Cultivating the Christ
Cultivating the Roots of Christ. We know that Jesus is the Christ and is the Son of God, but what about Jesus’ human lineage?
Jesus was born to a virgin human woman, Mary, and we are told in scripture and therefore believe that Jesus Christ is God in the flesh (John1: 1,14-18).
Why did God choose to reveal himself to us as a human? In the Old Testament, He spoke through messengers, such as angels or prophets. He also appeared in abstract forms such as clouds of smoke or fire.
Why did He choose to finally become flesh and walk the earth as a man?
It seems that He became human to be able to better communicate with us. He not only masterfully communicated with humanity through His Word but needed to reach us through being physically present.
God needed to use our language, and our culture of the day, to solidify our understanding of what He, the Almighty, was trying to communicate.
Therefore, it is important when reading the Bible that we have insight into the culture of the times so that we can better understand what God is trying to tell us. In other words, context is extremely important.
We need to understand the culture of the day so we can put things into context. Only then can we thoroughly comprehend His meaning.
Throughout this book, I have tried to include information that will help put the beautiful stories of God’s word into context, so that we can better understand what He is trying to convey to us.
Jesus’ ancestors; Who were these people?
~ Two disparate Genealogies of Jesus ~
Jews kept extensive, very complete genealogies to establish and record peoples’ heritage. This important documentation was known to be kept in the Archives building in Jerusalem, and also was well documented in the Hebrew Bible for important figures of the faith. A person’s inheritance, legitimacy and rights, and even legal rights to the throne depended on a person’s heritage.
The Jewish culture, being very legalistic, kept detailed accounts of people’s ancestors. Ancient genealogies were, therefore, very important documentation and were held safely in the Archives building in Jerusalem, along with public registers and bonds were taken by money-lenders.
The bonds were proof, which allowed the recovery of debts. The genealogies validated many things such as royalty and social status, and inheritance rights to the property.
With that being said, there are two genealogies for Jesus found in the New Testament.
They are written in the Gospels of Luke (3:23-38) and of Matthew (1:1-17).
Interestingly, the names are the same in both accounts through King David and Bathsheba but differ somewhat after these two individuals.
Pearl: Both genealogies for Jesus written in the New Testament are the same through King David and his wife, Bathsheba.
How are they different?
The two genealogies written in the Gospels of Luke and Matthew differ in several ways: Luke wrote a descending list, starting with Jesus and going all the way back to the first man, Adam.
Matthew, on the other hand, wrote an ascending list, starting with Abraham and ending with Jesus.
Comparison of the names in the genealogies of the lists from Luke and Matthew reveals that the two diverge after King David.
The names from Abraham to David are the same in both lists.
After David, the names in the lists are different, except they converge on two names, being Zerubbabel and Shealtiel, which are listed in both Luke and Matthew.
Zerubbabel led the first group of Israelites, given permission to return to Israel from Babylonian exile.
Matthew’s lineage contains Jechoniah, whose line was cursed (Jeremiah 22:30, 2 Kings 24:8-9)
~The hallmark in the difference between the two genealogies is:~
In Luke’s account, David and Bathsheba’s son Nathan continues the lineage to Jesus.
In Matthew’s list, Solomon, who is also the son of David and Bathsheba, is noted to have been the ancestor of Jesus.
Biblical scholars have tried to surmise why the names in the lists are not identical after David, and various reasons have been given.
Matthew and Luke were writing to different audiences
- Matthew wrote to a Jewish audience, tracing Jesus’ lineage to Abraham, to emphasize his Jewish heritage, which emphasized the importance of Jesus’ ancestry being intertwined with the covenants God made with Israel to prove Jesus was a true Israelite and the rightful King of Israel.
He referred to Jesus as the son of David and the son of Abraham.
• As the son of David, Jesus was a Messiah with a royal lineage,
Jesus is the rightful legal heir to the covenant promises associated
with the Davidic throne
• God’s covenant with Abraham established Israel as a chosen people and also affirmed that the whole world would be blessed through his line. Jesus is the rightful legal heir to the covenant promises related to the Abrahamic seed and land.
