Jesus is said to have been descended from the House of David, but the genealogies given in Matthew and Luke differ. One explanation is that Matthew’s ancestry traces Jesus’ legal line of descent through Joseph, while Luke looks at Mary’s heritage. (Modern DNA studies would have a field day with that!)
Assuming that Matthew 1:1–17 traces Joseph’s lineage, we can uncover some interesting facts about Joseph from it. One is that his father was called Jacob, so we know Jesus’ grandfather’s name on that side. For another, the list begins with Abraham and mentions many of the famous figures of biblical history such as Isaac, Jacob, David, and Solomon. But perhaps the most interesting is that the genealogy lists four women: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and “Uriah’s wife” (Bathsheba). Except for Ruth, none of these women are what we would consider models of virtue. Tamar tricked her father-in-law into thinking she was a prostitute in order to get pregnant by him. Rahab was a prostitute, and Bathsheba committed adultery with David.
Many have speculated as to why these women were included. Perhaps one reason is to show us that there are mothers as well as fathers behind every person. Including these women may also point out that history is not destiny. Joseph did not come from a pristine line of unsullied saints, but he was destined to be the just man who raised Jesus. It was his virtue that counted, not the actions of his ancestors.
“Saint Joseph was chosen among all men, to be the protector and guardian of the Virgin Mother of God; the defender and foster-father of the Infant-God, and the only co-operator upon earth, the one confidant of the secret of God in the work of the redemption of mankind.” –Saint Bernard of Clairvaux
Saint Joseph, help me to always remember that no matter our backgrounds or family history, like you, we can always choose to do the right thing and live lives of virtue and grace. Amen.
Image: Biblical genealogy of Christ, mosaic, Inner Narthex, Chora Church (Kariye Museum) in Istanbul, Turkey; photo by Heracles Kritikos/Shutterstock.com