"a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife"

I took a look at Jesus' genealogy this morning. With the wedding coming up, we've given thought to the tradition of the wife taking the husband's family name. It's a tradition bound up with the male-dominated culture we live in, a culture that has also undervalued and oppressed women throughout history. As a sign of my commitment to break with that culture of oppression, I offered to take Heather's family name (instead of her being automatically expected to take mine). But the question was raised about whether this was biblical, or something Jesus would support. So Jesus' own genealogy came to mind.

The tradition about family names wasn't exactly the same in Jesus' time, but in the two recorded genealogies (in Matthew and Luke) it is clear that the male lineage is followed. This was traditional in Jewish culture as it is in ours. Looking over the names in the two lists, however, immediately raises a question. They're not the same. Why not? Scholars still argue over this, but it seems the most prevalent view is that one genealogy is Joseph's and one is Mary's. Both texts do lead to Joseph's name, perhaps to keep with the practice of tracing male lineage, but it's hard to come up with another explanation for the stark differences in the genealogies (they even have a different number of ancestors).

What caught my attention this morning, however, was that even though both genealogies seem to lead along a line of male descent to Joseph, Jesus is not a physical descendant of Joseph and his fathers. Matthew hints at this by ending his fatherly list with a motherly twist: "...Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born" (Luke calls Jesus "the son—as was supposed—of Joseph"). The story of Jesus' conception by the Holy Spirit immediately follows. If actual descent from David's royal line is important, then it has to be through Mary. Not the father's line but the mother's.

So I don't think Jesus would mind if we choose to embrace the lineage of the wife rather than the husband. (God did it!) And I think he would approve of our reasons, too. Jesus was always a friend of the undervalued and oppressed.