January 5 - Matthew 1:1-25
THE GENEALOGY of Jesus Christ, 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 Judah - the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez - the father of Hezron, and Hezron - the father of Aram, and Aram - the father of Aminadab, and Aminadab - the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon - the father of Salmon, 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 Uriah's wife, and Solomon - the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam - the father of Abijah, and Abijah - the father of Asaph, and Asaph - the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat - the father of Joram, and Joram - the father of Uzziah, and Uzziah - the father of Jotham, and Jotham - the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz - the father of Hezekiah, and Hezekiah - the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh - the father of Amon, and Amon - the father of Josiah, and Josiah - the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.
And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Salathiel, and Salathiel - the father of Zerubbabel, and Zerubbabel - the father of Abiud, and Abiud - the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim - the father of Azor, and Azor - the father of Zadok, and Zadok - the father of Achim, and Achim - the father of Eliud, and Eliud - the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar - the father of Matthan, and Matthan - the father of Jacob, and Jacob - the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ.
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 Christ - fourteen generations.
Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When His Mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with Child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the Child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a Son, and you are to name Him Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Behold, the virgin will conceive and give birth to a Son, and they will name Him Emmanuel” (Isaiah 7:14), which means, “God is with us.” When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him. He took Mary as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she gave birth to a firstborn Son, and Joseph named Him Jesus.
This is the traditional Gospel lesson for the last Sunday that falls before the Nativity of the Lord. In it, Saint Matthew recounts the genealogy of Christ, to show to his intended readers (Matthew wrote his Gospel account mainly for the Greek-speaking Jewish audience) that Christ is the promised Messiah because he came from the line of Abraham, just like God promised to Abraham.
I will not go through every name mentioned by Matthew, simply because that would require more time than I have. But I would like to point out a few things in the genealogy. First, it's unclear where Matthew got this list from. I would assume that each Jewish family had a list of their ancestors, which was important for them in order to trace their lineage to one of the twelve tribes. Second, this list is not complete. In the Old Testament we have a few genealogical lists (for example, Genesis 5), but not all of them are complete. Some skip a generation or two because the point is not to show a full family tree, but rather that there is continuity in the ancestry.
Some smart people who have tried to prove that the Gospel is fake and made up, point out that, even though Matthew says there were fourteen generations "from the deportation to Babylon to Christ," if we count carefully, we'll see that Matthew lists only thirteen. What's up with that? Did Matthew forgot how to count? Matthew was formerly a tax-collector, who converted to become Christ's disciple. If anyone knew how to count, it was Matthew.
Matthew arranged the names into three groups, but the groups were not divided equally. And, like I said, the list is not really full. The reason for both is that Matthew marked signposts along the way of redemption. From Abraham to David, the history focused on the covenant God made with Abraham. From David to the Babylonian exile - on God's covenant with David and his line. After the exile - on God's imminent restoration and fulfillment of all His promises to the struggling post-exilic community of Israel. By arranging Israel's history in this manner, Matthew shows how Jesus Christ came right on time, to fulfill all of history's hopes.
And, the reason we see only thirteen names "from the deportation to Babylon to Christ," is that Matthew counted the deportation itself as a generation. Pay attention to what is said, "Josiah [was] the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon. And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Salathiel." Meaning, no names are mentioned of those born in the deportation. The exile in Babylon lasted around 70 years, which is around 2-3 generations. Matthew does not skip these generations, but marks the whole exile as an event, as a generation.
And a few notes on the names mentioned by Matthew. Not everyone on this list is good, or a saint, quite a few people are really bad, almost evil. Why mention them at all? Because that's the earthly genealogy of Christ, and these people, while being part of the genealogy, were well known in Jewish history. This shows that not everyone referred to in the Old Testament is a saint, even in Christ's own line. In fact, every human being in the Old Testament is a sinner, some more than others, and only God is sinless. Therefore, God can act through, His will can be done even through sinners. We don't need to be saints to do His will, all we need to be is sinners who want to be better.
And lastly, there are several women mentioned in the list, which was unusual for such Jewish genealogies. There is Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Mary. What is really surprising is that all, except Mary, were Gentiles, i.e. not Jewish. Tamar is mentioned in Genesis 38, Rahab was a pagan and a prostitute (Joshua 2), and Ruth has a whole book in the Old Testament about her life. Matthew wanted to show to his Jewish audience that the messianic redemption, even though beginning in Israel, will spread to all the Gentiles, and so he focuses on these pagan women, who played significant roles in Israel's sacred history. The early Christians, especially those who converted from Judaism, had a dilemma - do the Gentile converts need to be circumcised and follow the Law of Moses in order to be fully Christian? Saints Peter and Paul famously disagreed on this issue, so much so that the first ever council in the Church history had to be called (Acts 15). The council sided with Paul, who said that the Gentiles did not have to become Jews first in order to become Christians. So Matthew shows that concern for the Gentiles is not shameful (the Jews really didn't like the Gentiles in those days), but that the Gentiles had their place in God's plan of salvation all along.
Some of the notes above were taken from The Gospel of Matthew, Torah for the Church by Fr Lawrence Farley.
Yours in the Lord,