Genealogy art

Today’s Gospel in Art: A Genealogy of Jesus Christ, Son of David, Son of Abraham

Jesse Tree with Twelve Old Testament Prophets and the Virgin, The ‘Holkham Bible Picture Book’ © British Library, London

Gospel of December 17, 2021 – Matthew 1:1-17

A genealogy of Jesus Christ, son of David, son of Abraham:

Abraham was Isaac’s father,

Isaac the father of Jacob,

Jacob, father of Judah and his brothers,

Judah was the father of Perez and Zerah, Tamar being their mother,

Perez was Hezron’s father,

Hezron the father of Ram,

Ram was the father of Amminadab,

Amminadab, father of Nahshon,

Nahshon the father of Salmon,

Salmon was the father of Boaz, Rahab being his mother,

Boaz was Obed’s father, Ruth being his mother,

Obed was Jesse’s father;

and Jesse was the father of King David.

David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been the wife of Uriah,

Solomon was the father of Rehoboam,

Rehoboam father of Abijah, Abijah father of Asa,

Asa was the father of Jehoshaphat,

Jehoshaphat, father of Jehoram,

Joram, father of Azaria,

Azaria was Jotham’s father,

Jotham, father of Ahaz,

Ahaz, father of Hezekiah,

Hezekiah was the father of Manasseh,

Manasseh, father of Amun,

Amon, father of Josiah;

and Josiah was the father of Jechonias and his brethren.

Then the deportation to Babylon took place.

After the deportation to Babylon:

Jechonias was the father of Shealtiel,

Shealtiel father of Zerubbabel,

Zerubbabel was Abiud’s father,

Abiud, father of Eliakim,

Eliakim, father of Azor,

Azor was Zadok’s father,

Zadok, father of Achim,

Achim the father of Eliud,

Eliud was the father of Eleazar,

Eleazar father of Matthan,

Matthan the father of Jacob;

and Jacob was the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary;

from her was born Jesus who is called Christ.

The sum of the generations is therefore: fourteen from Abraham to David; fourteen from David to the Babylonian deportation; and fourteen from the Babylonian deportation to Christ.

Reflection on the manuscript page

A month ago we looked at another page of the Holkham Bible Picture Book (click here to read). Today we are looking at the 10th Bible illustration from the early 14th century, depicting the Tree of Jesse with the twelve Old Testament prophets and the Virgin.

Matthew’s genesis, or origin story, of Jesus gives us a family tree that, at first glance, may seem monotonous to read. It starts with Abraham and goes down to Jesus. Luke’s genealogy goes in the opposite direction, starting with Jesus and going back to Adam. Regardless of the descending or ascending meaning, both stories root Jesus in the lineage of David, son of Jesse. The tradition of depicting family trees (which we still do today) dates back to the Middle Ages. Most of these 14th-century depictions show a reclining figure of Jesse whose navel grows an ascending family tree. The trunk ends up growing vertically to show Mary and/or Jesus at the very top.

While we are in full Advent, our reading of the Gospel firmly roots the coming of Jesus in the Israelite people. What is beautiful about the lineage, and gives us great hope, is that the genealogy contains saints and sinners, good people, corrupt leaders…showing how God works graciously with everyone and through everything the world. It firmly roots Jesus in our human history…a history that is still being written today…


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