Genealogies of Jesus
Hello. Is Jesus a descendant of King David (and therefore also Jesse, King David's father)? Which biblical references indicate this heritage? Thanks in advance.
The joy of the Lord be in your heart.
Thank you for your question because it made me revisit fundamental elements of my faith. It reminded me of the roots of the Catholic Church. Jesus was Jewish and the first Church was composed of Jews who accepted Christ as the Messiah.
I’m presenting a resume of the Jerome Commentary with some observations of my own.
In the NT we find two genealogies. The purpose of Mt’s genealogy (Mt 1:1-16) is to show that Jesus is the Messiah (1:1, 16), the term of the history of salvation that was begun with the promises to Abraham. Mt here takes the view of the Pentateuch, which also begins with Abraham; Luke (3:23-38) begins with the first man. He wants to announce that Jesus is king Messiah, the son of David, and Messiah of Israel, the son of Abraham.
The genealogy of Mt is deliberately compiled in 3 sets of 14 names (1:17); 14 are a multiple of 7. It is divided at the two critical points of Israelite history, the foundation of the monarchy of David and the collapse of the monarchy of Judah in the Babylonian conquest of 587 BC.
The artificiality of the numbers is maintained by the omission of the names of Ahaziah, Jehoash, and Amaziah between Jehoram and Uzziah; the queen Athaliah was regarded as a usurper, and she would not have figured in the genealogy in any case.
Mt follows the line of the kings of Judah. Lk follows a cognate line. Mt’s genealogy up to Zerubbabel could be formed by copying from a text of OT books; for the rest of the genealogy, there is no documentary source with which we can compare it.
Interesting that Mt expressly mentions four women that are contradictory to the pure Jewish line: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba. No principle governs their inclusion. Tamar deceived her father-in-law Judah into an incestuous union (Gn 38). Rahab in folklore was the prostitute of Jericho who sheltered the spies and was admitted to the Israelite community (Jos 2). Ruth, the heroine of the Book of Ru, was a Moabite who joined the Israelite community. Bathsheba was the wife of Uriah and the partner of David’s adultery. The only common element (probable, but less clear for Bathsheba) is that they were foreigners. The Fathers of the Church see in all of those women the symbol of the Church that comes from paganism and converts to Christianism. The promises to Israel won’t be taken away but Christ has called all men to salvation. (I don’t want interrupt the exposition here so I’ll consign in a note at the end a very interesting passage regarding the relation of Israel and the Catholic Church, the new Israel)
The number 14 in the third group can be maintained only by including Mary or by counting Jesus and Christ as two; it is possible that a name was omitted in the early transmission of the text. One could explain the inclusion of Mary because of the virgin birth, clearly declared in the following passage. If Jesus and Christ are counted as two, the duality could be understood as referring to his nativity in the flesh and to his Second Coming; such an eschatological allusion is common in Mt.10. Amos: This reading of the critical text stems from an early confusion of the name of King Amon with the name of the prophet Amos.
The reconciliation of the divergent genealogies of Mt and Lk already was a celebrated problem in patristic times. Reconciliation assumes that both genealogies are compiled from reliable records. It is known that genealogies were kept in the post-exilic Jewish community.
The most common theory of the Fathers of the Church is that Mt’s is the genealogy of Joseph and that of Luke is that of Mary. Remember that a Jew is a Jew by having a Jewish mother, not because he has a Jewish father. And remember that both, Joseph and Mary, are from the "house of David."
It is evident that both Mt and Lk try to make above all a theological statement, i.e. they want to express the real incarnation of the Son of God, second Person of the Holy Trinity and that Jesus is the promised Messiah. This doesn’t exclude that they had historical sources. Matthew talks to Jewish-Christian communities. He wants to show that Christ is the promised one. Luke talks to pagan-Christian communities and he tries to make them understand the Jewish implications.
I used to yawn when during the celebration of mass these gospels were proclaimed. It seemed so boring. But seeing and hearing so many different interpretation that diminish or Jesus’ humanity or His divinity has reconciled me because in Him God has accomplished 2000 years ago what He has promised from the beginning (Gen 3:15). That’s why the Catholic Church is celebrating this year the Jubilee. "Baruch atah adonai!"
PS. It's a bit longish but it makes you feel that you are part of the genealogies.
Romans 11:1 I SAY then, God has not rejected His people, has He? May it never be! For I too am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. 2 God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew. Or do you not know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel? 3 "Lord, THEY HAVE KILLED THY PROPHETS, THEY HAVE TORN DOWN THINE ALTARS, AND I ALONE AM LEFT, AND THEY ARE SEEKING MY LIFE."
4 But what is the divine response to him? "I HAVE KEPT for Myself SEVEN THOUSAND MEN WHO HAVE NOT BOWED THE KNEE TO BAAL." 5 In the same way then, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to God’s gracious choice. 6 But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace. 7 What then? That which Israel is seeking for, it has not obtained, but those who were chosen obtained it, and the rest were hardened; 8 just as it is written,
"GOD GAVE THEM A SPIRIT OF STUPOR,
EYES TO SEE NOT AND EARS TO HEAR NOT,
DOWN TO THIS VERY DAY."
9 And David says,
"LET THEIR TABLE BECOME A SNARE AND A TRAP,
AND A STUMBLING BLOCK AND A RETRIBUTION TO THEM.
10 "LET THEIR EYES BE DARKENED TO SEE NOT,
AND BEND THEIR BACKS FOREVER."
11 I say then, they did not stumble so as to fall, did they? May it never be! But by their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles, to make them jealous. 12 Now if their transgression be riches for the world and their failure be riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their fulfillment be! 13 But I am speaking to you who are Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle of Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, 14 if somehow I might move to jealousy my fellow countrymen and save some of them. 15 For if their rejection be the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? 16 And if the first piece of dough be holy, the lump is also; and if the root be holy, the branches are too.
17 But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree, 18 do not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you. 19 You will say then, "Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in." 20 Quite right, they were broken off for their unbelief, but you stand by your faith. Do not be conceited, but fear; 21 for if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will He spare you.
22 Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God’s kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off. 23 And they also, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in; for God is able to graft them in again. 24 For if you were cut off from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more shall these who are the natural branches be grafted into their own olive tree?
25 For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery, lest you be wise in your own estimation, that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fulness of the Gentiles has come in; 26 and thus all Israel will be saved; just as it is written,"THE DELIVERER WILL COME FROM ZION,
HE WILL REMOVE UNGODLINESS FROM JACOB."
27 "AND THIS IS MY COVENANT WITH THEM,
WHEN I TAKE AWAY THEIR SINS."
28 From the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but from the standpoint of God’s choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers; 29 for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. 30 For just as you once were disobedient to God, but now have been shown mercy because of their disobedience, 31 so these also now have been disobedient, in order that because of the mercy shown to you they also may now be shown mercy. 32 For God has shut up all in disobedience that He might show mercy to all.
33 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! 34 For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, OR WHO BECAME HIS COUNSELOR? 35 Or WHO HAS FIRST GIVEN TO HIM THAT IT MIGHT BE PAID BACK TO HIM AGAIN? 36 For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.
Wondrous, isn't it?