The Jews from Matthew’s day would have disagreed. Tradition-minded Jews kept a record of their ancestors partly because certain rights and responsibilities were inherited. Priests descended from Aaron, the brother of Moses. Kings-and the coming Messiah-would descend from David, Israel’s most revered king.

Matthew’s genealogy is a legal document. By comparing it to other genealogies, Jews of the day could confirms that Jesus met the ancestral requirements for the Messiah. He was a Jew, descended from Abraham. And he was contender for Israel’s throne, since he was related to King David.

This family tree is a bit odd, though. In a couple of ways. For one thing, it only randomly matches Luke’s genealogy-just a few of the same names show up in both. But each list is condensed, skipping generations. And one genealogy might reflect Jesus’ legal ancestry, through Joseph, while the other reflects his biological ancestry through Mary.

Another oddity: Matthew’s genealogy includes women. Most genealogies of the time didn’t. Even more odd, Matthew’s women aren’t the notable ones, like Sarah and Rachel-ancestral mothers of the Jews. He spotlights what some would consider the rotten apples:

  • Tamar, who had twins by her father-in-law (Genesis 38);
  • Rahab, the Jericho prostitute who helped the Israelites spies (Joshua 2);
  • Ruth, an Arab who became King David’s great-grandmother (Ruth 4); and
  • Bathsheba, wife of Uriah, who had an affair with David (2 Samuel 11).

Scholars debate why Matthew included these women. One guess is that it shows God is capable of working through the most unusual people. And that includes a young virgin named Mary.

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