Christmas is the most solemn feast of the Holy Church. We celebrate Christmas most piously chanting liturgical songs, reading the Word of God and sermons; aside the festive mood, carol singing, house visits, exchange of wishes, gifts, diners etc. Venerable fathers set for us to read the genealogy of Jesus Christ. Reading genealogy is perhaps the most boring text in the whole of bible. The names are unfamiliar and difficult to read. I often wondered in my childhood why such silly reading on an important day! It was not meaningful until I seriously studied it.
We have two lists of genealogies; in Gospel of Mathew and Luke. Mathew begins his Gospel saying, “book of genealogy of Jesus.” Jesus is son of David, son of Abraham, v1. Verse 2 onward he presents the ancestry of Jesus descending from Abraham in 3 slabs, each 14 generations. Scholars say, this list is artificial; not actual, he having left out at least 5 names to make it 14. Significance of 14 or 42 is not clear. Jerome says, Mathew is trying to numerically prove that Jesus is Son of David. Hebrew letters for David being “DWD” its numerical value (d=4+w=6+d=4) is 14. Only 41 names are listed including Jesus. As soon as writing creation account, the fall, Cain and Abel, author introduces genealogy of Cain in chapter 4:17 and Seth’s genealogy in chapter 5. Most Old Testament books (Numbers, Kings and Chronicles, Ezra) contain genealogy. Josephus the Jewish historian began his biography with his genealogy. King Abdullah of Jordan traced his ancestry to Mohammed. Thus evidently, Jews attached high value to ancestry. This is a cultural tradition for all Middle Easterners. Malayalees are not behind. We have kudumbayogam and family-history books recently due to surge in foreign money. If they do not have a great ancestry they will easily make one. Hebrew nation finds its origin in Abraham. King David brought Israel a new identity and royal status. Abraham’s mention shows that Jesus is genuinely Jew. David’s mention shows that Jesus is king of the Jews whose kingdom shall have no end. Both Abraham and David were formidable persons in the life of Jews. Mathew unlike other evangelists begins the Gospel introducing Jesus as Christ. Mathew himself being devout Jew tries to convince his fellow Jews that all prophesies are fulfilled in Jesus. Mathew as former tax accountant employs various numerical data throughout the gospel.
Luke’s genealogy starts with Jesus’ Baptism in ascending order from Jesus to Adam. Luke was a gentile and he tries to prove that Jesus is the second Adam. Both had supernatural origin; Adam was formed with God’s own hands and breathe while Jesus was formed in the womb of Mary by the Holy Spirit, both without human involvement. Jesus is Savior for the whole humanity, not to Jews alone. Ancestry from Abraham to David is same in both. From David it diverts; Mathew following Solomon and Luke following Nathan, both sons of David. Nathan’s ancestry is longer. Solomon was intellectually the wisest but in religious sense he was a dishonor. By marrying infidels he sinned against God and desecrated the religion. “Did not Solomon king of Israel sin by these things?” Nehemiah 13:26. A curse was attributed to the kingly line of Solomon. May be this one reason why Luke preferred to Nathan’s line; also Luke’s list does not mention women, which suggests that different schools of thought regarding ancestry of Jesus existed. According to Mathew Joseph’s father was Jacob. Luke says Joseph’s father was Heli. It confuses if either one error or another name of same person or levirate law? One possible explanation is; at some point adoption from Nathan’s line and levirate law might have intervened. The puzzle how two ancestries got connected to Joseph still baffles. Both Mathew and Luke declare that Joseph was father by adoption, not biological, Mat 1:16, Luke3:23. “Of whom” is feminine in Greek, referring only to Mary, not Joseph,” Orthodox study Bible. Hebrew tradition allowed equal rights and privileges to the adopted persons as the biological, Gen 15:2. Comparing and contrasting of two genealogies certainly evokes tremendous interests but my purpose here is not to deep delve into it but to throw light on minor aspect; women in the genealogy. Inclusion of sinful men and women attests the truthfulness of the gospel accounts.
Interestingly four women, Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and Bathsheba (uncertain why Mathew says, “the wife of Uriah” without mentioning name) were lucky to get a place in Jewish genealogy. None of them had a meritorious record. Why then Mathew mentions them in the ancestry of Jesus? Fifth name is Mary. I have written separate articles about Morth Mariam Yoldath Aloho, and hence skip here.
