An account of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers… and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David. And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah… So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; and from David to the deportation to Babylon, fourteen generations; and from the deportation to Babylon to the Messiah, fourteen generations.
The genealogies in the Bible can seem rather irrelevant. We're tempted to skip over them and get on to the rest of the story of salvation. In fact, these lists are crucial to the storyâ€"not just to the biblical story but also to our own stories.
There is a fascination with genealogy today that bears witness to the importance of roots, to knowing where we've come from. The popularity of books and TV programmes on the subject such as Who Do You Think You Are? witness to a fascination with other people's stories as well as our own.
So, what can this list (perhaps you may now be tempted to go and read the entire list) tell us about Jesus? At the very beginning, it places him in his contextâ€"in the line of David, God's anointed king, and Abraham, the first to make a covenant with God. Many of the other names are also great ones in the Bibleâ€"Isaac, Jacob, Solomon.
Then come the unexpected namesâ€"the women's names. The genealogy is traced through the male line, but just occasionally the mother is also included. When we study these names, they are unexpected and irregular, somehow at odds with the other names in the list. They are, if you like, the skeletons in the cupboard of Jesus' genealogy.
Researchers say that every family tree has such skeletons and I suspect that sometimes they're the most interesting of our ancestors, the ones we come to appreciate the most. Tomorrow we'll see what these unexpected women tell us about Jesus.
From whom are you proud to be descended?
Helen Julian CSF
[Originaly printed in www.New Daylight magazine]