- Matthew took a legalistic view
To prove to the Jews that Jesus was the promised Messiah, Luke traced Jesus’ descent from a biological view to Adam.
Emphasized that Jesus is the fulfillment of the hopes of all people
The Good News of the Gospels was meant for Gentiles and Jews.
- Luke wrote to a Gentile audience
He emphasized that Jesus is the Savior of the whole world, not just Israel.
There are many reasons that have been given as to why ancient genealogies differ. Still, perhaps another logical reason can be drawn by reading the comments of Rabbis in the Midrash concerning documentation of the lineage of King David in 1 Chronicles. The Rabbis noted that often there were instances of people being called by two different names.
o These names were often copied from different historical documents.
o Some names might be missing from one document, yet found in another.
o Therefore, the ancient chronicler used multiple documents which varied slightly to complement each other to compile a complete list of ancestors.
o This could lead to some names being different when the complete list was generated.
- o Many of the names could have been lost during the Babylonian exile
o Often, a father may be a grandfather.
o Generations may have been skipped leading to confusion among the names.
- Another reason the genealogies may not be identical is that often the writer does not list all of the individuals in the family, only key names.
An author may select different names that they may have considered to be important.
An older reason used by biblical scholars for why the two genealogies differ is that Matthew traced Joseph’s ancestry, while Luke traced Mary’s ancestry. This theory does not hold up well, as Matthew lists Mary in his account while Luke does not.
The most commonly accepted theory among biblical scholars for accepting why the names in the two genealogies differ from David to Jesus is that:
ò Matthew traces the line of royal succession.
o From King David through King Solomon.
ò Luke traces the lineage through actual physical descent.
o From King David through Nathan.
o Nathan was a little known son of David and Bathsheba, who never assumed kingship o Luke emphasizes the virgin birth (Luke 1:34-35; 3:23.)
Other reasons cited for differences later in the accounts of Matthew and Luke are the possibilities of Levirate marriage or adoption. Both would be done to secure heirs for a father or a widowed wife, who did not have sons to assume the role as heir and head of the family line.
Important to consider for the names post-King David being different is that the Kingdom of Israel came to an end in 722 BC when Assyria conquered the Northern Kingdom (Israel). The ten tribes of Israel were exiled to provinces of the Assyrian empire, and records and recognition of the tribes disappeared.
Likewise, the Kingdom of Judah (The Southern Kingdom) came to an end in 586 BC when King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylonia conquered Jerusalem, destroyed the first Holy Temple, and took the Israelites into captivity (2 Kings 25).
This was the end of the dynasty of kings of the family of David, and many records of heritage, including the tribes of Israel, were destroyed. As time passed, only a small number of families knew which tribe their forefathers were from.
Whatever the reason for the disparity, the important thing to remember is that both genealogies presented by Luke and Matthew agree that Jesus is the ‘son of David’ (Luke 3:31; Matt 1:6, Revelation 22:16), and both arrive at the same name, our Savior, Jesus Christ.
As Jesus said of himself, as the Divine author of Revelation through his angel and John to His churches,
“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.”
Jesus is both David’s ‘son’ and his Lord and the ruler arising from Israel to conquer the nations.
The Listing of Women in Jewish genealogies
Ancient Hebrew genealogies are patriarchal in content, as hierarchal and tribal identity is passed on from the father. For this reason, Jewish genealogies rarely include women.
Matthew’s account of the genealogy of Jesus is unique, as he included many of the women God chose to be in Jesus’ family tree.
This is appropriate, as we know that Jesus is the Son of God, conceived from the seed of a woman.
Genesis 3:15 (KJV)
“I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; he shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.”
Fitting with God’s prophecy in Genesis 3:15, and the New Testament accounts in the gospels, we know that Jesus came to earth as God in the flesh.
Matthew lists five women in the ancestry of Jesus. Luke, however, does not include women in his genealogy of Jesus.
Of the five women listed in Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus, only Mary comes in the lineage after David.
The other three are documented ancestors of David, and the fourth is David’s wife, Bathsheba.
The naming of women in Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus is unusual, but even more unusual is that many of the women listed in Matthew’s account are foreigners or have questionable past histories. Or both.