1, Tamar was the wife of Er or daughter-in-law of Judah. Er died without child. Judah asked his second son Onan to perform levirate law. He went in unto her but did not like his seed being named after his deceased brother. God was displeased and he died. This shows that nothing, even bedroom activities, is hidden from Omniscient God. Shelah, third son of Judah was too young and when grew up Judah did not allow him for levirate law lest he would die like his brothers. Tamar intentionally planned to revenge Judah’s failure to offer Shelah to perform levirate law. So Tamar disguised as a harlot and waited on the way for Judah. Judah could not identify that it was Tamar because she was wearing veil. Tamar demanded his staff and ring instead of money. Unknowingly he went in unto her pawning his staff, and ring. Judah sent her money through a servant to regain the staff and ring. The servant returned saying that he could not find prostitute. Judah kept quiet without further probing the prostitute because of shame. When her pregnancy was known, Judah condemned her according to law. Clever Tamar produced the ring and staff in self-defense. Judah realized his mistake and saved her from death, Gen 38. Tamar got a positive mention in our marriage liturgy; “Veil, staff and ring brought victory to Tamar. Tamar was imputed righteous with these three.” (Mudupadam, vadi, mothiram ivayal…). 2, Rahab, mother of Boaz, was a prostitute in Jericho. She confessed faith in the God of Israel. “Lord your God is God in heaven above and in earth beneath,” Jos 2:11. Joshua sent spies to learn about Jericho. The spies reached the house of Rahab. The news reached the king. He sent soldiers to Rahab. She hid the spies behind the attic and told the soldiers that the spies left towards Jordan. Soldiers pursued them. When they had gone she helped the spies to escape through the window to the woods. She also told them to hide in the forest for three days, and when the soldiers retreated to go in peace. She encouraged them saying God of Israel is the real God and He has given the land to them. Because of her firm faith in the God of Israel she took a promise from them to save her and her household when they occupy the land. She found Lord’s favor. She and her household were saved from destruction, Jos 6:22-25. St Paul listed her among the heroes of faith, Heb 11:31. 3, Ruth was a Moabite widow. Israel looked Moabites with contempt because of their defiled origin. Moab was offspring of a sinful relation of daughter with father-Lot. Her only credence was her love to her mother-in-law, Naomi. She accepted the God of Israel and said to Naomi “Your God will be my God. I will go where you go,”Rt1:16. Ruth went to Israel with Naomi. She was also keen to take care of Naomi in her old age. Ruth went to gather grain from the field. The field belonged to Boaz who took pity of her and allowed her to gather enough grain. Boaz married her. David was her grandson. 4, Bathsheba (Solomon’s mother) was wife of Uriah the Hittite. Enticed in her beauty David ordered his servants to bring her. He lay with her. When David knew that she was pregnant he hatched a plan to cast its responsibility on Uriah. Uriah was a trusted servant, who refused to go to her because he thought it improper to go to wife when the war is going on. He is a model patriot who gave priority to loyalty to the king. David’s plan failed. To save himself David surreptitiously killed him and took her his wife, 2S Ch11, 12.
All the four women were gentiles. Tamar and Rahab were prostitutes. Ruth was all-time model of perfect love. Some suggest that Bathsheba was prostitute since she lay with David when her husband Uriah was alive. She was helpless before a mighty lusting king. Resistance would have been futile or even fatal. One cannot find fault with her neither for bathing in the backyard for that was how on those days nor being very beautiful that enticed David; I exonerate her. The lesson we have here is that God loves sinners but hates the sin. Apostle says, “Born of a woman.” This means that Jesus was born without human-male involvement. He came into the world to seek and find the lost in sin. Jesus Christ assumed sinful human flesh to identify one with sinful humanity. He revealed that it is possible to live righteously and become divine. Accepting Lord Jesus Christ as personal Savior is obeying His commandments. Therefore let us proclaim like the angels, “Unto us a Savior is born this day, which is Christ the Lord,” Luke 2:11. My family and I wish you all a very happy Christmas and prosperous New Year,