In one’s reading of the gospel attributed to Matthew, it is very easy to skip over the first seventeen verses of chapter one—or to skim them very quickly, eagerly anticipating the beginning of the story in 1:18. I must confess that I have done this once or thirty times. Let’s face it, who wants to read an account of so-and-so begetting such-and-such? But is there more in these seventeen verses than meets the eyes? Is there a greater story brewing under the surface, a story connecting the First Testament with the Second?
While sitting in Church—we recently commenced a study through Matthew—I began to wonder why Matthew’s genealogy is included in his gospel? Sure Luke has his own, and there are countless number of attempts in print to try and reconcile the two genealogies. But it seems to me the Luke’s genealogy is a historians attempt to trace the lineage of Jesus. But where does this leave Matthew’s genealogy? As I am sitting there in the pews my mind begins to wander: maybe Matthew is not trying to produce a chronological genealogy as he is trying to connect Israel’s history with the newly born Messiah.
An interesting note is the purported title of Matthew’s gospel, “Βίβλος γενέσεως Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ”. Some commentators have made mention of the allusion to the first book of the Old Testament. While I am not convinced that Matthew is writing a genesis per se, I do think that Matthew is theologically connecting the two Testaments, with Christ as the fulfillment and culmination of the promises made by God to Israel. Craig Keener insightfully remarks:
By evoking great heroes of the past like David and Josiah, Matthew points his readers to the ultimate hero to whom all those other stories [the stories connected to the names in Matthew’s genealogy] pointed. For Matthew and his circle of Jewish Christians, Jesus was not an afterthought to Judaism, a distinct and unexpected addition to God’s plan in the Old Testament. Jesus was the goal to which Israel’s lovingly remembered history pointed (The Gospel of Matthew, 77).