Friday, September 10, 2010

Mary's Genealogy

The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, son of David, son of Abraham. –Mt 1:1
These first words of the New Testament are followed by the long list of ancestors which ultimately culminates with the following words: “Jacob [became] the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary. Of her was born Jesus who is called the Christ.” Have you noticed that this extended family tree is not actually shown to be our Savior’s lineage? In fact, both Matthew and Luke give the genealogy not of Jesus, but of Joseph. Since Jesus was not truly Joseph’s son, it is Mary’s genealogy which would reveal to us the Savior’s ancestry – But do we have any idea who Mary’s ancestors were?
We know from Sacred Scripture and from Sacred Tradition that Mary was a descendent of David. St. Paul states, “it is evident that our Lord sprung out of Juda” (Hebrews 7:14). Yet, St. Thomas mentions that some may object, for it seems that the Blessed Virgin Mary was not of the tribe of Juda but was indeed of Aaron’s stock, as was her cousin Elizabeth.(Lk 1:5) St. Thomas responds that, as the kingly and priestly family lineages were most highly regarded, they were frequently joined by marriage. Thus, it is not impossible that St. Elizabeth as well as the Blessed Virgin may have had some part in the tribe of Juda. And so too Christ was of the tribe of Juda, as witnessed by the book of the Apocalypse, where Christ is called “the lion of the tribe of Juda.” (Rev 5:5)

St. Thomas makes this same point in the Summa Theologiae when showing that our Savior is truly a descendent of David (and, therefore, of Juda), attributing the theory to St. Gregory Nazianzen (ST III, q.31, a.2, ad 2). In that place, St. Thomas gives a slightly more explicit explanation of this point, stating that it is possible that St. Elizabeth’s father, who was of the tribe of Aaron, might have married a female relative of the Blessed Virgin, who was of the tribe of Juda, and thus, St. Elizabeth and the Virgin Mother would be cousins.
What perhaps is more likely, St. Thomas says, is that St. Joachim may have been of Juda and St. Anne of Aaron and a relative of St. Elizabeth’s father; in this manner as well, the Blessed Virgin would be the cousin of St. Elizabeth and yet also be of the tribe of Juda.
In any case, St. Thomas is content to allow for any explanation, so long as it is maintained that our Lord was a descendent of the tribe of Juda according to the flesh. Clearly, it would not be sufficient to trace our Lord’s lineage to Juda through St. Joseph, since the Christ was not the son of St. Joseph according to the flesh. However, as it is likely that the Blessed Virgin and St. Joseph were of the same tribe – as they were enrolled in the census together (Mt 1:18); therefore, the fact that St. Joseph was of the tribe of Juda does indicate that the Blessed Virgin too was most likely of the same tribe and, therefore, so too was Christ (ST III, q.31, a.2, ad 1).
Thus, we can safely conclude that Mary’s genealogy would be fairly close to St. Joseph’s which is given in Matthew. The final generations were, obviously different; but it is not unlikely that Joseph and Mary were distant relatives, both belonging to the tribe of Juda, being descendents of David. Christ then belongs to David’s lineage both according to the Law (through St. Joseph) and according to the flesh (through Blessed Mary).


Chatto said...

I love this site.

One question: Given what you've posted here, why do both Matthew and Luke give the genealogy of Joseph, rather than Mary? What are they trying to tell us?

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@ Chatto (Sept 14, 6:45pm),
Question: "Why do Mt and Lk give Joseph's genealogy?"

Possible answer: This is a good question, and I don't know for sure what the answer might be! For one, it must be mentioned (as in the article) that Mary was of the same tribe as Joseph, so that her genealogy would be close to that of Joseph.

Yet, there is another and more profound reason, which I take from Cornelius a' Lapide:
"It may be yet further asked, why S. Matthew unfolded the genealogy of Joseph rather than of Mary, since Christ was born of her alone, being a Virgin? I answer:—First, because among the Jews, and other nations, genealogy is customarily reckoned through fathers and husbands, not through mothers and wives.
"Second, because Joseph was the true and lawful father of Christ, after the manner which I shall explain presently. And Christ was the heir of David’s throne and sceptre, not through Mary, but through Joseph, according to God’s promise to David.
"The sceptre, therefore, of Judah devolved upon Jesus Christ, not only by the promise and gift of God, but by the right of hereditary succession.

"For if, by common right, sons succeed to their fathers’ inheritance, when they are only accounted their sons by common repute, how much more was Christ Joseph’s, His father’s, heir, since He was the Son of his wife, by the power and the gift of the Holy Ghost?
"Wherefore as Joseph had a parent’s right over Christ, indeed, all rights which parents have over sons, so on the other hand, Christ had, with reference to Joseph, all the rights which sons have in respect to their parents. He had therefore a right to the kingdom of Israel after Joseph’s death."

Christ ascends to the throne of David according to legal succession of hereditary rights. These he inherited through Joseph.

Peace in Christ!

Anonymous said...

Forgive me. The answer to this question is given in Eusebius' History (4th cent). His works are available online.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@Anonymous (sept 30, 5:34am),
Thanks for the info!
The answer I gave comes from Cornelius a' Lapide, one of the great Catholic scholars from the "golden age of catholic scripture scholarship"...based largely on St. Jerome...
St. Eusebius is also very good.

John Byars of prestwick said...

As I read this article on Marys geneology I was. amazed at the lack of knowledge of Luke AND Matthews geneology listing. For a start they are the same up to a point and then they diverge. After David in Matthews lineage he says; 'son of Soloman' but in Lukes gospel the son of David is given as 'Nathan'. Here down in Lukes Gospel we see that all of Jesus' anscestors are different to those listed in Matthews. Why because they are from the line of Marys lineage. Yes Joseph is put down as Jesus father but look closely and you will see that his father mentioned in Luke MUST be his FATHER IN LAW as the names after that are all Marys anscestors. Plainly speaking as Luke must have been given this information directly from Mary and one must consider that this was a male dominated society in those days, then of course Marys name would have been left out. Is it not amazing and part of Gods plan that one day we, Christs followers, are now able to compare both pieces of writing through the Bible. Is it not great to see that Jesus was of the line of David through both his parents. Not just in name, but also in flesh, through Mary

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

John Byars,
You are amazed at my lack of knowledge ... I am amazed at your lack of humility.

In any cast, you should look at this post on why Heli is mentioned rather than Joachim in Luke's genealogy ... it contains all that you have said (plus gives the evidence to prove it) ...

John Byars Prestwick said...

Forgive me Father, no arrogance was intended on my part. In no way did I intend to question your knowledge. You are a very well informed cleric and I am only an amature reader of scripture. I did quote others when I said Heli must have been another name for Joachim. I too love this website and that you allow the simple like myself to comment. I have only a little knowledge of scripture and what I said earlier is a new revelation to me. I love reading scriptural comments and I love debating and simplifying things, especially for young people. I have taught RE in Scotland for 35yrs, but not as a specialist. I am constantly coming accross information that further develops my understanding of scripture and the many hidden things that are being revealed to me through reading learned scholars like yourself. Forgive me for any lack of humility.Have a good and Holy Christmas.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@John Byars Prestwick,
Indeed, if only we can come closer to the truth, then we have both won a great victory!
Please do feel free to comment any time ... let us strive together in the life of grace! +

Unknown said...

How old was Mary when she gave birth to Jesus?

susan lennox said...

I was reading the comment of Sept 14, 2010..Reginaldus...and was so amazed at what Christ's lineage thru Joseph...who wasn't even the real father...means to us ! WOW ! You gave me food for thought for this whole year ! Hallelujah!

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