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Saint Joseph: From the House of David

Saint Joseph: From the House of David

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.

Quotation

“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

Prayer

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

2 Responses to “Saint Joseph: From the House of David”


  • bernadette martin / Reply

    What about information on Blessed Mother’s lineage?


    • Joan McKamey / Reply

      Bernadette:

      Woodeene Koenig-Bricker writes the reflections on Saint Joseph and provides this additional information about the lineage of Mary:

      The lineage of Jesus in Matthew and Luke are quite different. While trying to reconcile the two is something scholars have debated for centuries, the prevailing opinion is that that Matthew uses Jesus’ legal line of descent through Joseph while Luke presumably uses Mary’s line. Luke’s genealogy starts with God and Adam while Matthew’s begins with Abraham. Luke also begins by saying that Jesus was the son of Joseph “so it was thought,” indicating that Joseph was not his natural (biological) father. Both lineages agree that Jesus is a descendant of King David, thereby making him part of the kingly line. Matthew says he descends from David through Solomon, while Luke says he descends through Nathan, a brother of Solomon mentioned in 1 Chronicles 3:5. Both Solomon and Nathan were sons of Bathsheba.

      Jesus’ grandfather according to Luke’s Gospel is Heli. Now Joseph can’t have had two fathers: Jacob in Matthew’s genealogy and Heli in Luke’s. One way to explain this confusion is that Heli was actually the father of Mary. This creates another bit of confusion because many believe that Mary’s father was Saint Joachim (and her mother Saint Anne). The story of Joachim and Anne is not in the Bible. It first appears in the apocryphal Protoevangelium of James that dates to the second century.

      In the Protoevangelium, Joachim and Anne were a childless couple who pledged that if they conceived, they would give the child to the Lord. In keeping with that promise, they take Mary to the Temple when she is three years old. There she is raised by the priests and fed by angels. At age twelve, so the story goes, Joseph, an elderly widow who no longer has any sexual desire, takes her as his wife. While he is away on business, Mary returns to the Temple where the Angel appears to her. When Joseph returns to pick her up, he discovers she is pregnant and the Gospel stories commence.

      The Protoevangelium is not considered an authoritative source although its teaching has found its way into many of the stories we have about Mary. It should be read with an entire saltshaker of salt. It is far more likely that Mary was the daughter of a man named Heli, as listed in the genealogy.


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