The first chapter of Matthew’s Gospel is dedicated to the Genealogy of Jesus: “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac was the father of Jacob, and…” (Matthew 1: 1-17) and if you are like me, but hopefully not, you would likely skip this whole part, and get to the exciting part at Matthew 1:18, where the record of the birth of Jesus unfolds, for really, family histories are as exciting as flipping through the Yellow Pages.

Nonetheless, we must put ourselves in the frame of the audience that Matthew was writing to in the first century. For generations, the Jews had been awaiting a Messiah as promised to them, and to read about this, would been very exciting, and even scandalous news indeed.

The genealogy is divided into three distinct periods according to the classical dating of Jewish history. Each period is marked by 14 generations, which is a multiple of 7, and considered to be a sacred number in Jewish literature. The number 3, was also consider a perfect configuration, and the number 14 is made up of the numerical values of David’s name. This using of the genres and conventions of that time, signals to the Jewish reader in the first century, that Jesus, the Christ, is the fullness and fulfilment of the perfect promises of God, and the perfect descendant of the line of David. In Christ and through Christ, the promises that God made to Abraham and David come to their fullest potential and fruition (Didache Bible, 2016).

While Jewish tradition traces lineage through the paternal line, Matthew’s record of the genealogy features some quirks – First, the mention of the women –  Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba, and finally the last line, “… and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is also called Christ.” (Matthew 1: 16). The deliberate mentioning of these women allows us to see that nothing can thwart the goodness and the plan of God, despite our human frailties and shortcomings. Of the women mentioned in this genealogy, only Mary, and maybe Ruth can be said to be good models. Tamar pretended to be a street-side harlot, to seduce her father-in-law Judah (cf. Genesis 38:15). Rahab was a prostitute (cf. Joshua 2:1), who is nevertheless praised in the New Testament for her good works (cf. Hebrews 11:31), Ruth was not of the same tribe as Boaz, and other ethnicities were consider anathema as inter-marriages were frowned upon. Yet Ruth proved filial to her aging mother-in-law (cf. Ruth 1: 16-17), and Bathsheba, was placed in an illicit and adulterous affair as a result of David’s sin (cf. 2 Samuel 11).

The presence of these women in the Genealogy of Jesus signals to us that just as part of how Gentiles were part of Jesus’ history, the plan of God would also encompass all of humanity. From these jolts in the continuum of history, we also see that our lives are not a result of the aftermath of predictable outcomes, but that God often uses the unexpected to speak to His people, and to carry out His plan for us (Maloney, 2007). Our lives are not often a pretty, polished porcelain platter, but a series of woundedness, sins, conversion, failure, success, ups and downs, and definitively, that of the heroic and epic, and the mundane. At the end of this, is the realisation that God rectifies our mistakes and qualifies the called. It is the Spirit of God and the providential hand of God our Father at work, that eventually lead us to the ultimate meaning in life – Jesus.

The line “… and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is also called Christ.” (Matthew 1: 16), is something that has been deliberated upon by various scholars who point out that since the lineage of Jesus follows the line of Joseph, for these, there is something odd, because technically the human lineage of Jesus should come from Mary, as Joseph was only the foster father of Jesus here on Earth, and that while through marriage she legally enters the house of Joseph and becomes a part of the House of David, it does not justify how Jesus can trace his lineage to King David.

While the New Testament is silent about the lineage and descent of Mary, we need to understand the culture and custom of the time. With extremely rare exceptions very few men of that era would marry outside their tribe or House. This would mean that historically, Mary, would also be a daughter of the House of David, as Joseph was a son of the House of David, as Joseph would have been betrothed to a woman of the same tribe. Key Old Testament passages such as Jeremiah 11:1-10; Jeremiah 23:5, and Psalm 132:1 make reference to how the Messiah, the Christ would come from the lineage of the House of David and thus suggest as a corollary that Mary, too, was of the same. In sacred Tradition, we see Mary being referred to as the Tower of David in the Litany of Loreto, and early Church writers like Tertullian also wrote extensively that Mary was a descendent of David (Evans, 1956; University of Dayton, n.d.). In this light, Jesus, is legitimately descended from the House of David, tracing both his foster father’s and mother’s heritage.

Ancestry aside, is the more important fact that God who made all time, has cognizance and control of History and the events that unfold in its river. He has a plan for us that is beyond understanding and comprehension, and it is He who is indeed the beginning and the end.


By the Grace of God,

Brian Bartholomew Tan



Didache Bible. (2016). Biblical Commentary on Matthew Chapter 1. The Didache Bible.  Midwest Theological Forum INC; Ignatius Press.


Evans, E.(ed). (1956) Tertullian’s Treatise on the Incarnation. (Trans. Ernest E).  SPCK. Retrieved December 23, 2023 from


Maloney, R. P. (2007, December 17). The Genealogy of Jesus: Shadows and lights in his past. America. The Jesuit Review. Retrieved December 23, 2023, from


University of Dayton. (n.d.). David, Mary as a Descendent of. University of Dayton. Retrieved December 23, 2023 from