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Mothers on the Margin?

Mothers on the Margin?: The Significance of the Women in Matthew's Genealogy

E. Anne Clements
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: James Clarke & Co Ltd
Pages: 310
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  • Book Info
    Mothers on the Margin?
    Book Description:

    Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, “she of Uriah" and Mary all initially occupy places on the margins and consequently represent both those who are outsiders to Israel and those on the margins within Israel. The inclusion of these women in Matthew's gospel serves to signal the importance of those on the margins in the ministry of the Messiah and to anticipate Matthew’s rhetoric concerning the broadening of Israel’s boundaries to include Gentile outsiders.

    eISBN: 978-0-227-90284-4
    Subjects: Religion
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. iii-vi)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. vii-ix)
  3. Preface (pp. xi-xi)
    E. Anne Clements
  4. Acknowledgment (pp. xiii-xiii)
  5. Part One: The Five Mothers of Matthew’s Genealogy
    • 1 Introduction: The Genesis of a Thesis (pp. 3-20)

      This thesis grew out of an initial observation. Within the first few verses of Matthew’s patrilineal genealogy that opens his Gospel, four women are referred to: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and “she of Uriah.” Why, I wondered, did Matthew choose to include four Old Testament women in the annotations of his genealogy and why these particular four women? This question is not a new one and in part my work is a response to a long-held, traditional view that has collectively labeled these woman as sinners or sexually scandalous. Other explanations have also sought for one denominator common to all four...

    • 2 Matthew’s Genealogy (pp. 21-39)

      Matthew’s narrative tells the story of Jesus. In terms of genre the narrative is an ancient form of biography¹ and the one undeniable feature of the narrative is that it follows a chronological sequence of Jesus’ life: birth, baptism, ministry in Galilee, the journey to Jerusalem, death, and resurrection. Like all stories, the structure, which arranges the individual parts so that the story is brought to a satisfying conclusion, has a beginning (Matthew 1–2, the prologue), middle (Matthew 3–25, the central section), and an end (Matthew 26–28, the passion and resurrection).²

      Where does the story of Jesus...

    • 3 Tamar (pp. 40-67)

      My narrative readings of the four Old Testament women are particularly concerned to discover what characterizes them as women. Therefore some brief comments on characterization in Hebrew narrative will be made. To set the scene it will also be helpful to summarize Israel’s social/sexual structures, which form the background to their stories.

      The way Hebrew narrative portrays characters has been thoroughly explored by Alter,¹ Sternberg,² and Bar-Efrat.³ Below is a very brief summary of the main points to be noted.

      What the reader knows about each of the four women under investigation is controlled entirely by the narrator of their...

    • 4 Rahab (pp. 68-95)

      A scarlet thread ties the stories of Tamar and Rahab together, as does the fact that they are both Canaanite women who use trickery to outwit men and gain control of their situation to save their lives and the lives of others. Yet, the setting to Rahab’s story is very different to Tamar’s. Her story is embedded in the account of the conquest of Canaan by the tribes of Israel led by Joshua. The Joshua narrative seeks to define boundaries, not just in terms of who lives where in the promised land but in terms of who is “in” and...

    • 5 Ruth (pp. 96-120)

      Ruth is the third woman to be named in the first epoch of Matthew’s genealogy. She is the only one of the women from whom a book of the Old Testament is named and who therefore receives sustained attention.

      Surprisingly, the character of Ruth has much in common with both Tamar and Rahab.¹ Tamar and Rahab are foreigners, outsiders, and as such might be expected to pose a threat to Israel. Similarly Ruth is a Moabite woman and Moabite women had a reputation in Israel’s history; it was sexual relations with the women of Moab that had led Israel astray...

    • 6 “She of Uriah” (pp. 121-144)

      Matthew’s genealogical reference to the fourth woman of the Old Testament is startling. Whereas the first three women are named, Bathsheba is given no personal name, but only referred to as Uriah’s wife; in this sense she is unnamed.

      And David was the father of Solomon by she of Uriah (ἐκ τῆς τοῦ Οὐρίου) (Matt 1:6b)

      The shock of the reference to the fact that Solomon’s mother did not “belong” to David but to Uriah is compounded by the knowledge that technically this is “incorrect” since Bathsheba was David’s wife by the time she conceived and bore Solomon. Clearly, Matthew...

    • 7 Mary (pp. 145-175)

      The last woman mentioned in the concluding genealogical annotation is the first woman encountered in the narrative—Mary. She appears at the final point of disruption in the genealogy, its end and climax, as mother of the Messiah (Matt 1:16).

      How does she stand in relation to the other mothers of the genealogy? As has been noted, many commentators argue that the four women Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba, have been included in the genealogy because in some way they foreshadow the fifth and final woman, Mary.¹

      Brown in his definitive treatment of the birth narratives states:

      It is the...

  6. Part Two: The Collective Significance of the Women for the Ongoing Gospel Narrative
    • 8 Tamar, Rahab, and Ruth: Aspects of Matthean Discipleship (pp. 179-193)

      Part 1 has established that the first three named women of Matthew’s Gospel are characterized within their Hebrew narratives not in terms of their sinfulness or scandalous sexual activity but by their virtues of righteousness, faith, and loyalty. This short chapter will argue that righteousness, faith, and loyalty are three central aspects of the Matthean Jesus’ teaching in relation to discipleship. It is therefore significant that these themes first appear in the stories of Tamar (righteousness), Rahab (faith and loyalty), and Ruth (loyalty). The naming of Tamar, Rahab, and Ruth in the genealogy highlights and anticipates the importance of these...

    • 9 Others on the Margin in Matthew’s Gospel (pp. 194-230)

      New Testament scholar Duling, using the work of others in the social sciences, defines four different concepts of marginality, which he then applies to antiquity particularly in relation to Matthew’s Gospel. The first and most commonly recognized form of marginality is structural marginality. Structural marginality refers “to structural inequities in the social system: some persons are in the center and some are on the periphery.” Duling refers to this asinvoluntary marginality. Such individuals aren’t able to participate in normative social statuses, their roles and duties. As a result they can’t access the material and nonmaterial resources available to those...

    • 10 Women in Matthew’s Narrative Life (pp. 231-270)

      This final chapter will argue for the narrative importance of the five women’s gender. According to the two current main theories for the inclusion of the four Old Testament women their gender has either been considered to be irrelevant (the Gentile argument) or focus on their gender has mostly been negative and limited to their sexuality (the foreshadowing Mary argument). It will be argued that the five women of the genealogy are the first indication of a positive gynocentric counternarrative that subverts the dominant androcentric narrative of the Gospel that is encoded with patriarchal assumptions about the role and place...

    • 11 Conclusion: Mothers on the Margin? Matthew’s Call to Conversion (pp. 271-277)

      At the outset of this dissertation it was noted that the way a piece of narrative begins is important because it sets the scene for what is to follow, providing hints and clues about what the story will be about and how the reader might interpret it. Matthew’s opening genealogy introduces the reader to the Messiah but also to the Gospel as a whole. It is notable among other things for its inclusion of five women in the annotations; five mothers who are on the textual margin of the genealogy.

      This dissertation is titled with a question that demands an...

  7. Bibliography (pp. 279-295)
  8. Back Matter (pp. 296-296)