Matthew opens his Gospel by showing that Jesus is part of Israel's history-as well as part of God's plan for the mission to the Gentiles, a plan already implied in that history. To make this point Matthew lists Jesus' ancestors who evoke Israel's rich Old Testament heritage, notably including four Gentile women who came to participate in that heritage. The opening verse of the Gospel introduces two ancestors who become pivotal characters in the genealogy: Jesus is son of Abraham (thus the ideal Israelite) and son of David (thus the Messiah).
Matthew does have to omit some unhelpful generations and otherwise adjust the genealogy to fit his scheme; but skipping some generations was common enough in ancient genealogies. A more relevant question might be: Could Matthew have really had a list of Jesus' ancestors? That he does not simply fabricate a fourteenth generation to add to his thirteen generations in the final segment of his genealogy may suggest that he is genuinely bound to some prior source (Davies and Allison 1988:186). The temple records preserved priestly genealogies, and families interested in their lineage (such as those descended from David might be) may have preserved records of their own ancestry. Taxation status at times required peoples elsewhere in the Empire to be able to trace their lineage back as many as seven generations (see N. Lewis 1983:41-42).
IVP New Testament Commentaries are made available by the generosity of InterVarsity Press.
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