F.10v Jesse Tree with the twelve Old Testament prophets and the Virgin,
The 'Holkham Bible Picture Book',
in Anglo-Norman French, with some English text
Parchment codex, binding post 1600
© British Library, London
A genealogy of Jesus Christ, son of David, son of Abraham
Matthew 1: 1-17
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 Manuscript Page
A month ago we looked at another page from the Holkham Bible Picture Book (click here to read). Today we are looking at the 10th illustration in the early 14th-century Bible, depicting the Jesse Tree with the twelve Old Testament prophets and the Virgin.
Matthew’s genesis, or origin account, of Jesus gives us a family tree which at first might seem monotonous to read. It begins with Abraham and works its way down to Jesus. Luke's genealogy goes in the opposite direction, starting from Jesus and going all the way back to Adam. Regardless of the descending or ascending direction, both accounts root Jesus in the lineage of David, son of Jesse. The tradition of depicting family trees (which we still do nowadays) goes back to the Middle Ages. Most of these 14th-century depictions show a reclining figure of Jesse out of whose navel is growing an ascending family tree. The trunk ultimately grows vertically to showing Mary and/or Jesus at the very top.
As we are in the midst of Advent, our Gospel reading firmly roots the coming of Jesus in the Israelite people. What is lovely about the lineage, and gives us great hope, is that the genealogy contains saints and sinners, good people, corrupt rulers… showing how God graciously works with everyone and through everyone. It roots Jesus firmly in our human story… a story which is still being written today…
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