfectly with the genealogies in the Old Testament.
- The Bible is a male book, written by men, and women were given short shrift from the beginning of it. The point: genealogical descent only counted if men were named.
- Surprisingly, though, four women get honorable mention in Matthew’s genealogy: Tamar (who pretended to be a prostitute to get pregnant from her father-in-law), Rahab (a gentile prostitute), Ruth (a gentile who, some said, seduced Boaz) and Bathsheba (who was married to a Gentile until she had an adulterous liaison with King David). This wasn’t accidental, say scholars: the author wanted to give these “bad” women legitimacy—as well as draw a parallel with Mary, who was also accused of being immoral.
- There is a minority view, too complicated to go into here, that Matthew records Joseph’s genealogy, but Luke records Mary’s—and that a patriarchal scribe replaced Mary’s name with Joseph’s. Note, for example, that Joseph has a different father in Luke than in Matthew.
There is a ton of information about this in commentaries. Aunty doubts it matters, though, to those of us whose love for Jesus has to do with what he said and what he did, not who his ancestors were.
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Aunt Sevvy has collected her answers into a book! You can get it from Amazon by clicking here.
You can write to Aunt Sevvy at DearAuntSevvy@gmail.com. Your real identity will never be revealed.