George A. Bowers Sr.: A glance at Jesus’ family tree
Several years ago I got hooked on genealogy after borrowing my parents’ ancestry book, The History of the Descendants of Jacob Gochenour. Since then I have been fascinated to discover roots and connections all over the county, country, and world. When Nancy and I vacationed in Europe last fall, one of the highlights was to visit the small town of Gruningen, Switzerland, to which the earliest Gochenour ancestor has been traced. We also stayed in Lucerne, which I later learned was the birthplace of an early Burner predecessor.
Interest in family trees and genealogies has become quite popular and has spawned several websites, books, and even DNA services. It’s fascinating and enlightening to explore one’s roots. Where we’ve come from has a huge impact on who we are and how we behave. We also find, as some smart aleck has observed, that whenever we shake our family trees, a few nuts inevitably fall out.
It is even more intriguing to examine the three different ancestries of Jesus Christ. Being a Jew, Matthew presents him as the messiah of Israel and traces his lineage back through his earthly stepfather to Abraham. Focusing more on Jesus as the son of man, Luke follows his bloodline through Mary all the way back to Adam. John presents Jesus as the son of God and so begins his Gospel with the bold statement that Jesus, the living word, is himself God. Mark highlights Jesus’ role as a servant and thus no pedigree is needed for such a position. All of these are instructive and helpful to us.
When examining Jesus’ ancestors we find crooks and womanizers whom God redeemed for his purposes. We find abused and foreign women who were brought under the umbrella of God’s divine promise and protection. And we find that God keeps his promises. He kept his promise to Adam and Eve to rise up a seed that would one day crush the serpent’s head. He kept his promise to Abraham to one day bless all nations through him. He kept his promises to David and to Ruth and to the whole Earth for the redeemer was born in the precisely predicted family line right on schedule and in the exact location previously prophesied.
Examining Matthew’s genealogy more closely, however, God’s divine inspiration is clear even in this seemingly unnecessary list of names. In the original Greek, the number of words in Matthew 1:1-11 is evenly divisible by seven as is the number of letters in the passage. The number of vowels and consonants are too, as well as the number of words that begin with a vowel and those that begin with a consonant. The number of words that occur more than once, those that occur in more than one form and those that occur in only one form are all evenly divisible by seven. Coincidence? Perhaps, but maybe God is verifying his holy word with his holy signature.
But there’s more. The number of nouns in this passage is divisible by seven and there are only seven words that are not nouns. The number of male names is divisible by seven as are the number of generations. Just for good measure, the numerical value of all the Greek letters in the text add up to a figure of 42,364 which, or course, is evenly divisible by seven. If we were to set out to intentionally compose such a text that met all these criteria, we would work well past our own lifetimes. This structure, nearly impossible for any human to create even with the aid of advanced computers, validates its divine origin.
Even the hard names and complicated pronunciations of the Bible are there for our benefit and enlightenment. All Scripture is clearly God breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness as Paul assures us in 2 Timothy 3:16. As we participate in the ongoing celebration of our savior’s birth this month, let us worship him for his unique lineage and perfect pedigree, and for the exceptional way in which the Spirit inspired it to be recorded.
In the name of our great messiah, George
George Bowers Sr. is the Senior Pastor of Antioch Church of the Brethren in Woodstock and the author of seven books including his latest book of poetry, “Holy Verses.” He can be reached through www.georgebowersministries.com or at firstname.lastname@example.org.