Tree of Jesse / Arbre de Jessé,
Illuminated miniature by Jacques de Besançon (active about 1480 - 1500),
Showing 43 generations. Below, the birth and childhood of Mary
Painting and gilding on vellum
Executed circa 1485
© Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris
The ancestry of Jesus Christ
A genealogy of Jesus Christ, son of David, son of Abraham:
Abraham was the father of Isaac,
Isaac the father of Jacob,
Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers,
Judah was the father of Perez and Zerah, Tamar being their mother,
Perez was the father of Hezron,
Hezron the father of Ram,
Ram was the father of Amminadab,
Amminadab the father of Nahshon,
Nahshon the father of Salmon,
Salmon was the father of Boaz, Rahab being his mother,
Boaz was the father of Obed, Ruth being his mother,
Obed was the father of Jesse;
and Jesse was the father of King David.
David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife,
Solomon was the father of Rehoboam,
Rehoboam the father of Abijah, Abijah the father of Asa,
Asa was the father of Jehoshaphat,
Jehoshaphat the father of Joram,
Joram the father of Azariah,
Azariah was the father of Jotham,
Jotham the father of Ahaz,
Ahaz the father of Hezekiah,
Hezekiah was the father of Manasseh,
Manasseh the father of Amon,
Amon the father of Josiah;
and Josiah was the father of Jechoniah and his brothers.
Then the deportation to Babylon took place.
After the deportation to Babylon:
Jechoniah was the father of Shealtiel,
Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel,
Zerubbabel was the father of Abiud,
Abiud the father of Eliakim,
Eliakim the father of Azor,
Azor was the father of Zadok,
Zadok the father of Achim,
Achim the father of Eliud,
Eliud was the father of Eleazar,
Eleazar the father of Matthan,
Matthan the father of Jacob;
and Jacob was the father of Joseph the husband of Mary;
of her was born Jesus who is called Christ.
The sum of 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 Illuminated Vellum Page
In the New Testament, the lineage of Jesus is traced by two of the Gospel writers: Matthew in descending order (starting with Abraham) and Luke in ascending order (starting with Jesus). The Tree of Jesse, as illustrated here, is a depiction in art of the ancestors of Christ, shown in the form of a tree which rises from Jesse of Betlehem, the father of King David. This is the original use of the family tree and has shaped the current schematic representations of family genealogy.
There are quite a few surprises in this list of Jesus’ ancestors when going carefully through them. We also have to understand that Matthew’s genealogy is revolutionary for his time, in that it features five women. Furthermore, four of the women were gentiles. Add to that the presence of some notable sinners (like Judah and King David), and the intention of our Gospel passage of today is clear: to highlight the inclusivity of Jesus’ mission and that He truly came for everyone.
This genealogy spans the whole history of salvation, from Abraham on, through David, in six groups of 7 names (7 being the perfect number for Hebrews), with Jesus as the culmination of the story. This birth, Matthew is saying, is what Israel has been waiting for, for two thousand years… and in 8 days’ time we celebrate His birth again… The Word made flesh.
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