The Great-Grandmothers of Jesus

Christ in the House of His Parents
Joseph and His Family with Anne, Mary’s Mother
John Everett Millais, 1849-50

When Paul wrote to Timothy, Paul praised him for his faith. Paul wrote, “I remember your genuine faith, for you share the faith that first filled your grandmother Lois and your mother, Eunice. And I know that same faith continues strong in you” (2 Timothy 1:5 NLT). When discussing the role the home plays in the education of children, we emphasize the profound influence mothers have in the upbringing of their children. But seldom is the role of grandmothers mentioned in their capacity as mentors of their daughters and of their grandchildren.

Paul exhorted Timothy to imitate the faith he had received from his mother, but that faith was first exhibited in the life of his grandmother Lois. The faith that Eunice had was first seen in the life of her mother Lois. Paul told Timothy to “continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it.” It is in here that Timothy’s grandmother has a place of preeminence.

Paul’s exhortation to Timothy reveals the role grandmothers have as leaders, role models, and mentors who can positively influence the lives of their daughters and of their grandchildren. When looking at people who made an impact in the lives of others, it becomes of vital importance to look at the home and the people who became the key influencers to their success as leaders.

The home is the primary place for the development of future leaders. In extended families, where mothers and grandmothers lived together and shared the duties of caregivers, mothers and grandmothers became the teachers and the developers of future leaders. Mothers and grandmothers have the power to train their children and grandchildren to become successful leaders.

In their role as mentors, grandmothers are seldom given voice in the biblical text. Most biblical grandmothers are seldom mentioned in the text and the positive impact they had in the lives of their grandchildren are never revealed. But as Paul writes about Lois, Timothy’s grandmother had a significant role in the transmission of Christian faith, family values, and strength of character that was displayed in the life of her daughter Eunice and in the life of her grandson Timothy.

Jesus Christ had a mother, Mary, the wife of Joseph. Jesus also had many grandmothers because his genealogy traces back to David, the king of Israel. David lived about one thousand years before his great great grandson Jesus was born.

In these one thousand years, the family tree of Jesus grew and includes many grandmothers from all levels of society. Among Jesus’ great grandmothers were queens, a prostitute, a worshiper of Baal, Canaanite, Moabite, and Phoenician great-grandmothers, women of faith and other women whose faith in the God of Israel was questionable.

Some of Jesus’ great-grandmothers are known by name but many of them are nameless women who directly or indirectly played a role in the lives of their children. We do not know anything about the maternal grandmother of Jesus, but Jesus’ grandmother’s influence on his life is related to the grandmother-mother relationship that existed between Mary and her mother.

Mary was chosen because she had “found favor with God” (Luke 1:30). The New Testament never mentions who the parents of Mary were. The Protevangelium of James says that the name of Mary’s mother and the maternal grandmother of Jesus was Anne. Christian apocrypha speak of the purity and holiness of Jesus’ grandmother because of the role she played in the spiritual development of Mary and of her grandson Jesus.

The four posts below are studies on Jesus great-grandmothers as they appear in the Bible. Some of the grandmothers are named and other remain nameless, but all of them had a significant role in the family tree of Jesus.

Posts on Jesus’ Great-Grandmothers:

1. The Great-Grandmothers of Jesus

2. Jesus’ Great-Grandmothers

3. The Other Great-Grandmothers of Jesus

4. Jezebel, A Great-Grandmother of Jesus

5. The Genealogy of Jesus According to His Great-Grandmothers

Claude Mariottini
Emeritus Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary

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