Dear Fr. Adrian, since God's plan was for Jesus to be conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, what is the significance behind His lineage outlined so clearly in the Holy Bible? Janet Solomon
This is a record of the ancestors of Jesus the Messiah, a descendant of David and of Abraham- Matthew 1:1 (NLTCE)
AFr. Adrian answers:
The Bible contains two lists of ancestors of Jesus - one in Matthew 1:1-17, and the other in Luke 3:23-28. There are many issues connected with these lists, but I will stick to only the main point here.
The genealogies show the continuity of Jesus with the great events and personalities of the past. While Luke shows that the nature of Adam (whom he calls the Son of God in Luke 3:28) has passed onto Christ, making Christ the Second Adam, Matthew's focus is more on the history of Israel and its fulfilment. The history of Israel moves (in Matthew's summary) through three phases: From the promise to the temporary Kingdom (Abraham to David), from the temporary Kingdom to the forfeiture of the promise (David till the deportment to Babylon) and from the forfeiture of the promise to the coming of the true Kingdom (from the deportation till Jesus). Each phase covers around 14 generations. Matthew thus connects Jesus with the Jewish nation and in particular with King David (the name David, in Hebrew, is numerically equal to 14).
These genealogies thus reflect the concerns of the Gospel writers. Luke is concerned to show the relationship of Christ to the whole of humanity through Adam. Matthew is keen to show that Christ - being the Son of David - is the fulfilment of all the prophecies and promises of the Old Testament.
Now a question might arise: why do both genealogies pass through Joseph, seeing that Joseph was not the true father of Jesus? While we cannot rule out the possibility that one of the genealogies might actually be that of Mary, a more likely answer lies in the Jewish culture of the 1st century AD when the Gospels were written.
In those days, a child who was adopted would not only have an adoptive father, but would also become the successor and heir to all the ancestors of his adoptive father. Thus Jesus, by being fostered by Joseph, became an adopted descendant of all Joseph's ancestors, right from Adam onwards. This is an amazing thought. The genealogies focus our attention on each of these ancestors individually, and look at them as forefathers of the Christ. Since in our culture biological parentage has greater value, we may not understand this point easily, but the fact is that - in the eyes of his contemporaries - Jesus' royal title descended from the House of David through JOSEPH (though it is also possible that Mary could have been descended from David).
About Rev Fr Adrian Mascarenhas
Rev. Fr. Adrian Mascarenhas has served as the Assistant Parish Priest of St. Patrick's Church and Ascension Church, and has just completed two years of ministry at St. Peter's Church, Bangalore, India. He received his licentiate in sacred theology from Dharmaram Vidya Kshethram and is currently pursuing a doctorate in Fundamental Theology at the Pontifical Lateran University, Rome.