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Considering the Genealogies in Matthew
There are several kinds of genealogies. These include horizontal, segmented, and vertical genealogies. Horizontal genealogies trace out the breadth of relationship between siblings and with respect to a common ancestor. This would be the sort of thing that we would note in the scriptures relative to Jacob’s sons through his various wives and concubines. Then there are segmented genealogies. These can be expanded beyond the nuclear family to related kin, and can also be used schematically to refer to different lands or socio-political realities, and so on. An example of segmented genealogy in the scripture is the table of nations in Genesis 10, which uses the genealogical structure to give a social and historical presentation of the ancient Near Eastern world. Vertical genealogies go from parent to child to grandchild, and so forth. The vertical genealogy is the most common in the scriptures. The primary functions of linear genealogies include to ground claims to power, rank, office or inheritance to an earlier generation and often in literary genealogies these are grounded in well-known, in prestigious ancestors.
The Chronicler devotes the first nine chapters of his narrative to genealogies. The genealogies ground and connect the Chronicler’s story of David and Solomon to their ancestors. Moreover, the Chronicler uses genealogies to frame the social world of his narration. He learned how to use genealogies by careful study of the Hebrew scriptures. A good example is the genealogy in First Chronicles 1. Study this figure to see how the Chronicler learned to use genealogies theologically in Genesis University. Matthew and Luke each likewise study the genealogies of the Hebrew Bible, and each also demonstrates significant innovation by using genealogies theologically in new ways.
Read Matthew 1. Matthew may have edited the genealogy to three sets of fourteen for ease of memorization, or he may be using a traditional style of biblical study giving the numerical value of David’s name. In any case, Matthew effectively laid out the narrative framework for apprehending his version of the gospel story. The identity of Jesus as messiah is established upon storyline from Abraham and David to the exile.
Another distinctive aspect of Matthew genealogy are the women he included. This is so unique it has drawn much attention from the beginning. Why do you think Matthew included Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba? What do they have in common? What does this say about who Jesus is, and what kind of mission he is seeking to accomplish?
Read Luke 3:21-38. The genealogy of Luke 3 has seventy-seven persons, that is, eleven sets of seven. Click to study the genealogy in groups of seven. Notice how many of the famous persons are at the beginning or end of a set of seven. What would accenting these persons accomplish for Luke’s presentation of Jesus as Messiah?
Vertical genealogies generally descend from the ancestors. How is Luke’s genealogy different? Why? What do you think is the implication of the genealogy which immediately follows the declaration from the heavenly voice in 3:22 (see function of vertical genealogies above)?
Why does Luke include his genealogy in chapter 3 while Mathew began his gospel with his? What is similar about the genealogies of Matthew and Luke? What are the different functions of genealogies of Matthew and Luke?
 See Robert R. Wilson, “Genealogy, Genealogies,” Anchor Bible Dictionary (Doubleday, 1992), 2: 1929-32.
 David, spelled with only Hebrew consonants, dvd, is 4+6+4=14 using the Jewish practice of gematria.
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