The five women listed in Matthew 1 that are in the direct line to Jesus Christ have one significant thing in common, that being that they are all unlikely people to be in the Holy family tree.
These five women have come from various backgrounds ranging from being Gentiles from pagan cultures, were broken and sinful, or were from very poor, humble beginnings.
For instance, In Matthew’s genealogy, we see five very unlikely women in the line of Judah leading to Jesus, including:
ò Ruth, who was a Moabite (from Moab who the people of Israel did not care for, to say the least)
ò Tamar, who had a deceptive affair, and was originally from Canaan
ò Rahab, who was a prostitute, and a Canaanite living in Jericho
ò Bathsheba, who was a seduced woman
ò Mary, who was a humble, peasant teenager
These women, due to their heritage and unlikely character, vividly illustrate that imperfect, unexpected people show up in the genealogy of Jesus!
These imperfect people serve as the exclamation point in God’s masterful Word, as all of these women fit beautifully into God’s Master Plan of demonstrating how His Love is inclusive of all humanity.
A reminder of how God uses the most unexpected people to show His Glory was written by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 1: 28-31:
“Consider your calling brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being may boast in the presence of God. And because of Him, you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us, wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that as it is written. Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
Although there are many names listed in Jesus’ family tree, my aim in this particular teaching of Jesus’ genealogy is not to necessarily give a detailed account of every person listed. This is not possible, as Jesus’ ancestors, after the exile to Babylonia, exist in name only.
For the complete list of these names, I refer you to the Bible, as well as an excellent reference I have cited at the end of this book.
In this book, I aim to focus on key characters who are Jesus’ ancestors who have been described in God’s Word. With the intent to explore them in detail and gain a deeper understanding of Jesus’ ancestors, we can better comprehend God’s Word and grow in our faith.
I have attempted to conflate the two lineages of Jesus as presented in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, to have a better understanding of both the men and women who are in Jesus’ ancestry.
We will see the weaknesses and strengths of these members of Jesus’ family tree, as the Bible so honestly tells us.
As we look at the ancestry of Jesus, we will learn about God’s relationship with His people, and His promise to redeem His creation from our sinful beginnings in the Garden of Eden.
Through the study of Jesus’ descendants, the entire puzzle of the mystery of the ‘Messiah’ will come together as God’s Masterplan unfolds.
What do we mean by the Messiah?
Pearl: The Hebrew word for Messiah is Mashiach, meaning ‘anointed one’. The Hebrew meaning of Mashiach is a savior or liberator of a group of people. In Jewish eschatology, the Mashiach is the future Jewish king descended from the Davidic Line, who will be expected to save the Jewish nation and rule during the Messianic Age.
In Christianity, we believe that the Messiah is Christ and the Son of God. The word Christ is taken from the Romanized Greek word, Christos, meaning the ‘anointed one’. Christ is the savior of all the world’s people, not just the Jewish nation.
We will see in the end, to restore the chaos humanity created through sin, God needed to send Heaven down to us by sending His son, Jesus Christ.
To restore our relationship with Him, God had to come to earth and become flesh.
The most amazing event in all of history occurred, where the eternal, infinitely Holy Son of God took on human nature and lived among humanity. Although He became human, He was both God and man at the same time in one person.
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
Other Books by Dr. Jana Jones McDowell
Jana Jones McDowell DVM, DAVCA, DAVECC, has spent a lifetime practicing Veterinary Medicine and former Professor at a College of Veterinary Medicine.
A Christian, Dr. Jones, began her research into Biblical studies several years ago, focusing on “context.”
Her research revolves around the “context,” with the study and application of the Judaica Books of the Prophets and the Hagiographa (A new English translation of the Hebrew Masoretic text and commentaries by Rashi and other Rabbinical scholars), and the books of the Midrash Rabbah. The basis of this was the exegesis of the Hebrew Bible with application to the origins of Christianity.
Dr. Jones-McDowell continues her research on the Jewish roots of Christianity as a student of the Israel Bible Center.
Dr. Jones-McDowell and her husband reside in the southwest with their horses, a Bengal cat named Ravi and their border collie, Sarah.