While creating this image, I spent a lot of time with the women mentioned in Jesus’ genealogy because I had a resounding echo of shame in my body that I had received from engaging with these narratives in my childhood. Their stories held a heaviness of judgment. In my experience, it seemed the primary function of recounting their lives was to show how broken and sinful they were, and how, despite their brokenness, God was merciful enough to use them.
The shame I felt was also personal; along the way, I had internalized the message that as a woman, this was my potential for being a part of God’s story too. I had been handed some harmful, one-dimensional labels that immediately surfaced when I read their names, such as “harlot,” “prostitute,” “seductress,” and “adulterer,” just to name a few.
Their importance was not found in the context and particularity of their narratives; instead, they were viewed as rough, oddly-shaped pieces to the puzzle of Jesus’ lineage. I had to do some work to unbind myself from the limitations my church had placed on these stories, and I tried to visit these women with a fresh mind and an open heart. What I realized was that these women—despite the loathsome, corrupt systems they were in—found a way to claim their voice and found enough power to survive.
I was inspired by the composition and movement of the From Generation to Generation… logo. In this image, I chose to represent Christ using a rose at the center of the composition. The women mentioned in the genealogy are imaged as foundational leaves building and upholding Christ. All of the women are looking at the viewer and holding objects to represent the fact that they took their life and survival into their own hands. They were catalysts who propelled the lineage forward.
In the bottom left, Tamar holds her father-in-law’s insignia, which represents how she assumes his role as the leader of the tribe of Judah and continues its lineage.1 Moving counterclockwise, Rahab holds the red cord which she lowered to ensure the safety of her family after supplying Israelite spies enough information to achieve victory in Jericho. Next, Ruth holds the wheat that she gleaned from the field. She knows that she must marry again in order to be protected, and so she takes initiative with Boaz.
Bathesheba’s name isn’t even mentioned in Christ’s genealogy; she is referred to as the “wife of Uriah.” She withstands abuse from King David, survives the murder of her husband, and ensures that her son Solomon takes the throne. She takes matters into her own hands, becoming, as scholar Dr. Wil Gafney writes, “the queen mother of the united monarchy of Israel.”2 Finally, there is Mary who looks adoringly at the rose which represents her son. Here she holds the love and pride of a beautiful lineage that leads to the birth of her son, the Messiah.
These women only wanted to ensure safety for themselves and for their children; in the process they ensured the continuation of the lineage of Christ. Without their brilliance, passion, ingenuity, resourcefulness, creativity, and sacrifice, the lineage would have ended.
-Rev. Lauren Wright Pittman
1 Attridge, Harold W. From the footnote for Genesis 38:15-19. The HarperCollins Study Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (San Francisco, CA: Zondervan, 2006). 62-3.
2 Gafney, Wilda C. Womanist Midrash: A Reintroduction to the Women of the Torah and the Throne. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2017). 220.