Why Does the New Testament Start with a Genealogy?
As we begin the New Testament study year, most of us will open to the beginning of the New Testament and be confronted with a lengthy genealogical list. I don’t know about you, but for all the people that I know who love doing genealogical work, when I ask them what their favorite things to read are, genealogical lists are not in their top 10. Go figure!
So if God wanted to start off His Gospel record in a gripping way, a grab-you-by-the-collar-I-can’t-put-this-book-down! kind of way, why start with genealogy that most people skip over?
Why Are Four Women Mentioned in the Genealogy of Matthew 1
If you are one of the stalwart and chosen few in this life who has actually read the entire genealogy of Matthew 1, word for word, and you survived working your way through foreign and confusing names, you should win an extra cookie and glass of punch in the next life. By the way, did you notice that four women are referenced?
If you noticed that these four women are referenced, did you ever wonder why? And why them?
The answer? Because of Mary, the mother of Jesus.
Mary was an unusual mother. Found to be pregnant before she was married, she could have easily been outcast, thrown into slavery, or executed. She could have lived her life with terrible accusations thrown against her, and according to some ancient traditions, many people did think she was nothing more than an immoral harlot. And if so, such ancient critics reasoned, how could God ever do any good through someone so fallen, so morally compromised?
This is where the four women of Matthew’s genealogy answer the critics: Tamar (daughter-in-law to Judah), Rachab (the Jericho prostitute), Ruth (the non-Israelite Moabite), and Bathsheba (the woman unlawfully taken by David). Not only are each of these women ancestresses to Jesus, but each of them came from unusual, unexpected circumstances or were involved in what appears to be sexually improper situations.
And yet God did His work through them!
God worked through Mary, the mother of Jesus, and through these other four named women in Matthew’s genealogy, to demonstrate that He will do His work. God will work through His servants, even the most unlikely of servants. Even the most unlikely life can be redeemed and honored by God. Each life can be part of God’s grand plan to bring light and truth and healing to the world.
No matter where you are in your life or what you have done, God has a plan for you.
You are a necessary, significant, and pivotal player in God’s grand designs. Let Him do His work with you!
There are no accidents in the scriptures
Okay, perhaps I’m overselling the idea that there are no accidents in the scriptures. I’m not advocating that the scriptures are perfect–only God is. What I am saying in this post is that with good questions and diligent searching we can find some incredibly amazing and fruitful answers to puzzles in the scriptures that are intriguing or even apparently mundane like the question, “Why are four women mentioned in the Genealogy of Matthew 1?”
Learning at the Feet of the Savior
I hope you found these insights valuable and empowering. If so, you may find more such insights in one of my recent books.
Together with my co-author David Ridges, we wrote Learning at the Feet of the Savior: Additional Insights from New Testament Background, Culture, and Setting to encourage people to ask questions and to use the scriptures and the example of Jesus to learn how to learn and to better understand how the scriptures apply to their lives.
Memoirs of the Ward Rumor Control Coordinator, a light-hearted look at our beloved
Mormon Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints culture.